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Subject: Beowulf for Five at Tim and Mary's rss

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John Gravitt
United States
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Next to hit the table at Tim and Mary's Saturday was a fun game of Beowulf for Five. Fantasy Flight really needs to work on their instructions. Even though I've played this several times, it was hard to find some of our questions in the rulebook. Also, the graphics on the board are hard to see and there were discussions of "that is a wound. No that is a scratch. They say at the END of the game there will be a couple of opportunities to get rid of your wound and we are not at the end yet."

I looked that one up and there is a mid-game chance to get rid of your wound too.

In Beowulf each character is a companion of Beowulf. It is not a cooperative game even though you are fighting side by side along the way. When you "fight" in Beowulf you play cards. The cards match needed skills along the journey:

* Wit, represented by foxheads
* Courage, represented by a fist
* Companionship, represented by a horn
* Fighting, represented by an axe
* Sailing, represented by ships.
* Beowulf cards can represent anything so they are wild

There are major and minor episodes in the epic. I began by reading the flavor text in the back as we started each epic. By one third into the game, our true gamers stopped caring so much about the theme and we just went to the next episode. Some of the episodes involve sitting around a fire and telling tales of your valor so you play wit and companionship cards to gain rewards. Other episodes are dangerous and the worst choices for losing the auction is to get a wound and two cards, a scratch, or a token for -2 points at the end of the game. It's OK to have a few scratches and wounds. Three scratches make a wound. If you have no wounds (ignoring scratches) at the end of the game you get +5 points. If you have three or more wounds you get -5 points for each wound at the end of the game. One variant even takes you out of contention for victory automatically if you have three or more wounds. I think you are pretty much out of contention anyway so we haven't felt the need to play that variant.

The board doesn't change so you can look at the next episodes and see which cards you are likely to need. It's a nice touch to ease scoring that the last two episodes are to pay all of your gold and all of your cards in exchange for victory points. The manual lists the gold as a variant but there is really no need for gamers to play without the gold episodes too. In a gold episode, the starting player (loser of the last auction) places a gold token. Others have to match or exceed the gold token played to stay in the auction. Only the winner of the gold episodes has to pay their gold in exchange for the favor. Using the gold variant makes taking face-down scroll favors and selecting gold more desirable in the game.

Keith won and we kidded that it was because he had that Beowulf class in college he told us about. It's really a hand-management and risk-management game that requires no knowledge of Beowulf. Scott had a huge number of point tokens but having those -5 wounds at the end of the game really reduced his score. Personally, I think it would be more fun with a Star Wars theme but theme doesn't really matter in this game.

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Christopher Dearlove
United Kingdom
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SoRCon 11 23-25 Feb 2018 Basildon UK
jgravitt wrote:
theme doesn't really matter in this game.

The odd thing is that without the theme there would have been no game, and the theme directly shaped the game: for example why are the "high spots" of Grendel, the Sea Hag (Grendel's mother) and the Dragon where they are - because that's where they are in the legend.

But once the game is published, you can indeed play it ignoring the theme (though I think it has a certain mnemonic value - knowing that axes are fighting reminds me they're wanted to fight the dragon, for example).

But does that make the theme important or unimportant? (Actually the theme certainly is important - the publisher wouldn't have published it without a theme, and if he had, a lot fewer people would have bought it.)
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