Review – Brawling Barons from Fryx Games

Review – Brawling Barons from Fryx Games

Designers – Jonathan and Benjamin Fryxelius

Art – Daniel, Benjamin and Isaac Fryxelius

They say that good things come in small packages. Well Essen Spiel has lots of room for games of all sizes and maybe its just my observation, but it surely seemed that there were a lot of card games on offer as new releases.

Another game that I picked up at Essen was Brawling Barons, from Fryx Games, a card game for 2-3 players age 10+. And it was only 5 Euros, so why not?

From the Fryx Games website –

The king encourages all barons to expand their domains as new land is conquered. To gain favor in his eyes, each baron must show his worth by constructing buildings and thus increase the splendor of the kingdom, or by supporting the king in the war with military units. With the king’s eyes fixed on the frontlines, he probably wouldn’t notice your sharp elbow in your neighbour’s side… right?

What do you get with Brawling Barons?

Very simply, you get a pack of 54 cards including –

Rules cards

Building cards

People cards

Military cards

The art is cartoony and fun which immediately tells you that this is not a game that is trying to take itself too seriously. The images are clear and colourful, the icons are a reasonable size and the card quality is good.

Royal Aid Card
Peasants can be upgraded to various buildings, each with its own benefits
Action cards are few but are very useful
Military units can be upgraded

Many of the cards are combinations of  people (workers or military) and buildings.They have icons which show –

1. Bonus/Strength

2. Unit Name

3. Card cost/Health

4. Unit Type

5. Upgrade/Effect

You also get Action cards which provide some nice benefits, as well as Royal Aid Cards which give a game balancing benefit to the player who is most behind (thereby dealing with any runaway leader problem due to the draw of the cards).

Game Play overview

Brawling Barons has very simple very conditions. You basically earn 1 victory point for each building card in your town and 2 points each for every military card in the King’s Army. Whoever has the most points when the draw deck is finished wins.

The Map is important to mention here. Each player players their cards in a specific area of the table. Effectively each player is building and populating their own town. in the area of the table closest to them, then placing their military units on the “Wall” which is the area closer to the other players and/or in the King’s Army next to their town. A Market of 3 cards from the draw deck is set out so all can see.

The players take one of the following actions each turn –

Gather Resources – You can collect 1 resource plus more that you have earned due to placing cards in your town that give you a resource bonus. Now maybe other games have this mechanism, but I’ve never come across it. You see, when you elect to take resources, you take cards from the draw deck and place them on your side of the table, face down. When you spend the resource cards, you put them on top of the draw deck, face down. What a simple, yet effective way to build resources into the game without needing extra cards, chits, etc. this is an excellent mechanic.

Draw Cards – You can draw 1 card plus more that you have earned due to placing cards in your town that give you a draw bonus.

Market – You can choose a card from the Market (replacing it with another from the draw deck).

Recruit – You can play peasants or squires from your hand as long as you can pay the resource cost. There are initial limitations on how many people and soldiers you can have but that can increase as you play cards which give you recruitment bonuses.

Upgrade – Upgrade by rotating cards that have been played into your town as long as you can play the resource cost.

Move – All your Military units can move one step ( from the town to the Wall or from the Wall to the King’s Army. You can’t move in reverse.

Attack – you can use Military units to attack your opponent. You can attack cards in the town itself, if there are no Military cards on the wall to defend. Otherwise, you must attack the defending cards.

Play an action card – There aren’t many, but these cards can be a very useful option.

The game ends when the Draw Deck finishes. And, in another clever little mechanic, if the scores are tied, the first tied person to the left of the player who drew the last card wins. So you will think a bit before deciding to finish off the draw deck. I like that mechanism a lot as well as it causes you to make sure you are happy about your position before going to shut things down.

It takes a little while to get used to the cards and icons and how best to use them but it works very well. The process moves along very quickly once you get the hang of it. Essentially, you will find yourself balancing your choices. You will start by getting resources so you can recruit and upgrade. How many resources you will get onto your side of the table is up to you. You will soon notice that there will be an ebb and flow to the size of the Draw deck as you will be pulling resources and paying them back. The key is to decide when you think you’ve got a large enough amount of Victory points.

I LOVE Brawling Barons!

Wow, for a 5 Euro card game, Brawling Barons is a MUST BUY!

It is fast playing, relatively to learn, has some clever, user friendly mechanisms and there is a LOT of meat on the bones in terms of decision making. How far do I go to build, whilst making sure that I keep getting the resource, people and card draw bonuses? And what about defending my wall and shifting soldiers into the King’s Army to score points. Ghaggghh!!!! Plenty to think about and choose in such a simple game of 54 cards.

Its very easy to get drawn into focusing on building resources and buildings. I think that the trick is to get a good military force going with a mix of attacking your opponents to make sure they can’t build too many building, but most importantly, you must get soldiers into the King’s Army to score victory points.

This is a tightly designed, well playtested game which simply “rocks” in my opinion. A welcome change from the overly simplistic games out there as well as the overly complicated Euros, in particular. Teaching non-gamers would be a little tricky if they are just used to simplistic social games. Make no mistake, Brawling Barons is definitely a strategy game and will probably appeal more to “seasoned” gamers because of the balance of decision making. Its not a game you play for laughs. This is a step up into competitive gaming.

With 1 deck you can play with 2-3 players. It is suggested that you can add another deck for every extra 2 players. If I’m honest, I think that I personally wouldn’t want to add more than 2-3 players as that’s long enough to play this game. I love it as a 2-player game.

Overall, this is one of the “Best Buys” coming out of Essen, especially at the price and I heartily recommend that you should get a copy. NOW!

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