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Battleground: Crossbows and Catapults War Chest Starter Set

Crossbows and Catapults box.

Cost: £25

Contents: The set contains two armies (orcs vs knights), each consisting of:
  • 8 warrior figures.
  • 1 catapult.
  • 1 crossbow.
  • 1 cannon.
  • 1 castle with crossbow on top.
  • 5 flags.
  • 2 extra life discs.
  • 1 hero.
  • 12 wall bricks.
  • 8 firing disks.
  • Several spare elastic bands.
Gameplay: Players set up their armies about 50cm apart. Warriors and flags can be hidden behind walls but not behind weapons or the castle. For a weapon to be active, a warrior or hero must be in front of it and within 5cm. To use the castle catapult, a figure must be standing on the balcony. Each turn, a player is allowed two actions. An action consists of firing a weapon, moving a warrior/weapon 15 cm or moving a hero 30cm. Knocking over a flag, warrior or brick with weapon fire takes it out of play. If a player's hero is knocked over before all their other warriors are defeated, the hero is stood up again and the player misses an action on their next go. If all a player's flags are knocked over, they miss their next go, their flags are stood up again and the attacker gets a warrior back. Hitting the castle gate causes it to spring up. Any warrior on the balcony is removed from play and the catapult cannot be used for the rest of the game.

Crossbows and Catapults in action.
Original DS for scale.

Object: To knock down all the opponents warriors and then their hero.

Game length: 45 minutes, although shorter games are possible by reducing the number of pieces.

Number of players: 2-4. It's really a two-player games but, since each side has two shots per turn, playing in teams of two works reasonably well.

Crossbows and Catapults contents.

Age: 6+. Children younger than this will struggle to hit anything and are more likely to break the weapons. That said, with help, they can still take part. When Sproglette (4) insists on joining in, I aim a catapult and hold it steady while she fires. She hits things about as often as I do.

Comments: Lots of little plastic figures, model catapults that actually fire and some dinky battlefield scenery to go with them - I've wanted Crossbows & Catapults since I was about eight. As my boys have shown a disappointing lack of interest in Action Man and Playmobile over the years, however, I wasn't too sure how enthusiastic they'd be at the prospect of the game. Luckily, Nintendo's release schedule was pretty slim this Christmas so I seized my opportunity and bought it for them anyway.

It's ace.

Even the boys took to it once I'd got it set up and started firing missiles across the room. There's a small amount of strategy involved but the rules are simple and it's more a fairground test of skill than a Warhammer-style tactical battle. Hitting the opposing forces is surprisingly difficult, resulting in a great deal of satisfaction when a shot connects.

It certainly makes a change to play an indoor game which involves neither computers nor dice. One issue, though, is that the game requires a minimum of around 2m x 1.5m of floor space to allow enough room for the pieces and players. (Playing on a kitchen table would be possible but would almost certainly lead to discs disappearing under the fridge, so isn't really worth it.) Also, the cannons didn't seem to work very well until I put an extra elastic band on each of them.

All in all, my three children and I have had a great deal of fun with this. Admittedly, when left to play on their own, the boys spent the entire time bickering over everything from who's shot it was to exactly how far 15 cm is, but that's the way it goes I suppose. At least it's been a break from listening to them bicker over which way to head in LEGO Star Wars...

Conclusion: Being a dad finally pays off.

  • A complete battlefield in a box.

  • Fun test of skill and luck.

  • Simple to pick up; tough to master.

  • Lots of decent-quality pieces.

  • So much more fun than Monopoly, you won't believe it.
  • Takes up an entire room.

  • Cannons and crossbows require practice to get the most from them.

  • Hard to find in the shops.

  • Liable to break if accidentally trodden on.

  • Will look like a pile of tasty treats to passing toddlers and Labradors.
Rating: 5/5.

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