In Schotten Totten, nine boundary stones lie between you and your opponent. In front of each, you build poker-like formations of three cards on a side. Whoever plays the higher-ranking formation wins the stone. And in a unique twist, you may use your powers of logic to claim a stone even before your opponent has played all three of his cards, by demonstrating that the stone is impossible for him to win. Successfully claim five stones, or any three adjacent stones, and you win the game.
In 2000 GMT published a rethemed version as Battle Line which includes an extra 10 "tactics" cards that modify the standard game play, and with cards that run from 1 to 10 (instead of 1 to 9).
The 2004 Edition of Schottentotten has these "tactics" cards too.
Schotten Totten is a reskin of the Reiner Knizia two player card game Battle Lines. Classical armies have been replaced by Scottish clansmen and women fighting over the border between their two territories. Its fast, tactical and fun and is one of my favourite quick, portable two player games.
How to play
The border contest is fought over nine border stones placed in a line between the two players. Player will draw six cards from a deck of 54. The cards are numbered 1-9 in six different colours. Players will take it in turns to place a card in front of one of the stones, on their side of the border. The aim is to create the best possible three card combo in front of each stone. The combos are similar to poker, ranging from a colour run (best) to simply the sum of the three cards (worst). After placing a card, if they have won the stone they move it to their side of the table, and check for victory. They then draw back up to six cards in their hand. Checking for winning a stone is usually a case of seeing who has the best three card combo. However if you have placed three cards and you can prove your opponent can’t win that stone purely from the visible array on the table, you may claim the stone immediately. Overall victory is achieved by winning five stones from anywhere along the line of nine or three adjacent stones.
The latest reprint from Iello also comes with an optional tactics deck containing ten tactics cards, which are either ‘elite’ troops or create special effects. Hand size rises to seven and at the end of your go you choose whether to draw from the regular or tactics deck. Playing tactics cards happens in the normal manner but you are limited to being able to play a maximum of one more tactics card than your opponent. The cards themselves have a range of effects from increasing the card limit on an individual stone to forcing an opponent to discard a card from his array.
How does it play?
It's brisk, fun and surprisingly thinky. From the first hand you are gambling on what combos look likely and deciding where to play on the line. With two nines in hand, are you going for a strong push on one stone or are you going for two weaker but still respectable flushes or the possibility of a colour run. Maybe you have a low colour run in hand. Do you get it down straight away as a fairly likely win and to free space in your hand? Or do you just put the one card down and try to draw your opponent to start putting down a higher three of a kind which will ultimately lose? Where are the bits of the line you want to win and what are you happy to sacrifice? All the time you are parsing the options in front of you and also trying to get a read on your opponent or trick them into ill-advised action. And the more you play with the same opponent the greater the meta game of who does what in particular circumstances.
This plays in 15 minutes and is enormously satisfying. As soon as you have finished one game you will want another, and another. It’s exactly the sort of game to play on a train journey, on the beach or on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s hugely accessible and easy to teach, but mastering it is another matter altogether. For me the base game is all I need. The tactics cards are fun, though slightly mess with the viability of the early claim rules. I drop them in for a couple of goes every so often and then tend to go back to the original.
Production values of the Iello print are really high – attractive comedic cards and thick card stock stones. The box is a little bit big, but if that’s the worst of it then you get a sense of how good this is.
I have a load of these head to head two player games, from Santorini to Tash Kalar. This sits with the best of them. It’s probably the cheapest and the most portable. Believe me, this is a worthy addition to your collection.