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I'd read the rules to Schotten-Totten at some point in the past, so I knew how to play, but scanned the rules to figure out how the Tactics cards worked. Turns out they were simple enough, but added the "American streak" to the game. From the simple elegance of Schotten-Totten, we now had an element of "take that", plus definitely a lot more luck since some cards (oh, Alexander) were a lot better than others (Companion Cavalry is pretty weak). GMT's production of the game is nothing to marvel at. The cards were unremarkable, the rules weren't particularly well-written (but they were functional), and the art was pretty stark. Oh well, it's a cheap card game. At least it's a Reiner.

The rules are simple. There are nine flags (represented by nondescript red wooden pawns) lined up in the center of the play area. Players have a hand of 8 cards, initially all drawn from the troop deck. Cards are of six colors, numbered 1 to 10. Players lay out cards in front of flags (on their side) one at a time, forming opposing columns or "formations" (troops fighting for the flag). The strength of the 3-card formation is based on poker hands. The strongest formation is a straight flush, followed by three of a kind, then a flush, then a straight. Pairs aren't worth anything. Cards that don't form a formation lose to any formation. Two opposing groups which both don't form formations fight on total card value. Once both sides had three cards in front of a flag, the battle is resolved and the winner takes the flag. If you can prove that there's no way the opponent can beat you (due to the cards he needs being out on the field somewhere else or discarded), you also take the flag. If the flag is gone no one can play cards in that area.

Players refill their hand after their turn. They can choose to draw from the troop deck or the tactics deck. Players may only play one more tactics card than their opponent has playedm but may have nay number in their hands. Tactics cards have interesting, sometimes unbalancing effects. One nullifies all formations in front of a flag, forcing a fight on card values alone. One extends the columns fighting over a flag to four cards. Alexander is a wild card; he can be any value or suit. Companion Cavalry is an extra "4", which is rather crappy.

Anyway, John and I played two games. I lost them both, mostly because of Tactics cards. In both games, a lost two flags due to tactics card play. I think next time I'll avoid using them so that the opponent can only play one card on me.

Battle Line is ok, not bad for a 2P game but it's not Reiner's most interesting work. I'm not really taken with the mechanism of forming poker hands and playing them against each other. Sure, there are some decisions to be made, but at some point I get tired to trying to track what's been played and counting and recounting all the cards in play. Seems like a lot of counting without a lot of satisfaction. Finally, the whole gmae seems static. The tactics cards don't really help due to their randomness and imbalance.

Lukewarm recommendation - try before you buy. You might like it more than I do.
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