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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Angus: Batlahas Medievais (Medieval Battles)

When Karen came back this Christmas from Recife, Brazil, she had brought me a present, the Brazilian-made game Medieval Battles. I have to thank Flavio for his suggestion, as the game was very much enjoyed by my friends the other night! It is a light game of territory and resource control played over 8 rounds with some interesting mechanics.

As an aside, I managed to struggle through the Portuguese rule book, asking Karen the meaning of occasional words, and was quite happy to figure the game out. Then, looking it up on the Geek, I saw a full English translation of the rules.. Doh!

The production values are good, especially the very well-designed storage tray which keeps all the game components separated and accessible. The game pieces are plastic troop and ship markers, cardboard points tokens, cities and temples and cardboard stand-up king and Viking markers with plastic bases. There are also some cards, which could be made from better cardstock and some D6`s, with one specially-printed temple die.

Players represent various groups, such as the Irish, Saxons, etc. in medieval Europe, and each group has a set starting territory. The rules suggest which groups should be used with various numbers of players, from 2-5. Our first playing was with 4 players, and that worked quite well.

Each player sets up his king, 4 troops, and a city in the starting territory, with the ship in the sea space adjacent to that territory. Each player takes their turn in order, in three phases, starting with the build phase. Players get one build for each territory they control with a city, and one half build for each territory that contains a temple or troops. Each build allows the contruction of 1 troop, city or temple, with the provision that troops may be built in any territory that contains friendly troops, cities may be built in territories contaning friendly trrops but no other builds, and temples may only be built in territories with friendly troops and the temple symbol.
Territories may only contain 1 city or temple, but not both. Ships can never be built, and there is no combat between ships.

Once the build phase is done, any or all troops may be moved to an adjacent territory, and up to three troops adjacent to the ship may be loaded from one territory, moved up to 2 sea spaces, and disembarked in up to three adjacent land spaces.

Each territory that now contains more than one colour of troops will have combat until only one colour remains, and since combat takes place after movement, there is no way to reinforce after combat.

Combat is resolved by each affected player rolling 2 D6, with the higher total causing the loss of 1 troop to the lower total. Ties are won by the player with the most troops in the battle, and if the number of troops is equal, the dice are re-rolled.

After combat, play proceeds to the next player, and once each player has completed all three phases, a Viking card is turned up. Each Viking card will show 2 sea spaces that the Vikings can attack from, and a condition, such as least cities, least troops, etc. The player having the least of what is listed is allowed to use the Viking to attack one territory that is adjacent to one of the sea spaces shown. The Viking, being a fierce raider, only rolls one D6, the other always being a 6, and fights the defender until he either defeats all enemy troops, in which case he sacks and removes any city or temple, or until he loses or ties a battle, in which case the marker is moved to the Isle of Man.

The players' king tokens act much like the Viking, by raising the morale of any troops in their territory so that one die is automatically a five. If the last troop is lost in the king`s space, he dies and the player loses 3 VP.

After the Viking raid, each player counts their VP and takes tokens in that amount from the bank, keeping them face down. For VP purposes, controlled territories with a city are worth 1 VP, and territories with a temple are worth 2 VPs. Territories which only have troops are worth nothing. The game plays for 8 rounds, and ends after the points are tallied in round 8.

There is one special case, when a player succesfully invades a territory that contains a temple, they must roll a special die to see if the gods have blessed or cursed the invasion. 3 faces are blank, which means that nothing happens. 2 faces are skulls, which means that the player keeps the territory but the temple is destroyed, and one face is a D6, which means that the player must roll one D6 and lose that many points from his supply.

The game plays very quickly, and it is fairly lightweight. That being said, it is always fun to fight battles that come down to the last roll of the dice, and as we all know from Settlers, you can`t be lucky or unlucky all the time. The inverse value of cities and temples for building and VP`s is an interesting mechanic, as well as the use of the Viking to allow weaker players to try and take some points away from the leader. There are some advanced rules that allow the use of some combat cards, an extra ship and a movable king, but the game plays well enough as is. I would consider using some form of rotating start player, or perhaps a VP auction for turn order, but, on the whole, Angus: Medieval Battles is a fine light territory control game. If you see a copy on sale, I would suggest buying it if this all sounds to be to your taste.

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