I had the opportunity to play a demo of Blood Rage at GenCon. Deveolped by Guillotine Games, Studio McVey, designer Eric M. Lang and artist Adrian Smith Distributed by CoolMini and funded through Kickstarter, (wow that’s a mouth full.) It brought in just under a million with just under 10,000 backers. I didn’t back it but a friend of mine did. Our group has recently taken on the philosophy of the “group buy.” In other words if we see a game that we think might be interesting we don’t all run out and buy a copy. Whoever thinks the game looks good has the responsibility to buy it, learn it, teach it. Sound like a no brainer but we all game with a number of different groups so having your own copy comes in handy from time to time…but I digress.
“Life is Battle; Battle is Glory; Glory is ALL”
In Blood Rage, each player controls their own Viking clan’s warriors, leader, and ship. Ragnarök has come, and it’s the end of the world! It’s the Vikings’ last chance to go down in a blaze of glory and secure their place in Valhalla at Odin’s side! For a Viking there are many pathways to glory. You can invade and pillage the land for its rewards, crush your opponents in epic battles, fulfill quests, increase your clan’s stats, or even die gloriously either in battle or from Ragnarök, the ultimate inescapable doom. Most player strategies are guided by the cards drafted at the beginning of each of the three game rounds (or Ages). These “Gods’ Gifts” grant you numerous boons for your clan including: increased Viking strength and devious battle strategies, upgrades to your clan, or even the aid of legendary creatures from Norse mythology. They may also include various quests, from dominating specific provinces, to having lots of your Vikings sent to Valhalla. Most of these cards are aligned with one of the Norse gods, hinting at the kind of strategy they support. For example, Thor gives more glory for victory in battle, Heimdall grants you foresight and surprises, Tyr strengthens you in battle, while the trickster Loki actually rewards you for losing battles, or punishes the winner. Players must choose their strategies carefully during the draft phase, but also be ready to adapt and react to their opponents’ strategies as the action phase unfolds. Battles are decided not only by the strength of the figures involved, but also by cards played in secret. By observing your opponent’s actions and allegiances to specific gods, you may predict what card they are likely to play, and plan accordingly. Winning battles is not always the best course of action, as the right card can get you even more rewards by being crushed. The only losing strategy in Blood Rage is to shy away from battle and a glorious death!
The minis look good the components are okay. Set up is quick and game play is easy to pick up. It literally took under 10 minutes to learn the basics and get playing.
One of the key components of the game is the card draft at the beginning of each round (Age). This can’t be stressed enough, think about your strategy. Cards add to combat, cards add abilities to clans, cards augment your hero, cards can turn a defeat into a victory, I think you get where I’m going with this. You have a finite number of warriors once they are gone, that’s it, you’re on defense for the rest of the round. (your warriors do refresh for every round). But losing warriors is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember all of your vikings want to die in battle and sit at Odin’s side in Valhalla. So losing warriors can be of great benefit. The second managed resource is your Rage. Rage is fuel for actions. Everyone starts out with the same amount but you have the opportunity to increase your rage through game play. I highly recommend cranking up your rage a soon as possible. Nobody like sitting around while somebody else is taking turns while they’re out of gas.
As an area control game it couldn’t be simpler, pick an area, invade it. Here’s where it gets interesting. Once you invade with any combination of hero, however many warriors and/or monsters, everyone else can decide to contest for the territory by committing warriors to battle. Players tally their attack values then flop whatever cards they have that may increase or pimp the the other guy until a victor is declared. Loser armies go to the afterlife. Once you’ve won you get whatever that territory had to pillage. That’s it, simple and fast.
For the next “Age” you’re warrior population is refreshed. There is very little down side to battle which is a good thing. Knowing you get all your guys back breaks that hesitancy you sometimes have about going “all in” and makes for some fun battles.
With only a demo under my belt I’m not sure how the game will stand up to repeated play. While the card drafting makes each game slightly different I can see where the game as whole might get repetitive. I think the game is an excellent cross over game or as Wil Wheaton says “infection vector” for breaking people out of more traditional board games and getting them on the path to experiencing all that board games have to offer.