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original German edition of Battle Line

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 20 minutes 2

Designer(s): Reiner Knizia

Manufacturer(s): ASS

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Product Description

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!

Product Awards

International Gamers Awards
Best 2-Player Game Nominee, 2000

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Reiner Knizia

  • Manufacturer(s): ASS

  • Year: 1999

  • Players: 2

  • Time: 20 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Weight: 129 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. An English translation of the rules is provided.

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.1 in 13 reviews

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by Joe G
Bust out your kilts.
May 09, 2001

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.

A fun quick game of strategy and luck.
March 23, 2001

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?

Game of cut-throat tactics and logic. A Classic!
March 23, 2001

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.

Fun and a taste of genius.
February 16, 2001

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.

Great quickie. Surprisingly deep for its simplicity.
February 05, 2001

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 :)

Knizia's Kilted Kards are a Keeper!
January 19, 2001

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!

by Tash
If you like Lost Cities, you'll like this one
August 09, 2000

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.

It is indeed Battle Line all over again
January 28, 2003

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.

Missing item in English translation of instructions
January 14, 2001

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.

A light quick game
January 25, 2001

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.

Lost Cities meets Poker
November 14, 1999

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.

by Nikki
Same Game as Battle Line -- Battle Line Better
January 02, 2003

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.

by Kevin
Take your clan elsewhere.
January 09, 2001

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).

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