In the times when Vikings roamed the land, pillaging, farming, and creating one of the most feared civilizations of their time, there was more important things for them. Conquering land, gaining honor, and being welcomed into the halls of Valhalla with open arms by the Gods they held dear.
Blood Rage is the type of game that utilizes that dynamic, and includes a lot of other pieces, to become a competitive game in which each clan (person) competes to see who will have the most honor during the Ragnarok event.
PLAYERS – 2-4+ (We have played 5 and 6, which add additional card) but 4 players is considered the best.
TIME – 60-90 minutes (for first time players, expect a lot longer as you will be referring to the rules more, and trying to understand a couple of the more complicated dynamics. Our first game took 3 hours, but each game after around 1.5)
AGE – 14+
DESIGNER – Eric M. Lang
Blood Rage is a multiplayer competitive board game, which uses Mini’s, cards, and a small amount of tile placement to create a different game each time. The premise is to have the most combined honor by the end of three ages in game, each which becomes more powerful, and a lot easier to plan as the game goes.
Each player is given a clan, which really only denotes color. The actual clans do not differ at all, so it is a balanced start, mainly dictated by strategy, card draws, and the ability to watch everything going on around the table.
Each player has a leader, some warriors, and a ship. The Leader, being worth 3 strength to start and also being able to be played with no rage cost (we will get to that after), the warriors are worth 1 strength but also cost 1 rage, and the ship is worth two, costs 2, but also can fight in the two connected territories to which you place it.
Each team spends their allotted rage in a clockwise turn order, but those who plan a bit better may have more turns based on amount of rage left. Not all actions require Rage to do, which we will cover later, but once your rage pool is depleted, your turn is done. This means people may have more or less turns than other, depending on their reliance on a fast and quick, or slow and methodical game.
The clan who amasses the most honor at the end, wins the game.
Starting with the player selected randomly to go first, the initial step is a card draw mechanic. Each player is given 8 cards from the draw pile, and may select one from their initial hand, passing the rest clockwise around the table. They continue to do this until all players have a hand of six, and all players discard the final two remaining cards.
These cards can do several things, which we will also get to later.
Once you’ve started your actual turn, you can do 6 different things. You may place a warrior, which costs 1 Rage per unit, a Ship which costs 2 Rage, or a Leader which is free, but each clan only has one. This is called invading a province, and may be done in any of the outer edge provinces.
Next you can pay Rage to upgrade your clan, ship, monsters, or warriors. Warriors and Ships have a single upgrade slot, Monsters usually have a few each round you can purchase to summon, and you can have up to 3 clan upgrade cards active at any time. Anything from gaining points for losing, to increasing the strength or durability of your troops. Many different tactics are possible with the right combination of cards at your disposal, but the key to victory is knowing when to draft battle, and when to focus on quests.
You can march troops anywhere on the board, but it can only be from one province to another. So if you have four guys in a province that is already pillaged, you can move them into a new one if there is room. This is always at the cost of one Rage.
You can pillage a province you are in, this means you battle whoever is in the province, and people in adjacent provinces are given an option to join, depending on the room left in the province you are fighting for. Each player plays one card, and they resolve for who has the most power in said province. Pillaging costs nothing, but you only successfully get the stat point if you are the one who initiated the pillage.
Finally is playing a quest, which is also free. This is playing a quest from your hand, face down into your pile of quests. You are hoping to complete them to earn additional stats and honor points for the victory.
The most important thing to note is if you run out of Rage, you are done. You sit out and watch everyone else go. You can still fight and move into a fight if there is room, but you can no longer play quest cards, pillage, or initiate any actions at all. It is IMPERATIVE you play your quests well before you get low on Rage, or you may get stuck with useless cards at the end.
Over the course of three rounds, the game changes. This is because the cards get stronger, the boards gets smaller (as each round Ragnarok destroys a province which can never be used again) and the battles get harder. Usually you’ve gained some additional Rage, more figures you can place, or you may have focused heavily on earning more Honor for each battle you win. There are pros and cons to each tactic, but overall, you should try and get some additional Rage to last until the end of the round.
This is definitely not a game in which you try to help each other, the goal is for one clan to gain more honor than the rest. This is done by fighting, dying, and accumulating quests, so no player will win if they do nothing but sit around waiting. There is a quick paced dynamic to scoring, and we’ve had winners with 80 points, and winners with 200 points. It is very easy to lap other players if you are more strategic in your choices.
Also, a key note, you should try not to let one player gain all of the Loki cards. Trust me, it is a nightmare to compete with as he gains honor by losing troops. By the third round, you can be gaining almost 6 per guy who dies, plus 12 for your ship. It accumulated real fast.
I love this game, I love the gameplay, and I love the entire premise it brings. It adds a lot to the world of board games, and gives a player several different ways to try and win, while being brilliantly designed, well thought out, and fund for almost any gamer.
Do not go into this thinking it will be a quick game, or an easy win, both of those would be wrong. It will be a battle of wits, strategy, and who has the biggest Viking balls to outlast everyone else. While there is still so much more to learn, I want there to be some surprises, so strap on in, pick up your copy, and enjoy one of the better games I have played in recent years.