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Subject: Beowulf - aka 'Let's draw cards' rss

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Jason Jullie
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Well, my gaming group has played this game several times and ironed out the rules to the point where I feel comfortable reviewing this game. As the title might suggest, I don't think too highly of this game, but I'll get to that at the end of this review.

Components:
This is a pretty solid offering components-wise. The board and cards have nice artwork. They give the players a nice sense of the theme. The board itself only folds out into a square with one quarter missing. This gives the overall impression a nice refreshing look compared to the usual square boards. There are a couple of chits that have decent artwork on them, nothing to write home about, but they get the job done. Overall, the components are just better than average in my opinion.

Gameplay:
The game is basically a series of bidding 'mini-games' intermingled with a few other random events. The board acts as a guild. As the single playing peice for the game moves along its track, it will stop at different locations and tell you what to do. The major events that drive the game are the round robin and secret bidding games.

In the round robin 'game', players take turns bidding against each other by playing cards from their hands until people begin to bow out and an eventual winner is determined. In addition, several of the round robin games allow players to "risk", which means that they can draw two cards blindly from the deck in an effort to get cards that match the suit of the curretn bidding war. Failure to match, results in the player recieveing a 'scratch' which will hurt the players end total if he/she gathers too many of them.

In the secret bidding, players simply decide what cards they want to bid with and then everyone reveals at once. After either of the bidding games is over, the winner gets to choose his reward first, followed by the second player, and so on. Rewards include victory points, gold (which can be used to win later bidding games), more cards, and scrolls (which can hace gold or victory points). Also, some bidding games will have negative 'rewards'. Usually these will leave the last player taking a wound or a scratch.

In between the bidding events, there are minor events that allow players to draw more cards, get rid of scratches, gather victory points, ect.

My Opinon:

After playing this game several times, it has easily become one of my least favorite games to play. My main beef with this game is the ability to 'risk' in the round robin bidding matches. It's simply devolves the game into a matter of luck. Sure, you can spend your minor events managing your hand, but you all the hand management in the world can't stop your opponents from just constantly risking and getting lucky.

I've been on both ends of this game. One time I won this game handly just because I managed to always seem to draw the suit that I needed to win a bid. Other times, I can get knocked out of a bid even though I had a very strong hand going in, simply because my opponent keep drawing in suit.

Sadly, I really don't see how the game would work without the 'risk' ability. It's just not a very strong system. Basically you move a pawn down a fixed track and bid against your opponent for rewards. The ability to 'risk' adds a level of tension to the game, but it saps out any of the strategy with lucky draws.

I'm just not a fan of a game where I soundly beat my opponents and feel no pride, since my game playing had very little to do with the outcome.
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Ryan Wheeler
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Dignan wrote:
In addition, several of the round robin games allow players to "risk", which means that they can draw two cards blindly from the deck in an effort to get cards that match the suit of the curretn bidding war. Failure to match, results in the player recieveing a 'scratch' which will hurt the players end total if he/she gathers too many of them.


I'll point out, although you almost surely already know, that not only do you receive a scratch but you are forced to pass out of the event. This is almost always the worse of the two penalties and a reason to rethink your risks.

You didn't specifically mention this penalty in your review so I thought it would be worth pointing out. Forgetting it was a mistake my group made our first time out and it improved the game 200% when we played the second game properly.

Ryan
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Jason Jullie
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Thanks for adding that point, I failed to mention it.

Yes, taking a 'risk' does have it's downside, it just seems that the penalty isn't strong enough. Usually, players in our group will start risking only when they would otherwise pass anyway. It's worth a shot at the reward considering the downside is only a scratch, especialy if the loser of the bidding gets a wound (as some of the events have).

The first few games we played I thought that we were just hitting lucky streaks with the 'risk's we were taking. But after several plays it just ruins the game for me when I see one player constantly risk and win. If there was some deeper tactics to 'risk'ing, than things would be different, but as it stands now, taking a 'risk' is simply a matter of blind luck.

I usually don't mind luck elements in games, but this instance just seems to rub me the wrong way. I also think it has to do with the fact that I don't really care for the rest of the game either. But to each his own.
 
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Jon W
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Dignan wrote:
I usually don't mind luck elements in games, but this instance just seems to rub me the wrong way. I also think it has to do with the fact that I don't really care for the rest of the game either.

I do like the rest of the game: the linear sequence so you can plan and prioritize, the different types of auctions, the special cards, the evaluation of risk/reward, the escalation toward the end. But there's too much incentive to Risk, and too much can ride on the outcome of one draw. The game seems to always devolve into a few critical "Risk-offs," where no matter what form of card management you use, you wind up in a dull game of War. It just feels too much at odds with the rest of the game for me to really enjoy it, though, like you, I usually don't mind some luck elements.
 
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Jason Jullie
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Jon Waddington wrote:
The game seems to always devolve into a few critical "Risk-offs," where no matter what form of card management you use, you wind up in a dull game of War. It just feels too much at odds with the rest of the game for me to really enjoy it, though, like you, I usually don't mind some luck elements.


Yeah, this is kind of my point. It seems that regardless of how well I manage my hand or think ahead, it just doesn't seem to payoff. Sometimes I'll look ahead at the next few rounds and plan on which I want to win, only to lose to someone who had a much lesser hand for that bidding. Conversly, I've found myself in a bidding round where I failed to gather the cards for a crucial bidding event only to end up beating everyone else just because of some lucky draws. The system seems to reward too much compared to what you risk.
 
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Matthew M
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Beowulf isn't just about hand management - it is also about risk management. Good hand management means you will need fewer risks and fewer risks means fewer opportunities for failure. A player who always risks when possible will very likely take at least one wound more than he would have otherwise - that wound could cost you the 5 pt bonus at the end of the game, and five points is often more than the difference between first and second.

There are also ways to prevent other players from risking successfully. If you go into the Dragon battle with 4 matching singles and the All Iron Shield (4-fighting) and your opponent has 4 matching cards, how do you play? Most players new to the game slap down the All Iron Shield first. This is a mistake, as it lets your opponent play all 4 of his cards and then he responds to each of your singles with risks. If, instead, you play out your singles first you can play your All Iron Shield afterwards. If your opponent is able to stay in the battle when he needs to net 4 matching symbols from his two card risk then you can blame luck

-MMM
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Kevin
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Play the killer variant where you lose the game if you have 3 wounds at game end. It forces one to think more about risking everytime there's an auction. Getting 2 wounds and haeding into the last few auctions with 1-2 scratches as well really changes the game for the player I think. Trying to avoid that problem earlier in the game means different choices, more thoughtful play.
Just my quick thoughts. I do like this game, in part because of the risk element.
 
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Matthew M
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Lunga wrote:
Play the killer variant where you lose the game if you have 3 wounds at game end. It forces one to think more about risking everytime there's an auction.


I don't see how that would make anyone play differently. I've never seen someone have a score high enough to survive the -15 penalty having three wounds would impose. Not much of a variant at all, then.

-MMM
 
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Eduardo Pereira
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Yup... those three wounds are sure to knock anyone dead! I only played Beowulf twice, so far... never won, but I always managed to get rid of all the wounds before the end, which allowed me to score five extra points.
 
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Pedro Pereira
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Excuse me!! I have had many times more than 15 points... in fact I got close to 30 points, mainly because I always concider the cards in my hand and what I can do with them. For example, if some players are already out of a bidding then I can take a Risk because I know that I won't suffer a very harsh pennalty since I'm not last, and this allows me to save up valuable cards for other scenarios that are still to come!! You really have to know WHEN you should take risks...

I love this game!!
 
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Laura Appelbaum
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Dignan wrote:
Well, my gaming group has played this game several times and ironed out the rules to the point where I feel comfortable reviewing this game.


Several times? You're a far more patient person than I -- I couldn't get myself to sit through a single game. In fact, I can't recall the last time I've ever played anything that struck me as so utterly pointless and boring -- it would have to be back in the days before I discovered modern Euros -- like, in Middle School, playing Monopoly. And I'm not just saying that to dis on Monopoly!
 
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Morgan Dontanville
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I felt the same way.

I was pleased that I was able to trade this game so quickly.
 
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