The Blood of an Englishman
On Wednesday, February 15th, we posted our Valentine's Day Special: 2 Player Games, our first ever video and a quick introduction to some of our favorite 2-player board and card games. Due to timing and health issues, the video was released late and no written reviews were given for the games. We are taking the time to remedy that with these 2 Player Games: Revisited posts.
The Blood of an Englishman is a 2-player card game where one player takes on the role of Jack as he attempts to climb the beanstalk and steal the Giant's treasure. It's an asymmetrical game, as each player has a different goal and different means of achieving it.
50 cards are divided into 5 stacks of 10, with the top of each card exposed so players can see where all cards are located. Included in these cards are six treasures (2 each of Harps, Gold, and Geese), 8 Giant cards (2 each of "Fe," "Fi," "Fo," and "Fum") and 36 numbered cards, ranging from 1-9 (four of each number). Jack's goal is to build his own separate "stalk" of six numbered cards, and then top it off with one of the treasures. He can grab any numbered card from the front or back of a stack, however the numbers in his stalk have to be in ascending value (but not sequential). So 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9 could make a stalk, followed by the Gold card. If he can make three of these stalks with one of each of the treasures, he wins the game. The Giant, on the other hand, needs to put his four "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum" cards together horizontally at the front of the stacks or vertically touching in one stack. Jack has three moves a turn that allow him to move cards from the back to the front, move cards on the front of a stack to another stack, and to add cards to his beanstalk. The Giant has one action a turn, but his moves are a lot more drastic: move 4 cards together from one stack to another; move two separate cards from the front of a stack to another; and remove a numbered card from the game entirely.
There are a lot of positives about this game worth discussing. For one thing, the art and design of the cards are gorgeous. They could have gone in several directions with a game based off of a fairy tale, but their choice was to go with a semi-realistic dark fantasy setting, with rich vibrant colors and a frightening looking giant. It's also an incredibly portable game and super easy to set up. It's essentially the same amount of cards as a traditional playing card deck, and sets up in 5 rows. Unlike other 2-player card games like Jaipur and Morels, there are no excess bits and pieces everywhere, and it doesn't take up a lot of space, so it makes for an ideal travel game.
For such a small game, The Blood of an Englishman has a lot of strategy. The asymmetry creates a unique experience for each player as Jack and the Giant have such different move sets and win conditions. Switching from one to the other almost makes you feel like you're playing a different game. And because It's a "perfect/open information" game with no luck, it should appeal to a lot of abstract strategy players.
Once we figured out what the game entailed, it became more challenging trying to out-think and out-maneuver your opponent. Usually Jack is able to complete his first beanstalk pretty quickly, but by the second and last beanstalk, Jack will be spending as much time trying to foil the Giant as he is trying to finish his own beanstalks. Each card added to the beanstalk means one less card between the Giant and his victory, so the game gets much harder for him as it continues. In our games, the Giant had won almost all of the rounds, but I've seen several forums online lamenting their constant loses to Jack, so there's definitely variance in the game. How the cards are set-up can really affect the outcome of the game as well.
If this seems like your kind of game, or if you're even remotely interested, I'd suggest giving this game a shot. It's a lot cheaper than many other games out there, and the theme. artwork, and strategy make it highly replayable. It's a great travel game, and one that works well with friends and couples.