3 - 6
The back-story in Blood & Fortune is that the current monarch is dying and a new ruler is needed. The players assume the roles of these potential leaders and are trying to gain the most influence in order to become crowned as the new ruler of the kingdom. All of the flavor text, and even the name Blood & Fortune, serve to set the tone for the game. Heads will roll. You will need to negotiate with enemies and betray old friends. Or will you?
Each player in Blood & Fortune has a hand of five Influence cards (comprised of 3 single and 2 double Influence cards). These are beautifully illustrated with your house’s crest and coat of arms. The artwork is epic medieval awesomeness. If you are playing with the optional Role cards, each player will draw one role card at the beginning of each round. To start each round, the first player will offer two of their cards to another player. These cards are given face down and remain hidden from everyone else. The recipient of the cards looks at them and chooses to keep one, returning the other to the owner. The recipient takes places the card they selected face down in front of them, always to the right of any other cards that might already be in their player area. The next player then does the same until everyone has offered Influence three times.
After this, if roles were selected, they are now resolved. Then Influence is revealed. When revealed, you score all of your single influence cards, but only the double Influence card furthest to the right (the one you most recently received). You also score points for cards matching your house in all other player’s areas. After points are scored, a new round begins. The game concludes after the third round, where the player with the most points wins.
The strategy of the games comes down to when to offer your double Influence cards, when to accept them, and who to offer them to. Smart players will quickly figure out that if you offer both of your double Influence cards to the same opponent, they have to accept one. This play guarantees you’ll have a double Influence card on the table. However, it doesn’t guarantee it will be the most recent double Influence card that player accepted. Timing is vastly important in Blood & Fortune.
Thoughts on the Gameplay
The premise of Blood & Fortune makes it seem like there will be a lot of table talk, and with the right group, perhaps there will be. However, in the two 5 player games that I played, no one really negotiated much of anything. We didn’t offer assistance, pledge loyalty, or break any previous bonds. There simply didn’t seem to be a need to do so. On one hand, perhaps we weren’t playing in the spirit of the game; maybe we weren’t playing it right. On the other hand, if a goal of the game is to get players to table talk, then the rule set and mechanics should do a better job of encouraging it.
Now, that isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy the game. There was a decent amount of strategy to be found, and we enjoyed trying to figure out the best time to offer each of our cards. We just didn’t feel the need to enter into negotiations (or betrayals). Maybe everyone I game with is just the quiet type (totally not true) and we prefer to play secretively and silently. At any rate, it seems like half of the game was lost on us. Maybe the game just needs a better description?
The Role cards offer a random element to the game. This can be beneficial for the player using the Role, detrimental to opponents, or just add some random chaos and shake things up. Role cards can really devastate a well laid strategy, especially since their effects are all over the place in terms of what will happen directly before scoring. I’d like to see a bit more hidden information and consistency regarding the Roles. Maybe something like over half of the Role cards are blank and the rest have the same Role, and no one knows who has a real Role and who has a blank Role. Currently, you can’t really bluff with Role cards as their backs are different from Influence cards. And, there are only two Role cards where an action (take it or refuse it) is dictated by the Role card in question. So players can’t lie and say I’ll give you this powerful Role card if you do X because they’ll see that you aren’t in fact doing what you offered. The Role cards added a little too much randomness for my taste.
The rulebook, while having some diagrams to make things easier to understand, isn’t as clear as it could be. It gets the job done, be a few sections had to be read multiple times and passed around to get a consensus.
The score card is also a little weird. Every player gets their own score card, which has to be combined with your house card in order to keep score. The score card, as well as your house card, is double sided. Your house card helps keep track of the rounds, but it is also has a crown and must be placed on (or next to) the score card to tally the number of points you’ve gained. It is easy for these cards to fall out of alignment and have you question what your score was. The rulebook makes it look like the arrows on the cards should line up, or that the arrow should point to your score, but this isn’t the case. When placed on (or next to) the score card, the crown on the house card combines with a number on the score card to form a hexagon. The number in this shape is your current score.
The gorgeous artwork has already been mentioned, but it bears repeating. The card illustrations on the House and Influence cards is top notch.
Blood & Fortune offers a quick and strategic gaming experience for 3 – 6 players. The house crests are nothing short of amazing and look as if they stepped out of A Game of Thrones. Overall, a decent card game that is certainly worth one play through to see if it is your type of game, Blood & Fortune will keep you on your toes.