Vikingatid:  Review

Article published at Svellov's Braet & Board

This Swedish game was published last year, and as the name suggest it deals with the Era of Vikings. It has some interesting features, but unfortunately also some rather tedious ones. Two to six players choses a Homeland: either Denmark, Norway or Sweden. They can all chose the same country if they wish, and some interesting diplomatic rules enshures a very different (but good) game if that would be the case. The game is played in turns of 25 years beginning in year 800 and ending when all players have become Christianized (not later than turn 14: 1100 AD).

25 years is enough for the Vikings to reach any part of the map - if they dare! The map streches from New Foundland (Vinland) in northwest to Northafrika and Persia in south and east. Rivers makes it possible to sail from Finland to the Caspian Sea, or from the Baltics to the Black Sea. Unfortunately does the Alps make it impossible for the Vikings to travel through Central Europe to the Mediterrenean. Everything north of the Faero Islands has to be discovered before the areas are accessible. This is done with the aid of cards which I will explain in a moment. We will first take a look at the features of the map. You may move as far as you wish but each space has 1 or 2 Dragonheads/Seamonsters which accumulates as you sail and you have to throw higher on a D10 to escape the perrils. This would imply that you couldn't sail more than 9 spaces, but this is not so. For each 10 symbols you will have to throw, but each friendly Settlement lower the number by one. A Togt (cruise) can contain up to 10 boats, and if your don't clear the dangers you will lose as many boats as the die shows. All players of the same Homeland are friendly so these players have an advantage when they are sailing out.
The Togt consists of either Longboats (for war) or Cogs (trading). Longboats can conquer new territory for your Homeland. Each Landspace has 1-3 Shields each symbolising an Army. Within each Shield is its Strength (2, 3 or 5). In combat each participant throws a die for each Army/boat and score a hit if the number is within it strength (a Boat has strength 5). It's too bad for the Vikings though, that Armies may re-throw ALL their dice if just one of them shows a 1! A hit eliminates one Army/boat. If all Armies are eliminated may the area be plundered or conquered.

The traders are peaceful Vikings who are welcome in most spaces. A space has between 0 and 4 Goldcoins symbolizing the wealth of the area. Traders receives 1 Silver for each coin-symbol.
Most areas are coloured brown, but there are also 6 Realms. They are made up of several spaces in a distinct colour. The central space in each Realm cannot be conqured and the rest can only be conqoured with great difficulty; actually risk even Traders to be thrown out as there is special table for each Realm which is consulted in the beginning of each turn.

There are 112 cards in the game depicting all kinds of events or game mechanics. All players draw a new card each turn but can only keep 4 at a time. The cards, which have the same size as the trading cards of Civilization, are all in swedish, but shouldn't be to difficult to follow as most of them only have a few lines of text. Cards and Silver are part of the diplomatic game which is very important in Vikingatid. Vikings of different Homelands are natural enemies (and their Longboats have to fight) while Vikings of the same Homeland can't fight each other. The three Homelands have to elect a new King each turn. This is done by throwing dice which are modified with armies and Silver. Anybody in the Homeland can vote (and cards may give a foreign player a chance too) but outsiders can influence the votes by paying silver, and players may influence other players choice by giving cards, promise land, ships etc. The King is very important. He receives 2 VP every turn (other VP's are given for each conquered space) and are given the lions share of everything his countrymen earns. In true scandinavian tradition is everything earned shared by all: the King receives 50%, the rest is shared by equally by all - including the King! If this should prove too much for a player he may leave the Homeland and begin his own little nation in a conqured space. He then keeps all his eanings, but have no friends and will have great difficulties in sailing very far unless he already owns a lot of secure spaces.

The rules are short, but not very well written. The game mechanics are simple enough, but very long winded and you have to throw a LOT of dice. You have to make a Initiative roll before each stack of Boats are moved - we have reduced this by giving each player a number and throwing a die - you may prefer to reduce this randomness all together. The mapboard is large (same physical size as Civilization but there is not enough room in the spaces for the counters. We have talked of making a new map twice the size, and will do that if we should ever decide to play this game regularly. But after two playings we have actually decided that the game is interesting but too long, and there are too much fidling with tiny counters to make it a really good game. I want to like the game, but unfortunately can't. Buy at your own risk!

Trollspel 1997 by Johan Palén & Kim Bergström; layout: Carl Johan Ström & Fabian Fridholm

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