Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
BLOOD RAGE (Cool Mini or Not, 2 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 60-90 minutes; $79.99)
I really like most of Eric M. Lang’s designs and of those Blood Rage is the game I prefer. Tense, deep, with different paths to victory in an outstanding presentation. It is a typical “American” game, with intense interaction but a really low level of randomness. Playing Blood Rage is much more about planning and optimizing combos that actually fighting in a wargame-like style. There are no dice in Blood Rage!
In Blood Rage, four Viking clans are fighting in the days of Ragnarok, trying to get glory. The game is played in three Eras and, in the end, the clan with most glory will win.
Every player controls a clan of ten warriors with a chief and a ship. There are three different type of cards in the game: upgrades (to improve your clan), quests (for points and bonuses at the end of an Era) and combat cards (that can help you in the battles). You can improve your clan with up to 3 generic clan upgrades and recruit up to two monsters during the game from a large set of creatures. You can also upgrade warriors, chiefs and ships. Improving your clan strength and abilities is one of the roads to victory.
Each clan has a clan sheet displaying the basic stats for warriors, chiefs and ships and a track for Rage, Horns and Axes. Rage regulates the number of actions your clan can perform in each Era, Horns indicate the maximum number of figures you can have in play, and Axes display the points scored for winning a battle.
Every Era starts with a draft. All players get 8 cards, choose one and pass the others left and keep doing so until they get 6. This is the phase where you have to devise your strategy: Which cards? Where would I like to look for points? Most cards are useful and you have to think about combos. Thanks to the draft, you have an idea about the cards other players can have. After the draft, called “Gods’ Gifts”, there is the action phase where most of the game is played.
The game goes clockwise and, during your turn, you can perform an action if you have enough Rage. The game board is a map of the mythical terrain around Yggdrasil, the great tree that binds the nine worlds together. The land is divided into nine provinces and each province has three to five villages. You can “Invade” putting one of your figures on the map on a free village. All the provinces, apart from Yggdrasil, are in contact with the sea and can be invaded. You can move one or more figures from a province to another one. You can upgrade by playing a clan card or a quest card or pillage. Most actions require Rage points and you can act until you have finished all of your Rage points. Rage is important but after playing the game a lot you will realize it is less important than how it looks in the first few games.
Every province starts an Era with a face-up counter displaying the reward for pillaging that usually is an increment in Rage or Horns or Axes. If you declare a pillage, you have to fight all other players’ figures in the same province. Before the battle, all players may move figures from adjacent provinces if there are still empty villages. This simple rule is one of the places where most of the strategy lies. Pillaging provinces is very important and is really difficult to win without battling.
If other players have figures in the province before pillaging, there is a battle. All figures fighting have combat strength (a warrior usually has 1, a chief 3, monsters can have up to 5). The clan strength is the sum of the strength of all the figures in the province plus the value/effects of a secret card all involved players have to play. Combat cards usually boost strength and it is crucial to remember which combat cards your opponents can have. The clan with the lower total strength loses and all of those figures moved to Valhalla; they will come back later, at the end of the Era. Winning a battle against another clan will give you as many points as the value of your Axes stat.
When all players have used all of their Rage points for an Era, the Era ends. Players can keep only one card for the next Era, than all quests are revealed and checked. Finally, Ragnarok will hit a new province: the province will be out of the game until the end and all the figures there moved to Valhalla. (Which provinces will be hit by Ragnarok in the different Eras is well known.) Finally, all figures in Valhalla move back to the clan as available troops.
To win in Blood Rage, you have to choose the right cards, play according to your strategy and try to use monsters and upgrades to their best. There is an arc of increasing power of cards and points from Era to Era, keeping players always in flux. The rules are simple and the different effects of upgrades can really change the course of the game. There are already 3 expansions: the best is the one that make the game available up to 5 players (the base game is for 2-4). Blood Rage is well designed and probably one of the best games of 2015/2016. – – – – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
Summer 2016 GA Report Articles
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