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Battle Line

Battle Line Game

Ancient Battles were fought in organized formations. The leaders of both sides directed their forces along the battle line to gain tactical advantage in order to overwhelm their opponent in the center, breakthrough one of his flanks, or hold their position until the time came for a decisive move. How will you muster your battle line?

Your objective is to create powerful formations on your side of the nine Flags, in order to beat the formations on your opponent's side of the respective Flags. The first player to win three adjacent Flags (a Breakthrough) or any five Flags (an Envelopment) achieves victory. Based on Reiner Knizia's original design published in Germany as Schotten-Totten, Battle Line enhances and expands the game system to give players more tactical options and fun.

User Reviews (7)

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Novice Reviewer
Gamer - Level 6
131 of 141 gamers found this helpful
“A great 2 player game for your collection”

The Idea

Battle Line is a two player card game, in which players represent generals from ancient history as they set up formations on opposite sides of the battlefield. During the game players are trying to make poker style sets of cards (which represent troops) in an attempt to capture either 3 adjacent flags (a “Breakthrough”) or 5 flags anywhere (an Envelopment) to win the battle (and the game).

In the Box
While not overly large, the box that Battle Line comes in is a bit big for the contents. If you were travelling with Battle Line you could easily fit another one or two card games inside the box. The art on the box is quite representative of that on the cards and is quite appropriate for the historical setting and theme of the game.

As a card game the bulk of the games contents are, unsurprisingly, cards. There are two types of cards in the game. The majority of cards are “Troop” cards. These cards are numbered 1 through 10 and come in 6 different colours. The 10 remaining cards are “Tactics” cards and have special text on them which allow players to surprise their opponent by twisting rules to their advantage. As with the box, the art on the cards, while very simple by modern standards, is totally appropriate for the setting the game tries to evoke. In addition to rules text, the Tactics cards use some simple icon-like illustrations to convey their function quite well. The cards are made of quite a thick card stock and have clearly been designed to last for a long time. If anything though, the quality of the cards can make shuffling a bit more difficult than a typical card stock.

The final game component of Battle Line is a set of 9 wooden pawns which are the “Flags” the players are competing for. The pawns are simple but perform the function they are required to perfectly well. In fact, if you wanted to travel with Battle Line it would be very easy to leave these pawns behind and just take the cards and substitute some other small objects (such as coins) to perform their job.

The rules sheet is a simple black and white 4 page production. The rules are explained very well and simple illustrations and examples make everything perfectly clear. Perhaps the only addition I would have liked to have seen would have been a small reference card detailing the relative strengths of the different formations so you didn’t have to keep referring to the rules book.

Basic Game Play Summary
To set up the game, the 9 pawns are placed in a line between both players and 7 Troop cards dealt to each player. The remaining Troop cards are placed in a draw pile at one end of the line whilst the Tactics cards (if you are using them) form another draw pile at the other end.

On their turn, players will play either a Troop or Tactics card to the table and then draw a card from either of the two draw pile. Players are trying to form particular “Formations” made from sets of 3 cards on their side of the various pawns. Similar to poker these different groups have various strengths. From strongest to weakest these formations are:

1. Wedge – 3 cards of the same colour with sequential values (like a poker straight flush).
2. Phalanx – 3 cards of the same value (three-of-a-kind in poker).
3. Battalion Order – 3 cards of the same colour (a flush in poker).
4. Skirmish Line – 3 cards with sequential values (a straight in poker).
5. Host – Any other combination.

An interesting feature of Battle Line is for a player to be able to claim a flag through logic. After playing the third card to their formation, a player can claim the flag by proving through logic (based on the cards on the table) that it is impossible for their opponent to make a formation capable of beating theirs.

Tactics cards offer a chance to mess with the rules a bit. Some Tactics will allow you to steal an opponent’s card while others can act as wild cards. These cards can throw in a large degree of chaos into the game and can cause your well laid plans to come undone. Some players will appreciate this while others won’t. Fortunately for those who don’t want to add this element of chaos and conflict into the game it is very easy to leave these cards out.

To win the game you will need to capture either 3 adjacent flags or 5 flags from anywhere.

Who Would Like It
Fans of traditional card games like “Rummy” could very well enjoy the play of this game (even if the theme didn’t grab them). Battle Line also has a feel similar to some other Euro-style card games, notably “Lost Cities” (also by Reiner Knizia and published by Rio Grande Games). If you enjoy Lost Cities then you’ll probably enjoy Battle Line as a nice next step up in complexity and depth of play.

Ultimately, Battle Line stands up as a very enjoyable two-player card game so if you and your significant other are always looking for games to play together then Battle Line is well worth a look!

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Miniature Painter
Rosetta Stone
Advanced Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
131 of 142 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 2
“You and a friend can fufill your dream of battling with Hoplites, Peltast and horsies!”

Welcome to Battle Line. I will start by pointing out that this game is based upon a game published in Germany by the name of Schotten-Totten. This information is not particularly important, but, come on! The name Schotten-Totten is awesome! Those crazy German’s know how to name a game! Add to that names of units like Hoplites, Peltast and Hypaspist, how could you possible go wrong!

Of course, pointing out a rhyme in a language many of us here do not speak is not particularly helpful when trying to answer the question of “Battle Line, huh? Why should I care?” So, let’s try and answer that question.

Battle Line is a two player game, no more and no less. If you have three people, this isn’t going to be much fun for one of them, unless they like to watch. A copy of this game should run you around $15-20. When we open the box, we find 70 cards, 10 of which are “Tactics” and 60 “Troop” cards, 9 plastic or wooden (mine are wood) pawn-looking things and a short rule book, more of a piece of 8/12 x 11 glossy paper folded in half, really. Everything else, what little there is, holds up well. The card stock is acceptable in my opinion.

Setup is a breeze. Separate the Tactics cards and shuffle the 10 of them and put them in a pile, and do the same with the 60 troop cards. Deal 7 troop cards to each player. Take your pawn-looking things, which today will be playing the part of flags, and place them in a row between the two players. The goal of the game is to capture a certain amount of these suckers. The number varies a bit depending on HOW you capture them.

Which, of course, brings us to gameplay. You want to either capture three flags adjacent to one another, or any five flags to claim victory for your people. You do this by utilizing your troop cards. You place one card on your side of any given flag, and then draw a card to replace the played card. The troop cards come in 6 colors, blue, green orange, purple, red & yellow, and are numbered 1-10 with various pictures and names. Each player will be placing three cards on either side of a flag to attempt to claim it. You may place next to any flag and have as many in dispute as you wish. There are, of course, better combinations of cards to have than others, from best to worst:

Wedge: Cards of the same color numbered sequentially (ie. B1 B2 B3)

Phalanx: Three cards with the same number (ie. R1 B1 Y1)

Battalion Order: All cards same color, non-sequential

Skirmish Line: Different color cards numbered sequentially

Host: Whatever garbage you had leftover that matches none of the above criteria

A Wedge always beats a Phalanx, regardless of the numerical value of the cards in the Wedge, a Phalanx always beats a Battalion order, a Battalion Order beats up on a Skirmish Line, and a Skirmish Line always breaks up a Host. If both players have the same type of formation on either side of the flag, the numeric value is greater. For instance, a flag is being disputed by two Phalanx. Player One’s Phalanx is made by three “8’s” and Player Two’s by three “6’s”, Player One wins the flag.

There is certainly a bit of a strategic component to all of this. You do not want to put down cards willy nilly, but, neither do you want to put a 8, 9 & 10 of the same color down on the first three turns. You want to spread out the cards among the flags to cause your opponent to guess whether or not you really have what it looks like you are implying you have with your first two cards, and making them have to spread out their resources or call your bluff when you have a yellow 7 & 8 down but no 9 in your hand. Flags do not need to have both players put down all three cards, just so long as you can prove, based upon the cards already played, that an opponent cannot beat your placement. Should a tie occur, say, both players have down a Phalanx of equal numbers, the last player to place (or would place) the final card loses the flag.

As mentioned before, there are 10 tactics cards available in a randomized deck each game. These have varying effects, such as acting as a wild card, allowing you to steal a troop from your opponent, stripping the type of combination from the resolution of a flag (so, all cards placed are treated as a Host, and are determined based solely on the value of the cards), move a previously played card to a more desirable area when it is apparent a flag is lost, or cause 4 cards to be needed to resolve a flag rather than three. You always have the option to draw a tactics card rather than a troop card. However, there is a restriction on the play of these cards: no player may play more than one tactics card more than their opponent has played this game. Should your opponent not be into tactics cards, you could play your one and that is it for the game, taking up a spot in your hand filled by that second tactics card you picked up and will never get the chance to play.

In my experience, a game does not generally last longer than 30 minutes. 15 minutes would be achievable by two people who play often and are good at planning ahead. It is easy to teach and easy to learn, and, even when kept in its box, is low profile and does not take up much space. I and the people who I have played with find the game enjoyable, and, even if you are a group gamer, we all know there are times one of your guests arrives early, and this would be a good opportunity to pull this out and kill some time. With a lack of good, cheap, quick two player games that take more than a deck of playing cards, I think this a great purchase that should see moderate use in any game collection.

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Professional Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
Silver Supporter
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
110 of 121 gamers found this helpful
“A two player game that keeps you coming back for more”

Battle Line is another classic Reiner Knizia two player game. He has a knack for designing games that draw you in with it’s give and take appeal. The game is really a remake of “Schotten Totten” with special “tactic cards” and a ancient battle theme added to the game.

The basic premise of the game is that each player plays a card next to a flag then draws a card and tries to capture five of the nine flags in any order or three flags in a row of the nine flags. You win a flag with three cards based on their formation compared to your opponents three card formation across from the same flag. The formations are similar to poker where a run of the same color is highest, next is three of kind, then three of a the same color, then a run of mixed colors, then least is three random cards. The tie breaker is done by highest point count if the formation is similar or whoever completed the formation first if exactly the same (i.e. both have 10,9,8 of the same color then first to complete wins). The tactics cards add a little spice to the game by having “wildcard” type cards and rule breaking cards; however, you can only play one more tactic card then your opponent has already played.

The game definitely has an ebb of flow of press your luck as you try to figure out which card to put down while hoping to draw the card you’re looking for. The risk of putting something down that could potentially destroy an existing formation or start a formation that has no chance of winning can get pretty tense. You can draw from the tactics card pile, but that then limits your hand from getting the cards you need to build the right formation. You don’t want to draw too many tactics cards, because your opponent can kill your hand by not playing any tactic cards and your hand is stuck. My wife almost never draws from the tactics cards.

Overall, I really enjoy this game, partly because my wife asks for it a lot. I enjoy the press your luck feel especially with a good opponent. This game in some ways is better than Lost Cities, because it’s less “mathy”, and it plays a little faster in my experience. You can get three games in compared to Lost Cities, because Lost Cities requires three hands to get in one game. This game should definitely appeal to casual gamers and social gamers, because it is easy to pick up. It makes a really good couples game too, and it travels pretty light.

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Book Lover
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Intermediate Reviewer
69 of 76 gamers found this helpful
“Battle Poker”

Initial Thoughts
I have a bunch of games I can play with my whole family or even with a big group. Sometimes, though, it’s just my son and me. For these occasions, I tap into my stack of two-player games, and one of our favorites is Battle Line. It’s quick to set up, and the rules are simple (especially if you’re familiar with poker). It’s strategic enough to hold our interest, and light enough to keep the rounds quick.

What’s In The Box?
9 wooden pawns
10 tactics cards
60 troop cards

The nine pawns (or “flags”) are placed in a line between the two players, then they’re dealt seven troop cards (numbered 1-10 in six different colors). The rest of the troop cards are placed face down on one side of the line, and the tactics cards (each with a special ability to allow the bearer to bend the rules or use them as wild cards) are placed at the other.

The goal is to create powerful formations on your side of the flags to beat the formations on your opponent’s side of the respective flags. The first player to win three adjacent flags (called a Breakthrough) or any five flags (called an Envelopment) wins. The formations are sets of three cards following standard poker rules. From strongest to weakest hand, you have a Wedge (a straight flush), a Phalanx (three of a kind), a Battalion Order (a flush), a Skirmish Line (a straight), and a Host (three random cards). In the event of a tie, the formation with the higher total sum wins—not the highest card.

It only gets more strategic when you toss in those tactics cards like the Morale Tactics (from the leaders Alexander and Darius that can be played as any troop card, but you have to define the color and value), the Environment Tactics (like Fog and Mud—cards that affect the number of cards needed to claim a flag), and Guile Tactics (like the Traitor, allowing you to take a Troop card from an unclaimed flag on your opponent’s side and place it into an empty slot on your side). While they do shake up the game a bit, they don’t break it outright.

Final Thoughts
It’s battle poker…right down to the thematic renaming of the hands. While there’s no gambling in the traditional poker sense, there’s still bluffing and risk-taking (“He has a yellow 7 and a yellow 5 showing. There’s no way he has a wedge with a yellow 6, but he might have a battalion order with another yellow card. I need to attack that next flag so he can’t get a breakthrough.”). If you like card games and are looking for something a little more on the strategic side, this is an enjoyable game.

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Movie Lover
Book Lover
I play blue
66 of 73 gamers found this helpful
“Another Two Player Gem...”

Do any sort of online browsing or research of board games, and the name Reiner Knizia will likely appear frequenty. He is listed as designer on a number of games, including this one. Battle Line isn’t new, but I only recently acquired a copy. It’s a two player card game that is easy to learn and takes 15-20 minutes to play.

Though the game is fairly compact, the setup requires a moderately wide but shallow table space. Nine pawns (called “flags”) are arranged in a line between each of the two players. Players start with a hand of seven “Troop” cards which are numbered 1-10 and in six different colors. The goal is to capture a majority (five) of the flags or three adjacent flags. On a player’s turn, he plays a card by placing it in front of one of the nine flags. The he draws a Troop card or a “Tactics” card (more on that below) to replenish his hand.

A player wins a flag by creating the highest ranking set of three cards on any given flag. The game feels a bit like playing nine “mini hands” of Poker simultaneously. Three cards of like color and consecutive number beat three of a kind and so on. But that’s really an oversimplification of the game, as players must choose which set to collect and which of the nine slots to pursue the collection. Often a player will get two cards of a powerful set but never collect the third card, so the game stays tense until the end. It’s a good idea to print a cheat sheet showing the five possible three card sets and their hierarchy.

The 10 Tactics cards add variety and versatility to the play of Battle Line. Some of them act as wild cards, while another allows a player to take a card from his opponent. And perhaps the best part of the Tactics cards is that they are not essential to the game. I treat them like a mini expansion and play them as often as not. I can set them aside for a lighter game or to more easily teach the rules to a newbie.

I really enjoy Battle Line, and I expect it will see a lot of table time at my house. It is stimulating enough to keep my attention, but light enough that I can make casual conversation with my opponent during gameplay. Playing Battle Line is a perfect way to unwind at the end of the day, and I seldom play just once per sitting. I play games to relax, to escape the chaos of the workweek, and simply for pleasure. Battle Line meets each of these requirements.

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125 of 158 gamers found this helpful
“Easy to learn + strategic depth = awesome 2-player card game!”

As a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up playing the usual fare: Monopoly, Clue, Life, Scrabble, Pictionary, Scattergories — you know the story. I’ve always loved the way boardgames can bring people together and create an event of sorts, and I also like a little friendly competition, but until my girlfriend introduced me to Carcassonne recently, I thought Apples To Apples was about as scintillating as boardgames got. I’m glad I was wrong.

My Google searching for a great two-player game quickly led me to Battle Line. It sounded like it was exactly what I was looking for at this stage: fun, strategic, plays quickly, easy to learn. Even so, I was unprepared for what a brilliant little game it revealed itself to be once I played it for the first time. The way it somehow marries simple rules with strategic depth makes me smile AND burns my brain (in a good, challenging way). Thanks to Battle Line, Carcassonne, Forbidden Island and Ticket To Ride — the latter of which I’ve deemed the most enjoyable, best-flowing boardgame I’ve ever played thus far — I’m really enjoying this new hobby!

Thanks to everyone who posts reviews on the internet. You make it really easy for newcomers like me to learn and find the right games for them.

P.S. Prior to playing Battle Line for the first time, I printed out the formations cheatsheet from the GMT Games website, which helped me get up and running fast.

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4 Beta 1.0 Tester Beta 2.0 Tester
Amateur Advisor
122 of 164 gamers found this helpful
“One of the best 2 player games out there”

As others have mentioned, Battle Line has that classic Knizia feel, with really simple rules that lead to mind-numbingly deep game play. Battle line does this to the extreme.

The gameplay itself is fairly abstract: you’re waging war by making 3-card poker hands face-up in front of battle flags. When you win a battle you get the flag in front of the hand you won. When you’ve captured three flags in a row you punch through the battle line and win the war. Or, if you capture five flags you trample the opponent and win.

The brilliant twist of this game is to win a flag, you must show that it’s not possible for your opponent to beat your hand on that flag. Sometimes that means playing cards in your hand just to prove your opponent can’t have them.

In general, a great hardcore game to play, and one of those rare fun 2-player games.


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