Blood Rage Digital Edition Review (and physical game thoughts)


Released 2016
Designer Eric M. Lang
Publisher CMON (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (5 with expansion)
Playing Time 20 – 30 minutes per player
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map
BoardGameGeek View on BGG
Released 2020
Platform Steam
Publisher Asmodee Digital (Website)
Developer Exozet (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 – 5
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map

To play Blood Rage alone, this is a great adaption. There are quite a few caveats, though.

The first in a series of games from Eric M. Lang and CMON, Blood rage mixes minis on a map with strong Euro game elements. Released about four years ago, Blood Rage had a lot of hype and for many just faded away.

I still remember my first game of Blood Rage fondly. It was at PAX Aus 2016, and I managed to luck my way into a Loki strategy win. What’s a Loki strategy? I tried to lose more than I won and got to penalise the winners and steal points.

But the bottom line is I only want to play Blood Rage with that general group. It was a group of people that know each other reasonably well, and in-game rivalry with smack talk and tit-for-tat making sub-games within the overall game. We all enjoy heavy games now and then, and while Blood Rage has heavy elements, it’s ‘medium’ style gameplay makes it more likely to hit the table.

So when Blood Rage Digital was announced with its own Kickstarter, I was intrigued. A lot of digital Kickstarters get started and go off the rails. CMON was (in my opinion) padding the finding by offering physical copies of the game at higher pricing. So I decided to sit and wait rather than back it.

But the game is here now, and I grabbed a copy.

Well, that’s interesting and all, but what is Blood Rage?

Blood Rage is a Viking/Norse Mythology based game for 2-4 players. This can be increased to five players with an expansion, and the digital version plays 5 out of the gate.

A lot of different game elements are blended into a glorious mess. At its core, you put your army on the board and fight to pillage villages for bonuses and Glory. There is card drafting and hand management, which adds strategy elements to the game.

This drafting also adds memory elements to the strategy. Each player has a selection of cards, you pick one, then pass the remaining cards to the next player. This means players see almost all cards that are available that round. But each round, a certain number of cards are never introduced into the selection, so you never know if someone beat you to a card or if it isn’t in that game.

Before you ask - yes, this takes ages to setup properly

When you are playing, you also have resource management to consider. Most actions cost Rage, so think of them as Action Points in most other games. You can only have a certain number of minis on the board, as denoted by your Horns. When fighting, you will earn Glory (points) for fighting, and you can upgrade the number of points you earn by upgrading your Axes.

Combat is relatively simple – the player with the highest strength in the contested area wins. Each player in combat must play one card during the battle. These cards can add strength, modify abilities, or be virtually ‘blank’ cards.

It looks like a lot, and it is, but once you have the basics down information is easily read at a glance

At the end of each phase, Ragnarok happens. This destroys an area on the board and sends any mini in that area to Valhalla. During this part fo the phase, you can also complete Quests for more Glory.

At the end of three phases, the player with the most Glory wins.

Wait, what? That’s a lot of game to follow!

Blood Rage is a simple enough game, but it has a lot of ‘simple’ things to keep track of all at once. This is why I don’t consider Blood Rage a game for everyone. Only certain types of gamer will enjoy this sort of game style.

That said, Blood Rage is a lot simpler than many popular ‘heavy’ games, so it’s an excellent middle ground for a wider audience.

So I should pick up the physical copy?

If you can find one! The physical copy of Blood Rage also suffers from what I term CMON Kickstarteritis. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. :p

Blood Rage really shines with more players. The physical game lets you do up to 5 players with an expansion, but once you play the retail copy you quickly realise you need to Kickstarter exclusives to make the most of it.

It’s almost impossible to track down retail copies this far after it’s release, and if you can find a Kickstarter collection, it will either be a steal or incredibly expensive.

This was a snap of Amazon.com Friday, June 5th. Remember, that's USD!

That’s why I was excited about the digital edition. Apart from being able to play Blood Rage far more often with AI players, it also included almost all of the Kickstarter expansions.

But because the physical copy was getting hard to find in 2018 when the digital version Kickstarter launched, it looked like most of the money was going to the physical copy. Only about 12% of the number of backers wanted the digital-only copy. 

That leaves almost 8,500 backers that wanted the digital copy with the physical game add ons. I have no idea how many of those people then added the original game to their pledge to get a ‘complete’ set.

So without being able to see how much would actually go to the development of the digital version, I decided to hold off and wait.

And now, Blood Rage Digital exists. The Good Points.

I have had a few games solo with the AI, at 3 and 4 players. I am still playing against ‘easy’ opponents. Still, as I have won the last 3 games mainly by upgrading my stat tracks, I will be upping the difficulty soon.

Being able to play a few games kicking back and relaxing whenever I want is great, and I have really enjoyed playing the few games that I have.

I can say hand on heart that the game plays very closely to the board game. The feeling of dread waiting for cards to be revealed is all there. The disappointment at missing a favourite card is there.

The pacing of the game is a little slow. It takes a bit too long to resolve quests, combat, that kind of thing. Having to sit and wait without a ‘speed up’ option is confusing.

Decisions, decisions. The feeling between digital and physical for if you are choosing right is just as stressful!

Why do I include this in the ‘good’ section? Because when you are learning the game, being able to see each card and each section slowly helps you quickly determine the flow of the game and tactics involved.

Seeing the minis on the board look great. It’s not the best graphics I have seen in a game, but you can play it on almost any Windows machine. I will take a little bit of a graphical presentation hit to play Blood Rage on any device happily.

Access to the information on cards and rules mid-game is also reasonably well done. From the main menu, you can browse all the cards and their effects. Not all digital implementations do this, and I am glad Exozet and CMON included this.

I wish more digital board games let you look throught he decks outside of the actual 'game'

And the bad.

A common issue I have with many digital implementations is the tutorial. Blood Rage Digital’s tutorial isn’t the worst I have seen, but it could still be a bit better.

My advice here is to watch a tutorial on the board game. The rules are the same, and some of the intricacies are explained a lot better in tutorials like those from Rodney at Watch it Played.

That’s not to say the tutorial is terrible – there are even sections of the compendium that describe drafting strategies, which is great!

But even as someone that knows how to play the game, there were sections of the tutorial I looked at and was confused why some information wasn’t there. Prior knowledge of the rules going will definitely a plus.

If you want to learn Blood Rage completely within the digital game, everything is in the compendium but it’s a lot of text to absorb. So if you rather learn by watching a video, check out the video.

If you look at the Steam reviews, there is one facet of the game that apparently needs a lot of work – online multiplayer. Apparently, people are having a lot of trouble being able to play against friends online.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I did grab Harls a copy recently as a gift with the idea of playing against him online. Harls is the sort of player I can have a lot of fun playing Blood Rage with, but it’s not much of a two-player game. Adding AI fixes this while letting us play together.

At least, it would if it worked.

If you were just browsing, I could understand skipping the game on this alone

There is also the controls themselves. Earlier, I mentioned that the pacing is a bit slow. Sometimes, you can hit a skip button if you can’t do an action, for example, if you can’t play an additional card. This doesn’t always happen though, which is strange.

I can’t say for certain that this is a design choice. If you play, you will notice at times cards and other screen elements sit over the controls. I wonder if at times you have this speed option available, but you can’t see it on screen.

Why is Skip hiding? And this is at 'normal' screen size

Playing on an ultrawide monitor makes this user interface issue a lot worse. Playing on my ‘game’ screen at 2560×1080, elements like the strength of my army are hidden by my cards.

When 21:9 and similar aspect ratios first started appearing, a typical display issue was the game/application would zoom the screen. The program would fill the width of your screen with the contents, but that would crop the height from what you can see.

Five years ago, with the tech being still new, this was mostly understandable and early adopters needed to work around the issue. In 2020, this just feels sloppy.

You can see where the title and bottom of the banner is being cut off. I am supposed to click on Continue. The button below the bottom of the screen.

Even worse, when finishing a game in ultrawide, you can’t continue on to the final score, because you can’t click on the continue button. So you will never honestly know if you won a game or not.

These display element issues might seem like a problem only for a few users. Still, the fact they are happening at all makes me wonder what other glitches are happening at ‘normal’ resolutions.

The only other thing I wish was available was a ‘save’ system. It can be an XCom ironman type save, where you only have one save slot that happens at the end of each player turn. This way, you can’t go back and try and cheese the game with different strategies until you dominate.

Why hide my army strength? I can count my minis, but once cards come into play, that doesn't help!

Playing solo, a game takes me about 30-40 minutes with 2 AI players. I would love to be able to leave and take a break mid-game. Also, such a system may help when multiplayer crashes instead of the entire games progress being lost.

So stay clear?

Here’s the funny thing – I think Blood Rage Digital is a great implementation, it just needs a lot of fixes. Some are hopefully simple to make, some might take time.

Playing solo, I have had no real problems other than having to change my screen to 1920×1080 when I want to play. I have enjoyed quite a few games, and I don’t regret the purchase at all.

While I am yet to play online multiplayer, until more patches have been made (and to Exozets credit, there have been updates quite often already), I won’t even by trying except as an experiment.

You can’t even play Blood Rage with a screen sharing local game properly, because this will reveal players entire hands to everyone. The multiplayer needs to be fixed to recommend Blood Rage Digital to more than solo players.

Blood Rage goes Digital

Overall Thoughts

Blood Rage is a sound implementation of the original board game and makes for an excellent alternative for solo players.

The low system requirements mean that players can play on pretty much any computer that runs Windows 10. This means the entry-level for a ‘video game’ is easy to achieve.

If you want to play Blood Rage Digital online though, a lot of work needs to be done to get this working properly.

I would rate the Kickstarter version of Blood Rage’s physical copy a 7.5 and the retail copy a 7. But until the issues mentioned are addressed, I couldn’t give the digital version a higher score. Even though it works great as a solo game, board games are better played with others – even digitally.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • A lot of fun to play solo against AI
  • Can play well even on ‘work’ computers
  • Faithful adaption of the board game

Cons

  • Lots of issues with multiplayer
  • Some screen elements seem to be broken or having issues

Until next time,

JohnHQLD