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Peace Bowl is the newest game produced by Angelo Porazzi (creator of Warangel and Warbeast). It is set in the same universe created by those two games, but is a completely different game system. Four-way “football” sounded like a good theme for a game, so I was quite anxious to give this game a try.
Is Peace Bowl worth trying out? My answer is that it is a thoroughly enjoyable game that is quite a bit of fun. There are some tactical decisions, a good bit of luck, and tremendous interaction between players. And now for more details…
First, a description of game play…
A board representing a field is set up in the middle of the table. The field is a 13 x 13 grid made up of 169 squares. In the center of each side, there are another 9 squares connected to form an “end zone” for that team. A block representing the “ball” is placed in the center square of the field. Each player takes 3 warriors, and places them anywhere in their end zone. A deck of cards is shuffled and placed in a draw pile, with five cards dealt to each player. These cards are to be placed on the table, face-up in front of that player. The youngest player takes the first turn, with turn order following clockwise.
On a turn, a player first draws cards so that they have a total of five cards. They then have the option of playing as many of their cards as they wish. There are nine categories of cards:
1). Run! – This card allows a player to move a warrior the amount of spaces indicated on the card in any direction. If a warrior ends their movement next to the ball, they may pick it up, and that warrior is considered the ball carrier.
2). Fly! – Acts the same as a Run! card, but the movement may be split among two or more warriors. No warrior may move more than 6 spaces, however.
3). Fight! – If a warrior is in contact with an opposing warrior, they may play this card. The target warrior is knocked over (token flipped upside down), and loses the ball (if they’re the ball carrier). If a knocked down player is attacked, they are sent back to their own end zone.
4). Rage! – This card is similar to a Fight card, but affects every warrior adjacent to the attacking warrior. The disadvantage is that the attacking warrior is also placed face-down.
5). Get Up! – This card let’s you flip a knocked-down character face up.
6). Steal Ball! – This card allows a warrior in contact with the ball carrier to take the ball from them.
7). Avoid! – This card allows a warrior to avoid an Attack!, Rage!, or Steal Ball! card.
8). Pass! - This card allows the ball carrier to “pass” the ball to any other friendly warrior on the board.
9). Joker! - This card acts as a “wild” card and can be played as any card except a Fly! card.
Many cards may be played on the same warrior, but only one of each type may be played on any one warrior. If the ball carrier enters any of the three opposing end zones, they score points for their team. If it is the end zone opposite their home zone, they score three points. Otherwise, they score one point. The first team to score seven points wins the game!
The advanced game changes several rules. First of all, players do not keep their cards face-up in front of them, rather keeping them hidden in their hands. Players also have five warriors, with one warrior chosen as the “master”. The master may only be attacked by other masters, with the exception of the “Rage” cards. Warriors may now use Fight! and Steal Ball! cards to intercept passes or tackle players as they run by them.
Special cards are also inserted into the deck. These cards may be used as a Joker! or may have their text utilized (shoot other warriors, etc.). One special card is called Hypnosis! which allows you to choose an opponent’s warrior and play cards on it (such as passing the ball to your team, etc.) Victory conditions for the advanced game are the same as basic game.
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: With each game he produces, Mr. Porazzi’s games are increasing in quality. The box is light years ahead of his previous games’ quality, and is covered with very nice artwork (Mr. Porazzi is a fabulous artist). The cards have good artwork and are of a decent quality, but must be punched out of sheets prior to playing the game (if smooth edges are desired, you may want to cut them out.) All cards have Italian and English on them, but are very easy to read and are color coded, so that very quickly, one barely glances at the text of the card. The board is not of superior quality, basically being laminated heavy stock paper – but is quite functional. On the flipside of the board is a chart, showing all the races of Warangel (90 of ‘em). The counters in the game are of a laminated cardstock type, with about 300 included. Little wooden blocks are included, which can be painted, and counters mounted on them. This is a small amount of work, but the end product is very nice looking, and because you do it yourself, you can pick which armies you want to use. The games components are very well done, considering it comes from an independent designer.
2). Rules: The rules come on heavy laminated cardstock, but are in Italian. Fortunately, an English translation is provided. It’s a fairly good translation, but parts of it are confusing. The rules are currently being rewritten by an English speaker for Mr. Porazzi, so hopefully future editions should be even easier to understand. The game is very easy to teach, and I have easily taught the advanced game without ever mentioning the basic game.
3). Warangel: The game has nothing to do with Warangel except its storyline, even though 10 complete armies that are compatible with Warangel and Warbeast are included. But this allows great diversity when choosing which armies you want to field. Currently, there are no special abilities unique to certain armies, although the designer indicated in an email that they might consider this in an upcoming expansion. But after several playings of the game, I’m not sure this is necessary, the game is fun enough as it is.
4). Fun Factor: Peace Bowl is extremely fun. There is a lot of “take that!” and groaning and moaning in the game. There is a fair amount of luck in which cards you draw, but decisions on how warriors are moved are all up to you. Should you go for the harder touchdowns that are worth more points, or scuttle in for a “cheesy” touchdown that’s only worth one point? I tried a strategy in which I would pass the ball back to a character in my own end zone, and send another of my characters to the opponent’s end zone, so I could throw a touchdown there. However, I’m not sure my strategy was wise, as every single time an opposing player stomped my ball carrier and scored a touchdown. But I enjoyed it quite a bit, regardless of how badly I lost – because the game has such a lighthearted appeal.
5). Players: I’ve played the game both two-player and four-player (three is possible, but seems awkward) and have determined that while two-player is an okay way to play the game, it’s at its best when played with four. The possibilities are wider with four players, touchdowns are harder to score, and the game just seems a lot more fun.
6). Basic vs. Advanced: After playing the Advanced version of the game, I’ll never play the Basic version again. The extra cards, extra players, and hidden cards definitely make it worth playing, and gives the game a bit of strategy to add to the fun. We had almost no rule questions when playing, as everything is rather basic, but we felt like we had a lot of control when playing the game. As soon as one game was finished, the players clamored to play again, and that’s always a good sign for ANY game in my book.
So I highly, highly recommend this game. Unfortunately, it’s rather difficult to find in America (as of this writing, no retailers that I know of carry the game) and must be purchased from the owner, Mr. Porazzi, at his website, www.warangel.it . However, Mr. Porazzi is extremely helpful and sends his games quickly, so it’s not that difficult to obtain a copy. Whenever I need a fairly short game (about 30-45 minutes) for four players that is a lot of fun with a few tactical decisions, this is one of the first games to come to mind. The sports theme may initially turn off non-sports lovers, but after playing the game, they will come to enjoy it. It’s been one of the biggest recent hits with my gaming group, and one I will gladly pull out anytime. Congratulations to the Warangel universe for producing yet another interesting, fun game!
Thanks for the excellent review. I found a copy of this game at Fairplaygames.com (August 2006)