Is ‘Battle Masters’ the Biggest Board Game Ever?
Some board games are big; plus with Games Workshop’s stamp of approval, Battle Masters might just be the biggest.
This isn’t the first big tabletop game we’ve covered here at BoLS. In fact, we did a whole series about The Campaign For North Africa, which is easily the biggest (and most complicated) war game ever.
But today, we are talking specifically about this board game’s physical dimensions.
Battle Masters was released in 1992 by Milton Bradley, with licensing from Games Workshop. The game pits the Imperial Knights against the Forces of Chaos. But even without all that, the game stands out in a crowd. This is thanks in no small part to the gigantic battle map. It dominates the table at basically 4.5′ square, (55″ x 57″ / 140 cm x 145 cm). The models for the game are sized for it as well, with the key feature for me being the massive tower that stands imposing among the warring forces.
How to Play Battle Masters
The gameplay, while fairly simple, draws a lot of inspiration from common wargame mechanics. During gameplay setup, one player places terrain features around the board. These are things such as river crossings, impassible marshland, defensible fortifications, and of course, the almighty tower. While one player sets up the terrain, the other player chooses which side they will start on. Overall, pretty progressive for a 1992 Milton Bradley board game!
One of the main mechanics that does make Battle Masters stand out is the turn order structure. Rather than the simple “I go, you go”, Battle Masters uses a deck of Battle Cards to determine which units get to act. Each card shows a small selection of units from one side or the other. Being fully shuffled, there is a half-decent chance one player will get to act several times in a row!
Very Unique Units
But don’t discount Battle Masters as being too overly simple. There are a lot of different gameplay mechanics at work here. There is a decent amount of asymmetry in how each army operates, at least regarding the special units. For example, the Imperial Knights have a cannon. The cannon uses tiles to track the path of the cannonball as it flies. The tiles are drawn randomly and depending on which tile is drawn as the cannonball moves toward its intended target, it might cause some unintended damage to others (or itself!).
Similarly, but differently, the Ogre Champion has a deck of cards that determines what it will do on its turn. Depending on the remaining wounds of the Ogre, it draws a number of cards from its deck of cards, which dictate if it moves or attacks. So, the ogre, as you might expect, kinda does whatever it wants, with some guidance from the player.
Nowadays, as with so many of these types of games, it is something of a collector’s item. But since the community surrounding the game is still active, with making up new rules and mechanics, getting your hands on a copy can be a bit pricey.
Overall, Battle Masters is a pretty nifty board game. It obviously makes a strong visual impression, but it’s got a lot of interesting mechanics lying just under that impression. So is Battle Masters the biggest board game ever? Well, no. Apparently, that title belongs to World of Flames clocking in at 23,279.30 square cm, roughly 25 sq ft. Wowzers.