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Not even a year after the initial release of the basic game of Battlelore, the new flagship game from DAYS OF WONDER is picking up more and more speed with the release of new army packs which the players can use to introduce new troops to the game. Today, let us have a closer look at three of these packs, introducing new Goblins, Dwarfs and Human forces...

Knowing Goblin behaviour from the basic game, these green creatures always have been some kind of a risk because of their in-built cowardice which makes them a bunch of rather unreliable allies. Thus, I remember all to well several instances when a massive retreat of my Goblins has led to my ultimate defeat, because the enemy had broken through my ranks at the flanks the Goblins had to protect. Thus, I am viewing this new assortment of Goblin Marauders with a lot of doubt as far as my will to trust them in battle is concerned.

Three new types of units are introduced with the Goblin Marauders Army pack, and I have to confess that already the cuteness of the new figures is melting away a bit of my reluctance to use Goblins in Battle. So, out of the box jump two units of Hyena Riders, featuring Goblins mounted on Wildcats with the ability to move additional spaces when pursuing retreating units. Looking even more cute, the Goblin Ostrich Riders use these giant birds to get into position to attack with their Reflex Bows, a special kind of ranged weapon which may be shot at a target up to three spaces away and which may be fired at full power even if the unit in question has moved during the same turn.

The biggest impact on the battlefield is gained by the new unit of Goblin Musicians. The included four Goblin Drummer figures may be used in two ways, so that they may either form an independent unit consisting of four Drummers or - if they are split up - that one drummer figure may be added to an Goblin Infantry unit instead of a normal Infantry figure. When used as a unit of Musicians, their music gives a morale boost to all units within the same section of the battlefield, so that all these units receive a bonus for assistance just as if the Goblin Musicians would be standing in an adjacent space. On the other hand, single Goblin Drummer figures may also be added to a normal Infantry unit, and in this case the whole unit including the Drummer gets the "brave"-status.

However, the Goblins are not the only race which adds Musicians to their ranks. Thus, the new Dwarf Battalion Army pack includes a unit of Dwarf Bagpipers. This unit of four Dwarfs may use their instruments as a special kind of ranged weapon, but instead of causing wounds the dreadful sound of the bagpipes instils fear on enemy units. In terms of rules, this means that each "hit" which is rolled against the target of a bagpiper-attack is counted as a flag which forces the target unit to retreat for one space.

Apart from the Bagpipers, this Army pack also includes two units of Dwarf Spearmen and two units of Dwarf Axemen. The Spearmen benefit from their long weapons by a defensive advantage which allows them to roll an additional dice when defending. Also, against Cavalry they may ignore one sword-on-shield result the attacker has rolled. The Axemen are likewise effective against Cavalry, but they have the additional bonus that they the may swing their axe back an forth, so that each bonus-hit they may have rolled is rolled once more to see whether just another hit is caused. Finally, like all Dwarf Infantry, the new units benefit from the general rule which gives all Dwarfs on the battlefield the "brave"-status.

Finally, yet another kind of Musicians can be found in The Hundred Years' War - Crossbows and Polearms expansion box for the Human race. Included in this box is a set of four Hornblowers, and just like the Goblin Musicians these Hornblowers can be added as a fourth figure to Infantry units. In battle, a Hornblower may be used to call a friendly unit in an adjacent space for assistance, so that both units may attack an enemy together which results in a combined roll of all attacking dice of both units.

Being based on historical armies, this new army box also includes Spearmen (following the same rules as Dwarf Spearmen), Arcuballistas (a special kind of heavy Crossbow), and Halberdiers (receiving a defensive bonus like Spearmen and a bonus blow even against Cavalry).

All three army sets have in common that they contain a sufficient number of flags so that the new units may be sent into battle in different formations. Also, apart from the necessary overview cards introducing the new types of weapons and special powers, for each unit matching Specialist cards are included which may be used in connection with the army build-up rules outlined in the Call to Arms Expansion. Thus, the players get an opportunity to replace some of their units by new units, giving them even more flexibility when preparing for battle. Furthermore, each set contains a number of scenarios which have been designed to put the new units to a first test.

Overall, during playtesting my first and most important discovery was that neither of the new Army packs throws the game out of balance. All the new units have some minor special skills, but the impact of these skills on the game as a whole is not as big as to give a player using a specific kind of unit an overwhelming advantage. Here the army build-up rules from Call to Arms show their real importance and value for the whole gaming concept, since all new types of units can be brought into battle by choosing the corresponding specialist card, and due to the fact that players get to chose the same number of Specialist cards the benefits are well distributed between both sides. Also, having a closer look at the rules outlined on the new Specialist cards, it becomes comprehensible that much work has been put into balancing the different Army packs and races. Thus, a player using the somewhat weaker Goblins may replace one of his reserve units by two Goblin units, whereas a player who employs the strong and stout-hearted Dwarfs may only introduce different Dwarf units if he removes other Dwarfs.

To sum it up, although new rules are introduced the game remains easily accessible for new and seasoned players alike. This is mostly due to the modular system of the Army packs and the rather helpful system of overview cards which keep all needed information present on the playing area. The new figures and troop types which are introduced by these Army packs greatly enhance playing fun in Battlelore, and I am certain that the players will enjoy the new strategic options which become available by the new units.

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Copyright © 2007 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany