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Subject: Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Two Barons Duke It Out rss

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Milena Guberinic
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Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Two Barons Duke It Out

The Overview

In Barony, you will become a Baron, fighting with other barons to become the Duke by deploying armies of knights to extend your territory and building villages, strongholds, and cities.

To set up the game, the board tiles are shuffled and the game board is created by randomly arranging a number of these tiles equal to 9 times the number of players in the game.

The tiles show 5 different types of terrain, including:
*Mountains - one pawn on a mountain precludes other players from entering
*Forests - no cities can be built on forests
*Plains - the most valuable lands
*Fields - the second-most valuable lands
*Lakes (no pawns may cross or occupy lakes).

You begin the game with a set of pawns, including:
*Cities (5) - built from villages. They keep opponents from entering their space and allow you to recruit knights.

*Knights (7) - recruited in cities. They move around the map, are replaced by strongholds or villages, and allow you to destroy another player's single knight or lone village when in a pair

*Villages (14) - built by replacing knights. They can be turned into cities and can be destroyed by a pair of opposing knights

*Strongholds (2) - built by replacing knights. They keep opponents from entering their space.

At the start of the game, each player strategically places 3 city-knight pairs on spaces on 3 spaces on the board, keeping in mind that cities cannot be placed on lakes, forests, or on spaces adjacent to another city.

Each turn, you take one of the following actions:
*Recruit - Select ONE city and place on it up to 2 knights from your reserve or 3 knights if the city is adjacent to a lake (because knights are more attracted to cities with pools!)
*Move - Move 1 or 2 of your knights to an adjacent space. You cannot move your knight to a lake space, a space with an opponent's city or stronghold, a space containing 2 pawns of an opponent, a mountain space containing an opponent's pawn. If you move 2 of your knights into a space containing 1 opponent knight or a lone village, you burn down the village, taking 1 resource token from that opponent or return the knight to that opponent's supply.
*Construct - Replace all or any of your knights on the board with a village or stronghold from the reserve, returning replaced knights to your reserve. For each build, you earn a resource token associated with the territory on which you built.
*New city - Replace one of your villages with a city from your reserve, returning the village to your reserve. When you build a city, you immediately earn 10 VP. You cannot build a city on a forest, a space adjacent to another city, or a space containing an opponent's knight.
*Expedition - Remove one knight permanently from your reserve and place another in a free space on the edge of the game board.
*Noble - Discard a minimum of 15 resources to move forward on the noble track. You don't get any change.

Different terrains provide different resources

The game ends when one player becomes Duke. Any remaining resource token points (written in silver on resource tokens) are added to scores.

The Review

Played prior to review: 7x

1. Beautiful
Barony is a vibrant, beautifully-illustrated and produced game, which is something that every game (and especially every abstract game) should be.

2. Simple rules
The rules are simple, straightforward, and well-written and the game is easy to teach and learn. It took me about 5 minutes to explain the game to Peter. That said, there are a few points that can be difficult to keep in mind (see soblue), but they aren't a significant barrier to learning the game.

3. Deep, strategically and tactically rich game
Ok, this is where things get interesting. Barony may make for a simple, straightforward learning experience, but it is anything but simple and straightforward to play.

At the start of the game, you have to carefully consider the layout of the various terrain types to optimally position your starting castles so as to ensure that a) you are able to effectively block your opponent from accessing the most valuable resources and b) you are able to ensure continued access to those valuable resources for yourself. Of course, the game does not make this easy to execute. Your knights, which are the only way you have of moving around the board and one of only 3 ways to block your opponent come in a very limited supply. Over the course of the game, you have to use them to create villages and use knights, along with the mountains/lakes and strongholds to effectively block your opponent from burning down your villages and stealing your resources. As you watch your opponent's moves, you have to weigh the likelihood of his attacking you and the likelihood of your attacks yielding benefits in the form of resources stolen from your opponent or opening up valuable territories for you to build villages or strongholds on.

Your chief concerns in Barony are spatial arrangements of your and your opponent's knights and buildings and the topography of the land. Strategy comes in the form of long-term plans for your cities and tactical considerations come as you respond to your opponent's moves. I personally love thinking about the ever-increasing number of components on the board and I think most players who love a good area control party would enjoy the types of decision points in this game.

4. Optimization and efficiency
Barony is a somewhat unforgiving game. Every move you make has to be carefully considered and efficient. You cannot afford to make any missteps and you cannot afford to lose any resources because you are in a sort of race; the player who manages to amass the most valuable resources the most quickly WHILE carefully managing and protecting them will win the game. Giving resources away by leaving yourself open to attack when you have valuable resources in hand or failing to optimize your movement can lead to failure.

I love games that don't have a lot of room for error and yet have a broad decision space. Barony is like that in its demands for optimization and efficiency and many options for moving your knights and building a variety of buildings to both threaten your opponent's resources and protect your own.

5. Zero randomness
Barony has ZERO random factors. Your ultimate fate is in your hands, so if you fail you have only yourself to blame. Does that sound like a good thing? I guess it depends on who you are, but if you are like me, this sounds PERFECT!

6. Immense replay value, particularly with two players
Barony is incredibly variable! The game comes with 36 territory tiles and only 18 of these are used in any given 2-player game! The territory tiles all contain different configurations of the 5 different land types, so the combination of these that become available in any given game and their layout will demand players adopt very different strategies. In a game with many mountains, you may be able to rely on building mountain villages to create a front your opponent cannot cross. In another without mountains, lone villages would be a soure of liability. In one game, you may be able to rely on the high-valued fields, using their resources to quickly ascend the nobility track, while in another, you may have to retain more lower-valued resources for longer periods of time, which would necessitate more safe plays to protect yourself from attack. In any case, every game of Barony creates different demands by the way the board is initially laid out.

Variability isn't the only source of replay value in Barony. While the game is easy to learn, honing your strategy is anything but. The game definitely rewards numerous returns. After the first couple of games, I felt like I understood the game well, but after 7 plays and counting, I keep discovering new ways to execute my moves and countermoves and effectively use certain actions (the Expedition action, in particular) to optimize my game. Each and every game of Barony we have played has resulted in close scores, so every teensy bit of learning you take away from each session and are able to incorporate into the next can help you greatly.

6. Short play time
With two players, Barony can be played in about 30 minutes. Despite the weight of the decision-making (and the occasional AP), the game proceeds at a brisk pace and is over rather quickly...most of the time. The map layout can somewhat affect the duration of the game either by limiting or increasing your ability to block your opponent, mostly through the arrangement of mountains, but games generally last no more than 30 minutes, which is perfect for an abstract race game.

7. Works very well with only two players
Barony is a very tight, strategic race with only two players. More players would add more play time and more chaos into the game, which are both things I don't care to add to this game. Ad the map scales according to the number of players, so I don't think a 4-player game would be any tighter than a 2-player one.


soblue 1. Abstract
This is a 100% abstract game. It will not appeal to those looking for a thematically involved experience. This doesn't bother me personally, but it may bother some players because the game appears to be less abstract than it actually is.

soblue 2. Some rules can take a bit of getting used to
The fact that villages and strongholds give you resources but cities give you 10 points was something that presented a bit of a hurdle for Peter initially. He figured that all building actions would be rewarded similarly, but that cities would give you resources and something extra. Well, he figured wrong, but I understand that this rule and several others (such as cities not being build-able in forests) may take a play session to get accustomed to.

Final Word

What initially attracted me to Barony was its appearance. I am not typically drawn to abstract games and Peter tends to despise them, so I generally avoid them. But Barony doesn't look like your average abstract game, so I figured I could sell it to Peter on looks alone. And I was right. Sort of. Because Barony isn't only beautiful; it is also incredibly interesting. The way it demands you balance acquiring resources with using them to ascend the nobility track, the way it urges you to waste no time in getting to the most valuable resources and to use the landscape to help keep them secure, and the way it puts all of this completely and utterly in your control is just captivating. Barony is beautiful in more ways than one and I look forward to watching that beauty grow with the upcoming expansion!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE



Mina's Love Meter

angry Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)

To see my other reviews, visit this geeklist.

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Andy Andersen
United States
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Thanks, Mina. You are my hero.

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Julien Robert
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Would like to test this one just to be sure it is not for me laugh
I don't like abstract usually
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United States
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Trust no one
YoshiFR wrote:
Would like to test this one just to be sure it is not for me laugh
I don't like abstract usually

I usually avoid abstracts as well, but Barony is an amazing game. Well worth seeking out somebody with a copy and trying it out!

As to the cities being the only things that score points, I always explain early on that the winner is the person who has bought the highest rank and built the most of their big cities. When the goal is framed that way, it seems to stick pretty well what will get you the win.
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Bojan Brankov
Novi Sad
Novi Sad
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Will I love this game if I love Kingdom Builder?
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