Game Design: The HeidelBAR Games Team
Developed by: Roland Goslar.
Artwork: Nadezhda Mikyryukova
Online Price: £11.00-£19.00
BLAZE is a bidding/betting game based on the classic Russian game of DURAK with minor differences that format it into a different game. In Durak it is about not being the loser whereas Blaze is about being the winner.
It is for 3-5 players and consists of 2 phases of 2 rounds each. For 3 players some cards (according to the rules booklet) need to be removed from the game as they are not relevant. Five cards are dealt as a hand to each player and the remainder of the deck is split into two stacks, one for each of the two rounds in the phase. This is where you try to get rid of your weakest cards, so you need to think about how you can best use the hand you have and know either what cards will enhance it and how to get them, or how to deplete your hand towards the goal.
There is a good example on page 4 of the rules booklet that explains the challenge really well. You play a card and your target (the person to your left) can play a Trump suit card (any value) or a card of the same suit (colour) as you played but with a same or higher value. The player (you) who started the Challenge can add more Challenge cards (only cards of values already played) and the player to the left of the target player can become a supporter by playing cards to extend the challenge (and lose cards themselves). A total of five cards only may be played in the Challenge Even as I write this I realise that this sounds complicated. It really isn't when you are playing, but it's one of those things that is difficult to describe without just copying the rules text.
In the first Phase players try to improve their hands ready for the second phase without adding more cards to their hand. In Phase 2 the idea is to lose all the cards you are holding.This is a simple concept and it's up to the players to deliver it for their own advantage.
So Phase one begins with the youngest player, or whoever you have determined to be first player, challenging the player to the left of them. The challenge is by playing a card or cards, not putting your fists up or taking the rapiers from the wall and removing their tips.
If you have a 'Firebird' card it is used as a Challenge card with a value of 10, or as a rejection card valued at zero. Rejection cards are what the target player plays against the cards Challenging them. Firebird cards can be used as Trump cards if they are the correct colour (ie they are the colour of the current Trump).
Depleting the deck stops the first phase and then it is on to the second phase and the placing of bets and the winning of Feather cards come to the fore. Each player has three betting cards with values of 1, 1, 0. These have a single coloured (player colours) Phoenix on their flip-side while the main deck has beautifully plumed flip-sides. Bidding cards are then played out facedown, one per player, betting on who you think will be the last to still have cards in their hand when the round ends. You cannot bet on yourself.
Players with no more cards take a Feather card and then are out for the remainder of the round, taking no more actions. They place these Feather cards facedown to form their own scoring stack. It must be remembered that these players are no longer in the round and thus cannot be considered in the order of play. When the last Feather card is taken the round ends and any player who never won a Feather card loses the round. Now the Betting cards are revealed and then the second round of the second phase begins.
The main problem we have with BLAZE is that it is supposedly a fast-paced game with players playing cards back and forth between them and the 'supporter' waiting to jump in and help. But with the thinking and consideration about the card play, the speed is often slowed. If you do play fast it can be a lot more fun but you are also loikely to make mistakes by playing a wrong card (by 'wrong' I mean one you hadn't intended on playing but did play through panic play).
Overall BLAZE is a game with great quality cards, a short and brief rules book and a new twist on trick-taking card play. It is probably a little behind the times now as card games, like board games, have moved into a different era. However, as I always say, it doesn't matter how old a game is or when it was first printed or published, if you personally haven't played it before it is a new game.