Life in the Middle Ages was hard. Plague, war, and complete fealty to sovereign lords were the name of the game. The name of this game is moving wooden pieces around a kingdom.
The immediate thing noticeable upon opening Barony is the sheer number of pieces the game provides. Knights, cities, villages, and strongholds are all miniaturized in wood. There are also a huge number of tracks of land (triple hex tiles) to layout that sets the stage for conflict.
Players in Barony take turns utilizing simple actions to achieve the goal of becoming the Duke by amassing a certain number of victory points. Each turn gives a one choice of six options, with some options, such as moving knights, being at the heart of the game, while others, like establishing a city, present sporadic grand moves. When players establish new villages, they gain resource points. Players will then later convert resource points into advances on the victory point tracker. The game continues turn by turn until a single player has reached the far right column of the victory point tracker. Additional points are then totaled from resources and a new Duke declared.
- The rulebook is concise and short, but thorough. Examples and clarity is prominent which is important with the number of qualifications present in the rules.
- The art for the player boards is regal, but the graphic design explaining rules is cryptic until the rules are explained.
- All the triple hex tiles are visually pleasing with a good variety of art which breaks up what might have been a visually bland board of patterns.
- The wooden components are chunky and feel solid. An appreciated design aspect is the slightly lighter color of the knights.
- A rules explanation should be quick, but players can have trouble remembering specifics as the player boards are not the best references.
- When players understand everything, play is quick. With such small moves, individual turns go fast.
- The strategy is slightly non-obvious. Choosing the right moments for confrontation and taking risks letting your opponent decide when to attack can be key.
- Many moves come down to brinksmanship, each player waiting for the other to make a mistake. Take-backs in this game should be strongly forbidden.
- Because the game depends on the efficiency of actions for gaining resources (which convert to points and progress the game), players who assume that play is about strength and winning conflicts won’t consistently succeed.
- The components help challenge the feel of an abstract game, but this feeling still dominates.
- With a shell of a theme, the game hinges on how deep the tactics and strategy are. Thankfully, they’re engaging, but strained due to not wanting to extend yourself too much in case an opponent chooses to attack.
- Players can get caught in a situation that aids in determining a winner by virtue of initial city placement. Making sure all players know how all rules work from the start is the key to avoiding this. If a player gets behind in points, they can still come from behind if they commit to an offensive strategy and the other players do not counter.
- Players who enjoy abstract games or who can tolerate some loss of theme in their games will find a pure strategy game with mostly interesting moves to consider.
Very few games will be replaced by Barony. This could sit alongside Hive, Torres, Terra Nova, Mexica, and Java. It provides a different experience due to the resource collection. As the playtime of Barony is under an hour, with experienced, quick players, this game could almost be a filler. Likely it will be a decent appetizer for a successful evening of gaming. As an appetizer, it’s a satisfying salad of wood conquest.
Scores for Barony
Presentation - 85
Gameplay - 80
Fun - 65
Abstract kingdom building with point collection provides challenging play for those who appreciate strategy over story.