This is a big surprise to me, but I may have discovered a new favorite beer-and-pretzels game at my game night this week—Riener Knizia’s Beowulf the Movie board game.
Wait, come back—I’m serious here.
Beowulf (as I will call it from here forward) is a re-theming and reimagining of Knizia’s classic Auf Heller und Pfennig and the more recent Kingdoms. The original game is a simple tile-laying game where players attempt to place their castles in rows and columns that have the most points. Castles act as multipliers (whether the row is positive or negative) in the end-of-round scoring. There are also tiles that have special effects like dividing up rows into sections or manipulating the values of tiles in the rows and columns. Some of the tiles have effects like doubling values or scaring off positive values, and on your turn, because of the limited tile selection, you often have to choose between options like helping one opponent while helping yourself or hurting two opponents while hurting yourself slightly less and the like. It is confrontational and “mathy” and is absolutely not for everyone. I, however, love it, and it has been a staple filler for my groups on-and-off for the last twenty years or so.
Beowulf takes the game and adds miniatures for warriors and ships and such in place of the castles, some more tile powers, and, most importantly, adds two different boards to play on. The original game played out on one board for three rounds with the only difference being what castles were available to the player because all but the level one castles were discarded after use. The three boards and new player powers add enough variety that the game no longer feels “samey” as it moves forward. It is definitely a little more chaotic as some tiles can move or remove other tiles (or even move the other players’ pieces), so a player is rarely safe when placing his figures on the board. I mentioned beer-and-pretzels, right? This game is perfect for hanging out with buddies and talking some trash or just talking about whatever. The end of round is still a math exercise, but as a math guy with other math guys in the play group, it never feels like a chore or takes as long as some critics complain.
The game can be purchased cheaply online, and I think it is definitely worth the price—and it was definitely worth the five dollars I paid for it during the Fantasy Flight holiday sale a few years back. I just wish I hadn’t listened to all the critics and had gotten it to the table sooner.