revised version of Schotten-Totten
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Battle Line is a card game of "capture the flags" using an ancient battle formation theme. It plays like rummy or poker, is easy to learn, and has strategy and the ability to provide surprises to your opponent. The leaders of both sides direct forces along the battle line to gain tactical advantages. The first player to win three adjacent Flags or any five Flags is the winner. Based on Reiner Knizia's original design published in Germany as Schotten-Totten, Battle Line enhances and expands the game with more options and fun.
- 60 Troop cards
- 10 Tactics cards
- 9 red wooden pawns
Average Rating: 4.4 in 40 reviews
I reviewed this game as Schotten-Totten and Battleline years ago. The edition of Scotten totten was the basic game, which was simple, straightforward Battleline added some cards which, at first may be seen as simply window dressing, but once remembered and understood, they become part of the planning and strategy of the game. They actually add a depth and color to the game. It also has an excellent replay value.
We have played hundreds of games. We're usually more into board games than card games, but this has the strategic thinking and "feel" of a good board game for two. I'd say this is one of the best two-player games for those with a competitive nature and affinity for games beyond the typical Monopoly and Clue. Yet, even those who prefer the classics will love this one once they read through the rules and play it a time or two. It is addictive and has a completely new scenario each time, so very replayable.
Battleline is a clever little card game for two players by Reiner Knizia (Tigris and Euphrates, Amun Re, Dragonland, Ra, Lord of the Rings and many, many more). Battleline is a redesign of the original game by Knizia called Schotten Totten, and even though this second version is very different it is this one, of the two, that feels more natural.
In Battleline players compete to seize ‘flags’, of which there are nine, through the building of powerful regiments – the placing of Troop cards with different values. Like in poker different sets of cards are more powerful than others, the object is to build a set behind a flag that will beat the set, or formation, that your opponent is building.
Battleline is a quick game that is extremely simple but surprisingly deep. The addition of the Tactics cards, which give the person playing them a special bonus or advantage, means the game has a re-playability that is rare for a game so small. The theme of Battleline is warfare in antiquity, particularly focussing on the regimented, formation-based combats of Alexander the Great and Darius III. You will not be replaying the battle of Issus, the siege of Tyre of any of the great battles of the period through this game, but the theme of formation based phalanx warfare sits amazingly well with the mechanics of the game. If a player manages to seize three adjacent flags that player’s army has achieved a Breakthrough, and wins the game. If, on the other hand, they manage to seize five flags (without getting three adjacent), the battle has been particularly long and gruelling, and the player’s army has achieved, finally, an Envelopment, which will also result in a victory.
It is not the victory mechanics that make this game so interesting, although they certainly form a large part of the game, it is the play mechanic itself - play a card behind one of the nine flags and pick up a card, it doesn’t sound like it could hide too much complexity, but it does. There may be nine flags, but it is easy to put yourself into a corner by filling up too many too swiftly, it is easy to play your formations too soon and give your opponent more time to counter them, it is hard to decide sometimes how to play a hand – to wait on one of a particular couple of cards, or to go with a weaker formation but one you have already. In fact it is in balancing the need to get rid of cards, to play cards and to draw cards that the game derives its tactical depth and in-game tension. Battleline is a game filled with tension, there is always more that you want to be able to do than you can do, you want to be playing cards, you need to be drawing cards, you are hoping against hope that the next card you do pick up will help out the formation you played earlier, you want Tactics cards, but if you take them you won’t be able to draw a Troop card. So many agonizing choices spiced with a touch of risk taking and a dash of luck all rolled up into a 20 to 30 minute card game; that is the beauty of Battleline.
Battleline manages to unite simplicity, depth and variation of play in a way that is rare and surprising for a game of its size and length. It is a real pleasure to play, and for a game that has had its theme changed significantly from its original incarnation, it is remarkably thematic and feels quite natural.
This game is a remaking of an older Knitzia title with the addition of a few special cards. As far as depth is concerned, this is a very strategic game which is why I gave it 5 stars.
If you are looking for something a little bit lighter, I would recommend Lost Cities which is also a fantastic 2-player card game by Knitzia.
Lost Cities is the one two-player game that my wife loves, and the one that I’ve had the most success teaching. But my personal favorite, the one that I’m most enthralled with, is Battle Line. Known by many as Schotten Totten, Battle Line is the exact same game with only a different theme and some special cards added. Either way, I was thrilled to hear that GMT was reprinting the game last year, so gladly picked up a copy when it was available.
Maybe part of the reason I like Battle Line so much is that it’s all about numbers. It has a slight flavor of poker; but the things I enjoy the most about it are the proofs, when you can successfully show your opponent that they cannot win a specific battle. Perhaps some people won’t like the math overtones of the game, and the fact that the theme is an obvious paste on. But I will contend that it’s Knizia’s best two-player game; and that although luck plays a decent-sized role, that skillful play will result in victory. If you’re looking for a fairly quick, intriguing two-player game, I can’t recommend Battle Line highly enough.
A deck of sixty “Troop” cards is shuffled, composed of six suits - each numbered one to ten. Players are dealt seven of these cards, along with one Tactics card (from a shuffled deck of ten.) Nine wooden pawns (flags) are placed in a row between players, and one player is chosen to go first, with play alternating thereafter. On a turn, a player may play a Tactics card, which has some sort of special effect but may only play one more Tactics card than their opponent has. Usually, however, a player will play one of the Troop cards adjacent to one of the flags on their side. Players are trying to make “formations” of cards in one of the following ways, ranked from highest to lowest.
- Three cards of the same color with consecutive values,
- Three cards with the same value,
- Three cards of the same color,
- A “straight” of three (i.e. “4”, “5”, “6”)
- Anything else.
If the players have two of the same ranked formation, the formation with higher numbers is the winner; ties are lost by the person who played the last card.
Before a player’s turn, they may claim flags if possible. If they have a completed formation of three cards by any flag, and it is higher than the opponent’s formation; or they can prove (with cards already played) that their opponent cannot make a higher formation, they claim the flag, moving it to their side of the table. If a player claims three flags in a row, or five flags total, they win the game (or hand).
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: GMT isn’t the highest bastion of quality, and this game isn’t an exception. The cards look nice but are rather thin, making them vulnerable to repeated play. The “flags” are red wooden pawns, which are functional, although knowing how far to space them on the table can be a pain - I prefer the card rocks from Schotten Totten. The box for the game is a good size and fairly sturdy, although it’s rather large for the game. When traveling, I take all the pieces out and store them in a much smaller box. Still, with all these minor complaints, the game is relatively inexpensive, although I’ve seen it sold out in several places.
2.) Rules: The rules are pretty clear with a lot of examples to explain exactly what formations beat other formations. I still have a complaint about this, as a reference card would be extremely helpful to new players. I have my own reference cards that I’ve made up, but it would have been nice for GMT to include it in the game. The game is easy to teach, although new players will find it a bit daunting when first playing. Where should you put your first card?
3.) Luck: Shortly before I typed this interview, I played a couple games with my wife for fun. I told her happily before playing that I had lost the game only once - upon which she proceeded to thrash me. So to keep my honor intact, I declared the game full of luck. And in all seriousness, there is a decent amount of luck in the game - comparable to that in Lost Cities. But I will contend that a superior player will win most of the time and that there is the room for a lot of options here. Yes, sometimes you’ll draw the card you need the turn after you played another card in that spot, but I think the game is fun because of that - rather than despite it.
4.) Tactics: At first, I steadfastly resisted using the Tactics cards. I had just migrated over to Battle Line from Schotten Totten, which doesn’t have Tactic cards, and I thought they diluted the game. So I refused to play them, limiting my opponent to only one per game. But then I saw how useful that one card could be, even though I prided myself on winning the games anyway. And eventually I started using them and found that while they added some chaos to the game, making it feel less “pure” to me that they were actually fun. The rule about a player only able to play one more than their opponent is rather nice and adds a little bit of checks and balances to the game.
5.) Proofs and Fun Factor: For me, the ability to have fairly perfect knowledge in the game and proving that the opponent cannot win a specific flag is a tremendous thrill. I’ve found that the game is useful in teaching introductory logic to kids, as this game uses a lot of it. But the game isn’t simply logic, as there are a lot of risk taking moves; watching what your opponent does both in their moves and the reactions on their face is incredibly important.
Not everyone I play this game with “gets it”, therefore keeping it from being a “10” in my book. Still, it’s my absolute favorite two-player game to pull out, and I’ve played it more than any game in the Kosmos two-player line (except Lost Cities). I give it high praise; and if you liked Lost Cities, this is the next step in the natural progression. Battle Line was out of print for a while, and high demand finally brought back a second printing. Get a copy of it now before it goes out of print again!
“Real men play board games.”
This game is seemingly easy to play, however, the more you get into it, the more you discover subtleties that make the game more interesting.
One of the things that I learned real quick is to hold your cards and not expose your plays early in the game. Especially when most tactics cards are not played. The other element that is involved is feinting and deceiving. A pleyer could arrange a line in a seeming winining combination to try to spread an oponent's resources.
This game has many engaging possibilities and it continues to challenge me every time I play. Contrary to other reviewers, I promote using the tactics cards since they bring an element of surprise.
This is quite simply a BRILLIANT game!
It's simple enough to be taught quickly and yet requires a lot of strategic thinking. 'Battle Line' is one hell of a tense game which effectively captures the concept of ancient western warfare where the object was to rupture the enemy's battle line. The presentation is superb and it is highly addictive. What more could you want? I really can't recommend this enough, it's a masterpiece.
This is one of the best two-player games on the market. It's one of those you can put on the back shelf for awhile and when you dig it out it's exciting all over again. But why couldn't GMT have given us some decent art? The line drawings of Roman soldiers in rather undynamic positions are extremely unattractive. And why couldn't the little markers have been miniture towers or something. Other than the bland presentation this is one heck of a game.
The special cards in Schotten-Totten do more than just adds chance to the game, in fact, once remembered, you must plan ahead for them. The game becomes a tense nailbiting contest. It certain gives you the feel of the rank and file breaking up due to chaos.
I'm not sure though if you can really get the spirit of the game until you play Schotten-Totten first. I once listened to two gin rummy expects (The best examples of men who need to find a K-Mard with a Blue-Light special on a life!) Explain to me the probabilities and chances involved in the game.
To be honest, I think the soul of the game is to keep your options open and avoid committing a pattern to the last play. Both great games...
I can't think of a better short 2-player card game! Everyone I've played this game with totally loves it. Even the ladies have loved this game in spite of the militaristic theme. Battle Line will cause you utter anguish as you approach the end, having to decide which formations you are going to give up on.
There is a lot of luck, but that is balanced by plenty of tactical decisions which you make as the game progresses. I think this game is far superior to Lost Cities, primarily because of the Tactics cards. The Tactics cards allow you to throw some major curve balls at your opponent; but make sure you read the brief description for each Tactic card carefully.
You can finish a game is 30 minutes. Battle Line is a sure bet for a reasonable price. Reiner Knizia is the master.
As has been said many times, Battle Line is Schotten-Totten with special action cards. This route is always a little treacherous, as just adding some variance doesn't always improve the game. In this case, though, it takes a fairly bland and flavorless original and turns it into a very nice little game. Battle Line manages to tread the fine line between having enough enough variability to make it interesting, but not so much as to make it frustrating.
So if you thought that Titan: The Arena was a big improvement over Grand National Derby, Battle Line is highly recommended. I actually liked it a lot more than Lost Cities--which is a game with a very similar feel, but Battle Line has a lot more choices and more interesting stuff going on. And with the new, lower price, Battle Line is very nice value.
I usually play multi-player games and seldom play head-to-head games. I bought this game due to the theme (of ancient military), but I am glad that I have bought it. It is a game of strategy and calculation, though there is the factor of luck. The game mechanism provides enough flexibility for players to manipulate the luck of drawing the cards. The addition of tactic cards adds the element of surprise to the game.
The game requires the player's total concentration, not just on formulating his/her own strategy, but also on the action of the opponent. The simplicity in the rules plus the complexity in strategy is comparable to chess, so I think this game would be a classic.
I love this game! Here's why. First of all, the theme and the game play are very related. Just as in Fast Food Franchise I find myself thinking and talking in economic terms; in this game I find myself talking in military terminology. 'I am forming a defensive point,' 'I am trying to break through on the flank,' and so on. Secondly, I love the idea of proving that you won. It makes you really pay attention to what your opponent is doing, making a truly interactive game. It makes you really think. Lastly, I am surprised every time I play. The game ends in some unpredictable way. Did I run out of slots, forcing myself to play losing cards? Did I go for too many wedges (the best and most difficult to make formations) or not enough? Did I use my tactical cards well?
The only alteration we have made in the rules is that we put a limit on drawing one tactic card when using the scout tactic card. Otherwise, we found it got unbalanced when one player got more tactic cards than the other player since the tactic cards are so strong. A great game as usual from Reiner Knizia. I recommend his other games as well, like [page scan/se=0630/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Through the Desert and Lost Cities. I have yet to try a game by him that I did not enjoy, but this one I think is the best!
Being a big fan of Schotten-Totten, I was uneasy about this game which took such a clean and logical game of skill and added bells and whistles. The fact is that the tactics cards add another dimension of skill to this game. Those who say this is 'Schotten-Totten with chaos' can't have played a serious round of both games. Battle Line stands now not as a souped up version of Schotten-Toten anymore than Contact Bridge is just Whist with a few gimmicks. It is an outstanding game in it's own right. GMT and the game world should recognize that Battle Line has all the potential of being a classic. In the world of commercial two handed games (yes, even counting the venerable Bridgette), I can't think of a better product.
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 game as often as I can (which isn't often enough). When I'm not gaming, I sometimes read game reviews. I want to address one complaint about Battle Line that is only indirectly addressed here.
Battle Line adds tactics cards which alter the normal game rules for a given battle. Many have called this an unwelcome element of luck. I disagree. In Schotten-Totten you often have a card in your hand which will win a battle, but why play it? What is the rush? There was no way your opponent could win that hand.
For example if my opponent has two 1's in a column the best he could do in Schotten-Totten is three 1's. The bar has been set and it cannot be altered. If I have two 2's in the same column I can close out that column by playing a third 2. But maybe (and this is likely the case) I am on the verge of losing in another column. I need to play a card there now. So instead of playing my 2 I'll play cards in other columns which will provide more immediate halp. As I said earlier, what is the rush?
In Battle Line this luxury does not exist. If you see you can close out a column you must weigh the possiblity that your opponent will play a tactics card and turn the tables on you. The old saying 'one in the hand is better than two in bush' makes a lot of sense when playing Battle Line. I find myself agonizing over whether I should close out a column now or play cards which may allow me to win two columns later. Good stuff.
All in all I am continually impressed by this fantastic game. I'd say it is a filler since it only takes 10 minutes to play, but it seems much too deep to be a filler.
I own both Schotten-Totten and Battle Line. I love the pure game of Schotten-Totten, but Battle Line is an excellent game in its own right and I think both games deserve a place on a gamer's shelf. The tactic cards and the impressive artwork of Battle Line give the game a serious flavor. I hope GMT continues updating these European Games. So far I have played Ivanhoe and Battle Line, and both are excellent. I will soon be ordering Galaxy: The Dark Ages. I have a copy of Titan: The Arena, but my group was never quite sure we were playing it right. It's easier to split the atom with a toothbrush than to understand those directions. Battle Line is well produced and a great value, and I'm sure the rest of this series is also.
A co-worker and I have been playing Battle Line during lunch hours. We find it to be perfect for that time frame for several reasons. First, it plays in an honest 30 minutes (or less), so we never feel pressed for time. Also, it provides just the right amount of mental challenge: enough to be interesting, but not so much as to be tiring. The game requires considerable thought at times, but has enough luck that winning or losing can't be taken too seriously.
As has been noted by another reviewer, Battle Line is Schotten-Totten with extra cards that introduce some uncertainty. Personally, I think the Tactics cards are a good idea. They mean there is no sure thing, and can give some hope to the player who otherwise seems to be behind. We now always play with the variant rule that forces a player to declare victory for a particular flag at the beginning of his turn. This allows the Tactics cards to really come into their own, as they can now be used to turn around a seemingly hopeless situation. In other words, the Tactics cards spice things up. Without them I believe the game would still be interesting but somewhat dry, especially after repeated playings.
The artwork by Rodger MacGowan is first rate and its style is well suited to the theme. The wooden pawns used as objective flags are also a nice touch.
All in all, another excellent game by Reiner Knizia that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Highly recommended.
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!
A great game with just the right amout of luck and skill. It also has just the right amount to keep you thinking at all times and the ability to make your friend really upset with you.
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.
Battle Line / Schotten Totten is a fine game.
However, we play variant that combines both versions, changes one key point:
- Seven card hand, as in Battle Line
- No blasted tactics cards!
- Claim at end of turn (not quite same as beginning, but not a big deal either way without tactics cards, and slightly simpler)
- Remove the 10s.
- BIG CHANGE: You can play on a taken spot. Yes, you can't ruin opponent's day take early win somewhere. But lets you plan much more how to play out your hand.
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.
An addendum to the other comments regarding Schotten Totten: note that there isn't really any point getting Schotten Totten as well, even if lots of people say it is worth owning both. And that's because you can play the Schotten Totten rules with a Battle Line set, simply by removing the tactics cards and playing with one less card in a hand.
The 'theme', such as it is in either version, is really not worth worrying over getting the older game, so unless you're paying European prices, just stick with this one.
This is a good, 2-player game that definitely has that, 'let's play just one more' feel to it.
My only criticism is that usually by the middle of the game, your situation can pretty much be a foregone conclusion. As flags get taken by both sides, the options of where to play your cards dwindles, and you're often forced to ruin your developing positions by playing bad cards because you're stuck waiting for the right one. Of course, your opponent is faced with the same situation, so both players end up relying on the luck of the draw to prevail.
I think this could be alleviated somewhat by allowing players to hold 8 or 9 cards in their hand, instead of just 7. Having more information in your hand would allow you to better plan and execute strategies. We're going to give that a try and see if it helps.
Overall, I still give this game an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Despite my one criticism, it's still fun to play, and is accessible to any level of gamer.
Battle Line is a fun game, but not really worth 5 stars. It is right in line with similar games, for example Lost Cities or Ivanhoe. Not too hard, has some depth, a good dose of luck, and quality components.
Frankly, I'm not very good at it, but still am very willing to play it. In my mind, it is very similar to Lost Cities, where the strength of your cards determines the winner, nothing more complicated than that. It just uses poker hands to do make those determinations. The tactics cards add some unpredicablity and should be used sparingly. I like using them, but they open the door to getting hammered by them, too.
The game does draw you into it, leaving you thinking how you would play things differently the next game, pushing you to take risks, rewarding you at times, punishing you at others. If you enjoy these types of games, Battle Line may be just the game for you, too.
I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this game. Even my wife will play this one with me (rare event, believe me). Like others have said, there's definitely a poker element to the game. It is related to Schotten-Totten (you can easily play a version of the game with this set) but the play of the new Tactics cards give the game a whole new element and truly lift it up a notch. Two good players exploring all the strategies will probably complete a game in about 45 minutes and it will be a very good time spent.
This is my third purchase of GMT's new [page scan/se=0876/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]European Game series and I haven't been disappointed yet. GMT has set themsleves high standards with the production value on all of their 'Euro' games (see also Ivanahoe and Galaxy). In keeping with a military theme, the artwork is outstanding and I wanted to play right away.
The cards consist of 6 suits of 10 cards each, valued from 1 to 10. There are also ten 'tactics' card that allow further manipulation of basic rules and set them up as spoilers. The cards have various miltary pictures on them which ties together a good theme.
The object of the game is to capture flags that are laid out between the players. This is similar to the slots on the 'board' in Lost Cities. Anyway, play alternates as players place cards in turn in front of each flag to a maximum of three cards per flag. The player with highest-valued formation wins the flag. 'Formations' are sequences of three cards that are ranked, basically a straight flush being best, followed by three of a kind, flush, etc. Ties are resolved by adding the values of the cards together. The first player to capture any five flags or three flags in a row is the winner.
Game play is fairly tense and as the game passes along, card counting becomes more and more important. As with Lost Cities, the playing of cards to the board and what to keep is a terrible balance to try to figure. The tactics cards can screw up well laid plan, but they are limited in balnce as that each player can play a maximum of five during the game, and the rules prohibit unbalanced numbers of tactics cards to be played.
This is another game that I am glad to have in my library and I expect to play it more often if I am waiting for someone to show up or feel like a quick two player game. Well Done again GMT!
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.
Battle line is Schotten-Totten with:
- a 7 card hand instead of 6
- six 10 cards added to the deck (one for each of the 6 suits)
- a deck of 10 tactics cards that allow the player to perform an action like removing an opponent's card from an unclaimed stone (and possibly giving it to you), act as a wild card, act as a wild 8, act as a wild 1-3, move a card to a different stone, require 4 cards to win a stone rather than 3, just use the sum of the cards, or pick 3 new cards and put back two. You may only play one more tactics card than your opponent.
The game is fun (like Schotten-Totten) but is more chaotic. The tactics cards are uneven, some like the Traitor are potentially devestating and can result in a player winning two stones they would otherwise have lost. Others are more modest in their impact. I think it detracts from the game to have one's planning thrown to the wind by a lucky card.
The good news is if you own Battle Line, you own Schotten-Totten.
Battle Line is Schotten-Totten with:
- an extra card in each suit, valued at 10
- some wildcards, called tactics cards
- you may hold one extra card
- flags are taken at the start of the turn, rather than the end
I think this introduces a lot of luck. You can get a tactics card (TRaitor) that essentially allows you to win 2 lost battles, by taking one of the opponent's played cards and playing it on your side.
Say he has a red 7-8-9 in an empty slot. He's pretty much got a lock on that slot unless you have a 10-9-8. Say you have a red 6-5 on another slot, with the red 4 played elsewhere. You've pretty much lost that battle too. But the traitor card lets you take his red 7, and this means you now go form losing 2 battles to winning 2 battles.
Some wild cards are very weak too.
Schotten-Totten is a more interesting, less luck-prone game.
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).
Schotten Totten is a better game. This is Schotten Totten with luck and glitz added. The theme is cute, even though it's got nothing to do with the game. The tactics cards add an element of luck to a game that already has a good deal of luck. Not needed, and it detracts from a thoughtful game. Now a lucky tactics card can win the game. An unlucky one can cost you the game. Fun and skill are reduced in Battle Line.
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.