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Subject: FOR GLORY AND VALHALLA!! - A Blood Rage Review rss

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Lawrence
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Blood Rage

MSRP: $79.99
Designer: Eric Lang
Player Count: 2 – 4 (5 with expansion)
Game Length: 60 – 90 minutes
Version Reviewed: Gen-con copy of base game. No expansions.

Note: All images were taken from the BGG Blood Rage database

Theme

Board Game: Blood Rage


Our first glimpse is that of a lone Viking, his comrades already sent to Valhalla. Mad with battle rage he charges head first into the chaos and destruction that is Ragnarok to join his brothers in triumphant GLORY. This is Blood Rage. And it is this spirit that the game captures so well. Like we’ll see in the Gameplay section, the game encourages and rewards you for charging headfirst into battle, or even Ragnarok itself. The very nature of the pillaging tactics make it so that large scale bloody battles between multiple sides happen early and often.

This is not a forgiving game. You will die. You will die often. Battle end in a tie? Guess what... everyone dies. But that’s okay, since the game isn’t really about conquering or defeating anyone. It’s about glory, meaning that a properly glorious death can ultimately earn you victory.

Adding further to the immersion are the beautifully sculpted mini’s. Each tribe has its own specific sculpts. The base warrior class also has two different sculpts per clan, making it feel much more like a living army rather than a set of mindless clones.

Board Game: Blood Rage


The monster sculpts alone are a marvel to behold and use. There’s just something innately satisfying about slamming down an angry Fire Troll, annihilating an entire province full of enemy soldiers. Its size and dynamic pose really creates an intimidating presence, compared to the smaller warriors.

Board Game: Blood Rage



This game is so thematic that it almost slaps you in the face with it. There are times where I literally wanted to roar in the heat of battle.

Component Quality

As seen above, the mini’s are beautiful. The artwork seen everywhere from the gameboard to the cards is detailed and cohesive.

My one complaint is the quality of the player boards. While the artwork is elegantly done, the board is less cardboard and more like thick paper (something like what you’d see a poster made out of). The rage and upgrade tracks are kept track of by cardboard markers that end up sliding all about, forcing you to always be conscious when moving around it. I can see these wearing out after heavy use. I would’ve liked to have seen a sturdy cardboard player board with cut-outs (much like they did for The Others).

Board Game: Blood Rage


The cards are mini cards, which may be an advantage or disadvantage to some. I like mini cards as they conserve table space. However, I know many out there don’t like the fiddlyness of them. On the bright side, these are good quality with nice glossy feel.

Board Game: Blood Rage



The artistic production is off the charts, but it feels like it came at the cost of some basic quality requirements that every game should consider first

Game Play

Ages

Board Game: Blood Rage


The game is broken down into three Ages. At the beginning of each age is a draft for “Gods’ Gifts” aka ability cards. These cards can be one of the following:

Troop Upgrades – Increase warrior strength, or give abilities to leaders
Quests – Secret objectives for victory points (i.e. control the most space in blue provinces)
Monster Upgrades – Allow you to play various trolls, elves, dwarves, etc. as hero type units
Clan Upgrades – Allow you to break game rules or to gain VP in new ways.
Battle Cards – Give you increased strength in battle or influence battle in other ways

The draft is one of the mechanics here that really increases replayability. In one game, you might start off with good monster upgrades, while in another your starting hand is full of cards geared towards gaining VP when your warriors die. However, this is also a weak point in the two player game, since you’ll know exactly what your opponent has.

After the draft comes the action stage, where figure placement and battle takes place. Once all players run out of rage, they discard down to 1 card and reap the rewards of any quests they have completed. At the end of the age, a province is destroyed (randomly selected from a pile of tokens) and any figures destroyed in Ragnarok gain VP. Any dead figures are released from Valhalla back to the players, and everything starts again. This creates a growing sense of tension as the game comes to a close, as there are fewer and fewer provinces to fight over.

Player Stats

Board Game: Blood Rage


Each player board has four tracks. The top red track is your rage count, which determines how many actions you can do in an age. Almost anything you do such as adding warriors to the board, upgrading units, or moving units will use rage. If you ever hit zero rage, you lose the ability to do any actions for the rest of the age (even ones that don’t require rage). If you ever pass a turn, you immediately lose all rage. There are few important implications of this that drive gameplay:

The game forces you to be active every turn. This isn’t a game where you can afford to sit back and wall yourself off.
The game is ultimately about planning rage management. I know this sounds dull, but it’s actually one of the more dynamic elements about the game. Can you afford to spend that four rage to bring in your monster and take control of Gimle? If so, you’ll be at the precarious state of 1 rage, which makes you an easy target for those who like to steal rage.
Once again, you must decide your strategy early. The amount of rage you start out often seems inadequate, so you must be decisive. Will you swarm the board early with mounds of warriors? Will you sit back this age and upgrade your clan? Will you spend up to summon a mighty Sea Serpent to control the crucial harbor between two provinces?

Below the rage track are three upgrade tracks for Rage (increases the amount of rage you get each age), Axes (increases the amount of glory you get for winning a battle), and horns (increases the number of figures you can have on the board). Each of these can be upgraded through cards or, more commonly, through battle.

Although each clan will eventually differ in their upgrades and stats, I do wish that each one had some unique starting ability to really differentiate them.

Actions

Board Game: Blood Rage


While the actions you can do each age are relatively simple, the strategy ends up being fairly deep. Each turn, you may do one of the following:

Invade – Place a figure onto a province with its rage cost being equal to strength. You can only invade a province where a space is open. Leaders invade for free.

March – Move any number of figures from one province to another. Note that with March, you can move multiple figures, while invading only lets you add one figure. Therefore, it is easier to move troops than to summon them. Marching is also the only way to move figures to Yggdrasil (the center space on the board).

Upgrade – Pay its cost to add it to your clan sheet. Upgrades can be for warriors, leaders, ships, monsters, or clan.

Quest – Play a quest card by putting it face down on your sheet. There is no downside to failing a quest, but you must place it on your sheet to have it count at the end of the age.

Pillage – Choose a province where you have presence to attempt to gain its reward. When calling a pillage action, players in an adjacent provinces may march (for free) into your province until all spaces are occupied. Battle occurs between all figures in a province and the winner receives the prize (either an upgrade to a stat or VP). The winner receives glory VP equal to their Axes stat. If a player pillages a province where no battle occurs, they don’t get any glory. In this way, the game once again encourages you to fight.

Battle

Board Game: Blood Rage


Once all units are placed from a pillage action, each player with presence in the province will add their units total strength + upgrades. Participating players will also play a card to influence the battle in some way. It can add static value (i.e. +5 strength) or have a more devious effect (i.e. each player destroys all but 1 figure before comparing strength). However, every player must play a card if they have one. It can even be a quest card (which would have no effect in battle).

There’s no complicated maneuvering. You simply play a card, resolve any effects, and add strength. The winner takes the prize and the losers go to Valhalla. But here comes the kicker – any losers gain their played cards back. The winner loses their card. In this way, someone who constantly conquers becomes steadily weaker with their card pool being more limited. This helps against runaway leaders.

Some cards take advantage of this by allowing you to steal rage from an opponent if you lose. In that instance, you effectively take an action from them, steal a card, and gain an action all at the cost a single warrior whose death might also get you glory. And this is one thing that makes Blood Rage unique (compared to the games I’ve played); the strongest player isn’t necessarily the victorious one.

Board Game: Blood Rage


Ease of Learning

The rulebook is well written, although my group had a little trouble finding out how to determine which player gets the start token first. My first game was during a Halloween party, where all four of us were completely new to Blood Rage. We were taught the game in about 10 minutes, and successfully played it with only an occasional rule book check.


The mechanics in this game are deceptively simple, yet provide a platform for much deeper strategy than you’d think.

Compared to Similar Games

When I first played Blood Rage, I was immediately reminded of Kemet. The games are similar in that they both push you into constant battle without worrying about complex troop movement. They also use similar battle systems that utilize a single modifier card from each player. Divine Intervention cards in Kemet are similarly seen in the form of Heimdall battle cards, which can be placed additionally after all players reveal their battle cards.

However, there are also some notable differences. In Blood Rage, battles feel like all out slug fests with large scale blood baths happening on an almost turn by turn basis. By contrast, battles in Kemet feel a bit more calculated and less epic in scale. That may be a personal issue though, as I don’t get the same “umph” feeling from taking down an Elephant as I do a Frost Giant.

Another difference is that Blood Rage feels more immediate. Both are tight games where you need to commit early, but Blood Rage only gives you three ages to act, putting you on a very limited clock.

I’ve also read that a lot of other players liken Blood Rage to Chaos in the Old World. However, I’ve never played that so I’m unable to comment.

Edge: Blood Rage
I enjoy both games, but I see myself playing Blood Rage much more than Kemet.

The Bottom Line

Pros
+ Fast Setup
+ Very Thematic
+ Large Epic Battles
+ Beautiful Sculpts
+ Simple Rules, Deep Strategy
+ Good Replayability

Cons
- Quality of Some Components is Lacking
- All Clans Start the Same (Symmetrical)
- Weak at 2 Players

Verdict

This game is easily in my Top 3.

Edit 1: Found a picture someone took of my first Blood Rage game!
Edit 2: Fixed some spelling, formatting, and grammatical errors as pointed out by a BGG user via GeekMail.

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Tom
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This is a weird world when people are complaining about the components of Blood Rage. whistle
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Jeffrey Nolin
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Well written review.
However, you do a disservice to the quality of the player boards. Material wise, they are just fine the way they are. Things slide about if you're not careful is true of every game (except the one you mentioned). Your comment about this is because they spent too much on art seems odd.

After playing two 4 player games, I played two 2 player games. True, I knew some of my opponent's cards (not his first two, knew his second two, and might guess which two of the final four), but that's hardly exactly and hardly a weak point, as I still don't know when he'll use them. If the clans had differentiating abilities, like you want, I'd know much more at all player counts! For us, the two player game was just as intense and fun.

I agree, the mini cards are fine.
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Mike DiLisio
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Nice review, however I have to disagree with one of your "con" points. You state that all clans start the same...that they're symmetrical. While during set up that may be true, for all practical purposes the game is absolutely not symmetrical at the start of the action phase. The drafting phase is the first thing done after set up, so by drafting clan, monster, and leader upgrades, plus battle cards and quests you're essentially beginning the game asymmetrically.

EDIT: after further thought, I guess I have to disagree with a second "con" point. I don't agree that the game is weak with two players. I definitely feel that 4 is the best, followed by 3, and then 2 (haven't played with the 5 player expansion), but I think it's a perfectly fine experience with 2...much better than 2 player Kemet IMO.
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Lawrence
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johnnyspys wrote:
This is a weird world when people are complaining about the components of Blood Rage. whistle
I know I'm nitpicking, but it seems strange that they have such great production value everywhere but the player board. To me, that place is essential because the player spends so much time interacting with it. Other CMoN games like Zombicide:BP and The Others have amazing looking player boards. It seems like it would've been a no-brainer to include a similar one here.

longagoigo wrote:
After playing two 4 player games, I played two 2 player games. True, I knew some of my opponent's cards (not his first two, knew his second two, and might guess which two of the final four), but that's hardly exactly and hardly a weak point, as I still don't know when he'll use them. If the clans had differentiating abilities, like you want, I'd know much more at all player counts! For us, the two player game was just as intense and fun.

I agree, the mini cards are fine.
This may come across from my limited experience. In all reality, I had only played this two-player once. And that one time was with my girlfriend, who had just learned the game as well. I was able to guess which cards she'd use and when. Part of that is likely how well I know her and the fact that I have a really good memory.

Sizzla wrote:
The drafting phase is the first thing done after set up, so by drafting clan, monster, and leader upgrades, plus battle cards and quests you're essentially beginning the game asymmetrically.
After thinking about it, you're right that by the time we draft, every player is pretty asymmetric. I think my gripe (however small) was more from a thematic standpoint. Maybe I'm just conditioned by years of video games, but some part of me really wants each clan to have a different feeling.

But longagoigo makes a good point here - if each clan did have some sort of special ability, it would make them more inclined towards one type of strategy and therefore make each opponent easier to predict.

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You're not allowed to dislike things about a popular game. I want you to know that I've reported you and will kick you in the nuts if I see you in real life.
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arrrh Its a good review, and its nice to get an intelligent person's input! You are entitled to your opinions, as long as you explain them--which you did.

More ale for our friends and confusion to our enemies!

 
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broken clock wrote:
You're not allowed to dislike things about a popular game. I want you to know that I've reported you and will kick you in the nuts if I see you in real life.
Oh, I concur with this user. Like, it's only in your top 3?! WTF!? Your opinion is WRONG! It should be in your Top 2!! LOL

Okay - reality check - it looks like out of the few nit picks the writer had, he had to really "dig deep" to find a negative or two.

Overall, excellent review.

 
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Good review and I agree with you on the quality of the player boards. Compared to the incredible quality of the sculpts and art, the thin cardboard do feel a little cheap.
It's not really any worse than what I've seen in some other games, though. Even in some games from FF, that are known for their quality components. The player boards in Forbidden Stars had about the same thickness.

In some way I'm happy the player boards in Blood Rage were not a little thicker. That would have made them much harder to laminate. I had enough trouble laminating them as it was, as they were almost too thick for that. I had to run them through the machine 3-4 times and stick holes in small pockets of air. Or maybe I need a better laminating machine.
Unless they are as thick as they are in Kemet or Terra Mystica, it's better if they are thin enough to laminate!
 
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Great review. Also, I agree with your comments on the player boards. Maybe not that big of a deal, but they do stick out when compared to all of the other awesome components.

Perhaps not relevant, in the vein of "Compared to Similar Games" as I realize Kemet is a lot more like it in game play. What about games similar in theme, if not particularly game play? Such as Champions of Midgard and Raiders of the North Sea. I find it interesting that there are several great Viking themed games coming out right now. Has anyone played either of these games or other similarly themed games?
 
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bhudson1972 wrote:
Great review. Also, I agree with your comments on the player boards. Maybe not that big of a deal, but they do stick out when compared to all of the other awesome components.

Perhaps not relevant, in the vein of "Compared to Similar Games" as I realize Kemet is a lot more like it in game play. What about games similar in theme, if not particularly game play? Such as Champions of Midgard and Raiders of the North Sea. I find it interesting that there are several great Viking themed games coming out right now. Has anyone played either of these games or other similarly themed games?
I've played Champions of Midgard and while they're both Viking themed games, they each capture a different sense of it. Blood Rage has the spirit of the crazed berserker Viking, caught up in his own bloodlust. It feels more immediate.

By contrast, Champions of Midgard captures the sense of Viking adventure. When I play, I tend to play more for the long term strategy. But since it's more PvM rather than PvP, there's less player interaction. Some games do feel a bit like multiplayer solitaire (which I actually like at times). Both have their place, but Blood Rage is one that I find myself playing much more.
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goo I think this will turn out to be the best "mythological" Viking game. For the best historical Viking game, try Fire and Axe, which is being reissued after being out of print. You can check out my review of it as well.
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Dave Scarpitti
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I agree 100% about the player boards... the second I picked them up I knew I'd be laminating them.

I've played between 35-40 rounds of BR now and the boards are still 100% perfect behind their laminated wall!
 
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chas59 wrote:
goo I think this will turn out to be the best "mythological" Viking game. For the best historical Viking game, try Fire and Axe, which is being reissued after being out of print. You can check out my review of it as well.
Good news! Fire and Axe is already back!

http://www.miniaturemarket.com/idwg00851.html
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Guy Rodgers
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However, this is also a weak point in the two player game, since you’ll know exactly what your opponent has.
I actually really like this aspect of the 2-player game since it seems to shift the focus from the less chaotic board and more towards drafting/card counterplay/mind games. Basically, you know two cards in your opponents hand (the 2nd draft), then two can be any of 6 (the cards you don't see, the 1st draft + discard), then two are any of 4 (the cards you hand back to him, the third draft).

Figuring out what to do with the signifigant information you gain from the draft adds an interesting facet to the 2p game that is much more muted in the 3p and 4p versions. It's also interesting to bait the other player with picks you've drafted the counterplay for. Like handing him Tyr's Rage when you have Heimdall's Watch. Or handing him Odin's throne and then drafting all the quests out of the hand he's given you.

And also figuring out how to juke him out and suprise him with the cards you know he knows you have. "Alright, so I have Odin's Tide, but he knows I have Odin's Tide..."

It reminds me a bit of card counting in Twilight Struggle, where when you get closer and closer to the end of a period you start getting better information about your opponent's hand and start coming with ways to counterplay it.

I really like the draft in 2p.

 
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