Battlelore: Command seems like a great boardgame port. At first.

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Battlelore, the charming Days of Wonder fantasy take on Memoir ’44 that was transferred to Fantasy Flight and reissued as a second edition, is now digital. And boy does it look great. Lively graphics and animation, smooth execution of the boardgame rules, and a breezy but thorough interface. It’s even got multiplayer support. This looks like exactly what you’d want in a boardgame port!

After the jump, not so fast.

Battlelore makes no bones about the fact that its first love is the iPad. “Tap to continue,” it croons, oblivious to the fact that mice don’t tap. But no matter. All the info you need is easily available, and there are only a few times that you get locked out of finding what you need. For the most part, unit stats, special abilities, and even the distribution of die faces are always at your fingertips. Well, under your mouse cursor, at any rate.

If you’ve played the boardgame, you’ll be right at home here. Battlelore is based on the Memoir ’44 system of having to play cards to command units. Sometimes you run out of the cards you need to move the units you want. Too bad. That’s the “command” part of Battlelore: Command. You can only use your right flank so much! Give the rest of your army some attention. Then there’s your hand of spell cards that use up your precious lore, some of which you earn in a slow trickle, and some of which you earn rolling dice during battle. That’s the “battlelore” part of Battlelore: Command.

There are only two factions included in the game, but Fantasy Flight is already selling DLC to give each faction another unit. You might as well just tack another $3 onto the price of the game if you plan on playing. You didn’t think these hardworking developers were just going to give you all the units for the price of the game, did you? To their credit, Fantasy Flight reworked a lot of the rules from the Days of Wonder version, making Battlelore less about the frustration of randomly drawing cards (“Argh, when will I get a card that lets me use my right flank?”) and more about limited resources (“Since I’ve already used up my right flank cards, I’ll either have to spend a turn refreshing my command cards or use one of my special one-shot-only command cards”).

This PC port includes a campaign mode, of course. You can play through this if you feel like slogging through dull scripted puzzle missions. But there’s also multiplayer support, which includes games against the AI. But before you get excited at the prospect of enjoying tactical combat against the AI, it’s worth noting the AI is flat-out terrible. It simply can’t manage the tactical finesse of the game system. Because, make no mistake, Battlelore is a game of tactical finesse. And dice. But you can’t expect the dice to win for you. Unit choice, positioning, combined arms, feints, and paying special attention to the scenario’s goals are all vital parts of playing Battlelore. But the AI isn’t up to the task. During deathmatches, it will happily dribble its units to their deaths, racking up your score. During the capture missions, it will blithely neglect the designated points. During the stronghold defense, it has no concept of how to defend its stronghold. The games against the AI provide no challenge. They’re little more than a way to get used to the interface and enjoy the unit animations.

Which leaves the multiplayer. Unfortunately, you can only play online games in real time and all in one sitting. Have fun camping in the lobby, hoping to find an opponent, and ideally an opponent who will play through to the end. This would have been an ideal game for asynchronous play, but no such luck. Fantasy Flight went to all the hard work of porting Battlelore without giving us a meaningful way to enjoy it.

  • Battlelore: Command

  • Rating:

  • PC
  • BattleLore: Command is based on the board game BattleLore Second Edition from Fantasy Flight Games. Lead the noble Daqan army in a campaign against the demon-blooded Uthuk Yallan or battle head-to-head against a friend who can play through the whole game at once or a braindead AI opponent in Multiplayer! Sorry, no asynchronous Multiplayer support. You'll have to play other boardgame ports for that!