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Barony» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Barony: the "more-people-should-play-this" Review! rss

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Mech Gamer

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Hex-chess! They’ve finally invented Hex-chess. And the good news about Hex-chess is: you can build little castles and strongholds! And all your people are on horseback, and they’re like, all pawns, but they can gang up on other pawns and you can block off sections of the board and it plays up to four! Five with the expansion! Oh, didn’t I mention? Hex-chess has an expansion!

Ok, maybe it isn’t that much like chess. I only bring it up because it’s an open-information abstract game, of which chess is the grandaddy. In fact though, when the results get in from the DNA test I just conducted, it’s more likely that the little-known-but-highly-revered Fjords will be revealed as Barony’s distant cousin, and from there, parentage lies firmly at Go’s feet rather than Chess. They’ll have to figure it out on a day-time chat show if needs be. In fact, they might want to, because Barony is a fine addition to any family.

Whilst we’re talking bloodlines, I took a little look at Inis last week, and Barony shares at least the whiff of a theme. Clans, castles, fighting and fiefs. I mean a few hundred years probably separates them – I’m not a historian, don’t @ me – but the gist is there. Despite thematic similarities, though, the mechanical execution could not be more different. Inis is the cool hippy, chilled out and asking its players to just, like, get along, man. Barony is taut and clinically unhip, a game of chin-stroking and ‘good moves’ and sucking bowl pipes. I wonder if it’s also primarily tactical to Inis’s strategy, but we’ll look at that a bit later and determine it’s truthiness.

There’s no action selection or card drafting in Barony… oh no. You have ‘moves’, or ‘actions’, and you can do only one of them a turn. No luck, no cards, certainly no dice. This is procedural, deterministic. Is it starting to feel a little cold in here? Is there a chilly breeze? Well, you’re wrong. Barony is actually great, and positively *warm*.

I think largely this might be a trick played by the component illuminati; you know, Big Meeple. Those shape-shifting lizards have given just the right heft to the castles, just the right shape to the little men on horses, just the right hue to the beautiful hex board. If Barony is dry – and I’m not saying it is – but if it is, pretending you are an *actual duke or duchess* helps enormously. This is one of those games where at the end you’ll want to take a photograph, because it sorta looks like a real battle has taken place between enchanted bits of wood.

All this is for nothing if the game isn’t fun. And it is. This is a game of deciding exactly how much land you can take and, vitally, how much you can cling to. Taking land is great, holding is better, killing others is optional. Well, not optional, no, that’s not the right word, it’s just… rare. No that’s not right either. Calculated, that’s it. If you’re killing someone, it’s because it’s the right thing to do tactically and mathematically – there are very few vendettas or crusades in this game.

Above I called it clinical, and I think that was an excellent word to choose. Combat is clinical: two knights on the same hex as an opponent’s, kill it. Two knights on an opponent’s village, burn it down. That’s about it for combat. Area control is clinical: you look for mountains (they can’t be attacked) and you look for patterns and choke-holds and where your strongholds and citadels (also can’t be attacked) can be built to divide up the board, preferably with you holding the majority. The person who wins will be the one who can chop the board most efficiently and quickly without over-stretching. In a four-player game, this is a deadly knife-fight.

Which is not to say it plays badly with two – not at all. But it’s at this player count that the chess analogy shines through the clearest. There is much less to keep track of, and thus much less – in fact almost no – surprise. This is not a game of ambushes; if you’ve fallen into a sprung trap, you’ll curse yourself and bore your opponent with the five reasons you should have seen it coming.

So, yes, Barony is great, and I will be very much adding it to my collection. If the very-faint rumours are true of "new content" because of "renewed interest" in the game, I'm thrilled! Partly because I get more content - I already have the expansion but the magic really didn't do it for me, adding too much cheese to a salad - but also, maybe this tight little strategy game will finally get the audience it deserves.

**Edit**: I said you could do two 'actions' a turn, and as you can see below, I got mixed up because you can 'move' two knights in the move 'action', but it is only one action. Apologies!
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Russ Williams
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mech_gamer wrote:
There’s no action selection or card drafting in Barony… oh no. You have ‘moves’, or ‘actions’, and you can do two of them a turn.


Two?!

You made me worried I had somehow misunderstood a crucial part of the rules, so I went to check. Nope, you get one action per turn!
rules wrote:
On his turn, a player can take ONE and only one of the following six actions


In any case, I agree that it's a good fun game.
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Brent Gerig
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Very well written review! I also thoroughly enjoy this game. I also, like Russ, had a brief moment of panic: "Two actions per turn? Have I been playing wrong all this time??" That error is the only thing I can fault you for. I think you did a great job capturing the tension of Barony. Oh, and you can easily treat those magic spaces as either lakes or forests and go ahead and play a normal game with 5 players.
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Curt Carpenter
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russ wrote:
mech_gamer wrote:
There’s no action selection or card drafting in Barony… oh no. You have ‘moves’, or ‘actions’, and you can do two of them a turn.


Two?!

You made me worried I had somehow misunderstood a crucial part of the rules, so I went to check. Nope, you get one action per turn!
rules wrote:
On his turn, a player can take ONE and only one of the following six actions

Well, you do get two "moves" per turn, but that's one "action". So OP was just imprecise.

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Russ Williams
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curtc wrote:
Well, you do get two "moves" per turn, but that's one "action". So OP was just imprecise.

"You have ‘moves’, or ‘actions’, and you can do two of them a turn." sure sounds to me like they are using "moves" and "actions" synonomously, and saying that you get two (whether you call them "moves" or "actions") per turn.

In any case, we seem to agree it was imprecise.
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Mech Gamer

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