Ahoy, mateys! Welcome to the first installment of our new blog where we kick back with a cup of coffee and immerse ourselves in hours of boardgaming bliss. We here at Jolly Roger Roasting Co. didn’t do much boardgaming beyond the occasional session of Settlers of Catan or Magic: The Gathering until a few years back when we became aware of the massive variety of games published around the turn of the new millennium. Now, rather than logging onto a MMO and playing together that way, we instead get a box off the shelf and put it all out on the table.
Now that you know we’re not boardgaming veterans in the slightest, let’s get into it, shall we? This past session we played Blood Rage by CoolMiniOrNot which was released late last fall/beginning of the winter. I don’t want to get into cost and availability but if your curiosity is at all piqued by the end of this blog, I would highly recommend snagging a copy if you can get your hands on one (price-be-damned). We were also fortunate enough to find The Gods of Asgard and Mystics of Midgard expansions to add to the chaos we witnessed in previous sessions. After cracking open the 5th Player Expansion, Andrew, Mae, Chris, Ryan and myself (Pat) raised our coffee mugs aloft in salute to the old gods in anticipation of the carnage about to unfold.
Blood Rage is competitive in nature with players accruing points for their chosen Viking clan over the course of the game which is divided up into “ages”. The player/clan with the most points by the end of the 3rd age wins. Players mainly gain points by questing and engaging in combat. On top of all of that, there are opportunities for players to improve their clan’s capabilities. Pretty simple, right? Here’s the kicker, though: the strategies that Blood Rage offers players are oftentimes in direct opposition to each other; so rarely does a turn go by where one clan isn’t stepping on another clan’s toes (if not their neck). This all plays out on a map that, by the way, gets smaller at the end of the 1st and 2nd ages which inevitably means more fighting over less real estate.
At the start of the game we had Thor in a green province and Loki in a blue province with Elvagar (the middle yellow province) set to be destroyed at the end of the 1st age. Suffice it to say that Thor and Loki encourage battle in different ways. Next we drafted our cards which is when the seeds of strategy begin with places to quest, battle tactics to adopt, abilities to upgrade, and monsters to recruit. I tried to draft with a small-but-resilient army in mind. Ryan would prove to draft a strategy involving receiving points for the death of his units as well as bringing monsters to bear. Andrew employed a similar strategy that took advantage of his units’ deaths but also focused on completing quests. Mae drafted a rapid deployment of units. Chris drafted powerful cards to use in combat along with monster recruitment. Over the course of the next few turns, quests were declared, upgrades were played, villages were pillaged, and invading armies rose and fell (my Bear Clan included thanks to a certain cave troll). That first age was a roller coaster ride that took me from optimistic to pessimistic in a flash, but hey, I was in good company with a hot mug of Ethiopian Yirga Cheffe Buna Ababa so who was I to complain? The end of the 1st age saw the destruction of Elvagar province and Mae’s occupation of Yggdrasil.
It’s fitting that “Buna Ababa” means “floral coffee” because Mae’s Snake Clan sprung up in a big way with yet more pillaging of Yggdrasil before extending roots into 2 neighboring provinces. Meanwhile, both Ryan and Andrew gained a fair amount of points by sending their figures to Valhalla. Watching a battle play out between 2 clans; both of whom want to lose is, uh, interesting. (click for visual aid) I floundered again in the 2nd age but somehow ended up with more figures on the board than Chris. Ragnarok destroyed the Angerrood province leaving only 1 yellow province remaining at the end of the 2nd age.
The caffeine took hold by the start of the 3rd age but that wasn’t the only reason why my blood was boiling. You see, I exhausted my resources summoning an Ice Giant to challenge Chris’ Fire Giant in a battle that would make or break it for my struggling Bear Clan. Alas, Chris chose his battle cards wisely and I was so soundly beaten that my remaining 2 mystics sacrificed themselves in a berserk fervor of desperation. Sadly, Chris had to head off to work before he could witness Ryan drop his cave troll atop a province occupied by Mae’s Snake Clan. All remaining clans converged upon Yggdrasil for a final battle that resulted in glorious deaths so numerous that Valhalla burst at the seams. Ragnarok delivered its final blow upon Utgaro province.
The final point tally was a nail-biter which resulted in everyone lapping me on the point tracker but my dear Bear Clan was already enjoying a coffee-and-ale-soaked afterlife in the halls of Valhalla so who cares? Surprise reared its treacherous head again when Ryan’s Wolf Clan managed to eke out victory thanks to an upgrade that allowed him to double the points reward for completed quests! It’s worth mentioning that while this was the 4th or 5th time we played Blood Rage, this is the first time we played with the Gods and Mystics expansions; so it’s difficult to say just how much they added to the overall experience. Mae’s narrow loss and my huge loss were disappointing, but Blood Rage is one of those rare games that makes it fairly clear what to do differently next time. So here I sit after recalling our session and I find myself thirsty for yet more Blood Rage and…y’know, a cup of coffee don’t sound half bad right about now either.