Article published at a news group by Örjan Ohlson
I like the game. Reasonably easy, a lot of diplomacy (at least if there are four or
more players), but... I've found the game rather unbalanced in favour of the players
starting in Sweden (except in a 4-player game with 1 Norwegian, 1 Danish and 2 Swedish
players). The problem is threefold:
1. Travel is dangerous (add up the number of danger markers (dragon heads/sea serpents) in the areas you travel through; when you reach the destination, roll 1D10 and pray you score higher than this number - if not, lose that number of units). This danger is reduced by building bases - trading stations or military forts - abroad. These bases can also be used as starting points for further conquests/trading expeditions. However, you cannot build any bases in sea areas (of course!). The North Sea/Atlantic sea areas are more dangerous than the Baltic; even more so since a fleet can travel along a river, but canNOT move from one coastal area to a neighbouring coastal area without travelling through the sea area both border to. This makes travel in the west, where virtually all areas are coastal rather than riverine, a lot more dangerous than in the east.
2. There are several states not controlled by any player. These are Bretland (Anglo-Saxon Britain), the (Holy Roman) Empire, Byzantium, the East and West Caliphates and Khazaria - ie, they cover Western Europe and the entire Mediteranean basin. These states tend to disapprove of invasions, and may sometimes take violent action and destroy many or all Viking camps within their borders. Two (non-homeland) areas lie outside these states: the Atlantic isles (including Scotland and Ireland), and eastern Europe (basically the former European Warsaw Pact countries, including Russia). Most of the time, the organised states listed above are much stronger militarily than the unorganised areas as well.
3. Victory points are scored for conquering land areas, which is achived by building the maximum number of trading posts and forts in the area (these numbers vary from area to area).
This means that expansion to the east is easier than to the west - not only is the risk of losing your fleets lower, but the conquests are easier and you won't risk being thrown out by a resurgent local power. The Swedish are closest to the riches of Russia, whereas the Norwegians are pretty much restricted to the (poor) islands in the Atlantic. The Danes have good access to Europe, but the richest areas (England and the Empire) are rather difficult targets compared to Russia.
A fix which seems to work reasonably well is to allow fleets to move along a coast without sailing to the sea (eg, a fleet may move from Normandy to Bretagne without entering the Channel). I haven't played enough to tell if this is sufficient, but at least the Swedish players haven't won *every* game since we introduced it :-/
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