Saturday, 16 April 2016

Blood Rage

Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

Blood Rage is an Ameritrash-themed game with a Euro implementation. It is based on Norse mythology. The world is coming to an end. You lead a clan, and you compete with other clans to pillage the land and fight for glory. You summon creatures to aid your army. You don't fight to conquer or to survive. Your only KPI is glory. Glory is your victory points.

These are some of the creatures you can summon during the game.

This was my clan. The flagbearer is the clan leader, with a strength of 3. The rest are warriors, strength 1.

The is the player board. The long red track is the action point track. At the start of every round you get a certain number of actions points to spend for the round. Some actions cost action points. Once you exhaust your action points, you must pass for the rest of the round. You can't even execute the actions which don't require action points. The three shorter tracks are your skill tracks. If you improve your red skill, you get more action points at the start of every round. Improve your blue skill, and you earn more glory for each victory in battle. Improve your black skill, and you can field a larger army on the main board. If you advance your skills to the higher levels, you will earn bonus glory at game end. You can see many empty spaces on the player board. These are for playing upgrade cards to augment your clan abilities. These upgrade cards include those used for summoning creatures.

This is the main game board. There are many territories to fight over. At the end of every round, one of the territories will be destroyed, so the world will become smaller and smaller. The number of rounds is fixed. The actions you can do include deploying a unit, moving units, pillaging a territory, playing an upgrade card and committing to a quest. Each territory can only be pillaged once per round. When you pillage, you need to check whether other players have presence in the territory. If they do, you need to fight before deciding which clan wins the pillaging rights. The losers die and to go Valhalla (which is actually a small game board by the side). Dead (temporarily) units can only be deployed again next round. In this photo two of the territories have been destroyed - those marked by the big round orange marker.

The bases of the miniatures can be detached and reattached. The colours of the bases are the player colours.

At the start of every round there is a card drafting process similar to 7 Wonders. You are dealt a hand of cards, you pick one to keep, and pass the rest to your neighbour. Repeat this a few times, and you will eventually get to see most cards being circulated. You will know most of the cards your opponents have picked (i.e. those you've seen and later don't come back), but you can't be sure who took which cards. There are a few types of cards. An upgrade card gives your clan special abilities. A battle card, like those in this photo, is played during battle and gives your army additional strength and sometimes a special ability too. A mission card which you commit to gives you bonus glory points at the end of the round if you fulfill the condition stated.

More and more territories are destroyed as the game progresses, so competition intensifies. There is a limited number of spaces in each territory. Once fully occupied, you can't deploy more units into the territory.

This territory has only three spaces, and is now full. You can't deploy here anymore.

The Play

Blood Rage feels very Euro, despite the theme, the miniatures, the artwork. You win by victory points. Fighting is just a means to an end. If you are not going to gain much glory from a fight, there is little incentive to start it. You want to make good use of your cards, and you hope to collect good combos. You want to upgrade your clan and enjoy longer term benefits. Your strategy should be aligned with the cards and special abilities you have picked. The motivations and priorities of players can diverge, because they may pick different special abilities and focuses. Ultimately, killing more enemies than your own troops getting killed still helps, so you can't run away from fighting, and you do need to fight well. In this game you are maximising your glory gains from all this warfare.

I did poorly, losing many battles. My men became gold status loyal customers at the Valhalla board. I did have one card that allowed me to score points for men getting killed, but what I earned from this was not sufficient to make up for what I lacked in other areas. Losing many men means more action points needed to deploy men to the game board again. I did not improve my skills as efficiently as Han and Allen. I fell behind and came dead last.

The Thoughts

Blood Rage is more tactical than strategic. You need to fully utilise your cards, using them to gain an edge over your opponents. You watch out for opportunities, and try to maximise your glory gains through them. E.g. playing cards at the right times, starting battles at the right times. In terms of longer term consideration, the main one is the three skill tracks. You do need to consciously invest effort in them if you want to do well in a particular track, or two, or all three. It takes commitment.

Playing Blood Rage reminds me of Kemet. It's a low body count war game, with a very Euro design. I liked Kemet better. Blood Rage works fine and feels balanced, but I did not find a strong draw. Maybe Euro-rised war games no longer click with me, but then there are counterexamples like Sekigahara and Quartermaster General. If you like Kemet and streamlined wargames, Blood Rage may be your cup of tea (or blood).

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