Blood Rage: Digital Edition Review — Valhalla and Glory Await
In the age of social distancing, tabletop gamers have to find creative ways to partake in their favorite hobby. That's why it's so nice to see digital releases of some of the best tabletop games around. Blood Rage: Digital Edition is the latest, and the source material is a big timer. Blood Rage is a highly-rated Kickstarter darling from designer Eric Lang and publishing company Cool Mini Or Not (CMON).
It's a Viking-themed strategy game with plenty of different mechanics, including drafting, area control, and hand management. The actual tabletop game's big draw is its eye-catching miniatures of Vikings, gods, and monsters. The big question here, though, is: does Blood Rage: Digital Edition replicate the feel of the tabletop version?
Grab your drinking horn and let's dive in. For Odin!
Blood Rage: Digital Edition Review — Valhalla and Glory Await
Let's start with the basics of how Blood Rage: Digital Edition goes down, as it's essentially a direct, digitized version of the tabletop game with some fancy visual effects.
A game of Blood Rage takes place over three rounds, called ages, and there are multiple steps to each. At the start of each age, two to five players draft their hands. The cards you take fall into a few different categories:
- Combat tricks and strength boosts
- Upgrades for your units or overall clan
- Quests that grant you bonus points or powerful, recruitable monsters
The drafting phase will help you formulate your strategy moving forward.
Once every player has a hand of cards, the age begins. Each player can take as many actions as they have "rage," but you only take one action at a time before passing to the next player.
You can increase your rage as the game moves forward, granting you a major advantage in later ages as you'll be able to perform several actions in a row while other players run out (it's an amazing detail that your Viking army is only allowed to act as long as they are pissed off). Once you're out of rage, you have to wait until the next age to act.
Your actions might involve summoning units, playing cards, pillaging spaces on the board (which could instigate battle), and a few others. Thinking ahead about how best to combine your cards and most effectively utilize your limited actions is key to succeeding in Blood Rage: Digital Edition.
Sharpen the Axes
Combat is interesting in Blood Rage: Digital Edition. There are several different areas on the board, each with spaces for three to five total units. When a player tries to pillage an area — gaining a reward — other players have the option to move units in to contest it. Once every player has declared which units are part of the fight, they each select a card from their hand to add before comparing total strength.
Cards can be wildly different. Some cards are just massive strength bonuses. Some cards are extremely tricky, forcing opponents to destroy units or play a new card instead. Some cards actually reward you for losing the battle!
Once all cards have been revealed, the player with the most strength wins. Every other unit that participated in the battle is sent to Valhalla; they cannot be resummoned until the next age. If the final score strength is a tie, everybody loses. Classic Vikings: if they aren't the strongest, they'd rather be dead.
At the end of an age, one of the areas on the board is destroyed by Ragnarok, constricting how much space players have to work with and destroying all units inside that space. Players reveal their secret quest cards and gain points if they achieved the criteria on the cards, all dead units return to the supply, and the next age begins. At the end of three ages, the highest point total wins.
Board Game Battles
If all you want is to play the tabletop version of Blood Rage on your computer, then look no further. Blood Rage: Digital Edition is exactly that. The ability to play against AI players is nice — I've played dozens of games of tabletop Blood Rage — and the hardest AI players in the digital version are extremely difficult to beat. Obviously, you can take it online as well, where you can match up against friends and play ranked games to climb the leaderboards.
There's a tutorial mode that teaches you the basics of Blood Rage pretty darn well, too. You'll still probably feel the wrath of Thor a few times once you jump into the actual game, especially if you square off against someone who is familiar with the game already, but the tutorial is a great starting point. There's a lot of intricacy to Blood Rage: Digital Edition, despite the "big, loud berserker" look of it.
One thing that might be tough to newcomers is being able to figure out exactly what is what at a glance. Modern tabletop games, especially ones like Blood Rage that boast detailed, extravagant miniatures, try to be identifiable at a glance. Blood Rage: Digital Edition looks great (and faithful to the tabletop game) when you get up close. Zooming in to admire the detail makes it impossible to see the big picture of the board, however, so a lot of the visuals get muddled.
Blood Rage: Digital Edition Review — The Bottom Line
- A faithful recreation of the popular game
- Looks good up close
- AI can be challenging, even for experienced players
- New, exclusive monsters not found in the tabletop version available as DLC
- Can be tough to gauge the big picture of the board at a glance
- Not many bells and whistles
- Can be tough to learn why things happen if you don't already know the game
Blood Rage: Digital Edition is a really strong port of a popular tabletop game. It's a great way to play Blood Rage with friends who you don't get to physically be around very often, or for people who want to play the game but have trouble getting a group of people together.
What you might have trouble with, however, is learning the game completely if you don't already have a grasp of the rules. The tutorial is fine, but figuring a board game out with friends is often the best way to learn the individual rules and strategies. Blood Rage: Digital Edition may also have trouble holding your interest if you aren't already a fan of the game, as the tactile aspect of tabletop gaming is one of its central draws.
Overall, Blood Rage: Digital Edition is a great way to try the game if the cost of the tabletop version scares you. It's significantly cheaper to buy it digitally. From there, you'll probably be able to determine whether you want to battle for Yggdrasil with the big boys.
[Note: A copy of Blood Rage: Digital Edition was provided by Asmodee Digital for the purposes of this review.]