Wednesday, 16 January 2013

BattleScribe Review

Now for something completely different...

Now, I don't do many reviews so this is a bit of a test run, any suggestions or opinions are welcome as well as advice for the future.

Over the years I've tried loads of interactive army lists, everything from excel spreadsheets to full software tools. Recently I came across a piece of software called battlescribe, it is available on pc, mac, ios and android platforms and uses fan made libraries for its data library.

"BattleScribe is a fast and powerful army list builder for tabletop wargamers. It allows you to quickly and easily create army lists for a large range of game systems and armies. Your points limit and army selections are validated so you can see if you've made any mistakes, and the easy to read output will summarise your units' profiles and special rules for quick reference." 

The above is a direct quote from the battlescribe website, fast, easy,and accurate? Sounds perfect, so, how does the real thing stack up to the promise.

The website for battlescribe is really rather nice, it has a clear navigation bar and finding the download for your platform is very easy. (I know this sounds odd, but some of the army list building software I have tried have been hosted on some dreadful websites that make just getting the software a challenge.)

So, installing is easy, next up, lets find some codexes. To explain, in order for battlescribe to not break any copywrite laws, it does not create any codex data for games or armies, this is left to 3rd parties and fans. The data libraries are however readily available on the net, the best site I have found is HERE.

The data works really well, is simple to install and,there is loads of it! So, now we have a codex, lets write an army list.

When you first open battlescribe, a clear roster appears on your screen along with the task bar.

The first thing you notice is the simplicity of the interface. It utilises a 4 pane system combined with a windows style toolbar making it very intuitive to navigate and use. It is also worth noting the little drop down box that has links to several wargaming websites from which you can purchase your miniatures after writing your list, really rather handy!

Pressing the new roster button opens the army selector screen. Here you can select the data library you want to use, 40K,WFB, Warmachine etc. You can also then select a specific codex or army book, give the roster a title, set a points limit and select the force organisation you are going to be using.

You can even add several forces to one list using the ally rules selecting the detachment sizes as you go.

Continuing on to the next screen you are provided with a tiered list of each unit in the codes alongside its basic points cost. This includes all the named/special characters from the book. Each is in its relevant category, HQ, Elites, Troops etc. Double clicking an option adds it to your roster in the second/ central pane.

Clicking on a unit in the central pane opens a list of their upgrade options in the right-hand pane.
As you can see, the simple tick box options make organising each unit very quick and simple. It even allows you to name each character and unit on the roster (no game value, but essential for characterful play).

As you can see, the lower pane stretches across the bottom of all 3 other panes and is the notification pane. Here are listed any issues or conflict your roster may have the the core rules system. For example, the above roster has only 1 HQ choice on it so the notifications bar tells me I need at least 2 more Troops choices to meet the minimum requirements for a legal force. Though this is a small addition, it can be very handy when writing large lists using allies from a different codex or army book.

hen you have completed your roster and it's time to print it, you have 2 options. The first, and my personal choice s the grid layout, this adds in stats and rules for each unit making for a great gaming reference rather than simply a list of points per unit.
I find this style really handing but if you simply want a basic army list, then the list style is perfect for you.
The list style is perfect for tournaments where you have to submit your army lists to the judges as it sums up the entire army quickly with every upgrade and weapon option listed along with its points value.

All in all I am very impressed with this product, especially when you consider it is totally FREE! I am now using it for all my army lists and find it to be a great resource.

The only major gripe I have with it, is that there is no quick way to put together a data library from scratch within the software itself. Though you can make your own library it is a rather time consuming thing to do and could be made a lot easier. However, with the software being free, I don't feel I can really complain all that much.

NOTE: This applies to all android users, when you first load a new data library, you will have to restart your android device before you can start a new roster. I don't know why this is, but you do, just so you know.

Well that's about it, more grey knights on the way soon, comments and discussion welcome as always.