Blood, Grain & Steel - Chess On Steroids

Somehow this little indie game was released completely under the radar last year. I only learned about it yesterday via a passing comment made on this week’s Three Moves Ahead podcast. I really like what I see so far.

Essentially this is a re-skinned version of chess with a campaign stitched on top. 2 armies- Red & Blue (there’s some silly backstory about the two sides and why they are at war, blah blah blah, but that’s totally irrelevant. Just think Red & Blue). The campaign is played on a fixed map of 140 tiles. Each tile you control generates grain every turn, up yo a maximum of 50,000. By spending 10,000 you can create an army in a tile, and when a tile amasses 15,000 it automatically generates fortifications. Armies (essentially faceless markers on the campaign map) move on your tiles for free, and can capture neutral tiles just by moving into them at a cost of 2500 grain. When an army has no grain left it is disbanded, BUT, armies can also carry grain from one tile and drop it into another, essentially moving “supplies” to the “front”. When an army moves onto a tile controlled by controlled by the other side the game drops you onto a tactical battle map (the chess part). Each tile on the map has a unique battle map.

Like I said, the tactical battle is like chess except:

Units are purchased before battle begins. The attacker’s budget is the quantity of grain it’s carrying. The defender has the amount of the grain stored in the tile being attacked, plus the amount of grain an army stationed in that tile might be carrying. The key to success is attacking tiles that will have a starting budget smaller than yours. Not only do you have to spend grain to purchase you units, but each unit has an upkeep cost per turn as well, so you have to leave money in the budget to account for that.

The map has different terrain tiles that affect combat. In chess terms, a Knight couldn’t take a Pawn if it was in a forest tile (because cavalry and forests, blah blah blah).

Deployment - You still start on the two rows closest to you, but you place you units wherever you want them.

Ranged units - yes, there is artillery.

Health- Units aren’t automatically “captured” when attacked, but take damage and die when their health reaches 0. No healing.

Like chess, both sides have the same units available to them. They are:

Soldier - Essentially your Pawn - cheap, slow, and weak
Rider - Cavalry - Fast, but only really effective against units in open terrain
Infiltrator - Scouting units that are the yin to your Rider’s yang. Effective when attacking into forests, hills, and villages.
Paladin: Combination King/Queen - A powerful but slow unit, one of the losing conditions is losing all your Paladins (you must start with at least one)
Catapults - The most powerful unit in the game, it can damage almost anything within it’s range (3-5 tiles away). It’s also your most expensive. Not only is it immobile, it requires a Soldier, Infiltrator, or Paladin to be in an adjacent tile to fire it AND it costs 2500 grain every time you do. Using catapults too frequently can bankrupt you and end a battle quickly, as I discovered the hard way.
Supply - More accurately this is your supply line. Immobile, with no attack or defense, you have to dedicate units to protecting it, because you lose immediately if it’s destroyed.

Battles are won when a)all of the Paladins of one side are killed, b) all of the supply of one side is destroyed, or c)one side no long has enough grain to pay the support cost for that turn (see Catapults).

In addition to the campaign you can play a skirmish on any of the maps and there is also a random map generator. As you can tell, I really like it a lot. The full game is $15, and you can find a demo here. Out of Eight apparently did a video review last year that I somehow missed, but it’s up on Youtube

This looks awesome. Thanks for pointing it out!

I neglected to mention that the AI is merciless and there are no difficulty levels, although it is moddable, according the developer (this seems to have been a one-man production). OTOH, you an always ask the AI to suggest a move.

I played the demo 1 year ago. I liked the concept but I had prefered “action points” to move different units per turn, and not only one unit per turn.

Considering that 1 unit/turn is how Chess is played and that this is just a riff on it, I have no problem with that.