My regular gaming friends and I tried an interesting new tabletop game this evening: Blood Rage. It’s a game themed around Norse mythology with a particular focus on Ragnarok, and there’s a lot to like about it.
Each player takes on the role of a particular faction. Each of these factions start out the same, but there are various means to upgrade them over the course of the game, mostly through the hand of cards you draft at the start of each of the game’s three phases. By specialising your clan in a particular way, you can take aim for big points at the end of the game, and the interesting thing is that martial dominance is not the only way to be successful at the game.
A big part of the mythology behind the game is the idea of attaining glory through various means. You don’t have to win a battle to attain glory — though it often helps — so long as the battle itself was suitably spectacular. It’s eminently possible to set up your hand of cards and your clan’s upgrades in such a manner as to benefit you more to lose battles than to win them — though there’s something of a tradeoff here in that losing battles may end up allowing an opponent uncontested access to a useful area of the board.
There’s clearly a lot of scope for building up your forces in various ways, and indeed attempting to get as powerful as possible is one way to victory. But there are a lot of interesting balancing factors in play, too, most notably the finite resource of “Rage” that you have to expend on your various actions in each phase. Once you run out of rage, you are unable to take any more actions in that phase — not even free ones — aside from responding to the “call to battle” that transpires when a player attempts to pillage a region for its upgrade token.
There are, however, various means of manipulating the game to your advantage. One particularly fun card I acquired early on adds no strength whatsoever to your forces in combat, but allows you to steal a rage point off the winning player if you lose the battle. Other cards allowed you to gain points when your units were destroyed, or when you reclaim them from “Valhalla” at the end of each phase. There’s also a significant point bonus for any units you have in an area destroyed during the Ragnarok phase at the end of each of the game’s three stages.
We didn’t finish a complete game this evening, but we got most of the way through one, and figured out enough to understand how it all works. It seems like a really cool game that I’m looking forward to trying again at some point — and it has some absolutely gorgeous miniatures included for both the various factions and the recruitable monsters you can add to your forces through the upgrade mechanics.
If you’re looking for a fun, interesting and pretty varied game with a lot of interaction between players — and rules that allow a good degree of depth without being overly complex — Blood Rage is well worth checking out. Hopefully we’ll have the chance to play it some more in the new year.