They say wisdom comes with age. Not in Midgard. Here, wisdom comes with rage. So, bottle yours up and prepare to release it in a splurge of pillaging and blood-thirsty battle.
And don’t forget your horned helmet. Check out the full Blood Rage Board Game Review below.
Brief Overview of Blood Rage
To start, you draft the cards you will use in the remainder of your turn, choosing carefully what actions and powers you’ll need to complete your objectives or deter your opponents.
Then, invade, pillage, and battle your way across the map, solving quests and earning Glory points as you go. Whoever has the most Glory at the end is declared the winner. Just remember, sometimes the most valiant way to exit the battlefield isn’t necessarily in one piece…
Versions & Expansions
Blood Rage: Gods of Asgard Expansion
With this expansion, the interest of the gods has been piqued and they’re not happy. At the start of the game, they take control of various provinces on the map, imposing their own strict agenda on the area.
Six deities are included in the box, but you’ll only use two per game, giving you a lot of extra content before things get reused.
Blood Rage: Mystics of Midgard
Introducing Clan Upgrades and a new recruit-able unit called Mystics, this expansion is a bit hard to come by. If you’re able to find it, however, you’ll be in for a real treat. In addition to the new Mystics units, you’ll be able to use your Clan Upgrades to grant your Mystics special abilities. Once these start to stack, you’ll basically be unstoppable.
Blood Rage: 5th Player Expansion
No prizes for guessing what this expansion does. The gameplay is largely unaffected but the Ram tribe is introduced, meaning five people can now play Blood Rage together. The box provides the extra clan sheet and all the additional cards and miniatures that you need.
Unboxing Blood Rage
Blood Rage is a hefty beast with all those miniatures. In all, you’ll get:
- 40 clan miniatures (split into 4 clans, with 8 warriors, 1 leader and 1 ship each)
- 9 monster miniatures
- 44 plastic bases
- 1 game board
- 1 age track sheet
- 1 Valhalla sheet
- 4 clan sheets
- 102 cards
- 1 doom token
- 1 saga token
- 1 first player token
- 9 pillage tokens
- 8 Ragnarök tokens
- 16 clan tokens
- 4 Glory markers
If you like minis then you are going to love Blood Rage. Not only are there a lot of them, but they all look crazy good. And not just the big guys. Even the smaller warriors have had great attention to detail paid to them.
The monsters, though, really are fantastic. They are some bulky pieces of work, but they don’t skimp on the detail. You can tell the game designers placed a lot of pride in making them as good as they could be.
Helpfully, too, you’re provided with clip-on plastic bases in different colors, so that you can clearly see which units belong to which team.
Absolutely no punches were pulled on the design, either. The artwork is brilliantly done, wonderfully bringing this dark, gore-infused Viking world to life. The game board is similarly beautiful and avoids falling into the trap of relying on just blacks and greys to hit home that this is not a bright and summery affair.
I especially liked the clan sheets. They aren’t overweight in detail, but give you a clear overview of your situation and available actions in one glance. It seems like such a simple thing to get right, but it’s surprising how often these can be overcomplicated.
Finally, I want to give a mention to the overall sleekness of the production. It looks great, for sure, and the theme is immersive throughout. But it’s the fantastically intuitive design that stuck with me, making it so easy to get the game rolling along in no time.
How to Play Blood Rage
Aim of the Game
Your goal is to be the player with the most glory at the end of the game. Glory can be acquired in several ways, such as winning battles, pillaging, completing quests, or dying a hero. Basically, who can be the most bad-ass Viking of them all.
Glory is a typical victory point system, with players moving their marker around the track on the outside of the board as they acquire it throughout the game. Once the game ends, whoever has tallied up the most Glory wins.
The board is split into regions, provinces, and villages. There are five villages to a region, with each village only being able to have one miniature placed there. There are nine regions, split into three provinces. Yggdrasil is the central province, which has no villages and can have any amount of miniatures placed there.
There are also Fjords, which sit between each region and can have ships placed there.
To start, everyone chooses a clan sheet. Despite being different in appearance, to begin with, every clan is the same. However, you will adapt and evolve your clan’s strengths as the game goes on. This will be reflected on the clan sheet.
Rage is your currency in this game, as you might have guessed, which is measured on the Rage Track. You have an Axes Track, too, which tells you how much Glory you get for each win in battle, and a Horns track, which dictates how many miniatures you can have on the board at one time.
Also, take eight warriors and a ship to make up your starting clan.
There are six phases to a round, and three rounds overall. At the end of each round, you enter a new age, with one of the provinces being destroyed in between, shrinking the map and concentrating the action. The phases are:
God’s Gift: This is when players draft cards into their hands for use in the later rounds. They include a whole host of powers and actions, such as upgrades for their units, monsters to add to their band of warriors, or quests.
To draft card, the first player takes the deck of cards, selects one for their hand, and passes the deck onto the next player. This continues until all players have six cards.
Action phase: This forms the bulk of the game and is when you get to release all the pent up Rage you’ve been sitting on.
Players take turns making actions. Each action costs Rage. Once every player is down to zero rage, or every province has been pillaged, the phase ends. Actions you can take include invading empty villages, marching your units from one province to another, upgrading your abilities using a card, starting a quest on one of your cards, or pillaging a province.
Quests can be started and completed in the same phase by your subsequent actions. Each one grants a reward, which is reaped later on in the round.
To successfully pillage a province, you need to battle and defeat any other clans in it. If you do so successfully, then you can be rewarded handsomely in clan upgrades or Glory. When declaring a pillage, however, other players have the option to send in units from adjacent provinces to prevent you from doing so.
To resolve a battle, each player must form a strength value. They do this by adding up the strength value of their units being sent to battle, and playing cards. The cards they play may also provide special abilities. Whoever ends up with the highest strength value wins and gets the pillage reward. Losers move all their figures to Valhalla.
Discard phase: Discard all unused cards, except one which may be kept for the next round.
Quest phase: Get rewards for any quests you completed.
Ragnarök phase: The province marked in the Ragnarök slot is destroyed. Any figures in the province are removed to Valhalla and grant their owners Glory.
Release Valhalla Phase: All figures in Valhalla are returned to their owners.
The next age…
Once all phases are complete, you progress to the next age and start again from phase one. As the ages pass, the rewards get greater. But so do your opponents. All the more concerning as the available territory gets smaller…
Once you reach the end of the third age, whoever is furthest along the Glory track wins.
Your First Game of Blood Rage
In the rulebook, it’s recommended that in your first game of Blood Rage, you just deal out the eight cards in the God’s Gift phase of the first age, rather than draft, as no one will be familiar with what each card does.
I think this is a good suggestion as no one will be familiar with what each card does and it can be a bit disorientating. Then, by the time you reach the second age and have played a whole round, most of the main concepts should be clear and the phase can go ahead as normal.
Also, pay attention to the rules for the Fjords. These sit between two provinces, however, they act as part of both of them. So, for example, if someone attacks any province, any ships in the adjacent Fjord are in that attack.
One rule to remember as well is that the Action Phase ends not only when everyone has run out of Rage. It also ends if every province has been pillaged. It’s worth keeping this in mind as it can mean the Action Phase comes to an abrupt halt without you having achieved everything you wanted to do.
Pros & Cons
- Multi-leveled strategy
- In-depth card drafting phase
- Fantastic production value and cool miniatures
- No randomization
- Tough to introduce new players
Blood Rage comes packed with strategy, that’s for sure. It’s far more than a simple area control game, like Risk, where you’re fighting to take over land and destroy opposing units. For in Viking culture, dying can actually be a good thing. It could, in fact, form the whole basis of your winning strategy by bagging you Glory points and forcing your opponents to use up their available cards.
This adds an entirely new level of thought to the game. The first time around, you’ll get your head around the basics of using each mechanic to your advantage. However, several campaigns down the line you’ll still be unearthing potential routes to tallying up the Glory points or undermining your foes.
I loved this aspect of Blood Rage, especially as, before I’d opened the box, I was expecting just another area-control-style game. It absolutely isn’t that and you can get totally lost in it. But that’s not to say it’s alienating to fans of lighter games by being overly complex.
The card drafting aspect, too, is a stand-out feature. In many ways, it’s your foresight and planning in this phase that will win or lose you the game. You really need to think carefully about what your opponents are likely to try to do, what it is you want to do, and weigh up the cards most valuable to you as they go round the group. It can be a real joy watching it play out in the action phase. Less so when you see your plans come crumbling down around you.
A small drawback to all this strategy, though, is that it can make introducing new players a challenge. It’s great for repeated play among the same players. But you’ll find that it can be quite easy to outmaneuver a newbie to Blood Rage if everyone else is well-versed in how it works. Of course, you could say this about most games, but with only three opportunities to draft cards, it has a big effect on the game, with little opportunity to turn things around.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that there is little randomization in the game, which is a big plus for the strategy lovers out there. There’s no dice to be seen, while deck shuffling also has zero effect on play. Instead, outcomes are all about decision-making. A refreshing aspect for those in the anti-Risk camp.
Blood Rage is an ultra-strategic mish-mash of card drafting and area control, with as much throat-slitting and town burning as you can shake a pointed, bloody stick at.
It’s a fantastically designed game that runs wonderfully smoothly. This means that, while it may take a lot of strategy and a couple of run-throughs for you to play it well, even those that prefer lighter strategy games won’t feel out of place.
Oh, and it’s got some awesome miniatures, too.
I’m a massive fan of Blood Rage. It’s gory, chaotic, and has bits of flesh flying around everywhere. But it’s combined some brilliant mechanics, stitching them together seamlessly to create an immensely playable strategy game.
For veteran strategy gamers, they’ll be familiar with most of the core features but will get a lot from how they’ve been implemented. The card-drafting phase is a real opportunity to convey strategic prowess, with foresight and second-guessing your opponents’ actions paying off immeasurably.
However, Blood Rage’s intuitiveness and sleek design mean it isn’t out of reach for those with less experience, either. If you ask me, it could be a great way to help lighter strategy game fans explore something with a little more depth without scaring them off.
The last word, though, should go to the miniatures. They’re bad-ass.
Have you played Blood Rage? We’d love to know what you think! Drop a comment below and let the battle begin.
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