Okay I’ll preface this review with a disclaimer. I do freelance writing and game design with Catalyst Game Labs. Now that that’s on the table, let me also say I didn’t have anything to do with the game Balance of Power and I’m actually a little ticked they didn’t include me on the playtest. Why? This game rocks.
I’m an old school Risk player and on the surface this looks like Risk. It’s allegedly set in 1815, but that only provides you with the context of the game map. The game comes with a hard backed map of Europe. Each player (up to six) has a bag of 45 game pieces broken down into Kings, Generals and Bankers. These three pieces represent the balance of power in the game – yes I realize I used the title of the game in the description – cool eh?
There are six quick reference cards to help you with the rules. The rules are pretty darned simple. You can move – duplicate – or attack. Generals eliminate Kings. Kings can take out bankers. Bankers can take out Generals. Simple so far? The pieces are thick wooden material – top notch quality.
Winning the game is done on points. You get a point for controlling enemy territory. When you occupy a capitol with one of each of the game tokens, you get three points. Depending on the number of people playing you need to have anywhere from 30 to 18 points to win.
The rules are remarkably easy – I’ve actually covered almost all of them above. This is the kind of game you can jump into in about fifteen minutes. Best of all, it’s more simple than Risk which means you can play it with your kids (or grandkids).
When I dug into the rules I kept wondering, “where are the dice?” There aren’t any. Attacks take out the enemy, plain and simple. But you don’t need them. This game is all about strategy. Despite its simplicity there are nuances to this game that are important. You have to have the right kind of units in the right place in order to successfully attack. Play is fast, for the most part, and can be vicious. The games I’ve played with it have lasted no more than an hour.
This is one of those sleeper games that is a great guilty pleasure. More importantly there’s a bit of cunning and strategizing that comes into game play. It’s fast – it’s fluid – it’s fun. Balance of Power trades accuracy for ease of play and does it remarkably well.
My rating – five out of five stars.