2-4 players, Competitive, Area Control
Designer: Eric M. Lang
Artwork: Henning Ludvigsen
Overview of Gameplay
You know, I held off on buying this one for the longest time because I kept hearing that it was basically the big brother to another board game called Rising Sun (which is an excellent game btw). I was thinking to myself, “Why spend the money on another board game that will pretty much play just like one I already own”. And as I’m sure most of you reading this review know, there are a TON of board games on the market right now to choose from, all with different playstyles and themes. Took a good 2 months before I finally broke down and bought Blood Rage. And UGH why didn’t I buy this sooner?!
So let’s get down to it! Blood Rage is a 2-4 player game based around a Viking Norse mythology theme that is taking place during the events of Ragnarok which is basically the end times in Norse mythology. In the game you are placing your warriors on the game board to try to take control of certain areas to gain the benefits of said area. All in an attempt to gain Victory Points which is ultimately how you win. Now of course there are multiple different ways to acquire these victory points and that’s where the fun comes in.
The beginning of the game you and the other players do this fun card drafting where you pick a card from a hand of 8 and then pass the remaining cards to the player on your left and rinse/repeat. This is a cool way to equalize the playing field so to speak as far as starting hands are concerned. Each player has a player mat of their clan which are all identical save for the clan names and colors. They are the same starting out but over the duration of the game each one will change little by little depending on your playstyle. There are 3 different skill tracks on each player board that focus on number of units on the board, total amount of rage you get each turn (action points) and how much glory you get for winning battles (victory points).
The cards in the game all pertain to a particular Norse god. Depending on what cards you decided to keep during the draft at the beginning will kinda give you an idea of how you want to play the game and which of the skills to upgrade. For example if you kept some “Thor” cards then you would gain more points for winning battles, so you would focus perhaps on upgrading your skill for gaining glory for winning battles. On the other hand if you kept “Loki” cards you actually gain more points for LOSING battles (such a trickster) so you might wanna focus on upgrading your skill track to getting more units on the board to basically sacrifice. And these are just examples, there are so many other strategies and the fact that there are 6 different gods with totally different strategies for each.
As you go around the board and everyone expends their rage points to do stuff like battle or take over territories the turn phases will proceed. Once everyone has spent their rage points the game moves on to the discard phase where you discard all your cards save for one and then complete any quests you have played which give you different bonuses for completing specific situations during your turn. THEN RAGNAROK! During this phase one of the lands on the board gets obliterated and any units on it go to Valhalla (they DED). Again if you are focusing on Loki here it might be beneficial to move units to the place getting Ragnaroked just for the victory points. Any killed units during the regular play also go to Valhalla and after Ragnarok happens, all units are released back to their respective players to be played to the board again during the next phase. There are 3 total rounds like this with new more powerful cards being drafted at the beginning of each round, so each round plays a bit differently. At the end of the 3rd round a final ragnarok occurs and then players calculate final victory points. Whoever has the most vp’s wins!
Pretty standard high quality miniatures here coming from a CMON game, so that’ is no surprise. Very detailed and intricate and there are a high variety of different sculpts. Each of the many monster minis looks different and interesting. The board is pretty great as well however there are a few things here that I feel were small misses. Like the Valhalla card for example. This is just a pretty thin card stock over-sized card that you place somewhere next to the board to capture all the killed warriors. I feel like this should have been integrated into the game board itself. I mean the board isn’t that big, it could for sure have worked. The player mats are the same thin card stock whereas they could have been of a thicker, higher quality. They use those mini sized cards for the card drafts where I would have preferred normal sized cards. Like basically everything WORKS just fine as is but could be just a tad bit better to give it that more premium feel.
Another miss in my book. CMON has never been the best in their boxing and storage solutions. There is a huge box within a box again. The inside one houses the minis to keep them super stable however this leaves precious little space to store the plethora of tokens and cards. You will want to get some baggies to organize the tokens and probably store them under the plastic mini insert in one of the inside boxes. Where ever you can stash them to make them fit really.
Visual Appeal /Theme
Did I mention the monsters yet? There are a few different powerful beasts that you can summon to the board to help you in a variety of ways. Each one has a different ability and once a person summons it, it belongs to them the rest of the game but they can be killed as well so they are not TOO over powered. Your player board has spots on it to upgrade your basic warriors, your leader, your monsters and your ship! Yes! You have 1 ship that you can place in fjords along the coast of a territory that acts as part of your army. These are unique in the fact that they border 2 different lands at the same time and give you strength in both.
Both the monsters and ships add to the already incredible theme that Blood Rage just oozes. As the game progresses players end up acquiring more and more different monsters and adding them to the board along with their warriors. This really brings the board to life both visually and thematically. Toss in those neat little plastic ships bombarding warriors from the fjords and you have quite the spectacle. In other words the theme is extremely strong in this game and it delivers in spades. The artwork on the board looks decent and the cards are also pretty good.
The rulebook was pretty good for the most part. Nothing really stood out as giving me trouble from the rules although there are some things that had to be referenced such as order of operations during battles. That can get a bit confusing, especially when players can unleash some cards AFTER the throw-down. To be honest though the game is pretty straight forward. Players just take actions until they have no power remaining. Now that is over simplifying it but I can’t recall ever really having a brain scratcher situation with this game that the rulebook didn’t explain.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
This is another area the game shines in. Since Blood Rage is an area control style game there WILL be player interaction and table talk because of it. Players will be moving units into the surrounding lands to conquer which net them bonuses towards their overall power levels going forward, which in turn leads to more vp’s WHICH leads to winning the game. So of course players cannot stay turtled up in a corner and hope to have any chance in winning. Now whether or not this is fun for you really depends on if you are a confrontational gamer or not. I have seen some players literally ENRAGE at some confrontations and others get joyful glee out of them.
Personally I don’t go in with the mindset that I HAVE to win so I enjoy the game quite a bit. I’m in it for the ride. Those that are super competitive might get a little stressed out when they are sure they are going to win a battle when all of a sudden the other player whips out a random battle card post battle to clench the victory.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
So the game plays up to four out of the box and I would recommend four players all the way. The board has an interesting setup based on number of players where you start with a one random land already off limits at four players and this increases for each player not playing. This keeps the board tight so there are more chances for player interaction. Now going off rails for a moment there is a 5th player expansion as well that I highly recommend just to increase the player count and unlocks ALL the board right off the bat. I feel like this is the proper way to play and would recommend playing with five every time.
Replayability is so-so. Nothing REALLY changes from game to game as far as gameplay is concerned. The only real difference you will notice would be the cards you draft during the draft phase. These will alter your choices quite a bit actually but overall you will still be making those same motions from game to game. There is also some variability on token placement on the available lands basically changing up what each land will give you when conquered but this is really minor.
Positive Final Thoughts
Now all that out of the way, I would say I really liked this game. It’s pretty fast paced and I love the card drafting at the beginning. The minis look great as with any CMON game if you are familiar with them. What really surprised me though was how easy this game was to learn. I looked through the manual as I was setting the game up for the first time and by the time I had the game setup I pretty much knew how to play, 20 minutes tops. I referenced back a couple times for specific things but the player boards and the turn tracker board pretty much explain everything you need to know right there. Not my favorite area control style game but for sure in my top 3 of that genre.
Negative Final Thoughts
If I were to point out something I don’t like about the game I guess it would be that there is a max of 4 players out of the core box. This is of course alleviated with the expansion for a 5th player but I absolutely hate the way a lot of game companies are releasing an extra player as basically board game DLC and charging for it. You can see this with Rising Sun as well, another CMON game. That said, if you usually play with 4 or less then this game works perfect out of the box.