Battle Cry is a two player board game published by Hasbro/Avalon Hill. It's a historical war game set during the United States' Civil War with simple rules and an easily modified game board, enabling anyone to quickly set up and play through a Civil War battle in about an hour.
The game comes with a basic game board, which is a layout of hexagons, and 46 hexagonal terrain tiles which you can lay atop the gameboard, thus modifying the game board and creating a very large number of possible games to play. The game also includes a large number of miniature soldiers for both the Confederate and Union armies, dice, Command cards (the essence of the game, which allow you to conduct battlefield manuevers and surprises), and field work tokens. The miniature pieces are nicely done, many of them coming with miniature Confederate and Union flags.
Each game starts off by having the two players set up the game board using the terrain tiles; each player also positions his or her troops and receives a number of Command cards. The game includes fifteen scenarios for setting up the troops, numbers of Command cards, and terrain tile setup; these will be noted later. If you just want to play, I recommend a draft of the pieces, where each player may place six (or as many as you want) terrain tiles and can also draft a set number of troops and Command cards, combined, as long as the board contains at least eight flag-bearing pieces per side. The players alternate drafting and placing the pieces.
The players then alternate turns, with each turn consisting of the following sequence of events.
- Play a command card. Command cards tell you what orders you can issue to your troops, and on what part of the board you can issue these orders. If you don't have any cards that allow you to order your troops, discard one of your command cards and draw another, ending your turn.
- Order units. Once you've played the card, you usually have a number of units you can order. You must indicate which ones you're going to move.
- Move. You have three different types of troops (their pieces are clearly distinguishable). The infantry can move one hex in any direction and battle in the next phase. The cavalry can move three hexes and battle. The artillery can either move one hex or battle. Troops of the same type clustered together comprise a unit, and can move together; it's often good to protect flag-bearing troops in a unit. If ordered, a general can move three hexes, but a general can participate in a battle without being given an order.
- Battle. All of the pieces you moved in the turn before (as well as your generals) can then attack the units on the other side. Units can attack other units as far as five hexes away, but the closer a unit is to the opponent, the more dice that unit can roll. One unit can attack only one other hexagon, and the different terrain tiles reduce the range of a particular unit or block it's line of sight (this is very simple and intuitive; if an opposing unit is behind a tree, you can't shoot it, can you?).
- Resolve battle. For each skirmish, the player rolls the battle dice and sees how many troop symbols (artillery, infantry, cavalry, or any unit) he or she gets on the dice; that many opposing troopers die, with the flag bearing trooper dying last.
- Draw a command card. The turn is ended by drawing a command card.
The game continues, with players moving their pieces about, until one side manages to kill off a certain number of flag-bearing troops controlled by the other player; when that happens, the side with all the dead flag-bearing troops loses, and the other side wins.
The game comes, as I mentioned above, with fifteen scenarios that attempt to set up famous Civil War battles: First Bull Run, Pea Ridge, Kernstown, Shiloh, Gaines Mill, Brawner's Farm, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Murfreesboro, Chancellorsville, two different Gettysburg scenarios, Chickamunga, New Market, and New Hope Church. These scenarios provide historical background and specific board layouts to start with that match the actual battle conditions. For my own enjoyment, Pea Ridge and Fredericksburg are the most enjoyable. One can also find more scenarios by searching about on the 'net; there is a rather active Battle Cry community online.
The game takes about an hour and a half until you get used to the nuances, then the time cuts down to about an hour. The game has a lot of strategy wrapped up in a small number of simple rules, which for me is the symbol of a good game; add in the interesting way of presenting a history lesson, and Battle Cry makes for one worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.