Pawn & Pint Review: Blood Rage
By Jordan Baranowski
Valhalla awaits! Blood Rage is a medium-weight viking war game for 2-4 players that is sure to satisfy your lust for blood. Created by acclaimed game designer Eric Lang (Rising Sun, Bloodborne: The Card Game, Secrets) and featuring some of the most impressive miniatures around, Blood Rage features elements of map control, card drafting, and, of course, viking battles. Grab your allies and a horn of mead - Odin saved a seat for you.
Ragnarok is here, and the fall of Asgard is at hand. It is the last opportunity for the warriors of your clan to go out in a blaze of glory and secure their place at Odin’s side in Valhalla. Strategize, battle, and triumph over your enemies as the world crumbles around you. Recruit the aid of powerful monsters and court the favor of the gods to secure your victory and etch your name into viking legend.
The Set Up
In Blood Rage, each player takes control of a different viking clan. There are no variable powers - each clan is identical other than aesthetics. A map of Asgard is laid out in the middle, and each of three rounds, called “Ages,” begins with a card drafting phase. From here, each player must carefully manage their resources, build up their clan, and attempt to gain the most victory points before Ragnarok destroys existence. Whoever has collected the most points after the third age finishes is crowned the winner, and everyone else at the table owes them a hearty drink (that last bit is a house rule, not an official one).
How does it work?
Each of the three rounds of Blood Rage is broken into three phase: card drafting, battles, and cleanup. For the first phase, each player draws eight cards before choosing one and passing the rest to the next player. This continues until all the cards have been chosen. Some cards boost your clan’s abilities, some let you recruit powerful new units, others are quests that earn you extra victory points, and others are tricks to help you during battle. There are several different viable strategies, and the drafting element gives you some (incomplete) knowledge of what other things are floating around out there.
The next phase sees you using your “Rage” to perform various actions: playing units, moving around the board, or setting up quests. The fact that you use anger as a resource is an excellent little thematic touch: you can only do things as long as you are angry enough! As you enter battles, units die and are sent to Valhalla, granting you extra bonuses if you play your cards right and strategize the correct way. Certain cards actually reward you for fighting losing fights, stealing glory from the victor or rewarding you for every unit that dies in battle. Again, there are lots of viable strategies and powerful abilities that reward thinking ahead.
At the end of each age, all dead units return to your reserve, several point-giving events trigger, and the next age begins. Each age brings about new, more powerful abilities, meaning that the third age is full of game-breaking strategies and huge momentum swings. Blood Rage makes you feel powerful as you gear up for the end game, and no one is ever truly out of the game.
Does it work?
Drafting is always a fun mechanic, and one area that really works for Blood Rage is in just how powerful the abilities can feel if you execute them correctly. This is not a game for dinking and dunking your way to victory. This is a game that presents several options for almost breaking the game, and then tasks you with breaking it most effectively. If you have never played it before and you are playing against a savvy veteran, you will probably find yourself getting stomped just because they understand the mechanics and interactions that are available.
That said, one of the great things about Blood Rage is how deceptively simple it is. With all the small pieces, elaborate miniatures, and pedigree as a “gamer’s game,” Blood Rage is pretty simple to pick up and play in broad strokes. Everything you can do on a turn is explained right on your player mat, and bluffing and scheming are second nature in tabletop gaming.
Also, have you seen this game? It is beautiful. The miniatures (especially the monsters) have a crazy level of detail, and the board absolutely pops. There aren’t a lot of games that are more Instagram worthy than Blood Rage, so dive in if photos are your jam.
Who is this meant for?
You’ll probably want to have a bit of experience under your belt with tabletop gaming if you haven’t picked it up before. It isn’t hard to figure out if you’re familiar with the mechanics, like drafting and area control, before the box gets opened. It will take a bit of up front explanation, and it will probably take you about two hours on your first play through. With four experienced players, expect about an hour and a half. That said, there are not a ton of crazy rule intricacies or convoluted rules text to follow - Blood Rage is not as complex as it initially seems.
We’ve got a few copies of Blood Rage at Pawn & Pint, so bring a few friends and get your viking on! It’s a great stepping stone to more complex games, or if you want to wage an epic war in a relatively short amount of gaming time. We’ll see you here soon.