Thanks to our guest blogger Colm McFadden who recently played Brian Boru, High King of Ireland 5 player.
Thematically, you are Irish clans vying to influence Ireland under constant threat from Viking Invaders. You do this through battle, religious tributes and bonds of marriage - who said romance is dead in board games, eh?
In game the church, warfare and marriage are represented by suits in a deck of cards, with Irish royalty representing a wild suit. It's a game of area control, decided by playing hands of cards around the table using the very familiar trick-taking method. Win trick, you gain control of a town and get to pick the next town to play the next trick-taking hand to decide. The more areas you control, the regions you influence and therefore provide points to you at the end of the game.
What is nice about the trick-taking aspect of the game is that losing a hand, you still get something. You get to improve your standing in marriage, with the church or renown from battling viking invaders. Each of those in turn give you end of round bonuses. Indeed, you may even try and lose hands just to do so!
The game has some similarities to the Eric Lang game Ethnos, however that uses card set collecting to control areas. Although Ethnos is a fine game, it doesn't have the intricacies that Brian Boru has, and is not quite a interactive as this one. Brian Boru, but it's very nature of trick-taking is interactive, and the vying for regions, hands of marriage, church and fame in battle is a race every trick.
It created a very social game, which is fortunate as the player count is 3 to 5 players - I can't see this working as 2 player or solo game.
The upkeep phase between rounds is the hardest part of the game to grab and needed frequent rulebook checking in order to complete. Thankfully the rulebook was clear and concise, even if we did discover a difference in the rules between the English and German language rulebooks!
A thoroughly enjoyable and sociable game. Play time is about 90mins to 2hrs, and closer to 90mins or less after the first play. Our game was full of twists, it impressed for more than I thought it would.
It's nice that it's about Ireland (not that many games are), yet is a good game to boot. Osprey Games have done us proud, a game I would recommend!