Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hitting The Table: Barony

As I mentioned last week, I've been playing some really good games lately that I want to talk about. Again, as I mentioned last week, these are games I'd worked on so I didn't pay for my copies.

Today, I'm going to talk about Barony.

Barony is another of those games that is surprisingly easy to play rules-wise, but which reveals a surprising amount of depth in play.

People have been comparing this game to a cross between Settlers of Catan and Chess. And I don't think I'd argue too hard with some of those comparisons.

In Barony, you are trying to get yourself promoted to the rank of Baron.  You do this by selling resources back to the bank. You don't gather resources from a random roll, however. You gather resources by building.

As soon as someone hits that rank, the game ends at the end of the round.

There are six different actions you can take in your turn:

1) Move Knights
2) Turn Knights into Buildings
3) Turn Settlements into Cities
4) Sell Resources to Promote Yourself
5) Recruit Knights
6) Expand

This isn't the order they're listed in the rulebook, by the way.

There are restrictions on some of these - you can't enter a space that has an opponent's city, for example. You can't build a city in the forest. You don't get change when selling resources to the bank. They're mostly sensible restrictions, but they still exist.

The board is made up of three-hex tiles and it's randomized before every game.

So what makes it so thinky that people are comparing it to Chess or Go?

It's potentially unforgiving. If you make a mistake with your initial placement, your opponents will be able to keep you from growing in a couple of ways.

See this picture?


Red is screwed, here.  You can't move Knights onto spaces with opposing cities (the blue on i nthe foreground) or strongholds (the yellow and green and blue structures that are also right there). You can't move Knights into the water. And you can't unrecruit knights.  Since each player only has seven knights available to them, the Red player, here, has three knights who aren't going anywhere.

Since knights are the only moving unit in the game, that's huge.  Building cities requires settlements. Building settlements requires knights. So this Red player (me, by the way), has half of his ability to expand tied up in a way that will never expand.  In theory, their pieces can be killed off by Green and or Blue, to return them to supply, but  in practice, Yellow, Green, and Blue are going to laugh at Red for having put themselves in a completely untenable situation.

It's a bit slow-moving at first.  Players are trying to expand, but they're also trying not to leave their settlements undefended. When a settlement is destroyed, the attacking player gets to take resources from their victim. Eventually, however, the game speeds up.

The "build" action, wherein knights turn into settlements and strongholds is unlimited - you can turn all seven knights into settlements or strongholds if they're all in play. When you build, you also take a resource that matches the hex you're building in. Fields are the most valuable; Mountains are the least. And, if you build seven settlements in a turn, it'll be hard for your opponents to take enough of them from you to keep you from promoting yourself the next turn.

When someone hits the end of the rank track, as I mentioned, the game ends at the end of the round.  Players take their current score and add to it a value that's printed on the resource tiles. Again, this value is non-random.

Most points wins.  Most of the time, the winner will be the player who triggered the final round, but if someone has been hoarding resources (and the other players haven't noticed or done anything about it), it's possible that they will grab a win.

It's a solid game. The components are really nice, and are distinctively shaped by type.

I only got to demo this a few times at GenCon, but it hits the table most Wednesdays these days.

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