Sunday, April 23, 2006

History of a Gamer & Battle Cry Redux

I've been a gamer from days of yore. In high school I played the usual: Risk, A&A, the odd copy of an Avalon Hill game. In grad school I had a few years of chess obsession.

Believe it or not, the key event in my current incarnation as a gamer was the invasion of Iraq. This blog is not the place to debate US foreign policy, but military matters still dominate the news years later. For weeks and months before and after the invasion, I heard about the military, battlefield tactics and strategic considerations. It got me looking around for a way to play armchair general. I was looking for something with a balance between rules and detail (I would now say "elegant mechanics"), short play time, and decent solo playability.

Eventually my searches took me to BGG, as all such searches must. "Wow, what's this!?" I thought. I did some browsing, but at the time I was on a mission so I focused on war games. At the light end of the wargame spectrum, Battle Cry was getting a lot of buzz. Also, a guy named Chris Farrell was writting cogent, lucid prose about some goofy games with blocks. My local game story didn't sell any of those "block games" so Battle Cry it was.

Thus began the current phase of gaming. We all know the "game cycle." I got it, I played it, I loved it, I wanted more games. Kind of like drugs. Previously, I would have suffered through withdrawl and moved back to other hobbies, but a pusher had moved into my web neighborhood. I went back to the 'geek for advice. I picked up Ogre, and I dabbled with Wizard Kings, War of 1812, and Hammer of the Scots. Several Euros followed in quick succession: Puerto Rico, Carcassone, Pirate's Cove.

I moved to San Antonio in Spring 2005 where I knew almost no one, but not to fear: my pusher had connections. BGG got me hooked up with another junky named Rob, and in return I showed Rob the joy of blocks. We found Kendahl, then Ben. Now we virtually need name tags, and we get our game on every week.

One dark spot, however, was that as I moved through the blocks of war, Battle Cry seemed less satisfying. Too random, too restricted, not enough control. I hated to see an early favorite suffer.

Once again, the geek came to the rescue by connecting me with some great house rules. John O'Haver made a significant study of Civil War history, then made some major changes to Battle Cry, deriving his variant Advanced Battle Cry Deluxe Expanded (ABCDE). The main effect of the rules is to reduce range and make attacks less deadly. This tends to slow the game down, but also greatly improves the maneuvering.

I then combined this with an idea to restructure the deck into three parts. Create two identical decks consisting only of movement cards evenly spread across the three zones; each side gets one. The third deck has the rest of the movement cards and all the 'text' cards. After the first kill, each side always has 1 card from the special deck and the balance from their own deck. Keep discards separate and reshuffle when done. This change greatly improves your ability to control your troops. You are guaranteed cycle through cards across the whole field.

Taken together, this Battle Cry Redux is much more to my liking. The game is still fairly short (for a wargame), plays fast, is card driven. The luck factor has been tamed down quite a bit, but hardly eliminated. The first ~30 min of the game consists of maneuvering your troops with a few artillery shots being fired. Then the attacks begin, and shooting picks up slowly. After another few minutes combat is raging and almost every turn some one shoots. The ranks start to thin out. The attack may shift, or the defenders may counter attack, sometimes both happen on opposite sides of the board. As the battle starts to wind down, the 6th unit falls on one side or the other, and the game is over.

Good times.

That brings us to the present. When I first googled "Battle Cry", I never could have guessed I'd end up here. I don't know what's in my gaming future. I do know one thing, though: it's gonna be a lotta fun!

Get your game on guys and gals. I'll see you Monday night!


At 7:13 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Good post. I wonder if they have something similar for Memoir 44 (I could probably come up with something similar based on your new battle cry version).

And it's true... about looking at your first games in a different light, but still feeling like you can't just trade them away. That's how I feel about Memoir 44. My first online order of games included Puerto Rico, Acquire, and the aforementioned Memoir 44. At the time I thought "You know, I got a wargame, a money game, and a nice empire-building euro.... I don't need anything else."

(insert uncomfortable silence)

The Junkie

At 8:20 PM, April 23, 2006, Blogger Simon said...

Hahaha. Priceless.

The Bankrupt


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