Review – Blood Rage
A card drafting, miniatures board game.
Title: Blood Rage
Year Published: 2015
Designer: Eric M. Lang
Players: 2-4 (5 with Expansion)
Game Time: ~90 Mins
Set-up Time: >5 Mins
Mechanic: Card Drafting, Action Point Allowance, Area Control
How to win: Gain the most Glory.
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, fulfil quests, increase your clan’s stats, or even die gloriously either in battle or from Ragnarök, the ultimate inescapable doom.
The game has 2 expansions, Mystics of Midgard and Gods of Asgard. I will just talk about the base game in the how to play section and mention them in the round up. Also, I have the Kickstarter edition so some items, mostly plastic tokens and certain Monsters are generally unavailable, I will mention this in the round up too.
Give each player a clan set of their choice with a matching player board. Place the Glory marker on the 0 space of the Glory track and put the Clan tokens on the first spot of each Clan stat, and on 6 Rage.
Put the green Pillage token on Yggdrasil and the others randomly on each province face up. Shuffle the Ragnarok tokens. Put 1 on each space in the Age track, put the Doom token on the board to represent the next region that will be destroyed. Destroy a number of random provinces based on the player count using the remaining Ragnarok tokens and put the rest back in the box.
Sort the cards by deck and number of players and put them on the Gods Gift spaces.
Put the Saga token (round marker) on the Age 1 space and the start player is the person who was born furthest North.
First lets look at the 3 Clan stats.
Rage – Used to take actions and this shows you how much you get each round
Axe – Shows you how much Glory you gain for winning a Battle
Horns – Simply shows how many figures you can have on the board
The game is played over 3 Ages and each age is divided into 6 Phases.
1 – Gods Gifts
Deal 8 cards to each player and draft them until there are 2 cards left, discard those cards.
There are 3 colours of card, each have a different use.
Red – Used in Battle to add strength, and sometimes an ability
Green – Quests to complete for Glory and to increase a Clan stat
Black – Upgrade your Leader, Clan and Ship or add a Monster to your Clan.
2 – Actions
At this point you would gain Rage equal to your Rage rating, in Age 1 each players starts with 6. You spend Rage to take an action but if you have 0 Rage you cannot take an action, even if it costs 0.
There are 5 different actions you can take, all detailed on each player board.
Invade – Pay Rage equal to their strength and put it into a Village in an outer Province. Remember the number of models you have on the board can not exceed the number on your Horn stat on your clan sheet. Ships must be placed in Fjords (boats go in water in case you didn’t know :))and there is no limit to how many ships can be in a Fjord. Some Units, such as your Leader will “Invade for Free” so you don’t need to pay rage.
March – Pay 1 Rage, move Figures from any one Province to another anywhere on the board. Each Village in a Province can hold a single figure but the central Province, Yggdrasil, is unlimited.
Upgrade – Pay the strength value of the card in Rage and put an upgrade card onto your Clan Sheet. Upgrading a Leader or Ship keeps their original ability that is printed on the Clan sheet. If it’s a Trooper upgrade, add it to your Clan sheet then invade with that type of unit for free. Monsters will invade for Free too when you play the Monster upgrade card.
Quest – Put a quest card onto your Clan sheet for free, there is no limit to the cards you can have. These are resolved later.
Pillage – This costs no Rage at all. You attack an un-pillaged Province with at least 1 unit in it you control, or has a ship in a supporting Fjord. Each Fjord ‘supports’ the two neighbouring Provinces so an effect on the Province affects the Fjord too.
Pillaging itself has 4 phases.
1 – Call to Battle – Players in turn order may move 1 unit form an adjacent Province to join the battle. Adjacent Provinces are those that share a border with Yggdrasil counting as adjacent to all of them. Players do this for free even if you have 0 Rage. If no enemies are in the Province at this point you win! Go to the Pillage step
2 – Play Cards – Each player MUST pick 1 card from their hand and then they are revealed simultaneously to add strength and effects to their units total strengths. A non-Battle card adds 0 Strength. In turn order, players have a chance to play additional Battle cards until everyone has finished.
3 – Resolution – The highest strength wins and gets a number of Glory based on their Axe stat on the Clan sheet. All losing units are sent to Valhalla. In a Tie, everyone counts as losing so they ALL go to Valhalla. The Winner of the battle discard their cards but the loser takes their card back into their hand.
4 – Pillage – If the Pillagers (The player taking this action) won, they take the reward on the Pillage token and flip it face down.
5 – Pass – Take no action, but lose all of your remaining Rage… You’re out for the round but can still take part in other players Pillage actions.
The Action Phase ends immediately if all players have 0 Rage or all surviving Provinces have been pillaged.
3 – Discard
All players discard down to one card.
4 – Quest
Each player goes through their Quest cards and will gain the reward as printed on the card for each one if it’s successful. You must win but you lose on Ties and there is no penalty for not completing a Quest.
5 – Ragnarok
Destroy the Province and put the destroyed Province token on it then move the Doom token to the next Province that will see Ragnarok. Each figure in that Province is sent to Valhalla will gain Glory as printed on the board.
6 – Release Valhalla
Return figures in Valhalla to their owners.
End of an Age
Flip Pillage tokens face up, pass the first player token to the left and move the Saga token.
After 3 Ages you add up your Glory, including bonus points for moving your Clan stats on your player board. Most Glory Wins.
So expansions… The Mystics have their own upgrade cards and each card you play adds a new Mystic to your ranks. Each upgrade effects each of your Mystics so the more you play the better they get. Do you NEED this expansion? No, but if you have it you just add it to the game and it lives there happily with no downside to having it.
The Gods effect 2 Provinces on the board and depending on the God, that Province will have a unique effect. After that Province is pillaged the God moves to a new one randomly. Again, not needed but adds a little something.
This was a Cool Mini or Not Kickstarter so of course you get Exclusives. The plastic sculpt tokens look nice but aren’t needed and the 6th Clan is nice (it’s purple so I use it) but you can still only play with 5 at the most. But it’s the 4 Monsters that people will want. For me, 2 of them are awful.
The Wolfman changes combat to the point that non-Monsters don’t count at all. This changes combat a lot and shifts focus almost solely on it. Fenrir moves Rangnarok to it’s Province meaning that player controls Ragnarok itself. This makes it VERY difficult for other players to deliberately try to benefit from points from Ragnarok sacrifices. I’m actually very tempted to take these 2 out of my copy of the game.
So the game… When I first got it I played two 3-player games and was VERY underwhelmed. We drafted cards, did things, scored and that was it. It seemed to be a game where you plonk things on the board, move, fight, most die and someone wins… Pretty dull.
I have since played a few 4-5 player games and it’s much better. The board seems wider (0-1 Provinces start the game already destroyed instead of 2 in a 3 player game) yet tighter (more opposition). I think those destroyed Provinces at the start of a 3 player game cut the board off too much… I dunno…
Anyway, the game is better with more players.
Drafting is cool. You get a hand full of cards and you start to craft your strategy for the round. You need Battle cards to help in combat but too many and you won’t have room in your hand for other cool stuff.
Rage is an interesting resource, if not unique. You spend points of Rage to do things but increasing your Rage is quite hard. It requires the completed Quests or Pillaging the right Province, the first one being easier.
Axes give you points for winning Battles so you need to increase this to score points as you go. It’s nice to focus on this if you think you’e going to win fights, such as drafting that Wolfman I mentioned earlier.
Horns are a nice way to prevent players just hammering out as many well sculpted minis onto the board as they want. You have to increase this to get dudes on the map at the cost of Rage and Axes which give you actions and points… It’s easy to forget your limit, well, it’s easy for me. Plenty of times I’ve added something to the board and realised I’ve been over the limit…
So game play is quite good and the card combat is OK. There are plenty of ways to gain points and you can craft a strategy during drafting but you need to take care when playing to make sure you can follow it.
There are lots of nice little combos and tactics you can play but, like most of Eric Langs games, route one is the way to go…
Here you can play intricate combos but it doesn’t work as well as focusing on increasing your stats for big bonuses in the game and lots of end game scoring.
Not what I was hoping for but it’s not too bad.
I give it 6/10