BARDAGI: The Claim for Gold
2 - 5 Players aged 10+ The game box states 90-120 minutes minimum, the rules state playing time is 30 minutes minimum
This is a Swedish board game with a Viking theme from gamia games that was Kickstarted and translated into English. It is designed by Svavar Björgvinsson, has character models created by Arian Croft, and a Graphic Design Team led by Stefano Tamascelli.
It is priced at around £45.00-£50.00 which when you take into account the amount of game components, plastic, wooden, heavy card, super glossy colouring, boards, game maps etc is good value; for the gameplay itself maybe not so good.
BARDAGI is one of the best games of 2016 as far as component's production is concerned. The box is heavy and sturdy, glossy and colourful, with eye-pleasing artwork. All other components are of similarly excellent quality - with a few minor exceptions - the "wooden disks in your colour" and coins are actually plastic tiddly-wink counters in your colour, the "Warrior/Berserkur/Berserker" miniatures are weak at the legs and thus tend to bend backwards and there are times when the rules book and the tiles disagree. There is also one major cause for concern. The maps (the board is double-sided for Winter and Summer) are beautiful and created for the viewer to enjoy in an almost 3D fashion as the buildings overlay the territory borders. Unfortunately this leads to many disputes as to which areas/territories these border lines actually contain; there are reasonable arguments for the positioning of several of these lines. Finally, the rules are certainly not the best we have encountered in over 50 years of playing board games. If you look at the Summer map (not the island map); roughly central on the East coast there is a Village (depicted by an Inn-style building) and containing the "scales" icon; it also appears to have the dual Meat/Hide resource icon. If this is true then it is the only Village on the map to contain a resource icon and is thus at the very least an unfair advantage to the Red player whose Home Base is across just one border. If you look very carefully and closely you can see the beginnings of a very thin white border line heading off between the Building and the Resource icon. Our instincts tell us this line should be there but whomsoever plays the Red Clan always likes to argue this point and naturally as this "white border" in our, the players of Green, Yellow, Blue and Black, opinion should be there, we, the other players are always right . . . sometimes!
The Box insert (note misspelling) and the Miniatures For this review I have used some stock photos from the internet and some I have taken myself
If you store the pieces loose in the three supplied components trays remember to store the game flat and the correct side up, on its side many pieces will fall loose and care needs to be taken when opening; there are many pieces and they are all finite. We use zip-loc bags or dV Giochi Geek Boxes for all the pieces when storing the game and the plastic compartmental trays when playing; it takes a little extra time to setup and break down but has proven worth the effort.
Once the game is setup it looks extremely impressive. There are hundreds of pieces, lots of cards - a set of 24 for each player, 20 miniatures, loads of counters and tokens and three sets of 1st level and 2nd level Upgrade tiles (two of which do not match any on the list of tiles in the rules book). The use of the Swedish names for the miniatures throughout the rules isn't really necessary as it makes it a take a little longer to read them out to the other players - it's not easy getting your tongue around Knerrir (ship) and Kaupmadur (Trader) every minute or two, the two others are Godi (which seems to translate as Godi and is a sort of Priest or Mage) and Berserkur (Berserker - okay this is an easy one I'll give you that).
The gameplay itself is less impressive, if we are playing it right - we seem to spend a lot of time discussing points of the rules that don't truly match up with the components - as they seem to be a bit matter of fact/going through the motions with no intrigue, chaos or excitement. Each player selects six of their cards, these will be the miniatures they are going to move and/or use this turn. The players can all select (secretly) at the same time their six (after Turn 5 the players can, if pre-agreed, choose eight) cards for the round or they can select them at the start of their turn having seen what the preceding player(s) have done. The second means of selection is better for strategic play but it does extend the length of the game quite considerably as players peruse the board and take in all the possible options before making their choices.
Played in four phases the first and fourth phases are done by all players simultaneously, phases 2 and 3 are done by the players in order on their turn. Basically, Phase one is Planning, the selection of the cards as already mentioned. Phases two and three are the Action Phase; when you resolve the possibilities of the cards played and Building Phase, when Upgrades can be bought. The fourth phase is the Claim Phase when players count up and receive the resources from the territories they own. In the Action phase it is generally one card equals one Action but read all you can about each character first and decide how you want to use them because there are several paragraphs and pages on each character as although they each have basically the same information in shorter or longer editions, there are some things on them that do not correspond exactly in each edition. For example the Berserker's page states that his Special Ability is that he "counts as 4 battle units - disks" yet to take an empty area (occupied by a single Barbarian unit that is general on every space on the board) he cannot simply walk in without having at least 2 warrior units with him, one to negate the Barbarian and one to occupy the area. We assume (rightly or wrongly) that him being worth 4 units is for defensive purposes though that is only our interpretation of the jumbled rules for this particular character.
Despite having different abilities each character acts in a similar fashion. The Berserker takes an area by fighting the Barbarians, using disk units from the "Virki" on the Player's personal board. The Godi takes an area by converting the Barbarians by using Runes (aka disks from the "hof" part of the player board, and the Kaupmadur (Trader) overtakes an area by trading, paying the Barbarians using resources (aka disks taken from the "Verstun" section of the player board), so basically each does the same thing in (almost) the same way but calling it a different action.
The Player's Personal Boards are a good idea as they show each player how they and their opponents are doing, although money and runes are supposed to be kept secret from your opponents (Runes can be flipped face down but there is nowhere provided for money to be banked). Part of the board is an empty space, this is where you put Upgrades that you purchase using Resources gained. The board also serves as a reminder that until you have certain Upgrades you can only hold 5 of each resource type - the plastic disks on your Trader's home space count one for one as any Resource you wish them to be, but the areas on the board give specific Resources and there are separate shaped wooden components for each of these. You need Resources to buy Upgrades. The Upgrades come in long and wider oblong tiles and are specific for each character (not Ship) type. In the rules there is a 1st Level Upgrade that allows the Ship to move +2 for each card played. Ships can move up to three spaces per turn around the board using ocean spaces and ports, so with this particular Upgrade the ship could move 1-5 spaces; it could if the Upgrade existed. In actuality the only Upgrade that is similar to the one in the Rules Chart under "hof" is the Blue "larger Sails" 4x one. If this means the ship can move four times its normal movement, it means the movement possibility is 1-12 spaces and this seems a bit fast. Another Tile that doesn't exist in the rules is the Green Verslun "Sunstone" which appears to have exactly the same benefit as the "Larger Sails" tile. That appears to be an "Oopsie!"
Your units can be transported by your Ship. You need to move the unit to the nearest Port and then swap places between your Ship model and the Unit model, the Ship going from your Player Board port icon to the port icon on the board where the character is and the character model being placed on yuor player board, not in their own base area but on the port icon to show that they are sailing. The player boards also show how many Resources, Units, Upgrades and Glory Points (VPs) you have. One really neat idea concerns moving your characters on the board, and that is if you have what is generally known as a contiguous "supply line" of owned areas then it only takes one card (ie one movement) to go from one of your owned areas to any of the other of your owned areas that are linked into this continuous line. This allows the one move Berserker to zip across a fair section of the board and makes the two steps of movement of the Trader and Godi quite powerful.
Combat is a non-action action. Basically you can move into any area, occupied by an opponent or not without attacking or being attacked. This means you can walk/move through these areas at no cost other than a card for movement. If you want to take the area you need to move a character model in with one disk more than is already in that area (count any Runes or bonuses for either side). There may be opposition disks in the area otherwise there is just the single Barbarian "militia" unit that comes with the territory. You need to equal the number of units in the area + 1 extra to stay behind to show you now own it. There are no cards played or dice rolled and the units need only be in the correct section of the Player's Personal Board (according to the character used). The units on the Player Boards can be replaced by units from supply by using the necessary resources, four of whatever is required according to the character type or the Trader can refill all other character's base areas on the Player Board. Apart from the player board each player has a double-sided reference sheet, but this gives just highly trimmed basic information that doesn't always comply with all of the other info available. Overtaking areas, collecting resources and mining gold are all ways of getting Victory points. Taking an area from another player gives more than taking an empty space over, but if you later lose that space you also lose the additional bonus. Generally players tend to just keep their exploring, mining and conquering to the areas around their Homa Base as much as they can rather than elect combat because of the cost in expensive to replace units and the loss of resources.
If you go onto Boardgamegeek.com you can find the English rules for Bardagi. The game already comes with these but if you can, as I did, print separate pages of the pdf file available there, it is a good idea to print off four sets of character pages plus ship and the Upgrade page. Staple these together in 5 page sets and you have a handy quick-reference for each player (the fifth player can use the pages from the rules book).
I have said that we believe the rules booklet is not particularly good, it's not even, as Dave Gorman might say "good-ish". This probably has a lot to do with the Swedish to English translation, but it also takes in the poor examples of play and the squashed, unclear photo examples and of course the confusion caused by the many discrepancies, some of which have been mentioned here. If our enjoyment problem isn't with the translation then it's the "by the numbers" gameplay, the confusions on the boards or perhaps the disappointment that the game has a wonderful visual appearance but its gameplay appears to have been rushed into completion to meet the demands of its Kickstarter campaign. Please note that is only an assumption by us and I say "appears to have been" because I don't know it to be a fact, it's just that to us it doesn't feel to be complete; there is so much in the box, so many great components, that we cannot believe the game itself should be as mundane as it plays. Our conclusions and notes (above) are written from the experience of playing the game out of the box, not by trawling online to find How To Play videos. Our belief is that a boxed boardgame should be playable and enjoyed by using the rules and components available in the box; in fact we believe strongly that if you have to find online videos on how to play then there is a problem with the boxed production.