Beowulf is obviously a movie tie-in, but unlike many games in this genre, there is actually a decent - though not great - game lurking in there. It is not your standard 'roll dice and move' by any means. The game is in fact a development of another by the same designer (Reiner Knizia), called Kingdoms. It is essentially an abstract tile-laying game in which you attempt to score points by placing your playing pieces onto lines (horizontal or vertical) where they will score.
The game consists of a solid cardboard (double sided) playing board, a couple of hundred tiles, 40 figurines (10 for each player) and some rules and reference sheets. The artwork is a bit dark but quite thematic. Though arguably irrelevant to the actual game, it does add to the experience. The game will accommodate 2-4 players. It comes in a large square box, about 30cm a side, and is heavy enough that you feel you are getting value for money from the components, at least.
Each turn you can either play a figurine (you have a limited supply, values 1-4, to last you the whole game) onto an empty space, or place a tile from your hand similarly. The tiles either have positive or negative values, or special powers. The special powers can do things like swap tiles, or cancel positive tiles in the same row/column. The aim is to end the round with your figurines in the same row and column as positive tiles, and ideally with your opponents in rows and columns with negative tiles.
There are three similar rounds, played on slightly different shaped and sized boards, and with some different tiles each time, but broadly the same idea is followed each turn.
The game sees a lot of tactical play; there are always decisions about whether to play a tile or a figurine. If you play the latter too soon it may attract negatives from your opponents, but leave it too late and you sweet spot might be stolen away. The fluidity caused by the special powers means that things are rarely settled and your figurines rarely completely safe.
Therein lies its main drawback. For a relatively straightforward abstract game, there are a lot of bells and whistles, which in my opinion detract from the purity of the design. As well as increasing the chaos in the gameplay, the length of the game is extended beyond its natural limit. I actually prefer its more streamlined and quicker predecessor.
Having said that, it's by no means a bad game, and one I am perfectly willing to play. For a serious strategy gamer it is probably too chaotic, for a beginner or casual gamer it may be a little long and complicated, due to the number of extra rules and tactical options that the special powers bring in. However, for a gamer who's looking to get a bit deeper into the hobby after trying out some introductory games, it would be a good choice.
Fantasy Flight Games Beowulf Movie Board Game (FFG KN18)