To initiate Winter combats, players select one of their Target cards to secretly designate their intended combat activity. Options include launching a Raid to steal precious livestock, joining their national army as light cavalry forces in one of the historical Battles, or representing their family against a specific target player with whom you have a Feud or Gaolbreak attempt that needs to be prosecuted. Careful play of cards that were drafted during the Summer can help these combats break favorably for your clan.
At last, Spring arrives and the raiding ceases. It’s time to count points and sing of the heroic exploits just witnessed. And on the final turn, that’s exactly what happens—players cash in one or more of the Border Ballad cards for extra VP, especially if the ballad aligns with the strategic path they have followed throughout the game. Which ballad will commemorate your deeds on the Border? May you fare better than Johnny Armstrong, the subject of the famous ballad “Armstrong’s Goodnight,” that captures the spirit of the Reivers:
Said John, Fight on, my merry men all
I am a little wounded, but am not slain;
I will lay me down and bleed awhile,
Then I’ll rise and fight again.
MY REIVER JOURNEY: In some historic gift shop during our April 2006 family tour of the historic sites of Northumberland (I don’t think it was Alnwick or Bamburgh Castles, perhaps the Vindolanda Roman Fort museum?), I stumbled upon an amazing map. The “In Search of the Border Reivers Ordnance Survey Map” amazed me because it showed that the entire Border region was dotted with hundreds of ruined stone tower and castle sites. Why had they been built? What wars were these? Why did this map look like an amazing game that needed to be designed? How did this all happen during the Here I Stand
period and I never realized it? To answer all these questions, I bought the map and accompanying book, George MacDonald Fraser’s “The Steel Bonnets.”
I had finished the book before we returned home and already knew I wanted to capture this underappreciated time in a game. My early designs were not workable, so the game was shelved to make room for the release of Virgin Queen in 2012. But the seed had been planted. Finally, in 2020, it is ready to bear fruit…or sheep…or cattle. I hope by sharing Border Reivers with the GMT community, their story can capture your imagination too.