Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Author: unknown

Publisher: ICE

Awards: none


Greg Aleknevicus (Canada) writes about the game:

  • Players: 2
  • Playing Time: 2.5 hours
  • Complexity: 2/5


  • Unmounted, color mapboard
  • Large sheet with tables & charts
  • 156 counters
  • Rule book
  • 20 sided dice


Despite its name, Battle of Five Armies (BOFA) is a 2 player game, one player takes the Free Peoples side (elves, dwarves, men and eagles), the other controls the goblins. If you've played any hex-based wargame, BOFA will appear quite familiar. The board is hex based, each counter represents a toop of warriors or a single leader. Each counter is rated for movement, combat ability and archery ability.

The game is played in turns, each of which has 4 or 6 phases. Players alternate each phase either moving, firing or fighting. You do not choose which to do though, but randomly draw either a Move, Fire, Combat or Fire/Combat chit from a cup. The chit that you draw is the action that your forces perform this phase. This keeps you guessing as to what you will actually be able to do with your forces on any particular phase. Fortunately the draw is not entirely random as you get to choose 1 from the cup each turn to play on your second (or third) phase. A certain amount of hard decision making goes into which chit you choose. If you select a move chit, you may be able to set up the perfect attack but not actually get to make it! Conversely you may select a combat chit but not have your forces in a position to attack anyone!

The mechanics of the game are fairly stright forward. On a move phase each counter can move up to its maximum as modified by terrain. During combat, units MAY attack adjacent enemies (assault) and MUST attack enemies stacked with them (melee). The combat results table is difference-based. ie. A 12 strength group attacks a 8 strength unit at +4. Given that stacking (of full-strength non-leader units) is not allowed, this works fairly well and helps emphasize the quality of the free peoples units. This also makes leaders very important as they add their strength to the unit they're stacked with.


  • The first thing you notice about the game is the attractive map. I found it to be quite striking.
  • The game accurately evokes the quality of the Free Peoples units versus the quantity of the Orcs & Goblins.


  • The counters are a little thin. They are certainly durable enough and the only reason I mention it at all is that each counter is backprinted with its "wounded" values. This means that a lot of counter flipping goes on during a game and would be more easily accomplished with thicker counters.
  • The chart/tables sheet could have been better designed. As it is, its too large for its own good, almost as large as the mapboard! This makes it inconvenient to setup, especially so that both players have equal access. A smaller font and a 2-sided sheet would have been a lot more useful.
  • The rule book is fine but could have used another revision. The worst omission is the lack of victory conditions for the basic game (although its easy to figure them out from the standard games victory conditions). Other than this there are no major omissions/faults, its just that it seems that everything could have been presented in a clearer fashion.
  • The victory conditions as they stand, are ridiculous. Presently the game ends after 12 turns are completed. Whoever controls more of the 5 victory hexes (the main gate, 2 guardroom entrances, the hillock and Dale) is the (marginal, tactical or total) victor. The idea of a marginal or tactical victory seems ridiculous. This is, after all, a fight for Smaug's treasure! Either you get it or you don't. For this reason I would suggest that the game be played out until only one side remains. This will reduce the importance of the victory hexes (see below for an optional "fix") as well as making it more realistic.


Considering the relative lengths of the Good/Bad points, it might seem that I didn't like the game. Actually, I like it quite a bit. The battle is certainly the most famous of all fantastic literature and the game captures the "feel" very nicely. The semi-random phase order simulates non-perfect command control easily and elegantly. The minimal components are rather well done (with the exception of the chart/table sheet) and attractive. While the game is not exceptionally innovative, it does simulate its subject quite well and provides enough decision making for an enjoyable contest. Recommended.


If you ignore the regular victory conditions it removes the importance of the victory hexes. In order to preserve their value, subtract one from any roll on the CRT for every ADDITIONAL hex your side controls outright. eg. If the Free Peoples control 2 victory hexes and the Goblins 1, every attack that the Free Peoples makes will have an additioanl modifier of -1. Use this only on turns 9 and later.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany