This was my first battle in the campaign I will be playing over the next few weeks in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting (see previous post). Here's a breakdown of the battle. First, let me say that the rules of BattleLore are extremely dynamic. While playing this battle, I was amazed at the flexability of this game; that I can come up with a plot in my mind and then transfer this to a tabletop battlefield...simply awesome. Also, the rules of this game are genius...simple, but with enough depth to add huge variety to units, battlefields, and overall battles. I think that gamers that only played BattleLore casually never grasped the greatness of this game. If you shelved BattleLore for the next newest and greatest game, give BattleLore another look...it is an extremely high-quality wargame. Serious gamers that take the time to really get into this game will find that it is a real work of art in the realm of tabletop wargames.
Battle of Dagger Falls, background: The Zhentarim have been invading from the area of the Moonsea down into the Dalelands, demanding tributes from the various towns and villages. Those folk of the Dales that refuse to pay this tribute have their homes burned, and they and their families are slaughtered or taken prisoner. Rumors in the west hint at the Zhentarim near Darkhold Keep raising a mighty goblin army. The citizens of the Dalelands send out a call to arms, and local militias are formed and armies raised to halt the Zhentarim incursion into the Dales. The men of Daggerdale are the first to encounter a Zhentarim raiding party in the woods near Dagger Falls.
Set-up: I scattered woods and hill tiles across the battlefield. The army of Daggerdale was the standard camp, and on the standard camp left flank I placed river tiles that led to a waterfall near the center of the battlefield. To simulate some ancient ruins in these woods, near the falls, I put a rampart piece for the men of the Dale, and in the center of the battlefield there was a graveyard. To represent the men of the Dale being local militia and woodsman, I made them up of arbalestiers and longbow archers. I put one regular infantry on each flank to support the ranged units, and one regular cavalry in the center. For the Zhentarim, I wanted the army to represent more battle-hardened mercenaries and professional soldiers. They had arbalestiers and common bowmen, supported by a red halberdier unit and a red unit of mounted knights. These units were also supported by a couple units of regular infantry, and the wizard on their war council had access to the dreaded rock elemental. I used heroes in this battle as well. The hero of the Dales was a mounted warrior named John of Daggerdale, and the hero of the Zhentarim was a sorceress named Lucretia the Terrible. I had treasure tokens in the woods adjacent to Dagger Falls, and treasure tokens in the graveyard. I had a wooden bridge crossing the river near the waterfall. I used one house rule, allowing longbow archers to fire flaming arrows at this bridge. On a SoS or Lore symbol, the bridge was set aflame and removed from play. If there was a unit on the bridge when it was destroyed, the unit was destroyed with the bridge. I have always loved the idea of flaming arrows.
The Battle is Joined: The strength of the men of the Dales was in their ranged units, so I started by advancing these into woods hexes or hill hexes so they would be in range of the Zhentarim as they advanced. I used the mobility of John of Daggerdale to ride into the graveyard and search for treasure. He found a single treasure token in the graveyard. However, when John was in the graveyard, he was charged by the Zhentarim mounted knights, but they battled to a draw.The Dalelands longbowmen on the Dale left fired flaming arrows at the wood bridge to try and halt the advance of Zhentarim infantry and arbalestiers, but they were unsuccessful in setting the bridge ablaze. A unit of Dale longbowmen in the center fired a volley of arrows at the Zhentarim cavalry near the graveyard, and they scored first blood when one of the Zhentarim knights was pierced through the eye with an arrow and another was killed as arrows struck his hourse, causing the knight to fall and break his neck. The lone Zhentarim mounted knight raised his sword and invoked the name of Tempus, the god of war, as John of Daggerdale charged this lone warrior, his sword held high.
The Zhentarim infantry on the Dalelands left marched across the wood bridge under a hail of flaming arrows, but the bridge was still not set aflame. This group of soldiers then charged the Dale longbowmen on their hilltop, forcing them to retreat back into the woods. With a clash of steel, John of Daggerdale met the last Zhentarim knight just north of the graveyard. After a fierce duel, the Zhentarim knight lay dying as a crimson flow gurgled from his neck, staining the ground of Daggerdale with his last life's blood.
The battle continued to rage on, and John of Daggerdale was able to explore the woods near Dagger Falls, finding two potions hidden in the woods. He then rode southeast to where Lucretia had advanced toward the graveyard with a host of Zhentarim halberdiers. John and Lucretia dueled, with the evil sorceress sending ball lightening ripping through the trees, but this epic clash of champions was a draw.
The Daleland arbalestiers on the ramparts were serving no purpose, as their intent was to fire a hail of bolts down on the attacking Zhentarim from the security of the old forest wall. However, they were too far away to be effective, and the Zhentarim were not traveling close to these old ramparts. The arbalestiers left the security of the wall, deciding instead to use it as a fallback point in case the tide of battle turned against them. As it stood, the men of Daggerale were making considerable progress against the Zhentarim invaders.
On the Daleland left, violent fighting erupted, with heavy losses on both sides. The Zhentarim infantry are decimated by the Dale longbowmen, who, after finishing off the infantry, were able to burn the wood bridge with their flaming arrows. As the smoke swirled and writhed through the trees, the Zhentarim arbalestiers on the opposite side of the river fired volley after volley of bolts across the river, decimating the Dale infantry on the south side of the river and causing fatalities in the ranks of the Daleland longbowmen. In the center, the Zhentarim halberdiers smashed into a group of Daleland arbalestiers, killing all but one in a single, violent melee of swinging, chopping, and stabbing blades. On the Daleland right, longbowmen of the Dale exchanged fire with Zhentarim arbalestiers in the woods. A group of Daleland infantry advanced on these woods and they called the longbowmen to their aid with a hornblower. They were also aided by the Commune with Nature ability bestowed on them by their war council's cleric. A very bloody melee ensued, with the screams of dying men on both sides filling the air.
In the center of the battlefield a swirling vortex appeared, and a terrible rock elemental burst from the ground, smashing the Dalelands cavalry next to it. One horseman was immedaitely pounded to a bloody pulp, and the other horsemen retreated. The cleric on the Daleland war council bestowed a longbow unit with Magic Missiles, and these firey projectiles tore into a Zhent arbalestier unit, bringing the Daleland army near to victory. The score was tied, three banners a piece, with the victory condition being 5 banners. With a mighty battle cry, the Daleland cavalry charged the vicious rock elemental, and they achieved suprising success, killing the find in a blinding display of slashing swords. With only one more banner needed for victory, John of Daggerdale saw a lone Zhentarim archer nocking an arrow. John spurred his steed forward, and before the archer could react, John had lopped off his head in a spray of blood. Victory went to the men of the Dalelands.
Impressions: This battle was hugely fun to play. It was my first time using Heroes and the Rock Elemental, so I had to look-up some rules. I learned that if you are going to use the Rock Elemental, you need a lot of Lore for this creature to be effective. I learned that once this creature is deployed, most of your Lore pool should be dedicated to this creature. It eats up Lore like crazy, but it is very effective in battle and well worth the Lore spent using this monstrocity. The only reason the Rock Elemental was killed so soon after it was deployed is that the Daleland cavalry got astonishingly good dice rolls when they attacked. I found the wizard hero to be mediocre at best, though this was her first battle, and she has not had time to grow with artifacts and experience. I found the warrior, mounted and with the "Mounted Charger" artifact, to be very effective. His presence and hit-and-run tactics caused a lot of mayhem. I'm excited to play the next battle in this campaign in the coming week. In the next battle, the men of the Dalelands learn the location of a Zhentarim prison camp. A raid is planned on this encampment, though besides being guarded by Zhentarim soldiers and goblins, there is also a Wood Wyvern guarding the caverns where the prisoners are being kept. I'll publish the details of this battle in a few days.