original German edition of Battle Line
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This card game might be likened to a simultaneous 9-handed version of the children's game war, combined with poker. The result makes for a tense battle, both tactical and strategic.
Players take turns playing the cards they draw to form 3-card poker hands in front of each of the 9 "stones" in the game, trying to be the first to win 5 total or 3 adjacent stones by beating the opponent's corresponding poker hand. Clever bluffing and careful reasoning will carry the player with the greatest mettle to victory!
Average Rating: 4.1 in 13 reviews
Don't be fooled by the goofy drawings of enraged Scotsmen: Schotten-Totten is a great game.
When first reading about S-T, I was initially turned off by a misconception that it was some kind of retread of poker, as well as by the silly theme (why I would be eager to go bean farming but would balk at fighting Scotsmen is something I don't really have an answer for). However, I picked the game up anyway, and boy, am I glad I did.
As a card game, Schotten-Totten is quite unique, because in most other card games--gin, poker, hearts, spades, cribbage, bridge--your initial hand is the basis that to a greater or lesser extent dictates the rest of game play. S-T is different. Your initial hand is just a starting point, because you will eventually go through the whole deck and play almost every card you get. WHERE you play those cards is the question, and it is often an agonizing one.
If the game sounds chaotic or arbitrary, it's not (despite the drawing on the cover of the box). It's true that some early choices may have to be made on faith, but soon a distinct situation develops. A game of Schotten-Totten has a peculiar 'emerging' quality; there is a tentativeness in the beginning that slowly crystallizes into a pattern of clarity and inevitability.
There is lots to think about: the odds of getting the cards you need (and so richly deserve), how to keep your opponent from knowing where you're going to beat him, and where to play a card that could easily have a home in several different groups. Even after the game is over, we often find ourselves dissecting what happened, unraveling the decisions and saying 'If I had had that six earlier, I would have put the eight over here and...'. Schotten-Totten is also fascinating in that once the game is really underway, a card played by your opponent can force you to reevaluate your current situation and completely change your plans. On the flip side, there is a particular thrill in nonchalantly placing a card down that you know your opponent desperately wanted--and you know that he knows that you know that he wanted it.
Despite its simplicity, S-T is engrossing, and underneath its cartoon characters, it is elegant. For what it is--a twenty-minute card game--it surely deserves five stars.
On a side note, I have seen elsewhere that the game has been expanded with action cards a la Caesar and Cleopatra (a great game as well, of course) to create 'Battle Line'. I can't comment on a game I haven't played but it seems that action cards would only disrupt a brilliantly balanced game--a bit like playing chess on a greased board.
I am always on the lookout for a good 2 player game. This game is great fun even when you lose, because if you had only gotten that red three...
I highly recommend this game for anyone who wants to play a strategic, quick two-player game.
The illustrations on the cards are loads of fun too. Ever notice the Scotsmen are bigger and brawnier the higher number is on the card?
This is a game which utilizes probability, logic, and placement. (Fighting for the middle stones decrease the chance of three consecutive wins.) It is a game which is simple, yet with incredible depth. This game puts Lost Cities and Caesar and Cleopatra to complete shame. Battle Line, which is Schotten-Totten in serious garb, is a bit more luck dependent, but I must admit it's exciting. A friend of mine related that if you win the fourth and sixth stones, you are much more likely to win the game. I personally see the game as one of changing tactics and keeping your options open in as many places as possible. No doubt through, this is a game that will be played for quite some time.
As a student of gin rummy (Yes, there are books and stategy on the game. If you don't buy that, I'll meet you at Foxwoods for $1.00 a point.) I see many of the tactics of card manipulation brought true in this game. There is also opportunity of bluff and stategic placement. Some say that the rummy line of games actually sprang from poker; this game illustrates this. This can be a 'beer and pretzels' game, but I have seen two highly rated chess players deep in thought at it also. I honestly would rate this with Bridgette, Piquet, Sixty-Six and Gin Rummy as one of the best two handed card games made. While the kilts, bagpipes and shortbread may hide the great possibilities of the game, it adds color and an atmosphere of fun.
This one is my wife's new all-time favorite, and it's becoming one of mine. It's one of those games that's awfully simple, but has deep strategies that sneak up on you.
It'll take a couple of plays before you get used to the play of the game, because this game is much more about timing than making good poker hands. You must carefully figure when to place certain cards and 'tip your hand' as to what you are playing. Also important is being able to 'grab a rock' when you have a chance by proving that your opponent cannot beat your hand, thus removing a spot for him to play cards.
FWIW, the theme is completely incidental to the game, and could have just as easily been pirates and treasures or dogs and steaks, so there's really not much to say there. The card-art is cute, and the cards themselves are high-quality.
Now if I can just convince my wife to play something else when we go out :)
It's about as Scottish as Keilbasa, but it's an entertaining card game. Bluff, luck and tactics combine for a game that can require considerable depth. With the lighthearted theme and the absurd premise, you might forget that this game is one more example of Knizia's genius. Sometimes to enjoy a great game you have to leave your brains on first base and try running for home!
This game is a good variant of Lost Cities; and NO it's not doubling up if you buy it (if you already have Lost Cities); it has more thinking involved than Lost Cities. The decisions are even harder to make as there are many more possibilities and avenues for error. It's been a while since I've found an addictive game. It's damned good.
though in fact Schotten Totten was first, and Battle Line a subsequent development for GMT, so S-T can't fairly be criticised for being a duplicate.
But Battle Line is probably the better buy, as you can play S-T rules simply by removing the tactics cards from the game and having a 6 card hand. The bits are nicer as well. You can't play Battle Line with a S-T set, though.
S-T scores on price *if* you're buying in Europe, and the box fits in a pocket which is handy. But if you're buying in North America Battle Line appears clearly the much better buy.
But S-T still deserves 4 stars if you come across a copy at a German sort of price, and don't have Battle Line. It's a great wee game.
Schotten-Totten is an interesting game if you're looking for something that won't take an hour or two. It involves some luck, but still requires considerable skill. In fact, I had hoped that my 7 year old would be able to catch on, but she's having some trouble and needs adult assistance or else her sister (11) creams her.
About the translation of the instructions... being fluent in German I can work off the original instructions and not the added sheet. One thing they 'skipped' in the translation, probably because it isn't Politically Correct these days to make a joke about anyone:
The Germans often have a unique way of determining who begins the first hand/round of a given game. Let's now add that the Scots have a reputation for being, well, frugal. So I laughed out loud when I read in the German (rough translation follows): "Determine who starts. (Because we're in Scotland, naturally the person who plays first is the one with the least amount of money in the purse they're carrying around with them; for subsequent games, the winner of the previous hand starts off)." Nice to see that some people still have a sense of humor.
There is a little more luck than I had hoped in this game. If you're looking for a light filler game, this could do it--however it can get boring quite quickly if you play it often, as there isn't much variation from one game to the next. The strategy of when to play which card always leaves you with a decision which is not always strategic. Artwork is good and can be fun.
Schotten-Totten is a two-player game in which you are essentially playing nine poker hands simultaneously. To make things easier, the hands are only three cards in size, and all cards on the table are visible to both players.
Not that this is how the game describes itself, because the theme is about two Scottish clans fighting over nine monoliths and the various possible poker hands have unintuitive names suggesting groups of clansmen. Still, like almost all Reiner Knizia games, you can safely ignore the theme and treat the game as an abstract entity. Which is what I'll do in this review.
The nine stones are laid out in a row between the players, who are dealt six cards each from the deck (containing six suits of cards from 1 to 9). Now each player in turn plays a card from his or her hand in front of one of the nine stones, and takes a replacement card from the deck. You can only put up to three cards in front of each stone.
Once both players have placed three cards by one stone, the two groups of three cards are examined as if they were reduced-size poker hands. Straight flushes beat everything, followed by three of a kind, followed by flush, then straight, then the highest sum of cards becomes the tie-breaker. The winner gets to keep the stone.
It is possible to claim a stone before your opponent has placed three cards on his or her side of the stone, if you can prove (using other cards already played on the table) that you cannot possibly lose the stone. Sometimes this is very important, as it can help you to win the game under some circumstances.
The game finishes when one player has taken five of the nine stones, or when one player has taken three stones in a row. It is this latter rule that makes placement of your sets of cards important.
And that's the game. In play, it feels very much like Lost Cities, with a little of a rummy element (despite the poker scoring, Schotten-Totten doesn't really have much of the feel of that game). Because you have seemingly more ways to win a stone, there is an illusion of you having more control over the game's outcome than in Lost Cities, which can occasionally be dreadfully luck-affected. Nevertheless, it is an illusion, and you really have far fewer choices than it seems: either you draw the card you need (and you will likely win), or your opponent does (and you will almost certainly lose). In the end, Schotten-Totten plays more like Lost Cities than it would initially seem.
The rules suggest that you play several hands - each of which can be played in ten minutes - and keep a cumulative score to determine the eventual winner. This is good advice given the large luck element.
For a light two-player card game, Schotten-Totten hits the mark perfectly. If you enjoy Lost Cities, you will enjoy this one, but stay away from both if you dislike games that can be dominated by chance.
I was looking for a 2 player stocking-stuffer game, as my husband and I are avid gamers, and thought I had found it here. However, to my disappointment after reading the instructions this game is pratically an exact duplicate of Battle Line, which we had purchased a few years before. The game concept is great, but Battle Line is the winner for delivering the whole package, in my opinion, as it has some variation cards that makes the game more interesting (Not to mention Battle Line may be several dollars cheaper).
Looking for an interesting, fairly quick-paced 2 player card game (with poker type rules)- Battle Line gets my vote.
I don't find this game very intriguing even as an inexpensive two player filler. It combines laying down a poker hand with a bit of timing. No real thrill here. On the plus side, the cards and artwork are of top quality.
For a small, cheap 2+ player filler check out another Reiner Knizia offering Zirkus Flohcati (Flea Circus).
In this compact game, fiery Scotsmen are fighting over nine "boundary stones" to control a field. You win by capturing five stones, or any three adjacent ones. The deck has 54 cards, numbered 1 to 9 in six colors. You place one card per turn from your hand on your side of any stone. When both players have played three cards to a stone, the higher pokerlike set controls it. A clever twist allows you to take control of a stone earlier if you can prove that your cards cannot be beaten; this denies your opponent the chance to discard bad cards to a "lost" stone. This wee masterpiece from Dr. Knizia, full of tough decisions, bluff, and tight calculation, is a fighting winner, laddie!
Well, it looks as though all the good game themes have been taken. In case you should doubt this, let me tell you that the theme of this card game involves Scottish clans quarreling over a bunch of stones in a pasture. Perfectly bizarre, and we can't even blame the Y2K bug for it. Fortunately, this veneer is easily ignored, and what is left is yet another interesting game creation from the ever prolific Reiner Knizia.
Schotten-Totten is played with a 54 card deck consisting of six suits composed of cards numbered 1 through 9. There are also nine boundary-stone cards, which are the objectives of the contest. I'll refer to these henceforth as stones. At the beginning of the game, the nine stones are laid out in a horizontal row between the players. Each player receives six cards to make up his beginning hand.
Players alternate turns. During his turn, a player selects one of his cards and places it face up on his side of one of the stones. He then ends his turn by drawing a card from the deck. When the deck is depleted, players continue taking their turns without drawing any cards. Most likely, the game will end before this occurs.
No more than three cards can be placed on each side of a stone. The object is to win the stones by having the higher three-card hand there. If I may be allowed to use Poker terminology, the ranking of the hands is as follows:
- Straight Flush
- Three of a Kind
- Everything Else
Before playing a card, a player can claim a stone if he has the higher hand there, or if he can show, using only the cards on the table, that it is impossible for his opponent to beat his hand. Once a stone is claimed, no further cards can be played there. The object of the game is to be the first player to claim three consecutive stones or five of the nine stones.
Schotten-Totten is a pleasant mix of the studious and the chaotic. With only a six card hand and a new card drawn each turn, it's impossible to plan very far ahead. The key is to keep your options open as much as possible and to maintain as much flexibility as you can.
The rules state this is a tactical card game, and that is indeed the main focus of the contest. Much of the strategy revolves around the fact that the first player who commits to a stone is at a considerable disadvantage. If the card is a low one, you've limited how high that hand can be and your opponent can plan accordingly; if the card is a high one, your opponent might give up on the stone and you will have wasted a good card. Committing one card is bad; committing two cards, which basically locks in the type of hand it can be, is worse. Whoever has to commit first on the key stones before he has the cards to ensure victory will probably lose, unless he has overwhelmingly better cards.
But while tactics are important, a player who ignores the strategic aspect of this game cannot win. The problem is that you'll eventually have to commit to a stone sooner or later; knowing where and how to commit is therefore crucial. The center stones give the greatest opportunity for three-in-a-row wins, so they have offensive and defensive importance. Thus if you commit there, you'd better have a very good hand to place there or one which has an excellent chance of being one. (Most stones are won with Straight Flushes or Three of a Kinds; don't count on a mere Flush winning a center stone.) Early plays are often on stones near the ends, both because you may not have sufficiently good cards to play on the center stones and because you don't wish to commit (there's that word again!) yet on the important battleground. Although they usually seem innocuous, the initial plays of a hand set the tone for the contest and are often crucial.
One of the clever design touches is the fact that claiming a stone prevents your opponent from playing any further cards there. At almost all times, your hand will consist of cards you are desperately trying to avoid playing (don't want to commit, trying to maintain flexibility, all that good stuff), as well as cards that you've concluded are worthless, primarily based on which cards have already been played. Thus, you'd like to play the latter cards and hang on to the former. The problem is, where to play them? Whatever stone they are played on will likely be lost. Play such cards on the same stone and your opponent can gain a cheap win (probably by using some of his lousy cards). Spread them around and you risk giving up too many stones. The proper tactic is to play them on a stone that your opponent has won anyway. If your opponent can claim this stone, he will deprive you of one or two "waste" plays, plays which let you delay playing the cards you don't want to play. If you can conclude where the lost battles are, you can dump at least one of your waste cards on each of them, which might force your opponent to play a card he'd rather not. Such struggles can often decide the game.
The game is full of such nice touches, which gradually emerge after repeated plays, in the manner for which Knizia games are renowned. The basic feel of the game is similar to Reibach & Co.; each play is important and demands consideration, but not brainbusting analysis. Luck clearly plays a role and, on rare occasions, dominates play; but on most hands, it seems that the player who best takes advantage of the cards he draws will win. The gameplay itself is quite unique; although there's nothing particularly revolutionary about the design, I don't think I've ever played a game quite like it. The end result is quite satisfying, particularly for those who want a game to be involving without being consuming. Knizia scores yet again; now if he can only manage to stay away from those spare rib and sauerkraut meals before retiring at night to dream of new game themes. Recommended.
SWD: Quite so: the theme is artificial and more than a little patronising. The name goes further and makes it into the realms of the offensive. My dictionary gives the phrase "Sie benehmen sich wie die Hottentotten.", translated as "They behave like savages." and exactly the same insulting usage of the word "Hottentots" exists in English, and has done for two centuries. You would have thought that a company with a name like ASS would have suffered enough on their own account to make them more careful.