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Subject: Some Thoughts After Four Plays rss

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Neon Blue
United States
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Greetings everyone! I missed the Kickstarter for Blood Rage, but luckily, a friend did not and I've had the chance to play 4 times over the past few days. I've played with 2 players twice and with 4 players twice. Hope some of these thoughts help your purchasing decisions.

TLDR: Blood Rage is a lot of fun with a ton of room for strategy. I could imagine playing this very often without it getting stale. While essentially an area control game with a cool theme, there are lots of mechanics to spice things up. I would definitely buy Blood Rage if my friend did not already own it.

Brief Overview: The goal of the game is to gain glory by winning battles, completing quests, and leveraging card abilities to your advantage. You use rage to perform actions, including invading (bringing a figure from your reserve to the board), upgrading (your leader, warriors, ship, monsters, or clan), or marching, which lets you move figures from one location to another. There are also actions that cost no rage, including playing quest cards and attempting to pillage locations. Beware, though -- if you have no rage, you can't perform any actions -- even free ones! After three rounds of play, the player with the most glory wins!

Mechanic #1 - Card Drafting: Perhaps the most important part of the game, each round begins with card drafting similar to 7 Wonders. Knowing the cards will drastically change the way you play, so don't stress too much the first couple of times through. You will want to strike a balance between battle cards (which let you win battles), quest cards (which let you gain glory), upgrades (which upgrade things, obviously!), and counter-drafting your opponents.

Mehcanic #2 - Rage: You start the first round with 6 rage and can start the remaining rounds with more. Rage is used to perform various actions, as mentioned above. When you have zero rage, you can perform no actions. This is a key element to the game, especially when you are running low on rage. Planning how to spend your last 2 rage is extremely important!

Mechanic #3 - Tracks: There are three tracks for your clan: rage, axes, and horns. The rage track tells you how much rage you start with per round. In round 1, you start with 6 rage. You can increase this so that you start with a maximum of 12 rage in rounds 2 and 3. The axes track tells you how much glory you earn per battle won. You start by earning 3 glory per battle and can increase this to 8 glory per battle. The horns track controls how many figures you can have on the board. At the start of the game, you can have 4 figures on the board, and you can increase this to 10 figures. If this were not enough, upgrading the tracks sufficiently grants bonus glory at the end of the game. Upgrading a track 4 or 5 times grants 10 glory, while upgrading a track 6 times grants 20 glory. This means that if you upgrade all 3 tracks 6 times, you are looking at 60 bonus glory at the end of the game! Upgrading the tracks, then, provides significant bonuses during the game (especially the rage track), and can win you the game when totaling scores at the end.

Mechanic #4 - Upgrades: The various upgrade cards (leader, clan, warrior, ship, monster) require the most finesse to use correctly during your games. They usually cost rage (a valuable resource), but over the course of the game, can let you spiral out of control. So should you forego developing the board to buy an upgrade? Do you need to change strategy to counter an opponent's upgrade? These and related questions will drastically alter the course of the game. A note on the word "upgrade:" These are not always upgrades in the strict sense of the word. A monster upgrade card does not upgrade a monster. Rather, it lets you "buy" the monster and play it. The leader, warrior, clan, and ship upgrade cards are more like "upgrades" read literally, although even here, you do not need a ship/leader/warrior in play to upgrade them. Buying these upgrade cards let you play the corresponding figure for free.

Mechanic #5 - Pillaging/Battles: When in a location, you can attempt to pillage it for no rage cost. Players (including yourself), may then bring additional figures from adjacent locations to participate in the upcoming battle. If you are the only player in the location, the pillage is automatically successful, but grants no bonus glory for winning battles (since no battle occurred). If one or more other players are contesting the location, each player must play a card face-down from their hand. These are then revealed, and their effects plus the strength of the figures determines the outcome of the battle. If you win, you earn glory plus that location's reward. If you lose, the winning player earns glory but not that location's reward (since they did not initiate the pillage). Whether or not to pillage is another key element to play. Pillaging a location you are guaranteed to win might seem advantageous, but you might want to wait until it could be contested to earn the bonus glory. To add an additional wrinkle, some upgrade/quest cards give you bonus glory for having your units die! So you might purposefully lose a battle to send your units to Valhalla -- but do you want to let your opponent earn the glory for that battle?!? Be careful!

Mechanic #6 - Ragnarok!: Blood and thunder! (Wait, this isn't Warcraft...) Dying in Ragnarok is glorious for any viking, so as you might guess, the end-of-days battle grants glory. During each age, one location is marked for destruction in Ragnarok. Units in that location will grant their owner glory -- but the units die, meaning they will not be on the board at the beginning of the next age. So do you go for the doomed location and get the glory? Or do you avoid Ragnarok to have a leg up during the next age? These questions drastically affect the end-game of each round.

The interplay of all of the various mechanics above makes this a very interesting game with lots of replay-ability. I have a feeling a relative novice to this game will destroy a new player due to familiarity with the cards and interplay of the mechanics. Experienced players should be able to enjoy countless sessions of Blood Rage, so be nice to new players as they learn the system (consider not drafting and just deal cards randomly).

Thoughts on individual cards:

Loki's Trickery - This cards let's you steal one rage when you lose a battle. This can be an amazing swing early in the game. During one 4-player game, one of our group won a battle, but both losing players had this card. The extreme effects of losing 2 rage ruined that round of the game (and hence the rest of the game) for him.

Dwarf Chieftan - While he might seem less powerful than the Sea Serpent or Troll (both nice monsters, by the way), the fact that he costs no rage makes him a nice upgrade, as the first age seems to be about rage management based on my limited experience.

Fire Giant - Be careful in the second round as the Fire Giant destroys everyone else in a location, as I learned when my clan leader and a warrior were in a location by themselves. Before I had a chance to act, an opponent brought out this bad boy and completely destroyed my chance of doing anything during round 2. However, he costs 4 rage, making him difficult to use.

Frigga's Charm - Some on the forums have already called this card overpowered. It might seem like it, and I have seen it win games, but if the other players counter-draft during rounds 2 and 3, its effects can be negated somewhat.

Loki's Domain/Eminence/Wrath - These clan upgrades let you earn glory for units that die! It is possible to play an entire strategy based on losing battles, dying in Ragnarok, and these cards. I have seen it win one game, but it is a gambit to be sure.

There are lots of other cards that could be mentioned, but this post is long enough. The interaction of the cards and upgrades will make me happy to see Blood Rage come back to the gaming table.

If you have any questions, please reply and I will answer to the best of my ability. But if you're just looking for a recommendation -- go buy Blood Rage!
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Saer Chy
Netherlands
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Thank you for sharing your experiences. Could you please tell me more on your thoughts about the 2 player aspects of the game?
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The Rake
United States
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Neon,

Thanks so much for posting this! Your breakdown of the game mechanics really helped me get a better understanding of how everything works. I've had a bit of trouble wrapping my brain around all of the mechanics, tracks, etc. and how they interact. This really helped out!thumbsup
 
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Jon Snow
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arrrh Excellent job! Succinct and useful.

We need a Viking emoticon here, don't we?
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Craig C
United States
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Neon Blue wrote:
if you have no rage, you can't perform any actions
Gaming words to live by...
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Neon Blue
United States
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Saerchy wrote:
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Could you please tell me more on your thoughts about the 2 player aspects of the game?
It plays fine (and faster) with 2 players. Depending on the number of players, some provinces begin the game destroyed, as indicated by a Ragnarok maker. In a 2 player game, 3 provinces start destroyed, and then 1 more is destroyed at the end of each age. This forces the players to interact and not hang out on their side of the board.

The only real difference between 2 and 4 players was keeping track of what 3 opponents were doing instead of 1.

Neon Blue
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Jeffrey Nolin
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Saerchy wrote:
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Could you please tell me more on your thoughts about the 2 player aspects of the game?
I also played in those games. These were our first games, so we were learning the nuances of the board, the cards and gameplay, which made making decisions tough. The biggest difference in the two player game was that it was always your turn next, so we were always cycling through the various factors involved in making that next decision. There are adjustments that get made for different number of players. All 8 outer provinces are used in the 5 player game, but one is randomly taken out of the game for each drop in the number of players. Also, to the core set of cards for two players, a unique set of cards is added for each additional player, up to 5. In addition, the provinces are small with few villages, so deciding whether to enter in order to contest them needs to be made sooner rather than later. Of course, playing upgrades also needs to be done sooner than later. Also, will I have time to put down a quest before the Age ends? It was tough enough deciding which cards to keep in the draft, now I have to juggle the order in which I play them (if I have the time and resources). There wasn't really much difference between the 2 and 4 player games other than time to breathe (and the quantity and variety of food and drink).
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Saer Chy
Netherlands
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Thank you very much for both your opinions!
I was afraid the game would be a lot less fun to play with 2 players, but with all the positive feedback I'm starting to believe this game could also turn out to be a solid 2 player game!
 
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Brandon Holmes
Canada
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I played it two player the other day and quite enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more with 4 players but not by a large margin or anything. It is definitely a game I would gladly play again with two players as it offers a different experience. I should add that I have some games I absolutely love playing with 2 players so the fact that I would still choose to play it two players is saying a lot!
 
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Anthony Avelar
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I like your review! I really like that you talk about some of the cards. The first time playing is pretty bad for new players because they have no idea what to expect.

Frigga's Charm is overpowered and probably should have costed some rage to start (even just 1). Or it should say non monster upgrades. To take a card in the first age that makes everyone have to play differently and they probably still can't take the first couple cards is pretty amazing. Also someone was saying that it doesn't help much in the 3rd age. I agree, in the third age i had 9 rage leftover because of it and loki's trickery. But I was also so far ahead because the first age I got to play so many cards for cheap and then ended with uninterrupted actions. I still think the game is great. I will keep taking frigga's charm as soon as I see it until someone beats me despite me having frigga's charm. I also agree that dwarf chieftain is really good. If he doesn't die than you don't get to use that free rage again.
 
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Jeffrey Nolin
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I was happy to get the overpowered Frigga's Charm, but all the other overpowered cards that my opponents had kept me from winning! I'd take it again, but would also hope to get some of the other overpowered cards, too. Unfortunately, since there are so many overpowered cards, my opponents will also have some, so I'm going to have to rely on clever play!
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Rich P
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longagoigo wrote:
All 8 outer provinces are used in the 5 player game, but one is randomly taken out of the game for each drop in the number of players. Also, to the core set of cards for two players, a unique set of cards is added for each additional player, up to 5.
Does it play 5? If so, that makes me even more interested in the game. The BGG entry says 2-4.

Edit: Just spotted Blood Rage: 5th Player Expansion. Now it makes sense!
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Abba Elfman

California
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I have only played the 2-player version. Against the same opponent. We have played about 10x and it is different each time. We both have favorite strategies so we have an idea what the other person might do but it's been a lot of fun.
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Chad Ostrander
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Neon Blue wrote:
Loki's Domain/Eminence/Wrath - These clan upgrades let you earn glory for units that die! It is possible to play an entire strategy based on losing battles, dying in Ragnarok, and these cards. I have seen it win one game, but it is a gambit to be sure.
I have never seen loki strategy win a game. they can take an early lead for sure, but the downside to loki is you are not winning battles and able to pillage to raise stats. By the end of the 3rd age the other players will generally have one or two stats in the last slot and be gettign 20-60 points off of those stats. loki loses a LOT of points this way
 
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Simon Wilcock
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zatchstar wrote:
Neon Blue wrote:
Loki's Domain/Eminence/Wrath - These clan upgrades let you earn glory for units that die! It is possible to play an entire strategy based on losing battles, dying in Ragnarok, and these cards. I have seen it win one game, but it is a gambit to be sure.
I have never seen loki strategy win a game. they can take an early lead for sure, but the downside to loki is you are not winning battles and able to pillage to raise stats. By the end of the 3rd age the other players will generally have one or two stats in the last slot and be gettign 20-60 points off of those stats. loki loses a LOT of points this way
It is really funny to read this - we played two 3-p games last night, our first experience of the game, and "Loki" won both times.
One of the players was disgruntled and claimed that "Loki's Eminence" was overpowered and asked for it to be removed from the game!!

He even said that this was a no brainer card in the first draft whereas I see people above saying Frigga's charm is a no brainer.
Clearly it is not cut and dry which is why this is such a great game
 
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Simon Wilcock
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zatchstar wrote:
Neon Blue wrote:
Loki's Domain/Eminence/Wrath - These clan upgrades let you earn glory for units that die! It is possible to play an entire strategy based on losing battles, dying in Ragnarok, and these cards. I have seen it win one game, but it is a gambit to be sure.
I have never seen loki strategy win a game. they can take an early lead for sure, but the downside to loki is you are not winning battles and able to pillage to raise stats. By the end of the 3rd age the other players will generally have one or two stats in the last slot and be gettign 20-60 points off of those stats. loki loses a LOT of points this way
I think for the Loki strategy to work, you need to ensure you also complete a good few quests (primarily as many Glorious Death!s as you can manage (although your opponent should not pass these to you!!)) and bump your stats up that way.

Also the Age III Frigga card that let's you destroy two of your figures to up a Stat (puts your dudes in Valhalla and increases your stats devil)
 
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