Spice it up! with Blood Rage

In some parts of south Louisiana, there’s an old saying. “Passer a la bastringue.” It roughly translates into “passing through the triangle.” The triangle in this case is an important part of Cajun music. The typical Cajun music band has an accordion, a guitar, a fiddle, and a little iron triangle that is used as percussion. Keeping time on the iron triangle with an iron rod can make a nice ringing sound, but its size is also just large enough for a hand and not much else to pass through the opening of the triangle.

So when Cajuns say that a board gamer looks like he was “passed” through the triangle, that means the gamer probably looks pretty beat up. Or,  they could be referring to the gamer’s sour reaction to the end of a particularly disastrous outing.

What an appropriately accurate expression for today’s discussion.

By now, your group has knocked around a few of the well made introductory-type war games. You may have started with Memoir ’44 , by Richard Borg (who surprisingly also designed Liars Dice), especially if your group likes two-sided pitched battles with just enough randomness to even things out between those on different levels of experience and skill.

Or better yet, maybe someone in your group has already grabbed a copy of Small World. It is a relatively simple game in concept, and serves as a great introduction to area control and battle mechanics.  It is super easy to teach, and with a few modifications, you can knock out a three or four player game in about an hour.

But what happens when Small World and Memoir ’44 get a little stale (even with their numerous expansions, which is a good topic for another day)? Are you ready for a challenge — with the potential that you just might get “passed through the triangle?”

Spice it up! with Blood Rage, by Eric M. Lang.  (You will remember Lang from XCOM: The Board Game and Arcadia Quest and all those  Quarriers! dice — and watch out for his latest, The Others: 7 Sins!).

Blood Rage is the ultimate in Viking glory games. It is a card drafting battle royale between two to four players that plays in about an hour and half (maybe even about an hour if everyone is experienced.) The game consists of three rounds (called “Ages”) where the Viking clans compete for space across the board, represented by lands and villages.

And when I say compete, I mean battle for the Glory of Odin, in a blaze of mayhem that will ultimately result in an honored spot in Valhalla.

To get to Valhalla (and to earn the most ‘glory’ or victory points), players are each dealt a random hand of cards. They draft a card out of their hand, and then pass the remaining cards to the next player. (Those familiar with 7 Wonders will have no problem with this part of the game, although card combo-ing is ratcheted up in Blood Rage.) Once each player has the required number of cards, the strategy and battles of each Age begin.

Clans summon their leaders and warriors to stake out claims in each land.  Players spend Rage (the ‘money’ in this game) to move the clans around the board, or beef up their stats and clans, summon ships and monsters, or even to pillage the villages for more upgrades.

Those who enjoy the cramped quarters in Small World, which encourages attacks and counterattacks, will appreciate how that mechanic is drilled down even more streamlined here. One of the main goals in the game is to upgrade your clan’s rage and numbers, and each area of the map has juicy favors that can be won by raiding. But, each treasure is within the range of almost every other clan, so the battles for the prizes are ultimately contested by one or more clans.

And the board gets smaller and more cramped in each age. “Ragnarak” (signaling that the Viking world is ever closer to the end times) occurs after each age, destroying more and more parts of the board.  Warriors are sacrificed to Valhalla when the areas are bombarded by meteors, but if the clans play the right card, quests can be completed (which could include bonuses for sending your fighters to their ultimate glory) to gain tons of victory points.

By Age Three, there is no safe place to hide. No village goes uncontested, and the treasure battles are higher with more intensity…..all part of Mr. Lang’s diabolical design, I am sure.

After the last helmet is knocked off of the last standing Viking, and the last village is destroyed during Ragnarak, then it is time to count up the glory.  I made lots of mistakes during my first play, but at least I was thinking about how each card can combo with others in my hand. I could already see the different strategies that one can use to march toward victory — load up on warriors and take over the board? trick others into giving you more glory through the trickery of Loki cards? focus on beefing up your clans and getting the extra glory that comes with the increase in stats? — and can’t wait for the next play.

So if your game nights are getting bland, Spice it up! with Blood Rage. I am sorry I missed the initial Kickstarter campaign and can’t wait to get my own copy. I give it 4 out of 5 cayenne peppers.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!






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