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Subject: Club Fantasci Review: Swords and Bagpipes rss

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Maurice Fitzgerald
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Publisher: Moroz Publishing

Game Designer: Yan Egorov

Artwork: Yan Egorov

Players: 2-6

Ages: 11 & up

Playing Time: 20-45 minutes

Game Mechanics: Bluffing, Medieval, Political, Social

Contents: Game Board, 5 Camp Sheets, 5 Castle Tokens, 10 Choice Tokens, 64 Unit Tokens, 80 Gold Coins, 46 cards, Rulebook

Suggested Retail Price: $29.00

Parental Advisory: Safe for children over 12

Awards:

Introduction
Swords and Bagpipes is the new game from Moroz Publishing that mixes deduction, secret bidding, manipulation and betrayal into a fun little social game that uses the first war of Scottish independence as a backdrop. You’ll have to weave your way through the machinations of the political families of Scotland, changing sides for profit and scheme against others while ensuring that Scotland doesn’t fall under the iron yoke of King Edward I.

The game was first crowdfunded in Russia at the end of 2014 and published in January of this year under the name “For Scotland!”. Moroz Publishing is now running a Kickstarter project to bring the game to the international community with an upgraded design, new art, new rules and better components.

Summary of Content
The components I received were from the ‘older’ Russian version and while the quality isn’t bad, it’s not on par with what Moroz Publishing plans for the new international edition. So while I will evaluate what I have because these are from a published game, keep in mind that the newer components will be much nicer for the international edition and would likely impact the score more positively.

The game board is small at just 14”x10” which is a perfect size because it’s only needed to track cards and the current state and units that are fighting for Scotland. Although it is quite thin, it’s colorful, nicely illustrated and shows all of the information needed including a small quick reference guide to assist during each turn.

The player components are of the same quality as the game board, thin but colorful with nice cartoony art that I found quite charming and fitting for the games lite tone. Each castle has a family name and color to distinguish it from the others. The rest of the tokens for choice and gold are thicker punchboard and of good quality.


The cards are broken into three decks, Bagpipe cards, English Arms cards, and Dagger cards and although these were not factory printed, are of good quality and are easy to read. The international edition I’ve been told will have much higher quality cards with more vibrant artwork.

The rulebook shows some slight wording differences in some spots that are apparent it’s from the Russian translation but there’s nothing that detracts from understanding the game. It covers everything you need to get playing, with multiple illustrated examples, in no time.

Analysis and Evaluation
At first glance, Swords and Bagpipes may be mistaken for a wargame given its title and subject matter when in reality it is a social game that relies on clever manipulation, smart card play and a bit of deduction mixed with betrayal that is quite a lot of fun.

The goal of the game is to amass the most gold over the course of seven rounds, while manipulating others to take losses along the way and keep Scotland from falling to Edward the Longshanks. Just like an old Scottish noble, to be successful and rich you’ll need to play both sides of the sword but you’ll have to be prudent in your timing. The betrayal of Scotland comes at a price and if you betray her too often, you may end up a traitor in the end and disqualify yourself from winning!

Players start Swords and Bagpipes with three gold, three units and a bagpipe card. The game consists of seven turns and within each turn are seven phases:

1. Invasion Phase
2. Actions Phase
3. Badge of Honor Phase
4. Choice Phase
5. Battle Phase
6. Awards Phase
7. End Phase

During the Invasion Phase, the top card of the English Arms deck is revealed to show the value of the invading English forces, setting what Scottish forces will be needed to defeat the English. Awards for supporters of each side are listed as well as bribes from King Edward, who is not above paying the Scottish nobles well to stay out of a battle. The last thing that is on some of these cards are a special effect that applies to either side for that round.

The Action Phase allows for three actions; Replenishment, with its four options to either collect taxes, raise militia, assemble troops or hire mercenaries. Relocation, allows players to commit troops from their castle to camp in defense of Scotland and finally, Play Bagpipe cards which is where the layers of strategy really begin to take shape.


Bagpipe cards allow for some great ‘take that’ mechanisms against other players, bonuses for you and boosts to help Scotland in its time of need. They can be played in three phases, the Replenishment, Choice and Award phases and playing them at the right time can really put the kibosh an opponent’s plans, or give you some extra gold or troops. You earn these cards by backing Scotland in a winning battle; taking a payoff from England every time will amass you riches but will limit your access to these strategic cards. Instead, you will be stuck with Dagger cards and these can cut deep, more on these cards later.

The Badge of Honor Phase is where the current holder of the token decides who to pass it to and this is a great way to hamper someone’s greedy plans because the holder of the token must support Scotland during the Choice phase. If they’ve not committed troops to the battle, they cannot earn any awards. This can be overridden by the right Bagpipe card, if you have it.

The Choice phase has everyone secretly bidding on who they’ll back in the upcoming battle and once the battle is over, the Awards phase is where you’ll earn gold, Bagpipe cards and for supporters of England, Dagger cards. Bagpipe cards can be played in both of these phases, giving you three different times they can be used, which shows their importance. The End phase is for cleanup before beginning the next turn.


Swords and Bagpipes is a pretty easy and quick game to play, taking about 30 minutes or so depending on your group and the amount of chatter brought to the game. There’s a lot of interaction in this game as players deceive each other and manipulate things in hopes of swaying someone to play Bagpipe cards or pass the Badge of Honor token to affect the stronger players while doing the same themselves.

Backing England is the easiest way to get a big payoff but in doing so, you gain what can be a real game changer in the end, Dagger cards. Every time you support England and they win you will profit, oftentimes quite handsomely but with that profit comes Dagger cards, each with a value from one to three.

At the end of the game with a Scottish victory, a player that has five more daggers than any other player is deemed a traitor to the nation and cannot win the game. This is hidden information, so you will have to deduce how many daggers each player has and there are Bagpipe cards that directly affect players with the most Dagger cards.

If England wins four battles, the game is over with a Scottish defeat and the player that has the least amount of daggers wins with gold as the tie breaker.

Conclusion
Swords and Bagpipes is a surprisingly fun little game that plays like a much bigger game, providing a variety of ways players can manipulate and directly affect each other through social interaction and smart card play.

The Bagpipe cards are very well done, balanced and are crucial to many strategies, especially late in the game. While the lure of a big payoff from England can be tempting, the worth of the Bagpipe cards cannot be overlooked. Playing the right cards at the right time can really vault you ahead of your opponents and swing the game in your favor.

You also have to find the right balance of betraying and supporting Scotland, if everyone goes for the payoffs then the game can end too early with a Scottish defeat. Ending too early will not bode well for those with the most daggers as they’ll be ousted from a chance at victory.

I really dig the choices you can make each turn, the bluffing and deception with the secret bidding and how the Bagpipe cards and Badge of Honor token can really shape the game. You can succeed without them but it is very difficult and don’t forget that everyone sees what you have, so get too far ahead and expect the table to turn on you!

The biggest area that the game falls short in are the English Arms cards, there needs to be more. With so few, you’ll get pretty good at knowing the numbers of the English invaders after several plays which diminishes the challenge. Adding more of these would be beneficial to the game, adding more variety and challenge so hopefully we’ll see more of these added with the Kickstarter.

Another way to make the game even more challenging would be adding player screens, so all unit and gold information is hidden. This would up the complexity for those who want it, forcing players to track what everyone else is doing each turn. For the base game this is not necessary as it is a lite social game but I’d love to see this option explored by the designer as a possible variant.

Swords and Bagpipes is truly at its best with a full table because the table talk, politicking and scheming reaches its zenith with more players involved. The two player variant plays mostly the same but has a different mechanic for the Dagger cards that is quite clever but I need more plays to make a firm decision on the gameplay. From my initial look at it, I like what I see and think it will make for an interesting and slightly different take on the base game.

If your group are fans of games like Mascarade, Coup or The Resistance, this will be a perfect fit for you!

Club Fantasci Scoring (Based on scale of 10):

Artwork: 7.25

Rules Book: 8

Re-playability: 8

Component Quality: 7

Club Fantasci Overall Score: 7.5



This game is Club Fantasci Certified!

I’m giving Swords and Bagpipes a 7.5 out of 10 score because it is a great little social game with more depth than similar games of this type. The Bagpipe cards can help you chip away at your opponents while also making you a profit but to earn them you must bypass Edward’s bribes and settle for a little less money by defending Scotland.

The English Arms cards could really do with more being added to the base game to up the challenge and variety because after several plays you’ll be pretty good at knowing what card should be coming next and that does hurt replayability a little bit.

With multiple decisions to be made each turn, some of them tough ones, there’s a lot to enjoy with this game. If you’re a fan of social games with a little more meat to them, this one sure makes a tasty dish.

I say back it!


Company Website: https://www.facebook.com/morozpublishing

Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/morozpublishing

Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorozPublishing


Note: A review copy of this game was provided to me. If you like what we bring you, please vote for us here: http://www.boardgamelinks.com/links/details/1420


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Lenny Raaymakers
New Zealand
Wanganui
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Thanks for the review! I'm definitely backing it. The theme is great, the artwork is wonderful and it looks like a lot of fun to play. Really looking forward to it!
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Maurice Fitzgerald
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I think you'll enjoy it quite a bit Lenny!
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Christopher Dickinson
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Well Maurice, you lead me there too. Thanks for the review!
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Maurice Fitzgerald
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Time for some thrilling heroics
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Glad it helped, my job is done! :)
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