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Subject: Batt'l Kha'os: a quick review rss

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Andrew
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This review originally appeared on Get on Board

Let's talk about poor Batt'l Kha'os. Two things here: 1) This is an abstract with a little bit of artwork on top, don't fool yourself 2) This is living proof that misbranding by a publisher can absolutely murder a fairly solid game. Batt'l Kha'os? Extraneous Apostrophes? Sold for 2.99 on Tanga for the past two summers? This should be the kiss of death for a game...and it really has been neglected. But don't let it fool you! This is a hidden gem.

Batt'l Kha'os is a tile-laying battle abstract that has some superficial similarities to Carcassonne. Essentially, you're tile-laying to control majority around towers, which score you points. It makes some improvements on the Carcassonne system, though, as you're able to draw from the tile stack, or draw a face-up tile from a market, which gives you more agency (and even lets you pick sneakily to block!) over your new tiles in hand. Also, the overall feel of placing/claiming land around the castles makes for a much more dynamic and free-flowing game state.

I first played this game in 2016 and was turned off by the essentially abstract system. But now, returning to it in 2018, I found the abstract system very engaging. There's a lot of strategy to the timing of taking towers, and like any two-player game, you want to make your opponent do all the work of surrounding a tower, while you swoop in and win it anyways. Similarly, once you've secured a certain win, leave that tower alone. These sorts of tips are drop-dead obvious to abstract players, and I was able to appreciate the game after coming back to it with that background. Much like YINSH (another Get on Board abstract favorite), this game will often ebb and flow with a tight tension as you quarrel over towers.

A few magic elements of this game: every tile has both players' soldiers on it, which forces you to make some tough decisions. Often you can waste an opponent's soldiers by dropping them in a place where they will be lost anyways. Similarly, the tile draw lets you hate-draft and pick tiles that are very strong in your opponent's soldiers -- tiles that you can waste!

If the game were just tile-laying, it would be interesting, but Batt'l Kha'os also injects some interesting powers through the special tokens that come to each player. These can be played with just the basic tokens, drafted by both players, or used to handicap a more experienced player. These tokens let you do anything from boost your soldiers by two, double the value of the soldiers on a tile, or even take two turns in a row. They remind me of the special tokens in Samurai that let you break the rules in subtle ways.

There's more to this little abstract/two player game than you might have first expected when you look at the bland artwork and the unappealing packaging. Give this one another look; Get on Board recommends it!

This review originally appeared on Get on Board
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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I think the theme and art are cute, although the name is dorky and totally fails to communicate the feel of the game. My copy has been gathering dust recently, but I really should get it back into rotation.
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Andrew
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Carthoris wrote:
I think the theme and art are cute, although the name is dorky and totally fails to communicate the feel of the game. My copy has been gathering dust recently, but I really should get it back into rotation.


I agree. I almost wonder whether this would have worked better as a totally themeless abstract, or maybe indeed it was just the name holding it back.
 
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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BGG db sez that Batt'l Kha'os "reimplements" Fangs and Swords. The original title was better, if you ask me.
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Frederic Moyersoen
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Probably, as Belgian designers, we were not aware that the title would generate confusion in the English language. When we write "Battle", we pronounce it as "Battel". That's the reason why we put "'" instead of "e".

Unfortunately, the US publisher, Z-man games, didn't made any comment on the title and used this working title for the published product.
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Andrew
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Frederic Moyersoen wrote:
Probably, as Belgian designers, we were not aware that the title would generate confusion in the English language. When we write "Battle", we pronounce it as "Battel". That's the reason why we put "'" instead of "e".

Unfortunately, the US publisher, Z-man games, didn't made any comment on the title and used this working title for the published product.


Aha, gotcha. Yeah, I think it would have had more legs with Fangs/Swords as the title -- I don't think Batt'l Kha'os sounds bad, it just hampers discoverability.
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Carthoris Pyramidos
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Well, the idiosyncratic spelling makes phonetic sense in English, but also seems to evoke a sort of Metal grottiness. There's really nothing chaotic about this game, which has less randomness than Carc, as noted in the review above. And counting little dudes printed on tiles is about as abstracted as battle can be.

"Fangs and Swords," on the other hand, gives the idea of a balanced struggle, and reasonably communicates the spirit of the game. I agree it was the publisher's job to know the market and make sure that the title would connect with it effectively. I still like the game.
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