Review: Blood Rage

Blood Rage review

The Ragnarok is an apocalyptic battle between the Norse Gods and armies of giants. It is the start of the end times, the destruction of the Earth. The time of the Ragnarok has come, the world is going to end, what’s a Viking going to do? Well, how about going out in a blaze of glory!

Blood Rage is a game published in 2015 by CoolMiniOrNot. It is designed by Eric Lang, who has brought us quite a few great games. In Blood Rage the world is coming to an end, everyone is going to die but only one clan can sit in the highest spot in Valhalla!

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box:

  • 2-4 players
  • Ages 14+
  • 60-90 min

In typical CMON fashion there really isn’t an insert in the box. What we do have is more boxes. Within these boxes are plastic inserts with rows of beautifully sculpted models. You can use the inserts and boxes as storage but it does increase setup and tear down time quite a bit.

In addition to 4 sets of player specific miniatures there are also miniatures of monsters that players can summon to fight on their behalf as well as a highly detailed board and 3 decks of action cards. There are also 4 player mats, a control board to mark which phase of the game is currently being played and a board representing Valhalla, where all the dead people go.

All of the side boards feel rather, meh. For the price of the game I actually expected something better not just regular cardboard. The tokens that are used to track stats on the board can easily slide off of the boards if the table is bumped which can cause quite a bit of upset as the game is often a very close thing.

Blood Rage review
With no insert to speak of, I need to bag the cards.

Theme

Blood Rage has you in control of a clan of Vikings during the age of Ragnarok. Since you are all going to die anyway you decide to secure yourself the best place in Valhalla by doing what Vikings do best, fighting and pillaging!

In typical CoolMiniOrNot fashion the models are fantastic, and the artwork is impressive. The game really does feel like it’s in the correct setting but the combat does not feel as bloody as you would imagine a clash of Viking clans should be.

Gameplay

Setting up Blood Rage has some slight differences depending on the number of players. It’s the end of the world and one of the tell-tale signs is the fact that the land is being destroyed by the Ragnarok. Depending on the number of players a different number of provinces on the board are destroyed at the start of the game.

Then the control board needs to be setup with another 3 province tokens, to show which provinces will be destroyed in the 3 rounds of the game. Additionally there are 3 decks of cards than are setup on the control board. Finally a Phase marker is placed on the first phase of the first round.

Each player selects a clan that they want to play and receives their clan board, 8 warriors and leader models. Lastly the board needs to be setup. Each province will be assigned 1 random pillage token, bar Yggdrasil which will always receive a special pillage token. Then the doom marker is placed on the province that will be destroyed next.

Blood Rage review
The level of detail on these models is amazing. This is a basic warrior.

The game is played over 3 rounds or Ages. Each Age is broken up into phases.

Card phase: The deck of cards for the current age is dealt, 8 per player and then the players begin a round of drafting until they have 6 cards each. The remainder are discarded.

These cards are a vital part of the game and fall into 3 categories.

  • Upgrade Cards make your units or clan more powerful. They can also allow you to recruit powerful monsters to fight for you.
  • Quest Cards have a mission on them. If you fulfil them you will be granted glory can increase the power of your clan.
  • Battle Cards are used in combat. They add to the power of your models which are involved in the combat.

Actions phase: as the name suggests, this is where the action happens. Each clan/player board has all of the actions listed on them and the cost of those actions. It’s handy for new players but is easily remembered.

Each player starts the game with 6 Rage. Rage is the in came currency. You use it to perform most of the actions.

With your rage you can:

  • Send warriors/models to invade provinces. The number of models that you can have on the board is limited to the number on your clans Horns stat.
  • Upgrade your clan, warriors, leader, ships and recruit monsters to fight for you.
  • Move your models from 1 province to another.
20151211BloodRageBoard
These clans are going to battle over this province.

Then there are some free actions that you can also perform.

You may pillage any province in which you have a model. Pillaging a province will give you a bonus shown on the pillage token of that province. Either raising 1 clan stat or all of them in the case of Yggdrasil, or giving you glory which is the victory requirement for the game.

Pillaging is one of the more complex parts of the game. If other players have any warriors in the province with you they will fight you. Alternatively warriors can be moved in from adjacent provinces to try to stop you or you can move your own forces in to bolster your forces.

Each province has a limit to the number of units that it can hold, bar Yggdrasil which can accommodate everybody. Once a province is full no-one else can move into it.

Combat is a straightforward affair. Well, on the surface. Total up the strength of all the models in the combat, then each player involved will play a card face down and simultaneously reveal their cards.

These cards are usually battle cards, which add the number printed on them to the strength of the models in combat. The side with the higher total wins, everyone else dies. Yes that means more than  players can take part in the same combat. The winner discards the card(s) that he played and the losers get to keep their cards. It’s important to note that unlike most games the dead guys are not returned to their owners. They are sent to Valhalla, Viking heaven, and are not available for the rest of the round.

Blood Rage review
The values on the cards are added to the strength of your models in the battle. One of the cards is weaker but has an extra ability.

The winner of the combat also receives glory equal to the Axes value on his clan sheet. If the winner was the person who started the pillage then he also gets the reward for doing so. These usually increase either your Axes, Horns or Rage, increasing these stats gives you benefits in the game and bonus Glory at the end of the game. If the winner was someone challenging the pillage then there is no pillage for that round.

Once all of the provinces are pillaged then the round ends.  Other players might not want you to end the round just yet and can try to stop you.

The mechanics are simple, but there are times when you want to lose, when you want your guys to die. I know that does not make sense but there are ways in which that can be beneficial. It could be a feint to make your opponent lose a powerful battle card as a setup for another battle or you could have an upgrade that gives you glory for models that are sent to Valhalla.

You can also play quest cards for free. You play them face down so your opponents don’t know what you’re trying to do but if you don’t play the quest card then you are not allowed to claim that quest.

NB: if you have 0 Rage left you cannot take anymore actions, not even free ones. You can react to someone trying to pillage but that’s about it.

Once all of the provinces are pillaged or everyone has run out of Rage the action phase ends.

Then discard phase has everyone discard down to 1 card.

Then each player checks to see which quests they have fulfilled and claims the rewards.

Then the next province to be destroyed is destroyed. This will kill any models that were in it at the time granting their owners even more glory.

Finally all the models in Valhalla are released back to their owners.

Blood Rage review
The monsters are fantastic sculpts and the inserts in the boxes are handy, if inefficient, storage.

All of this happens 3 times. The board gets smaller each time as provinces are destroyed. This means that there are fewer spaces on the board to hold models and fewer pillage tokens to go around.

At the end of the 3rd age you count up the glory points and the person with the most is the winner.

Conclusion

That was a lot of info. Usually a person will only bother to remember that much information if they really like something and I really really like this game! It’s all kinds of awesome.

The drafting mechanic is simply amazing. It will take a few games to get to know the cards and how they interact, that will help you to draft better. This does mean that someone who knows the game will be at a huge advantage and new players can pass up really strong cards.

While the meat of the game is the actions phase; it’s the cards themselves and how they interact with each other that adds flavouring.

The game is brutal, it does not feel like you are getting a beat down but recovering from a mistake or miss calculation can be nigh impossible. You need to plan carefully. This can result in some players getting Analysis Paralysis but it gets easier the more often you play.

I do wonder about replay value. I can see myself playing this game very often, but there’s not much variety in the game itself. That can be off putting to some. All of the clans are the same. The cards don’t change. The map does not change.

It’s almost chess like, but with a better theme. You play it for the mental challenge of pitting yourself against your opponents. It can lead to kingmaking, especially if someone gains an early lead and the other players do not try, together, to hinder that player.

I, personally love it. Most of my group does too, especially Kassaven Pillay, ‘cos there’s no dice that are conspiring against him. I’ve already ordered the 5th player expansion.

Blood Rage review
The Clan sheet with a few upgrades already.

Can I play this at a braai?

I want to say yes. There is no rush, so you can take things at your own pace, but the game is gorgeous and you want to play your turn and see what everyone else is up to… so you might just forget about the chops 😉

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