Dale Yu: Review of The Boldest

The Boldest

  • Designer: Sophia Wagner
  • Publisher: Edition Spielwiese / Stronghold Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Edition Spielwiese

The Boldest is set is some sort of futuristic/dystopian or fantasy setting.  You are in a kingdom that has multiple competing army factions, each seeking to be labeled the Boldest for their exploits.  Many of the creatures that you fight appear to be mechanical hybrids, and things are so weird in your land that new recruits are not swayed by high wages but apparently more by tastier stews.

The game is played around a central board – which is split into two areas – one for new recruits and one for the battlefield.  The battlefield has five columns, and forest cards (having enemies, artifacts or items on them) are randomly dealt out. There is an area of the tiebreaker markers of each player, these are randomly placed in a line at the start of the game. Each player has their own area with a planning board hidden behind a screen.  Each player also has a card which shows their barracks and their party room. At the start of the game, players have an identical starting deck of army cards – and these are all facedown in the barracks… you know, because they’re all sleeping getting ready for the next day’s battle.

The game is played over 5 or 6 rounds (different based on player count), with each round following the same format with three separate chances to collect cards.  Each player has a planning board which has three slots on it. At the start of each round of the game, players plan behind their screen to place collections of cards on each of these slots.  At the start of the game, each player has an identical deck, comprised of: 3 Warriors (Swords), 3 Mechanics (Wrenches), 3 Hunters (crossbows), 5 cooks (pan), 3 pets (paws). There are four phases in each round – Refresh, Planning, Action, Reset.

More on this shortly.  At the end of the game, the player who has the most points (found on defeated Enemy cards and collected Artifact cards) is the proclaimed the Boldest by the king.

In the Refresh phase, you regenerate your deck of Army cards.  First, you take any cards facedown in the Barracks and add them to your hand.  Then, it’s time to dry out your celebrating troops. All cards who are in the party room are now sent to bed to sleep off their bender.  You’ll get to re-use these cards in the following round…

Then, with your newly refreshed deck, you start the Planning phase.  Again, you have a mat with three slots on it. They are numbered (I / II / III), and they refer to the three sorties that the troops will make out into the Forest to try to defeat enemies or collect neat stuff.  In each stack, you must have cards of all one type (for example, all swords). Pets can be added to any group as their paws simply match whatever the symbol is of the group. The topmost card is considered the leader of that group.  Some cards have extra icons printed at the bottom of the card, and as the cards are in a stack, you can only use the extra icons on this topmost leader card. For all the other cards, you can only use the icons seen in the top left indexing position.  Note that it is possible to leave a slot completely empty if you want. Once your stacks are made, flip them over so that their contents are hidden (though everything is currently hidden behind your screen). All players ready their three stacks of cards, and when all players are done, the screens are removed, and all players can flip over the first stack of cards to start the Action Phase.

In the Action Phase, there are four separate sorties, always in the same order: Warriors (Swords), then Mechanics (Wrenches), then Hunters (Crossbows), and finally Cooks (Pans).  The first three groups go into the forest to get cards while the Cooks use their yummy yummy food to attract new recruits to their army. The catch here is that ONLY one player’s group will get to take each action.

So, you start with I/Warriors, and you see if any players have played swords for their stack.  If so, the player with the highest number of swords in their stack (including those seen on their leader card on top) gets to take the action.  If there is a tie, it is broken by the order of the tiebreaker markers, but the player who wins this tie has to put their marker at the end of the tiebreaker line.   All losing players take their stacks and place them facedown in the barracks (I suppose that they were all tuckered out from the preparations and have to go sleep it off now).  In addition, one random additional troop card is taken from the top of the troop deck because people like joining armies that get to sleep a lot, I guess. Finally, the winning Warrior group gets to take the action, and then afterwards, because they got to do something, those cards are all placed in the winner’s party room where they drink stuff out of barrels to celebrate their awesomeness.  Once the warriors are done, then it’s time for I / Mechanics (using the same method), then I / Hunters. Finally, I / Cooks happens. And then, as you might have surmised, everyone flips over their cards in the II slot, and it starts all over again with II / Warriors…

At the end of the third Cooks sortie, the game will move onto the Reset Phase.  But first, let me explain what the actions are. Warriors venture into the forest and take the bottommost Monster or Item in any column of their choosing. Mechanics take only the bottommost Artifact or Item in any column.  The hunters are a little bit different, they choose any column but then can collect all of the cards in the column which have a crosshair icon on them. There are also a few special actions which are found on army cards, but they are only valid if they are found on the leader card (i.e. only if you can see the special action) – the special action will always supercede the usual action of the class.  Finally, when the Cooks act, they add any three face up Adventurer cards from the array on the board; these new recruits are so tired that they go directly facedown into the Barracks to sleep it off. In the final round of the game (NOT the final sortie of a round), note that Cooks somehow manage to go into battle with their pans, and their pans are counted as swords in that final round.

So, in each round, there will be a total of 12 sorties in each round.  When they are complete, as long as there is more to play, the board resets a bit.  All of the cards remaining in the forest are shifted as far downwards as possible in their columns.  Then, the empty spaces at the top of the columns are refilled from the deck. If there is another round, flip over the next round card and do it again.  If not, it’s time for scoring.

Scoring is fairly simple.  You look at the cards that you have collected and sum up the points.  Monster (enemy) cards and Artifact cards are worth the number printed on them.  Any unused item cards are worth one point each. The player with the most experience wins.  If there is a tie, it is broken by the standard tie breaking procedure – order of flags in the tiebreaker line.

My thoughts on the game

Well, when I first got the game in Essen, it made it to the table twice shortly upon my return, and it was a decent first game.  I talked about it a little in my welcome back posts, but then it got shuffled to the back of the line as I had nearly 85 new games to play!  It has since come back out a fair amount in the spring, and my opinion of the game has increased with each successive play.

I am normally not a huge fan of secret-and-simultaneous games (though, interestingly enough, I once designed a game based around this mechanism – Gib Gas!), but in The Boldest, the decision of which cards to play (and how many) make it a bit more interesting.  There is an added element of timing to add layers of complexity. As you go look at the battlefield at the start of the round, you might want to target some specific cards which may be near the top of their column; therefore, if you want to get them, you have to figure out when you’d like to win a sortie so that you can collect the card you want.  You might even need to plan on winning earlier sorties in order to clear out the cards which lie in front of your desired card.

This does lead to some interesting decision making when you are planning your three groups of cards.  Not only do you need to make sure that you have enough strength to win a particular sortie, but you also have to try to guess what your opponents want to do.  If you can figure that out, you might be able to sneak a win with something like a single card!

There is also the additional timing concern of having cards available to you at the right times.  It is important to remember that if you use a card that takes an action, it will be out of your hand for the entire next round – because all successful sortie cards go to the party room and then are in bed for the following round.  If you don’t particularly want the cards currently in the forest, you might be better off losing the sortie so that you an add a new card to your deck and come back to fight another day.

The tie-breaker order is also super important in the game, and realizing where you are in the relative tiebreaker standings can definitely affect how much you might bid in a particular spot.  There are even times in the game when I will concentrate as much on trying to manipulate my tiebreaker position as winning a sortie.

The artwork is very evocative of a post-apocalyptic world with mechanized items and enemies with tattered tents and campfires in the army area.  The characters on the cards are detailed, and I like the way that the different starter armies are even different from each other. The icons are easy to read and are mostly intuitive.  Some of the advanced actions are a little complicated, but they are all easily explained on a single page in the rules, and it’s easy enough to leave this page open on the table for everyone to reference as needed.

Our games have taken a parabolic pattern – the initial game took a fairly long time as we read through the rules and learned things as we went along.  It also took us awhile to try to figure out what a good bid would be for the sorties. As we kept playing, later games got much faster as the game flow is quite easy and intuitive after a few plays.  But, I have noticed that our most previous game started to get a little longer as we’re now really thinking out our bids. Now that we are familiar with the game and the strategies of the other players, there’s a lot to think about.  You know, do I zig knowing that everyone else is going to zag. Or, maybe I should zag. Because they all know that I will zig, and they have changed their plans to zig, which means that the easy play is to zag? Anyways, it’s an enjoyable process, and our games are still coming in at just over an hour which feels right the correct amount of time for the game.

Though The Boldest uses a mechanism which isn’t one of my favorites, there is something about the game that has really captured my attention.  It feels like there is more than randomness behind the secret and simultaneous card choice, and I really like the puzzle of trying to figure out how/when to win sorties to get the particular cards that I want.  The added complexity of timing everything right makes this challenging rather than tedious, and for some reason that I truly can’t explain; this game just hits my sweet spot. The Boldest is a game that I look forward to playing again soon, and in the future as well.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Doug G: Shelley and I have enjoyed our 2-player forays into the jungles of the Boldest, though I think the game would be better with more players in competition for possible excursions. It does scale well, however, and the art is wonderfully evocative. Solid title that we discussed on Episode 655 of the podcast – https://bit.ly/2OUHFU6

Brandon K: I’ve only played once, and it was back in November, but I remember really enjoying the game and thinking it would be one of the big winners out of Essen Spiel 2018. Here’s the thing though, the game works fantastic and it has great art, but holy cow this is a weirdly priced production here in the States. The board is superfluous and makes the production entirely too large. I can only assume that is what affected the price tag that hangs on this one from Stronghold Games. That aside, I remember it being a fun and beautiful game that was at once easy to teach, but seemingly would be difficult to master, I just don’t know how many glowing words we’ll be able to say that will help offset the price here for a lot of folks. This is a far better game though than the designer’s first published game, Noria, but I don’t see it garnering that much attention.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y,
  • I like it. Doug G, James Nathan, Brandon
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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