|Home Page - Gaming - Battlelords
Table of Contents
Impression 4 (after ten sessions) - Generally, the game can be a lot of fun. You will probably get more out of it if you either are a military buff or are interested in learning about military stuff. I would say that the game is more military than sci-fi. The sci-fi really only translates into cooler armor and cooler weapons.
Like many games, melee combat takes a back seat to guns in general, but the rules still allow for a sufficiently bad ass melee guy to gut some people. You still have to have a pretty good score in a melee weapon to even have a chance to stab, punch, or knockdown someone before he can shoot you, regardless of the range, size of weapon, etc. The range of levels on melee weapons is 1 to 25. Most races would need a 13 to have the chance to beat any person with a gun, and even then the melee attacker would still have to win initiative. For reference, I have raised my PC's sword skill at every opportunity, pumping points and time into it as fast as possible, and I have just reached level 13 after ten sessions and 31,000 XP. Luckily, I am playing an Eridani, so I only needed level 8 to have enough attacks to have a chance to beat a guy with a gun. If you are going to be a melee specialist, Eridani is the way to go, but that should be pretty obvious with a race dubbed "Swordsaints". :-P
The plethora of skills in the game can be a little overwhelming as a person can buy a lot of skills and still forget some important basic ones; this plethora of skills allows for highly specialized characteres, but it can lead to a false sense of competence because a number of skills may be needed to accomplish one general task. Not a big deal if you understand that in advance. The fact that PCs will generally start out with competence below what is needed to have a 50% chance to do something successfully is something to consider. According to our GM, the 31,000 XP we have earned over the last ten missions is average. As a team we are just now getting up to a skill level that allows greater than 50% chances of success with "average difficulty" tasks, so solid competence does not come quickly. In my case, I have focussed on a few skills that are cheap to buy and I am just getting past "average" competence with those few skills. Most of the team is not there yet. Some races do have more points to throw around when the game starts, but "average" competence in the full range of basic skills as well as your character's specialties is unlikely at the start. You are not allowed to raise anything more than three levels to start anyway, so without a racial freebie in a skill, you won't have higher than a level 3 to start with. That is not too hot. However, starting out weak is nothing new to players, but you have to keep in mind that you are a punkass newbie no matter what your background may suggest. If you think too hard about it, your character probably starts out absurdly incompetent, but just don't think about it too hard.
I think my single greatest criticism of the game is the number of levels you can have in a skill. Having a range from 1 to 25 allows for some serious disparity. With ranged weapon skills of 2 to 4, our team is doing well. I can't imagine what it will be like to have another +100% to our chance to hit.
Impression Number 3 (third session) - Surprisingly, no combat. Since Battlelords is a combat-focused system, I need to reserve judgement. The encumbrance rules seem to work reasonably well and the mechanics seem to be smooth in execution, but the latter is hard to judge since our BM has run so much BL.
Impression Number 2 (two sessions) - The game world is interesting. It feels a little like Shadowrun™ (SR) two hundred years in the future. Similar to SR, the player races are a little unbalanced. SR has the Troll, which is an unbalancingly tough physical threat. In second edition, this was offset by mental vulnerability which made them susceptible to magic, but that was lifted in the 3rd edition and all non-humans inherited a mechanical limitation. The "Python" races of BL have a similar problem in being unbalanced, but to a greater extreme. The Ram Python is absurdly dangerous in physical combat and can take an unbalancing amount of damage; however, they have an absurdly small chance to resist an Empath's assault. Unfortunately, that Achilles' heel is not realized easily and with their great size, carrying a big gun makes them dangerous in ranged combat too. I am still worried that having 25 levels for many skills can create very unbalancing characters, but we'll see. I think the aiming rules are interesting and reflect reality pretty well, although it may be a little clumsy for someone new to BL like myself. I still don't care for the critical hit system, but then I never have cared for critical hit systems and at least it is described as "optional" in the rules. According the to the GM no one considers them "optional" in practice. IMO, critical hits should be handled by the judgment and creativity of the person running the game. Of course, the person running a game can always choose to make that judgment.
Initial impression - To be honest, I am trying out Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century because no one else in our Vampire: The Masquerade™ group, including me, is willing to run anything else while the storyteller for VTM game takes a break. My initial impression from reading the book is that it is directed at chronically hostile young males. Unfortunately, I am not a member of that demographic anymore, so the black and white, extreme views of the races and the seeming obsession with the lethality of futuristic combat does not appeal to me. The lack of depth and complexity in the development of the game world is more than a little disappointing for a veteran of Traveller like myself. The "optional" critical hits system which the book assumes you use is extreme, in my opinion. An average soldier in the game will probably end up taking a critical hit from any shot that penetrates his armor, and there is about a 1 in 10 chance that such a critical hit will be fatal, and far too many have "permanent" ability reductions. Just about any weapon is likely to cause a critical hit on the first strike to an average soldier. If he is armored, that is delayed, but the first shot that gets through is likely to be a critical result and an overwhelming majority of the armors are little good against a lot of reasonably available weapons. As such, I am restraining myself from making a character with great depth, because I think it might be wasted on a system where one's type of gun or armor seems ultimately much more important than his philosophy and background. I hope I am wrong. On the other hand, there are some good things. I like the large number of attributes a lot. I think having an Aggression attribute is interesting, although I think having it count equally with Intuition and IQ for Military Leadership is a little silly. A leader can not make up for being stupid and unaware by pure aggression, that's dominance, not leadership. As a former Sergeant in the U.S. Army, I am keenly aware of the difference. The Matrix Controller system (essentially magic) looks good at first glance. It seems to be reasonably balanced and there are ways to try and defend against a lot of it, unlike VTM which has infuriatingly powerful and unbalanced powers. BL also has an interesting approach to armor and makes an attempt to account for non-lethal damage. The variety of races is interesting even if they tend to have extreme philosophies; they seem even more extreme in light of the thousands of years of interaction with other races and cultures. In the end, I am looking forward to trying it out, but I'm not getting my hopes. That's probably good news for the GM <grin>. We'll see how things go.