Battle Line

Game Overview: Battling your opponent over nine flags, you are attempting to create a more powerful formation than your opponent by playing up to three cards to the flag taking into consideration their color and/or their value.  You achieve victory over your opponent by capturing three adjacent flags or five total flags.

Box Contents: The game consists of just 70 total cards (60 Troop cards and 10 Tactics cards), 9 wooden pawns which represent a flag, and the rules document.  With a small number of components, the box is really bigger than it needs to be.  It could have been half its size and still would hold all of the contents.

The box does have a nice plastic insert that holds everything in place no matter how you store the game.  The cards are high quality, something you would expect to see from a game published by GMT Games.

The art on the cards, while it gets the theme across of a character that is going into battle during the Roman era, it is very simplistic and leaves a lot to be desired.

Clarity of Rules: The rules booklet is just four pages long with a page and a half covering the Troop cards and another page and a half covering the Tactic cards.  It is very generic and doesn’t use show actual examples of cards from the game and everything is in black and white.  As simplistic as it is, it does a well enough job in explaining the rules.

Game Play:  With game setup, you will be placing the nine flags across the table and then each player draws seven Troop cards.  A player’s turn is very simple you play a single card in front of one of the flags on your side of the table and you draw another card.

What you are trying to accomplish is to have the best grouping of three cards on any given flag. Doing so, allows you to capture the flag.  There are five groupings you can obtain, from best to worst listed below.

#1 Wedge Formation- Three cards of the same color with consecutive values.

#2 Phalanx Formation- Three cards of the same value but different colors.

#3 Battalion Order Formation- Three cards of the same color.

#4 Skirmish Line Formation- Three cards with consecutive values with different colors.

#5 Host Formation- Any other combination of cards (Example-different colors and no consecutive values).

If there is ever a tie because both players played cards of the same type listed above (Ex: Wedge v Wedge) then the total number on the cards will determine the winner.  If there is a further tie, the last player to play a card to the flag would lose the battle and the flag.

At any point, if you have placed your three cards but your opponent has not played all three of theirs yet and you can prove that they can’t beat based on other cards currently in play, you can claim the flag at that point.  The reason you would want to do this is it prevents your opponent from using a useless card in that spot or possibly playing a tactics card (see below).

Play continues until one of the players has gained three adjacent flags, as this represents you breaking through their line of defense, or by winning majority by capturing five of the nine flags.

As an alternative, tactics cards can also be used in the game.  These allow you to get around restrictions that exist in the game.  You can declare the color and/or number of a card that you play to any given flag, take a card the opponent has played and move it to your side, ignore the formations and simply use the total value of the cards, or determine victory based on four cards being played for a single flag instead of three.

When you are drawing your card after playing one, you can choose to draw from either the Troop or Tactics deck.  One restriction to the Tactics cards is that you can never have more than plus one over what your opponent has played.  So if they have played one, you can’t play a third Tactics card until they have played a second one.  However, there is no restriction on drawing them into your hand.

Replay Ability: The game itself isn’t going to change from game to game as everything is going to be based on the cards you are drawing into your hand, which will make how each game plays differently each time.  You can add in the Tactics cards to add some replay ability to the game.

Appropriate Audience:  The game suggests 12+ and someone younger than this can absolutely play this game.  Unless you are using Tactics cards, you can go pretty young since no reading is needed and would even give younger kids help with practicing of their numbers as the would want to play those sequentially.  I personally think you could go down to 7 or 8 years old.

What We Liked/Didn't Like: The best thing about the game for us is the simplicity in it but the feelings of tension that occur throughout the entire game as you try to capture the flags from your opponent.  In addition, there is a lot of strategy that comes into play in how you play your cards both for yourself and to counter your opponent and the tug of war that occurs during the game.  Even which deck to draw cards from can be a strategic move, if playing with both decks of cards.

Some players never consider playing with the Tactics cards and instead prefer the pure strategy of the game by itself.  However, our family prefers to use them and you can actually use it to your advantage if you see your opponent drawing multiples and as long as you don’t match the number of cards they have played, they are now filling up their hands with cards they can’t use.

The game is very heavy on pure luck in what cards you draw into your hand throughout the game.  Sometimes you just won’t get that card you have been waiting on and there is no way to get around that.  If you do not like the luck factor of the blind draw you may want to avoid the game.

The combinations that you are trying to get are essentially poker combinations and that leads me to my biggest complaint.  I think people who play poker on a consistent basis can easily remember what they need to get for the card combinations.  We have played this game 25+ times and we still have to lay the instruction sheet out for both players to look at what combinations are the best and even then it is in black and white so you can’t quickly see the color combinations without reading the examples.  I think it would have been beneficial to include a summary card (in color) that each player could have in front of them.

Add-ons/Other Releases:  There are three additional releases of this game that play exactly the same as this but with a different theme and much better art.  If this art doesn’t do it for you, you can consider Schotten Totten (1999-without Tactics cards), Schotten Totten (2004-with Tactics cards), or Battle Line-Medieval (2017).