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Subject: The Calculus is Greater than the Gladius rss

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Ethan Malay
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Soldier: Sir, the Persians are pushing through on the left flank!

Alexander: Send in the heavy cavalry!

Soldier: But sir, the Persians, they-

Alexander: What is it soldier?

Soldier: The Persians claim that they can prove we can't defeat them on that portion of the battlefield. They say they we don't have the cards...

Alexander: Hrm... I knew I should've played my elephants somewhere better!

A Review of Battle Line

Battle Line, by Dr. Reiner Knizia, is a game that sees two players squaring off on the field of battle, taking the roles of Alexander and Darius, fighting to gain control of enough of the battlefield to drive their opponent from the fight. Players will attempt to do so by playing cards at any of nine "flags" on the table, doing their best to overcome whatever combination of cards their opponent plays opposite.

image courtesy of BoardGameGeek

Players have a hand of seven cards and each turn they will play a card, then draw a card. A card, once played, is permanent. Each flag on the field can only have three cards played against it by each player. Players have to try to devise the best group of cards with these constraints.

image courtesy of ZiggyZambo

The cards are divided into six suits (colors) with values ranging from 1 to 10. When players play cards to a flag, they try to create one of the card combinations to outrank their opponent. At the low end of the scale, you have the "any card, any color" combo. This is the weakest hand. Above that, you get three cards with consecutive values, not the same color. Above that, three cards of the same color. The second highest hand is three cards of the same value, and finally the strongest hand is three cards of the same color, with consecutive values.

Players are trying to create these hands with the cards they get, but the angst in the game comes from the fact that there is only one of each card type. So if you DESPERATELY need the green 7, there is only one in the deck. Hopefully your opponent doesn't have it...

Players are trying to win the game through one of two win conditions: either they win any five of the nine flags, or they win three consecutive flags, i.e. three in a row. A flag is won when a player has unequivocally won. This happens either when both players have played three cards, then you see which hand is stronger, or if one player can prove that their opponent cannot win.

For me, this is the fun part of the game.

You can prove to your opponent that they cannot beat you at a certain flag. To do so, you can use all open information, so cards out on the table. Cards held in hand cannot be used. This seems like a minor point, but what it does is force players to move cards out of their hands that they might have been holding from their opponent to prove that they have won at some flag. This can sometimes force you into playing somewhere that weakens your position in order to secure a win elsewhere on the battlefield.

There is also a deck of cards that players can draw from that provide special abilities. Some of these let you move cards, others act as wild cards of certain numbers. Some others affect what can be played where. I have not played with these much, so I cannot speak to their impact.

image courtesy of Endersgame

And that's Battle Line. A great two player game that can play very quickly. I assure you that when you play it for the first time, people will want to play it immediately afterwards.

PROS

-Quick card game that provides a decent amount of strategy, but not so much that a novice cannot play a seasoned gamer.
-Fun deductive reasoning aspect to prove success for capturing the flags

CONS

-Not for me personally, but some might find the theme... paper thin. Do you feel like Alexander or Darius? Not really. Does it feel like battle? Not so much. Just check the image gallery for all the rethemes to show you how much the theme matters
-Card game, so shuffle of the deck can make or break some players' game. You will get every other card, so hopefully you get the cards you need. Now, I know playing with those tactics cards can change this up slightly, so I'd probably suggest playing with those (my wife just doesn't like them)
-After many plays, optimum strategy can become a bit rote.


I've played Battle Line many, MANY times, and while it has faded recently for me, I still am happy with the game. With 35 current plays, I certainly got my money's worth. I strongly suggest anyone who has not played this, give it a try. In fact, I'd say buy with how cheap this game is, especially if you are looking for a two player game to play with a partner, or someone who isn't into heavier games. But no matter what, just remember... your opponent is a terrible person who is keeping all the cards you need!
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Chun Ping
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great review!

I love this game for some of the very same reasons as yours.

just to highlight, the special cards have a HUGE impact on the game. I will never play without it when I am playing with my regular gaming friends.

the fact that the special cards are not taken into account when trying to prove that you cannot win is brilliant. you need to use your wild card at the right time, or else your opponent can claim you cannot complete your straight flush anyway. plus it jam up your hand if you don't play it well.

it probably double the decisions needed and it's so delicious.
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Ethan Malay
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I'll have to see if I can convince people to play with them. It might pump some life back into Battle Line for me!
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David B
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Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?
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Klaus Brune
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cpf86 wrote:
just to highlight, the special cards have a HUGE impact on the game. it probably double the decisions needed and it's so delicious.


2nd this. Absolutely adds a lot more potential for surprise moves.

Though some prefer the more "pure" game without the tactics cards. If you also remove the 10's from the deck, what you then have is Battle Line's predecessor, Schotten Totten, which has more Knizia "mathy" feeling to it (because in a full spread on the table, you have a 6x9 grid, and 6 suits x 9 cards means all the cards are used in a game). Recommend playing that way at least once. But still like it better with the tactics cards. Plus the rule that you can't play another tactics card if you've already played more than your opponent adds an extra bit of anxiety.
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pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?


For a short, light card game, yes. Diminishing returns the further I went after a dozen plays or so in discovering things about it.
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PlowStr8 wrote:
cpf86 wrote:
just to highlight, the special cards have a HUGE impact on the game. it probably double the decisions needed and it's so delicious.


2nd this. Absolutely adds a lot more potential for surprise moves.

Though some prefer the more "pure" game without the tactics cards. If you also remove the 10's from the deck, what you then have is Battle Line's predecessor, Schotten Totten, which has more Knizia "mathy" feeling to it (because in a full spread on the table, you have a 6x9 grid, and 6 suits x 9 cards means all the cards are used in a game). Recommend playing that way at least once. But still like it better with the tactics cards. Plus the rule that you can't play another tactics card if you've already played more than your opponent adds an extra bit of anxiety.



I think I'll have to try removing the 10's. That's a pretty cool idea. And I'll just have to coax/force people into playing with the tactics cards!
 
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malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?


For a short, light card game, yes. Diminishing returns the further I went after a dozen plays or so in discovering things about it.



For an 18xx, 35 is many MANY. But to me, for a 20 minute card game, "many" means at least 3 digits. I consider spades to be on par with Battle Line as far as depth (well, Battle line is actually a bit deeper), and I have 18,000 games of spades under my belt. 35 games for a quick card game, to me, is a couple of weekends.
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Ethan Malay
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pfctsqr wrote:
malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?


For a short, light card game, yes. Diminishing returns the further I went after a dozen plays or so in discovering things about it.



For an 18xx, 35 is many MANY. But to me, for a 20 minute card game, "many" means at least 3 digits. I consider spades to be on par with Battle Line as far as depth (well, Battle line is actually a bit deeper), and I have 18,000 games of spades under my belt. 35 games for a quick card game, to me, is a couple of weekends.


I've played over 50 games of Food Chain Magnate and don't consider that adequate to fully understand it. At 35 for Battle Line, I feel I am well past the point where it is worth searching for greater depth. I could say the same for a game like Tic-Tac-Toe. If I feel good after 2 games, do I need to play thousands since it is so light and simple?
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malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?


For a short, light card game, yes. Diminishing returns the further I went after a dozen plays or so in discovering things about it.



For an 18xx, 35 is many MANY. But to me, for a 20 minute card game, "many" means at least 3 digits. I consider spades to be on par with Battle Line as far as depth (well, Battle line is actually a bit deeper), and I have 18,000 games of spades under my belt. 35 games for a quick card game, to me, is a couple of weekends.


I've played over 50 games of Food Chain Magnate and don't consider that adequate to fully understand it. At 35 for Battle Line, I feel I am well past the point where it is worth searching for greater depth. I could say the same for a game like Tic-Tac-Toe. If I feel good after 2 games, do I need to play thousands since it is so light and simple?


Battle Line was one of the tournament games featured at the WBC. It may still be, but I'm not sure. How do you think you would fare against a player with 500 plays. Do you think it's 50-50?
 
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Ethan Malay
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pfctsqr wrote:
malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?


For a short, light card game, yes. Diminishing returns the further I went after a dozen plays or so in discovering things about it.



For an 18xx, 35 is many MANY. But to me, for a 20 minute card game, "many" means at least 3 digits. I consider spades to be on par with Battle Line as far as depth (well, Battle line is actually a bit deeper), and I have 18,000 games of spades under my belt. 35 games for a quick card game, to me, is a couple of weekends.


I've played over 50 games of Food Chain Magnate and don't consider that adequate to fully understand it. At 35 for Battle Line, I feel I am well past the point where it is worth searching for greater depth. I could say the same for a game like Tic-Tac-Toe. If I feel good after 2 games, do I need to play thousands since it is so light and simple?


Battle Line was one of the tournament games featured at the WBC. It may still be, but I'm not sure. How do you think you would fare against a player with 500 plays. Do you think it's 50-50?



I would feel fine, but as none of this is contributing to the conversation of the review, this is the last I'll contribute to this tangent.
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malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
malayet2 wrote:
pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?


For a short, light card game, yes. Diminishing returns the further I went after a dozen plays or so in discovering things about it.



For an 18xx, 35 is many MANY. But to me, for a 20 minute card game, "many" means at least 3 digits. I consider spades to be on par with Battle Line as far as depth (well, Battle line is actually a bit deeper), and I have 18,000 games of spades under my belt. 35 games for a quick card game, to me, is a couple of weekends.


I've played over 50 games of Food Chain Magnate and don't consider that adequate to fully understand it. At 35 for Battle Line, I feel I am well past the point where it is worth searching for greater depth. I could say the same for a game like Tic-Tac-Toe. If I feel good after 2 games, do I need to play thousands since it is so light and simple?


Battle Line was one of the tournament games featured at the WBC. It may still be, but I'm not sure. How do you think you would fare against a player with 500 plays. Do you think it's 50-50?



I would feel fine, but as none of this is contributing to the conversation of the review, this is the last I'll contribute to this tangent.


I teach Trigonometry. Don't leave me hanging like that.
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pfctsqr wrote:
Nice review.

But one thing puzzles me:

35=many MANY plays?


10 plays is many for me. Few games reach it. Judging subjectivity is hard like that...

Regards
Asger Granerud
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Bennett Gardiner
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Quote:

I've played over 50 games of Food Chain Magnate and don't consider that adequate to fully understand it. At 35 for Battle Line, I feel I am well past the point where it is worth searching for greater depth. I could say the same for a game like Tic-Tac-Toe. If I feel good after 2 games, do I need to play thousands since it is so light and simple?


Isn't this a little ridiculous to say if you aren't playing the full game (ie. the inclusion of the tactics cards as standard?)
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dispatch134711 wrote:
Quote:

I've played over 50 games of Food Chain Magnate and don't consider that adequate to fully understand it. At 35 for Battle Line, I feel I am well past the point where it is worth searching for greater depth. I could say the same for a game like Tic-Tac-Toe. If I feel good after 2 games, do I need to play thousands since it is so light and simple?


Isn't this a little ridiculous to say if you aren't playing the full game (ie. the inclusion of the tactics cards as standard?)


The tactics cards are an addition to the game when it was reimplemented as Battle Line. The original incarnation of it as Schotten Totten did not have these cards.
 
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malayet2 wrote:
dispatch134711 wrote:
Quote:

I've played over 50 games of Food Chain Magnate and don't consider that adequate to fully understand it. At 35 for Battle Line, I feel I am well past the point where it is worth searching for greater depth. I could say the same for a game like Tic-Tac-Toe. If I feel good after 2 games, do I need to play thousands since it is so light and simple?


Isn't this a little ridiculous to say if you aren't playing the full game (ie. the inclusion of the tactics cards as standard?)


The tactics cards are an addition to the game when it was reimplemented as Battle Line. The original incarnation of it as Schotten Totten did not have these cards.


Yes, the tactics cards are one thing that make the two games different. However, the rules for Battle Line do not include the option of playing without them. So while you're certainly welcome to play any way you want with a game you've purchased, if you're not playing by the rules, then you're not playing Battle Line, but a variant.
 
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