Included in this review are the following points:
1. Why - 2. The Story / Mechanic - 3. The Complexity - 4. Luck / Balancing - 5. Gameplay / Fun - 6. Artwork / Cost - 7. Summary
1. Why (for the actual review skip to number 2.)
I've seen this game lying around on the "news" table of my local games dealer. I've not heard of it then, it looked nice and was cheap so I got myself a copy. I had allot of trouble figuring out the rules at first . Now I own several copies of the game, that allow you to increase the amount of players and it has become my number one game for entertaining fast paced evenings. I was pretty sure this game would catch on pretty fast and be soon played or at least known by allot of people. But since it is a small game from an independent self-made company (http://www.fryxgames.se/) it still is on its way up. A bad review from the dice tower, based on misunderstood rules, did its bit as well. This review is what led me to make my own, as I felt I had to defend my newly found favorite fun game. (For more Information about what the dice tower got wrong you can read my other review here http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1086715/rules-of-brawling-ba... ))
2. The Story / Mechanic (2-X Players)
You are a Baron, brawling with others such to be favoured by the king the most. For doing so you have to build buildings for the Kingdom or strengthen it's army by supplying soldiers.
Turn-wise each player gets only one action, like recruiting a peasant or a squire, upgrading them, collecting money or new cards for your hand, attacking the enemy support the kings army or play one of the few action cards. Though there is a limitation of one action only, the same action each round can be done any number of times. For example if you choose to recruit people for your village (peasants or squires) you can hire as many as you can afford at once.
(To find out how to play, click here http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/894820/boardgames-in-blighty...)
3. The Complexity (suggested age 10+)
At first this game seems pretty simple. Planning several rounds ahead is what leads to victory though. But even with a good plan, pretty soon one or the other turn needs to be sacrificed , just to hinder the enemy or prevent an unforeseen mischief threatening a village. This game is supposed to be fast paced but very early on in tough decisions have to me made. This game has much more depth to it than the "simple" rules and the cute artwork suggests. Choosing between action and reaction is never easy. The suggested age of 10+ seems very optimistic to me. This game is also fun if you do not play it seriously, but if you do my suggestion would be 13+.
4. Luck / Balancing
As it is basically a card game, there is a bit of luck involved. Following a planned out path is more luck depending. Making the best of the drawn cards seems like the better way to go. The market evens out the odds a little bit, by presenting the option of selectively picking one out of three revealed cards at the price a higher number of new random cards.
Another attempt to balance the game and give players that have fallen back a little push are the "Royal Aid" cards. When drawn they immediately benefit the player with the least money, buildings or peasants and so on. While definitely helping the player with the smallest town allot, most of the times the player with the least money or the least peasants is one of the leading players. The player with the least victory points has to recruit mostly peasants to increase working force and also has to save money to be able to catch up. So when the Royal Aid cards, benefiting the "poorest" player hit, the leading players get yet another push. The same goes for Royal Aid cards helping the player with the least cards in hand or the smallest army, as only a leading player can send it off to the wall and so more often has none left. A swap to more "Aiding the smallest town" or even "Aiding the player with the least victory points" instead of "least money" or "least army" would be good. One could argue that this just adds another strategic element to the game, but the rules explicitly say “Their purpose is to aid the weakest player…” which they not always do, so that’s a minor flaw.
5. Gameplay / Fun
This game is unbelievable much fun. It is done so clever down to the marketing. For a 2 Player game 1 deck of cards for about 6€ is sufficient. But with each additional deck the number of possible players increases as well as the fun does. The downside is that the downtime for each individual player increases as well. My personal preference is a 4 Player game with 4-5 decks. With this setup a game may take between 1-2 hours. 1-2 hours of pure fun. It does not matter if everybody tries to win doggedly or just wants to annoy and attack the others as much as possible, the game can be played in many different ways. It brings together players with different interests.
A 3 Player game is fun as well because the typical 3 Player problem that when two people quarrel, a third rejoices is not the case with brawling Barons. Everybody has to quarrel the whole time with each other. The leading player will be attacked by everybody all the time so even after 2 hours of gameplay, the Barons mostly are only 1 victory point apart.
Another element that keeps the tension going is the special money managing. Money is represented by the same cards you take into your hand and is as well drawn from the same card deck. The only difference is money cards are never looked at and after paying anything, the cards return to the top of the deck. As the game ends with the completion of the deck, the proper handling of money gains a whole new meaning. I am not saying this mechanic is unique as I have the feeling I encountered it in a similar way before and just can’t pinpoint where, but it is another awesome part of this in total amazing game.
I have only heard good things about a 2 Player competition. Personally I am not that experienced in a 2 Player Barons game because with only one other person I always play games like mage wars. I will update this part though should I get to play some more 1on1 Barons.
Another thing I have yet to experience is the team-play option. It sounds incredible interesting and seems to add even more fun. This might be a way a 6 player game, which with normal rules would be to slow for me, could get very exciting.
6. Artwork / Cost
For 6€ you get a deck of 60 cards with a simple but “cute” artwork. That’s more than opportunely. As “Fryxgames” is to my understanding a complete family run business, the artwork is most likely home made as well. Zoomed in on the Barons faces on this picture ( http://www.fryxgames.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/brawlingB... ) the texture of simple fillings get visible. The peasants and squires look like a preschool student had drawn them. But all in all it looks and feels very lovely. The only really important part is consistency within the deck, and that is guaranteed.
As I own 6 decks now (I keep 1 separated for 2 player games) I paid a total of 6x6=36€ which is more than I paid for my copy of civilization. I am totally fine with that as I had in total 20 times more fun with Brawling Barons because I come to play it on almost every gaming session. Right now I bring this game with me to every gaming table I join or organize.
- nice combination of mechanics ensure an unique experience
- pretty strategic, not that simple, easy to learn, not so easy to play
- much fun for 2-5 (even more) players, as interactive as you want it to be
- totally unimportant information for the gameplay, but it sells at a nowadays matchlessly fair price
If you think I did not cover a specific topic sufficiently please write me or post here, to help me improve my writing skills.
I havent played this yet, I added it to an order because it was cheap, and looked like fun - I grabbed 2 decks so I could play with 3 or 4 people.
Looking forward to trying it out