Whilst Little Battle is a title that might suggest a fair bit of conflict, this small box kids game from Loki is actually something very different. Yes, you’ll be competing directly with each other, but the anamorphic-pirate theme and the focus on bypassing your opponents as much as beating them ensure that the experience remains light and child-friendly.
In the box, you’ll find a relatively simple set of attractive components. There are five thick and attractive cardboard ships, and two decks of cards. The first deck has thirty animal cards in three different colours, whilst the other features treasure chests in the same three colours on one side, and various coin values (from zero to five) on the other.
Each player takes a ship to represent them during the game, and then the treasure chest cards are split into two, face down piles. The top card of each pile will show one of the treasure chest colours — either blue, red or yellow. The players will then be dealt five of the animal cards each, and they must keep one, then pass the other four to the player on their left.
When the next player receives these cards, they will then choose one and pass the remaining three and so on until each player is handed one final card. By using this basic drafting system, the players will assess the colours and values of the cards they have access to, choosing those which they think will give them the best chance of claiming chests in the next round.
Once the drafting is done, the players will secretly choose the card that they want to use to bid for either of the two chests, and then they will place it down beside it. All the cards are then flipped at the same time to be resolved, which is relatively simple.
In summary, if any player has played a card that doesn’t match the colour of the treasure chest they have placed their card against, it will be discarded immediately. This tends to happen only towards the end of a round, when a player has run out of cards of a specific colour, and two treasure cards in that colour are presented.
Almost as unusually, one of the treasure cards may only be contested by a single player. When this happens, assuming that they did use the correct colour of animal card, they’ll take the treasure chest and place it face down on their boat. The most common outcome is that several players will compete for the same chest, with animals of the correct colour.
At this point, the animal with the highest number will win, unless one of the three animal leaders (which have zero value, but come with their own special rules) is being used). Little Battle then continues with the players using a single card each round until they have none left. When the first five cards have been drafted and spent, the game repeats itself until all treasure cards are all claimed – or, if your children have the same as mine, after about 3 rounds.
At the end of the game, the winner will be the player who has collected treasure cards with the most total treasure. This is one area that can cause a bit of a kerfuffle for young players, because it is entirely possible for one player to collect a few more treasure cards than the others, but because the treasure score is so variable, they may still lose. This has caused a few tantrums in my house, but children who are about six or seven and upwards will have less of a problem here.
Little Battle is described on BoardGameGeek (by the publishers, presumably) as a children’s first drafting game. I’d suggest that is an accurate description given that the drafting element is simple to assess, and the objective is clear. Young players need only consider colours and numbers, with the leader cards adding a slightly more complex twist that can be introduced once the basics are understood.
The assessment of decisions relating to claiming the treasure cards is also simple – do you have a card that matches the colours available? Do you think your card will win against the other players? If you don’t have a matching card, which of your cards do you want to throw away? All these questions can be assessed, understood and answered by even young players in just a few seconds, but the fundamentals they’ll learn playing Little Battle are useful in many other games.
Thanks to the very low price, the little box and the generally high quality, it’s easy to suggest that Little Battle falls into the impulse buy category. That undersells it a little however, because this is a clever little game that just about satisfies both older and younger gamers at the same time. There’s a little luck in the treasure cards that are drawn, but the fact that animal cards are drafted rather than dealt traditionally helps combat this. Overall, Little Battle is a very solid addition to a collection for younger players.
You can purchase Little Battle on IELLO.