FTW Staff Picks - Battle Line
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Genre: Two-Player Card Game
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Player Size: 2 Players
Game Length: 30 minutes
For fans of: Jaipur, Kulami, Pyramid Poker
Despite what television and movies have shown us, Poker is typically not the most exciting 2-player game. Thankfully Reiner Knizia found a way to create an engaging, varied and mostly-balanced game that scratches that same Poker-itch. Battle Line combines hand management with very light area control to give players many decisions to consider.
In Battle Line, two players control troops fighting for tactical advantage on a battle line. The game begins with 9 flags in a straight line between both players. Each player is dealt 7 Troop cards to start. Troop Cards contain different valued forces from 1 to 10. Each turn the active player may either play one Troop card in front of a flag, or play a Tactics card. Tactics cards adjust the rules of the game. At the end of a turn the active player draws on card from either deck. A total of 3 Troop cards may be placed in front of a flag. Each combination of 3 Troop cards scores as a Formation. Formations are based off of poker hands. A higher Formation will claim the flag for that player. When one player has successfully claimed 3 adjacent flags or any 5 flags that player is immediately declared the winner!
Some card games can feel like a bit of a crap shoot, especially when played with just 2 players. Jaipur is one of those games that comes down to a lot of luck when both players have reached the skill cap. Battle Line on the other hand, has a high skill ceiling. There are enough moving parts to the game where it never feels like you're forced into an obvious, optimal play. And at the same time the game has a neat simplicity to everything. Turns still move with a purpose and each turn is important. It's exactly the type of two-player strategy game that you would want for both quick and longer play sessions.
Battle Line is a bit of an older game and it doesn't have a shiny exterior. It's very plain and even trying to recommend it is a bit of an uphill climb. It doesn't sound like an appealing choice, but if you give it a few turns you'll immediately be sucked in by its charm. Battle Line is an excellent choice for any duo looking for a solid strategic, battle of wits.