Battle Line: Medieval Edition

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Battle Line takes about 30 minutes to play. To win, you must create powerful formations along your side of the line of battle that are superior to those of your enemy. Victory goes to the player who wins 5 of the 9 battle flags (an envelopment) or three adjacent flags (a breakthrough). Based on Reiner Knizia’s original design published in Germany as Shotten-Totten, Battle Line…
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Category Tags , , SKU ZBG-GMT1917 Availability 3+ in stock
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • It's incredibly easy to teach/learn
  • Highly tactical
  • Highly replayable

Might Not Like

  • Component quality (the cards are slightly flimsy)
  • The theme
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Battle Line takes about 30 minutes to play. To win, you must create powerful formations along your side of the line of battle that are superior to those of your enemy. Victory goes to the player who wins 5 of the 9 battle flags (an envelopment) or three adjacent flags (a breakthrough). Based on Reiner Knizia's original design published in Germany as Shotten-Totten, Battle Line enhances and expands that game system to give players even more tactical options and gut-wrenching decisions.

Battle Line places you in command of your army's strategies. How will you muster your formations? Will you use your powerful KingsGuard to vanquish your enemy, or perhaps send the King of England or France to the front to win a critical flag? Or perhaps you"ll rely on your spies to determine the enemy"s strengths and weaknesses before committing your best forces. You'll always have plenty of choices. With every card play, you'll determine the strength and direction of your attack while plotting to fend off your enemy's advances.

In Battle Line, you and your opponent lead the combined arms of the greatest units of the era. Will you, like the great Kings of yore, reign supreme? Play Battle Line, and find out.

Compact, easy to learn, and deceptively deep. Battle Line Medieval is a no-frills, highly replayable card game for two players. It’s simple design allows for fast flowing, tactical back-and-forth gameplay, with (in my experience) wide appeal, even amongst ‘non-gamers’. It is a game that has entertained players (in varying guises) for decades.

This edition is just one of the latest iterations of a game first published as The Fifth Column in 1995. Developed from a poker variant (East-West), the game was played with a standard deck of cards and was light on ‘theme’. The designer (the prolific Reiner Knizia) reinvented the game in 1999 as Schotten Totten, giving the game a more distinct identity. Not satisfied there he re-themed the game again (with minor gameplay amendments) as Battle Line in 2000. From that, we arrive at Battle Line Medieval themed edition. Itself a straight a re-theme of Battle Line.

Theme aside, little has changed from iteration to iteration. Revised editions of both Schotten Totten and Battle Line remain in print (joined in 2020 by Schotten Totten 2). The fact that these games continue to be reprinted (and sell), speaks well for the enduring appeal of the core gameplay.

Form The Line

Like the versions that have come before it, Battle Line Medieval sets two players against one another over a ‘battle line’. In this case, nine battlefield cards arrayed in line between the players. To be victorious, a player much successfully claim five of the nine, or three adjacent battlefields. To claim a battlefield, players need Troops – and Tactics.

Players share a 60 card Troop deck, depicting Medieval themed military units with values of 1-10, in six colours. From this they will draw an opening hand of seven cards and alternate turns playing one card to a battlefield. Each battlefield can hold a up to three cards on each players side. To claim a battlefield a player must establish a stronger formation of three cards than their opponent.

The formations, whilst given appropriately thematic names like Wedge, and Square, still retain the memory of the original poker inspired game. For example a Wedge Formation is three cards of the same colour with consecutive values, or a Straight Flush. A Square is three cards of the same value (Three of a Kind). I’ve found this particularly useful in tempting your unenlightened ‘non-gamer’ to give it a go, admittedly with mixed results.

Tactical Gameplay

In addition to the Troop cards, players have access to a 10 card Tactic deck. From which cards can be drawn and played in place of a Troop card. Some Tactic cards will be used as a wildcard Troop, others will have a one-time effect on a specific battlefield. A well played Tactic can completely turn the tables on your opponent.

When a player has a three card formation at a battlefield, they can claim it. So long as (using only cards in play) they can prove their formation is stronger and anything their opponent can create.

That, in essence, is the game. Each turn a player will play a card, claim one or more battlefields (if able), then draw a card. It’s a simple structure, and one enables engaging, tactical, gameplay that draws players back time and again. With an average game lasting around 20 – 30 minutes, you’ll often want to dive straight into a rematch… then a best of five.

Highly Replayable

What makes this game so engaging, and so replayable, is crazy number of options you need to consider. When you play Battle Line Medieval you are going to be faced with many decisions, mostly tough (sometimes frustratingly), every turn. Because, on each turn, you must play a card to your side of the battle line. In doing so you reduce the number of slots left available to you. Every card played has the potential to notably affect the relative strength of cards in both players hands.

Therein lay the challenge of Battle Line Medieval. “Where and when should I play this card?” “What the odds that I’ll draw X card, or that my opponent already has it” “Is that card just played a bluff, or the start of a solid formation?” These are some of the questions you will likely be asking yourself constantly. At times it can be a bit of a brain burner, but none the less it is a rewarding experience.

Win or lose I strongly suspect you’ll want to go again and see if you can do better.


The Wrap

Battle Line Medieval is a game I would recommend to anyone enjoys two-player games. It ticks many of the boxes for me in terms of ‘a solid two-player game’ Quick set up, an easy teach, highly replayable, with gameplay that throws up interesting decisions. It’s also highly portable.

Whilst the game box is bigger than it needs to be, the game fits easily in a standard CCG deck box. Making it a great option with which to grab a partner to game on the go. E.g at the pub with a pint on a Sunday afternoon!

If the gameplay appeals, but the artwork doesn’t, take a look at Schotten Totten. The game plays very similarly (newer versions also include Tactic cards). It’s highland tribe themed artwork is more eye catching.  Although I am a fan of Roland MacDonald’s (Ruthless, Undaunted, Western Legends) work on this edition. It’s Battle Line Medieval Edition for me all the way.

Battle Line Medieval (2017) is a themed version of Schotten Totten (1999) and Battle Line (2000). A tactical card game in which two players vie for control of nine battlefields. A typical game lasts around 20-30 minutes. Players of Schotten Totten and Battle Line note little difference in the rules for this edition.


Set the nine battlefield cards in a line between the players. (For a standard game, place the battlefields text side down.)

Players cut the Troop deck until one has the higher number. That player becomes the dealer, shuffles the deck and deals seven cards to each player. (Players never reveal the cards in their hand during the game.)

Place the remaining Troop cards face down beside the battlefields, forming a draw deck. Then shuffle the Tactic deck and placed them face down beside the Troop draw deck, forming a second draw deck.

Objective: To take victory a  player must claim five of the nine battlefields or three adjacent battlefields.


Each battlefield has three ‘slot’s’ on either side, into which players can play Troop (and some Tactic) cards. The aim is to create a stronger 3 card formation on your side of a battlefield than your opponent, then claim it.

The formations, from highest to lowest are:

Wedge: Three cards of the same colour with consecutive values (Straight Flush)

Square: Three cards of the same value (Three of a Kind)

Column: Three cards of the same colour (Flush)

Skirmish: Three cards with consecutive values (straight)

Fray: Any other formation (sum of values)

In addition, the player may deploy Tactic cards to affect a battlefield. There are three types of ten Tactic cards:

Morale Tactics: Cavalry Mercenary, King of England, King of France, and Support Troops. Play a Morale Tactic to a battlefield in place of a Troop card.

Weather Tactics: Fog, and Mud. Play a Weather Tactic beneath a battlefield to influence the outcome. They do not count toward the 3 card formation.

Guile Tactics: Deserter, Redploy, Scout, and Traitor. Play a Guild Tactic to a battlefield to trigger an immediate effect. The card is then set aside.

A Game Turn

The non-dealer takes the first turn, with play then alternating until one player meets a victory condition.  A game turn has three stages: play a card, claim a battlefield (optional), and draw a card.

Play a card: The player will choose one card from their hand (Troop or Tactic). A card must be played to an unclaimed battlefield with an open slot.

A player cannot play more than 3 cards on their side a battlefield (Weather and Guile Tactic cards do not count). Also, a player can only play up to one more Tactic card than their opponent has played.

Claim a Battlefield: The player may claim one or more battlefields on their turn. To do so they must have a complete 3 card formation on their side of the battlefield(s) being claimed. They must be able to prove that their opponent cannot form a stronger formation at the claimed battlefield(s). To do so, use only the cards in play to prove the claim(s), never reveal cards in hand.

In some scenarios, a battlefield will be tied, or at best will be. Here, the player who played (or would play) the last card on the battlefield lose the tie. The opposing player may claim the battlefield on their next turn. When a player successfully claims a battlefield, they move it to their side of the battle line.

Draw a card: The player will draw one card from either the Troop or Tactic deck to replenish their hand. When the draw deck runs out, no further cards can be drawn but play continues.

Game End

The game ends immediately upon one player claiming their fifth battlefield or has claimed three adjacent battlefields. No further battlefields are claimed.

If playing multiple games, the winner receives 5 points. The loser receives points equal to the number of battlefields they won. The winner plays first in the next game.

Rule Variants & Terrain Rules

Each Battlefield card features artwork on one side and text on the other. Turn the cards text side down to play a standard game. However, for a more challenging game players can set the battlefields text side up, and apply the text when playing cards.

A twist on this rule is to play with some battlefields text side up, and others text side down. I sometimes enjoy this approach for something a little different.

Claiming Battlefields

Players may only claim battlefields at the beginning of their turn. This rule delays the claim by a turn. Thus, providing the opposing player with an opportunity to modify the result with a Tactic card.

No Tactic Cards

This isn’t an official variant, as such as it’s not in the rule sheet. However, I have known players to set aside the Tactic cards and play only with Troop cards. Use this variant to imitate the gameplay of early editions of Schotten Totten. Battle Line introduced Tactic cards in 2000. This isn’t something I would do, but it is an option!

Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • It's incredibly easy to teach/learn
  • Highly tactical
  • Highly replayable

Might not like

  • Component quality (the cards are slightly flimsy)
  • The theme