01 March 2022
Invite this one in
Prefer to listen?
Blood Orders has no right to be as enjoyable as it is. The first release from a studio only just entering the hobby, with a background only tangentially related to ‘geek stuff’ doesn’t always go well. You’d expect a cash in, but what we have here is the first steps towards something that might end up being great.
You and your fellow vampires are disgraced, forced out of the ancient fang club you once belonged to, and are now starting anew in a fresh city. You’ll be attempting to take control of locations, scoop up victory points and improve your coterie with new meat.
The board is a grid representing three time periods, dawn, dusk and night, and a number of locations. Players secretly select the location they want to try and activate behind their screens, committing the number of vampire cards in their hand that match the required costs of the card on the board. These are then revealed and played out in a kind of action programming, being added and stacked in order in each section of the city, with later tokens placed on top. These are then resolved in that reversed order, locations give you bonus effects, humans have powers you pay for (which is added to the final column), and the final night slot allows you to take the victim, and all the accumulated influence and blood tokens. This last column can only be used by one player, which means the number of vampires bid earlier matters. Players can also gain new basic cards, or discard vampires from their hand to buy rituals – which offer ongoing effects.
After all that, the delicious decision of paying blood to retain vampires in your hand, or having to discard them, adds another balancing act to what is, already a series of interlocked gothic see-saws. We’ve not even touched on the fact that your cost for using a card in each row is based on the fear score of the location and victims in it, or that there’s three acts of separate cards, improving in power. All of this comes together to give you a pleasing power curve where not only can you make big moves, you’re also having to risk more where you think you might have to contest space with other players. It’s got a slight giddiness to all its interactions, while none of them feel truly mean to any other players.
The artwork of the game is a little mixed, the board design is bold, but slightly utilitarian, whereas the vampire design by David Hartman is excellent – like a more active looking Bloody Inn. This is the only kind of complaint you’ll have throughout the game, the oddly ordered rulebook, but the actually really good rules, the lack of variety of token cards, but the surprising quality of humans to turn, the appearance of being easy, before offering really hard choices.
At two players the game works, but it’s at higher player counts that it begins to really shine. The mix of programming and bidding, with what amounts to a stacked ‘worker placement’ mechanic, offers a really good mix of player interactions and working on your own plans. As such it’s a game worthy of entry into most collections, if you can gather enough undead.
Christopher John Eggett
PLAY IT? YES
A strange beast that should be invited in, given the chance.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Vampire: The Masquerade – Rivals…
While Blood Orders has nowhere near the complexity of Rivals, the core loop of ‘grab humans and block your opponents’ will appeal…
Designer: Nick Badagliacca
Publisher: Trick or Treat Studios
Time: 60-120 minutes
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