1st Sep 2022 - Barrage

by RobinWed, 25 Jan (Updated at Wed, 25 Jan)

As a summer of droughts gives way to an autumn of high energy prices, my group played Barrage, which is a game about generating hydroelectric power. Water comes down rivers in fairly scarce quantities from the mountains, and you have to dam the rivers and channel as much water as you can into your power plants. I have seen this game a few times before at the club, but I had never tried it until now – and I thought it was great!

I came into this one expecting another really heavy game: it is rated at 4.1 complexity by BGG – higher than Brass Birmingham and only just lower than Imperial Steam. But I did not find this game complicated – once you get started it’s quickly apparent what you have to do. After that it really flows (no pun intended…): as a worker placement game, the set of possible options is always clear. Each turn has plenty of tactical permutations, so choosing the right placement is a good challenge; but the decisions are fairly quick, so there is not much downtime.

But where this game really comes into its own is in the player interaction. You are all trying to use the same set of water, so your building decisions may divert water away from another player’s dam downstream from you; and/or the water you channel into your power plants may flow out the other end straight onto another player’s dam somewhere else. It’s rarely possible to take actions that don’t benefit anyone else; and likewise you can expect to have your own plans messed up by others’ actions.

I’m not sure yet if there is a “best” strategy to this game. David-K and I both tried strategies that should have helped us to stay independent from others’ actions: in his case, building dams and power plants so that each fed another of his own, further downstream; and in my case, building dams as far upstream as possible. David-E, meanwhile, went for the opposite strategy: everything he built was downstream, so I found that almost all the water I used then flowed down for him to use also. This last proved to be the winning strategy, but I’ve no idea if it always works out like that. David insisted it was just the way this particular game panned out.

Our room was definitely the room for water management games this week, as the other table were playing Petrichor. I’d not come across this game before, but the theme looks really nice: in your role as a cloud, choosing how to allocate rainfall across different crops. And I liked the agricultural imagery on the tiles too – I’d definitely look to try this one in future.

And even by BGG’s rating, Barrage was not the heaviest game at the club this week, as the daunting Imperial Steam made another appearance upstairs. Pedro and Elsa had played it earlier in the week, and were already keen to play it again… proper hardcore gamers! Other than that I saw Age of Atlantis, Alma Mater and a welcome return for Paul-B and his band of gunslingers to Western Legends.