Review – Blood Bound: A Game of Deception and Deduction

Blood Bound is a deception and deduction game to be released later this month by Fantasy Flight Games, though I managed to pick up a copy at GenCon. Designed by Kalle Krenzer and retailing for about $20, Blood Bound finds two clans of warring vampires needing to take out their enemy leader without knowing who anyone else is. Through the course of playing the game you slowly gain information on who the other players are. At some point one of the players will deliver a lethal blow, and at that point everyone reveals themselves. If the opposing leader is the one killed, that player’s team wins! Otherwise they lose.

What’s in the Box

20 character cards in two clans and two neutral for use when you have an odd number of players, 12 reference cards, rank and faction tokens, ability reminder cards (also cleverly used for divulging limited information), rules, and a cardboard dagger to show which player’s turn it is. (Unlike another game I do not recommend upgrading this cardboard turn marker.)

Game Play

Blood Bound is for 6-12 players, as such it’s not for every group. My usual group doesn’t always hit 6 to play. That said, once you’re into that range, it’s a great game. Often with 5-6 player games someone hits analysis time giving someone else a chance to get on their phone (*cough* Hans *cough*) which quickly spirals into an argument on the subject. Blood Bound is quick enough to not fall into this, and due to its fluid play pattern and arguing over what’s going on everyone is engaged at all times. (And if someone does get on their phone you can always attack them and bring them back into the game)

A sample card

Each player receives a role card face down from a supply made randomly of an even number of each side, with a neutral card added in if you are playing with an odd number of players. Each card has three important icons: two representing the your faction and one representing your rank/role. Whenever you take a wound (the primary mechanic of the game) you take a token matching one of the three icons. When you take your fourth wound you are captured and the game ends.

The play of each round is that whoever’s turn it is (based on the player with the dagger) chooses another player to wound. Someone else can intervene and take the wound instead. Then the wound is inflicted and the dagger is passed to whoever suffered it.

In addition, each role comes with a power. When you take the wound associated with your rank you can (hopefully) trigger your power. Most of the roles have to do with controlling the game. For instance the 1, who would normally be their clan’s leader, can use their power to make someone else their clan’s leader. Meanwhile the Guardian can give another player a card that prevents them from being attacked while the Guardian has wounds left.

These hidden roles combined with a “last one attacked performs the next attack” mechanic leads to a nice game of bluffs, logic, and arguing with your friends. I have yet to play this game and not yell at someone – and I mean that in a good way. As with most hidden information games there is lots of rooms for mistakes, both of logic and of accidental cheating, though unlike a delayed reveal game like Ninja it wraps quickly enough that it becomes obvious if anyone has made an illegal play.

The obvious comparisons for a game of this nature are Werewolf and The Resistance. Like Resistance, this is a better game at smaller numbers – topping out at 12 it obviously is not the same Con game that werewolf is. With divergent roles it lets each player do their own thing, and lends itself to differing strategies in each game. Further, unlike other hidden information games I’ve seen where one team (usual the traitors) knows who their teammates are, in this game no one knows who anyone else is. You may not even realize you are your team’s leader until the game is all but over. This leads to a nice dynamic of being unsure who to trust from the start of the game, but as time goes you (hopefully) gain an idea of who is on your side and who isn’t. Also, unlike werewolf, the only elimination is at the end: you don’t have anyone out early and forced to just watch the fun.

In all, if you have a large enough group to play it and they enjoy hidden knowledge games – and yelling at each other for poor strategic planning – this is likely the game for your group.

2 Fangs up.

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