My Wife Always Wins: Blood Rage
This Week’s Game: Blood Rage
Well, I’m in a bit of trouble over the last article. Turns out my wife, Lyndsey, wasn’t too pleased to learn I choose to play Sushi Go! against her mostly when I want to have the briefest of interactions and then get away from her. I was bound to cross a line at some point. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. You’d think I’d learned a lesson, but no – the fact that I shared this information with you, dear readers, is probably going to put me in the doghouse for the second week in a row. Oh well.
A few days ago, Lyndsey decided in her matter-of-fact sort of way that we would play Blood Rage, one of the newest additions to our collection. We hadn’t played it before, but since game times range from an hour to ninety minutes, this was her way of sticking it to me. She said something along the lines of making me suffer a long game, after my jabs about quick games last week. Talk about Blood Rage.
I was all for it. The game is highly thematic, and as you know – I love themes. I am especially fond of Vikings, so Blood Rage definitely hits the spot. I haven’t spoken much of my writing endeavors beyond this article, but in my journey to publish some fiction writing, I have been kicking around a modern Viking story. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Maybe my Viking fandom and my knowledge of their lore and history could lend me some tactical advantage in the game.
But I forgot one thing. I like Vikings. Lyndsey lives Vikings. She’s ruthless and would likely slit my throat to guarantee victory at the gaming table. In another life, I can imagine her commanding a longboat on a pillaging mission through Northern Europe. Luckily for Northern Europe, she was not around when the Vikings were. Instead she is here, with the singular purpose of pillaging my hopes and dreams.
In Blood Rage players control one of four Viking clans – represented by some totally rad miniatures – each fighting for glory in the final days before Ragnarok, the Vikings’ end of the world. Games are played across three ages, and players will take various actions throughout the ages to upgrade stats, inflict misery on their opponents (my wife’s specialty), and collect glory points which will ultimately decide the winner.
Each age starts with drafting. Each player receives a hand of eight cards, including upgrades, strength modifiers, quests, etc. In two-player, each player drafts two cards at a time before passing. After drafting is complete, players move to the action phase.
Actions can include invading an unoccupied village, pillaging a province for its reward, upgrading a clan or specific units (which can also call monsters like Ice Giants to your aid). Most actions cost rage, and when a player’s allotted rage runs out, he or she is unable to take any more actions.
When all actions are done, and all points are awarded for completed quests, Ragnarok strikes. One province is destroyed during Ragnarok, and any units in the province’s lands or fjord are sent to Valhalla and receive glory.
As players gain glory for various tasks, they advance their tokens on the glory track. After Ragnarok and all final glory additions are made, the next age begins. The player with the most glory at the end of the third age wins!
Check out the rules here.
Time to Play
Lyndsey played Wolf Clan, and I played Bear since they use awesome war hammers. Lyndsey went first, as she was born furthest north. We each drafted our cards, and with her first action she invaded Elvagar. I invaded Gimle with my leader since I had the Alfheim quest in my hand. With my next action I committed to the quest. If I had the greatest strength in an Alfheim province during the quest phase, I would get five glory. Since my leader had three strength, I was already on my way.
Maybe Lyndsey knew I was going for Alfheim, or maybe she just wanted to destroy my leader. With her next action she used a monster upgrade to get the troll and placed it in Gimle. When the troll invades, it destroys all enemies in the province, so my leader met an early demise and was sent to Valhalla.
I still had all my rage (since leaders invade for free). In my next few turns I invaded the fjord in Horgr and played a warrior on a village in the same province. The province was set to be destroyed by Ragnarok by the end of the age so I planned on collecting those points – possibly with a boost from my upgrades. Lyndsey placed two warriors on the province as well, no doubt looking to counter me there. I quickly pillaged, and defeated her, gaining the five glory reward plus three for my axes (glory) stat level. That made up for the five I would never receive for my failed quest (thanks to the troll).
Lyndsey pillaged both Elvagar with her leader, and Gimle with her troll. She raised her rage level with one pillage and her axes level with the other. When Ragnarok struck, my ship and warrior were sent to Valhalla for two glory each. I also had two Loki upgrades – one gave me four glory for losing a ship, and one gave me an additional glory for each figure released from Valhalla. At the round end I had collected 19 glory to Lyndsey’s seven.
Early success is my worst enemy. I lived under the impression my 12 point lead was something significant. But while I had focused on glory in death through Loki upgrades, Lyndsey was far more balanced. Pillage here, quest there. Most importantly though, she increased her stats uniformly throughout the game, while that was only an ancillary focus of mine. We were still pretty close at the end of the second age. But while I was only a few points ahead in glory, Lyndsey had left me in the dust in stats.
By the end of the game, she had a 20 point glory bonus for maxing out her rage, and the 10 point glory bonus for both her axes and horns stats. I only got 10 points for my horns. In addition to the thirty point swing from bonuses, Lyndsey completed the “Glorious Death!” quest for having four figures in Valhalla before Ragnarok – worth 11 glory points.
Rough right? I also forgot to mention she had the “Odin’s Throne” upgrade, which doubles the glory points from successful quests. Final score was an atrocious 129-75. I did some research online to see if that was a normal margin of victory. The consensus: Only if one player knows the game well and it’s the other player’s first game. Since it was the first game for both of us, it turns out I’m just really bad at games.
There’s a mantra in writing: You’ll write differently in different places. That is a true statement. This was our first week in our new home in Florida, and my fiction writing has really taken off. I’ve had new ideas, new stories, and finally figured out the way to make old stories work. I hoped this mantra would transfer to the gaming world: You’ll game differently in different places. But no, same old story. I lose, my wife wins. Nothing different at all.
Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I don’t usually lose as bad as I did this time. So maybe that’s what the new home will bring. Bigger defeats, more pain, a cockier wife. I suppose only time will tell.
As far as Blood Rage goes, believe the hype. This game was pretty much at the top of everybody’s best games of 2015 list (and due to its late release in Q4, it has been on plenty of 2016 lists as well), and I can see why. The theme is boss, the art is both gritty and colorful at times (representing the beauty of the nine worlds and the doom of Ragnarok), and the detail on the miniatures really rounds it all out. Lyndsey wants to spend some time painting the new minis, and I think that will be a family project in the near future. Stay tuned, I may have some pictures to share on those soon.
The varied gameplay gives Blood Rage such replayability that I can imagine us playing this often, and for years to come. Drafting, area control, quest objectives – the game has something for everyone, and no two games will ever be alike. With so many ways to collect glory, the means of victory – and subsequently the strategy to gain glory and block your opponent’s progression – make Blood Rage a living entity that evolves as you do throughout the game.
I’d say Blood Rage is up there with my new favorites. I try not to be biased based on my defeats. After all, if I hated on every game where Lyndsey beat me, I’d have zero favorite games.
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