Another review for another game I've owned for a year. But this isn't just any review, this is a special milestone review. This here is my:
ear ith eries... th eview pectacular!
Which means nothing really, I'll be doing this one the same as all the others.
I got this game for quite a deal last year. I was looking into trading away my never played Weapons & Warriors sets, and seeing what users had in return for them. I noticed that several people had Kingdoms on their trade list, which sounded like a game that I would love. So I did some research and checked it out. As I did so, I came to find out that this Beowulf game was an updated, more varied version of it. None of the potential traders had this on their list, but there was a BGG Marketplace listing for a new shrink wrapped copy for only $4.99. Not only that, the seller worked very close to where I worked, and I could pick it up during my lunch break. And so a transaction was made!
Since I got this game, I have played it 10 times.
The box of this game talks about the legend of Beowulf, and how you are recreating the experience as was shown in the movie by playing over three acts. Beowulf helps out the Kingdom of Heurot by taking on Grendel and his mother as well as the gold dragon, in order to secure safety for the people and keep the bad guys from destroying everything.
In all honesty, however, the movie has absolutely nothing to do with this game, except in the artwork used. The only accurate statement is that this game is played over three acts. It is basically an abstract, tile-laying math game. Players expecting some wondrous quest will be greatly disappointed, but those that know what they are getting into should have a good time.
This game comes with a double sided, single fold game board. This configuration is only mentioned, because you keep the board folded and use one side for Act I, and the other side for Act II. Then the board is unfolded and the whole inside is used for Act III.
There are lots of tiles included. Each Act uses its own tiles, which are nice and thick as is expected from FFG. The artwork is great, using images from the computer animated movie of which this game is based. You also get a whole bunch of circular tokens in several denominations, which represent the Saga Points you are trying to earn.
You also get 10 figures for each of the four player colors. The figures are nicely sculpted and are in the form of longships, castles, Thanes, and Beowulf himself. A reference sheet is included for each player which has a description of each of the symbols that can be found on certain tiles used throughout the game.
The components are all well done, and I think they chose an interesting set of player colors for the figures. Instead of the usual red, yellow green, blue, they went with green, purple, grey, and gold.
The game starts with the Act I board and tiles. Each player starts with 50 Saga Points, gets the ten figures of their color, and chooses 2 tiles at random to form their hand. In clockwise order, starting with the youngest, a player can do one of two things, either place a figure, or draw a tile and play one of the three in their possession.
The game board is a grid of blank squares, and each square will hold one tile or figure. Most of the tiles have either a positive or negative number on it, and may also have a symbol to show that it has some sort of special characteristic or ability (some special tiles will not have a number on it). The goal of each player is to place tiles and figures such that their figures share rows and columns with positive numbers, and their opponents figures share rows with negative numbers. Once the board is completely full, you score that act and move on to the next act.
In order to calculate scoring, you choose a figure and add up the value of all the tiles in that figures row and column. You then multiply that number by the figure's value, and the player gets that many Saga Points for that figure. Each player has four longships with a value of 1, three castles with a value of 2, two Thanes with a value of 3, and one Beowulf with a value of 4. You do this for every figure on the board for each player. At the end of Act III, the player with the most Saga Points wins.
Part of the difficulty and strategy of this game is managing your figures. Whenever you use the value 1 longships to get you points, you will get those back at the end of the act. The other six figures will not be returned to you, they can only be used once. So you must decide wisely when to use the more valuable figures.
Another thing that adds to the decision making is trying to decide how early to place a figure. If you place a figure with too many open spots in its row and column, you risk the other players placing negative value tiles in those spots. However, if you spend too much time placing valuable tiles on the board to set yourself up, you risk another player putting his figure there instead. You have to find just the right moment to place your figures and hope the luck of the draw is on your side.
As mentioned, certain tiles have special abilities or characteristics which you can try to use to your advantage. Some tiles can replace others on the board, others let you remove a tile after you place it, some let you move your figure to an adjacent space, one lets you swap any two tiles on the board, and another will increase the value of all figures in its row and column. Using these tiles to your advantage, whether played by you or an opponent is key to staying ahead of your competition.
As a game about the legendary tale of Beowulf, it is horrible. As a mathy abstract game, it is a lot of fun. Some players may not like the random element of drawing tiles in their abstract game, but this isn't a game you should take too seriously anyway.
Other players have mentioned that some of the tiles may be a little too overpowered, and that could be the case with a group of competitive players, or when playing 1 on 1. For me, this game is usually played against my family, so this has never been the case. No one tile has ever swung the game for anyone, and we are usually keeping tabs on how we are all doing, so if it did give a huge swing in points, you can rest assure the other players will be latching on the negative tiles to take care of the problem.
I do have one major problem with this game, and it has to do with the reference sheet. The sheet says that for the Good Counsel tile, that tile can be used to move a figure already on the board to an adjacent location, and this tile is placed where the figure moved from. The problem with this is that the reference sheet does not mention that this can be used only to move your own figure, as the rulebook is very specific about it. I have to let everyone know at the start of the game that Good Counsel can only be used on your own figures, and still players will sometime try to move someone else's and complain that the sheet doesn't say they couldn't do that.
Other than that, I think this is a very solid game that I am glad I took over Kingdoms. While the theme of Kingdoms may make more sense, I am glad I got Beowulf with its more varied tiles and three separate Act boards (Kingdoms uses the same board for all three acts). Following the BGG ratings guidelines, I rate this game a 7.
Thanks for reading this ear ith eries... th eview pectacular!
and if you would like to read my ever growing collection of game/expansion reviews, they can be found here: A Year With...
I have to let everyone know at the start of the game that Good Counsel can only be used on your own figures, and still players will sometime try to move someone else's and complain that the sheet doesn't say they couldn't do that.
That is annoying. I've had the same issue. I've had some luck, as a memory aid, pointing out that it is 'GOOD' council, not the 'DUBIOUS' council that typically occurs when you're moving somebody elses figure
Thumbs up from me. Solid review. My 3-player group enjoys this (but I usually play it 2 player against my son, and we enjoy it a lot). My son and I actually try to tell parts of a tale when we lay a tile or pawn, as in, I'll lay a long ship and say, "the tales were neck and neck, until a new ship sailed into the picture." Yeah it's dorky, but we have a blast!