Published on July 15th, 2013 | by Nicole Jekich
$20 Quick Pick: Battle Line
Thanks to a gorgeous weekend in Seattle, I took an adventure outside my gaming zone and paid a visit to Card Kingdom: Ballard’s friendly local game store. I was looking for a quick card game and I was promptly helped by a lovely blue-haired expert who listed off a few games I might be interested in playing. Thanks to her I now have a new favorite game and a new article segment for Across the Board Games! I’ll be investing some time and money to try out some compressed games for $20 or less and let you know which one gives you great bang for your buck! Now, without further delay, I would like to present Battle Line!
I never thought that my adolescent obsession with Alexander the Great and RummiKub would come together into a harmonious game. Battle Line is a dressed-up RummiKub with strategy cards and a loose historical theme of Alexander the Great. This game doesn’t have any story attached. This is a two player game, a Darius versus Alexander, battle waged on nine fronts.
What’s in the Box:
If you’re looking for a handful of unique pieces, gorgeously painted art or a thick booklet of back story then I humbly suggest another game. Battle Line comes with a deck of 60 troops cards with 10 distinct troop types (numbers 1-10) in 6 colors or suits. 10 Tactics cards are also included and the “flags” that the players fight over are 9 red meeple figures. There is also a very short manual with game play instructions and tie breaker explanations. The art for this game is a historical “clipart” style and overall the art is stale and static. I am pretty biased towards the theme of Alexander the Great, so to me, this art is perfect! The production value is minimal, the best value lies in the gameplay.
Set Up and Gameplay:
I have the attention span of a squirrel and even I can set up this game in 5 seconds. The nine flags are placed about 2 inches apart in a line parallel and between the two players. A player cuts the deck to reveal the bottom card and the second player does the same. Whichever player has the largest number will deal 7 cards to both players. The “losing” player will go first and lay a card in any of the slots on his/her side of the table. Players take turns playing a card one at a time and just like in Rummy: straight flushes beat straights; straights beat three-of-a-kind, etc continuing down the line. The first player to conquer five of the red flags or three adjacent red flags, wins the game!
Given the other war games by GMT like Twilight Struggle, this game is a breeze! A real head-scratching game takes 30 minutes tops. After a few plays, a game could take as little as 15 minutes!
A New Challenge:
However, to prevent stagnation there are a few additions that may make the game more challenging. To level the playing field the blue-haired associate from Card Kingdom suggested that players draft their opening hands. A poor opening hand between two experienced players could make all the difference. Also, as suggested in the GMT manual, the advanced mode changes the rules so that flags can only be conquered at the beginning of players turn giving the other player time to retaliate.
Overall, Battle Line is a low-production but high-value game with much re-playability. The game is easy to learn, teach and conquer and definitely worth the $18 I paid for it. If you have any suggestions for the $20 Quick Pick, write your suggestion in any or all three of these means: in the comments below or post on our Facebook wall or Tweet at us!