BATTUE: STORM OF THE HORSE LORDS (Red Juggernaut Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 60-90; $49.99)
Battue is a very thematic area conquest boardgame designed by Jim Long where you get to play competing barbarian hordes overrunning and looting a Roman city. The barbarian with the most loot (a combination of loot cards and controlling the high value building tiles) at the end of the game wins the game.
Before the game starts, each player chooses a color and takes his plastic control flags and barbarian figures of that color (your initial “hoard” is six figures). Next, all the tiles are flipped face down and mixed. Then they are put on the board one at a time (each player putting one down starting with the start player) with the largest tiles being put on first. The palace tile is the one exception since it has a fixed position at the centre of the board. Once the board is full (some tiles will be left over), the game starts.
Starting with the start player, each player chooses a side of the city they are going to enter (only one player per side) and which part of the wall along that city side they are going to enter with their starting hoard. For each hoard the player has, beginning with the start player, each player can do one of two options. The first option is not to move the hoard and recruit to build up the hoard. The player rolls a dice and receives a random number of figures for that hoard from his reserves depending on the die roll. (The maximum size of a hoard is eight figures.) The second option is to move one space (tile) and attack a tile (either a face down one or an opponent’s tile). You have to declare how many horse figures are attacking each tile and which tiles you are attacking. Then you resolve the attacks.
If the tile is face down you turn it over and check the symbols on the left hand side of the tile. The first symbol is usually its strength value though occasionally it is a random event draw If it is a random event you draw from the event deck and resolve the event immediately. The next symbol tells you how many loot cards you will receive from the loot deck if you conquer the tile. (You only get loot cards from face down tiles not tiles controlled by other players.) The last symbol tells you how many points the tile is worth.
Attacks are fairly straight forward with the player to the left of the active player rolling a die for the tile and you rolling for your attacking figures. The highest die roll wins and the rolls are modified by either the tile strength or the number of figures you have attacking (the maximum hoard size is Eight). If you roll less than the defenders number you lose a hoard figure and have the option of either retreating or continuing the attack. If you roll greater than the defender you win control of the tile, move your hoard figures and a control flag onto the tile then collect the number of loot cards shown on the tile from the loot deck. You control that tile until some other player successfully attacks it or your remove your flag from the tile. Loot cards give you either extra victory points or special abilities such as modifying attacking or defending rolls. The game ends when players have conquered both the palace, the Temple of Jupiter and the Universitas tile or in the rare event that you have eliminated all other players. The players add up there victory points and the one with the highest total wins (he also gets the nifty title of Khan of the Golden Hoard).
The overall strategy in the game is to plan your route of conquest and then making sure you have hoards of sufficient size to conquer the tiles. If you have too few hoards, you do not conquer enough tiles and if you have too many, they are often too weak to conquer a good number of the tiles. Occasionally the game can go on a little long if people get into fights with the other players and refrain from taking the end of game building tiles. Also, the number of loot cards people receive from some tiles (especially the large buildings) seems to be a little high so I recommend instituting rules to reduce the number of cards a player can keep to avoid this. (Keeping only half the cards rounded up seems to work fairly well.) The rule book is clear and well illustrated as are the board tiles and cards. However this is a heavy game in a fairly large box which does limit its portability. Overall, Battue is a medium complexity game in which the game mechanisms work well with theme and a game I would recommend for people who like light wargames or need a break from some of the heavier Euro games. - Chris Kovac
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