Paul Incao
United States
Upper Montclair
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
Ask me about Kanban:Automotive Revolution
mbmbmbmbmb
Trollhalla » Forums » Reviews
A Comprehensive Review and Strategy Guide by a Playtester / Creative Development Contributor.
Trollhalla
Game Designer: Alf Seegert
Artist: Ryan Laukat
Publisher: Z-Man Games thumbsup
(Yet another great Z-Man game. Thanks Zev.)

Disclaimers
Since I extensively playtested a prototype version of Trollhalla and provided creative development suggestions towards the end of the project, this review may have a bias.
This is my first review on BGG... for what that is worth. surprise
Most of the content for this review was pulled together from notes taken while playtesting the game.

Review Objective
At first glance Trollhalla may appear as a typical family friendly gateway game (based on the simple and elegant rule set along with the cute theme and artwork). Trollhalla is a game where the depth returned is equal to the investment a player makes towards understanding the subtle complexity of the elegantly interwoven mechanics. It can best be understood by gamers with a few games under their belt. My goal in this review to highlight the strategic depth of the unique mechanics used in the game. I personally think once played the game will sell itself. In my opinion Trollhalla is approachable to all levels of players and is a must buy addition to any game collection. thumbsup

Given my involvement with the game, I believe I am qualified to help get everyone up to speed with this great game. cool

Premise (from the rulebook)
You and your hideous troll-friends have decided that it’s time for a career change. You are tired of guarding bridges and shaking down weary travelers all for the sake of a few clinking coins! Tolls are down, bandits are up, and besides, living under your bridge is damp and uncomfortable—and breathing all that crumbling bridge mortar is taking a toll on your lungs….
It’s time to venture forth and find some fresh sea air! In TROLLHALLA, you join forces with your fellow trolls to sail the seas in search of islands filled with pillage and plunder. Crunchy livestock, nervous monks, panicked princesses, piles of gold, and casks of grog await you! But watch out for Billy Goats—if you’re not careful they will knock parts of your precious stolen cargo out of your boat! With so many goodies lying about on these islands, it feels like you’ve died and gone to troll heaven, or perhaps someplace even better—TROLLHALLA!


Object of the Game (from the rulebook)
Players take turns placing trolls on the board. Trolls emerge from below each ship’s deck ready to plunder and scout the seas of Trollhalla! Trolls placed on ships claim plunder from nearby islands when a ship sails. Trolls placed in the sea will scout for destinations and determine where these ships sail, and also award players cards that perform special actions. The player who uses his trolls to fill his private boat with the most valuable collection of plunder wins the game!

Components

The Board

(Image submitted by BGG User: alfseegert)


Individual Player Boards - Private Boats

(Image submitted by BGG User: alfseegert)

Players collect plunder tiles on their private boats. For scoring purposes each plunder tile is equal to the number of symbols on the shield positioned beneath them (with the exception of the goat which will kick one plunder tile off a boat).

The Troll Tokens

Each player receives 16 Troll tokens all in the same color. The Chief Troll tokens are placed on the lower left hand side of the board.

The Boats

Boats in Red, Yellow and Blue will enable trolls to travel to neighboring islands. At game setup time boats cannot be placed adjacent to islands possessing another boat and cannot be placed on the center island. Each boat must be positioned so that its prow (the dragon’s head) faces west.

The Plunder Tiles

(Image submitted by BGG User: ckirkman)

In a 2 player game 2 plunder tiles of each type are removed from the game. To setup the game plunder tiles are randomly placed on all islands that don't have a boat. The remaining tiles are placed in the bag of plunder.

Gameplay
1) On a players turn two trolls must be placed onto the board. They may be placed in boats or at sea.

Trolls in Boats

(Image submitted by BGG User: ckirkman)

Positioning Trolls in Boats "as plunderers" will eventually enable players to collect plunder tiles from neighboring islands. Players must always position Trolls in the first available seat in the front of a boat. Trolls of the same type/color may not be placed in adjacent seats on a boat. Boats that travel to neighboring island will collect plunder tiles in island spaces which correspond to boat placement seating. If boats are rotated 180 degrees, plunder distribution will change (see the wind weather god action below for more detail of rotating boats.)
Plunder tiles collected by the Chief’s Trolls are placed on the northwest side of the board above the Chief Troll’s ship, adding to his booty (which he will share later). The Chief Troll’s tokens are then returned to the supply at the southwest side of the board by the compass rose.

In the picture above the pink lady troll would claim the Princess plunder tile, the Green troll would collect the Cow, the Chief Troll would collect the Goat tile and the Blue troll would recieve the Peasant with Pig.

The Plunder Bonuses

In a 2-3 player game the player that is first to collect 4 of any one type of plunder tile claims a bonus and may place their color troll token on the associated bonus position at the top of the game board. In a 4 player game, players must collect 3 of any one type of plunder. These bonuses can be lost if opponents can collect one more than the total collected by the current bonus holder.

+10/+5 bonus.
(From the rulebook). The first player to collect one of each of the six types of tile marked on the game board (including the Billy Goat) claims the 10-point bonus. The second player to collect one of each type of tile claims the 5-point bonus. (There is no second-place bonus in two-player games). The +10/+5 bonus cannot be lost, even if the player later loses a tile that contributed to it.

Trolls in Sea Lane Positions

(Image submitted by BGG User: ckirkman)

Positioning Trolls at sea "as scouts" enables player to direct ship along legal sea lanes leading to a neighboring islands. Trolls of the same type placed at sea may not be stacked on top of each other. A wind card god action may be required in order to add a troll at sea in this use case (see wind card action detail below). Immediately after placing trolls at sea, players collect one card showing the matching symbol of the sea lane space (i.e. The Blue troll would receive a storm card for placement on the sea lane stack in the above picture.)

2) Players may optionally play two matching cards from their hand to call on the Weather Gods.

In order to activate Weather god actions you must play a matching set of cards from your hand. You may play cards before, or after your troll placement actions. They can't be played after you roll the Boat Activation Die (see below). Cards that were collected during a player's turn may be used immediately. As suggested in the written rules, return the two matching cards that you use to the supply, face-up, and perform the action indicated. If you play more than one set, wait until all are played before discarding them.

Weather Cards

(From the rulebook)

Two Sun cards: The Sun God brings clear sailing! Perform one extra action this turn. Take one extra Troll token from your supply and immediately place it on the board, following the regular rules for placing a troll.

Two Storm cards: The Storm God sends lightning! Scatter all trolls in any single sea space and return them to their owners. (You may NOT remove trolls from ship spaces this way!)

Two Wind cards: The Wind God brings blustery weather! You may either a) turn any ship around so that it faces the opposite direction OR b) flip over any stack of trolls in a sea space.

Wind Card Affect on Boats and stacks of Trolls at Sea

(Image submitted by BGG User: ckirkman - This photo is brilliant thumbsup)


Maelstrom Variant (as per the rulebook)
On your turn you may play one of each card (Wind, Sun, and Storm) to summon a maelstrom (whirlpool) to violently transport trolls at sea! Pick up all the trolls in any one sea space and exchange them with all the trolls in any other sea space (keep trolls stacked in their original order). If you play with the Weather Tiles Variant, exchange Weather Tiles along with the trolls. You must exchange trolls on
sea spaces—you may not just move them. The Maelstrom action calls on all three Weather Gods; you may not call on any other Weather Gods during that same turn.

The Maelstrom god action gives players the ability to swap stacks of trolls at sea and quickly change potential ship navigation paths right before they roll the ship activation die. It is also best used to relocate stranded trolls at sea when swapped with a stack of opponent trolls. Late in the game this action can also be leveraged to action unused weather cards (each will penalize players 1 point at the end of game). I would suggest always playing with this variant.

3) Players roll the Ship Activation Die to activate one ship at the end of their turn (required).

Ship Activation Die

Boats if fully loaded with trolls when activated, will always move along the sea lane path leading to a plunder filled neighboring island which possesses the largest number of scouts. If after activation of a boat, no sea lane has a majority of Troll scouts, the active player must place a Chief Troll at sea to create a majority.

While the d6 die does add randomness, this game is about making the best decisions possible with a player's allocated actions. These decisions do not necessarily offer immediate rewards but if properly planned over a series of turns should payoff. The best advice I could give to any player new to Trollhalla is to not just think about your own game strategy towards collecting sets of plunder. Success will be accomplished by ensuring you stay one step ahead towards keeping your competition in check. See the Strategy Spoiler section below for more details...whistle

Chief Troll Distribution


When ships are activated and move to neighboring islands, the stack of trolls at sea on the activated sea lane are relocated to the boats beneath the Chief Troll’s ship. The bottom troll token in the stack goes in the first available boat closest to the bottom of the board, the next troll at the bottom of the stack goes in the second available boat and so on until all troll tokens are placed in follower boats. The boat closest to the Chief Troll ship when filled may include the remaining short stack of troll tokens. Chief Troll tokens are never positioned in following boats and are returned back to their supply on the board by the compass rose. The Chief Troll will distribute his plunder if the boats beneath the Chief Troll’s ship is now full (if he has any token to hand out). During distribution each player with at least one troll in a following boat will receive one and only one plunder tile from the Chief. The player with the most Troll tokens in following boats will get first pick of the available plunder tiles. If there is a tie the player with the troll token positioned in the boats closest to the Chief Trolls ship may choose first. If this is still a tie (multiple trolls in the following boat closest to the Chief Troll ship)....the player with their Troll highest on the stack will be granted first pick. Second pick will go to the player with the next highest numbers of trolls in follower boats (with the same tie breaker rules). Only players with Trolls in follower boats will receive plunder. All unclaimed plunder is returned to the plunder bag. Players may decline their right to receive plunder from the Chief Troll.

In the picture above blue would be awarded first pick since the blue troll is at the top of the stack in the closest follower ship. Pink would pick second, green would get the last pick and one plunder token would be returned to the plunder bag. Notice that the example above is a 3 player game (the Chief Troll token is covering the 5th follower ship).

Strategy (Spoilers)

Multiple paths to victory
There are 4 main paths to victory:

1) Try to establish the higher scoring set collection bonuses (Peasant with Pig or Monk). There are more of these tiles in the game so they are pretty easy to collect. Always keep in mind that plunder tiles can be collected via boat movement actions as well as from the Chief Troll distribution. With this in mind, always be sure to take note of the availability of plunder tiles in play on the board. Target the most commonly available plunder...which will most likely be a higher individual bonus sets.
2) Try to target all high value plunder tiles. Claiming 3 or 4 additional high value plunder tiles above those collected by your opponents is just as good as acquiring the high scoring bonuses.
3) Target the "one of each" set collection bonus. In order to claim this bonus you are going to need to acquire at least one goat plunder tile. Try to acquire a goat plunder tile early on in the game, preferably as your first plunder tile (so you won't lose a plunder tile with the required goat kick action). If you can't acquire a goat early in the game and are in the process of targeting an individual plunder set bonus, wait until you have secured the individual set bonus comfortably (with an extra tiles which you can afford to have kicked off your boat).
4) Try to establish a petting zoo (3 goats plunder tiles in a 4 player game or 4 goats in a 2-3 player game). If you find that all your opponents are avoiding goats and you are not in the race for any of the set collection bonuses this could be a great strategy. A focus on collecting goats also makes it more difficult for opponents to establish the "one of each type" bonus. Goat plundering can be a strategy that just falls into your lap, especially when you have an empty boat early on and no chance of having a plunder tile kicked off your private boat

The best part of these 4 strategies and the reason this is such a tremendously balanced game is that players must choice relatively early on which route they want to travel. All these strategies conflict with each other, making for very difficult gameplay strategy decisions. Experienced players with a good understanding of these strategies will have an edge as they stay focused to keep their opponents in check. It is important to play defensively when opponents are close to accomplishing a bonus. Don't give up if another player beats you out in establishing the individual set bonuses. You may still have a shot at overtaking them to steal it away. The "one of each type" bonus can not be lost once obtained.

Bog down your opponents' ships arrrh
A key part of the game, especially with 2-3 players, is blocking. If you have no trolls in a full boat your best action may be to prevent it from moving. Creating ties it an effective way of slowing down scoring by your opponents. Also if your opponents are trying to get a ship to a specific island, you might choice to attempt to get another boat to that island first; this could create a major shift in gameplay. A key point here is you don't necessarily want to place your trolls in all 3 boats.

If you sense that boats are getting full be sure to take the last available seat. You don't want your next turn to begin with all full boats. It's easier to fall behind your opponents by not getting enough trolls in boats. Players must strike a balance between the control and chief troll distribution benefits of trolls at sea and plundering with placement of trolls in boats. If there is a full boat with none of your trolls seated in the boat, it may be a good strategy to bog down the ship (especially in a 2-3 player game).

Keep your opponents in check. ninja
The key to success in this game is players must watch what their opponents are doing. For inexperienced players, it is very typical to just focus collecting sets to score points...leveraging Sun cards to get extra Troll placement actions. While this is a good strategy for early turns...it is critical to gain control of ship movement / plunder distribution. This can only be accomplished by collecting Storm and Wind cards which requires places Trolls at sea. This is also a great way for players to interfere with their opponent's strategies and bog them down. One word of caution is to not waste weather card actions if they can easily be reversed by clever opponent play. Always keep an eye on which cards are being collected by your opponent. Especially the player seated to the left of you. It is always best to compete with the player seated to the right of you.

For more spoiler strategy on how to approach gameplay decisions when there are full boats in play, I have uploaded a decision tree flow within the Files Section of the Trollhalla game page . Click this link: A Gamer's Decision Tree for a Gateway Game with Depth



Make efficient use of weather god actions devil
Playing a Storm card action is a great way to steal already played troll placement actions as well as future scoring opportunities from your opponents. If you see a sea lane position where you are not positioned with any of your trolls yet there are multiple opponent troll placements, target the stack with a storm.
When placing troll at sea the sun positions are best early game as they will grant you extra actions. The game is a race to set collection so these extra actions are key early on to gain an edge on targeting specific strategies / paths to victory. Wind and storm location are better midway through the game once the scoring bonuses become in reach.

Weather Card Strategy

Click on magnifying glass above the Weather Card Strategy image on the left side of the page to better view a use case example of strategic Weather God card actions.

Additional Comments-
2b) The Blue Troll could not just add a Blue Scout to the N/W sea lane positions since he already was on top of that stack.
4b) In the End the Blue Troll gets the last say with the Pink troll setup to receive a goat on the next Blue boat movement.


Which weather cards gets the most play really depends on the style of the players in the game and the areas on the board which are seeing the most activity. In my experience, if you play with non-gamers, they will go directly after the Sun card locations because the mechanics for the other cards are not directly apparent. Storm and Wind card give players more control which will be immediately obvious to gamers, but also introduce a more competitive style of play.

Make the most of your troll placement actions.ninja
Since only one plunder is available from the Chief Troll per distribution having too many trolls in follower ship can be inefficient early in the game. It is more important to challenge your opponents in chief troll following ships later in the game when players have established their individual strategy paths and are nearing collection of bonuses. A good and obvious strategy is take advantage of a dual plunder island positions (a few of the islands on the board reward trolls with 2 plunder tiles).

If you are looking to collect a specific weather card, troll placement in sea lanes positions which lead to the center island are your best bet. Try not to place trolls at sea which may get stranded due to lack of activity.

Troll placement in Boats is more critical early in the game, with placement at sea a secondary focus for me. Early in the game I like to time my placement at sea just as boats are full and about to move. It is important to get your troll in a sea lane that is about to be activated...especially if the chief troll is about to distribute plunder. This will ensure you can keep pace with your opponents.

The best strategic advice I can give is to always be conscious of how best to score points...watch your opponents, get in the right seat on boats, bog down your opponents (stay out of boats you can stall), go after the bonus your opponents are ignoring. If the chief troll has a plunder tile you need, focus on making sure you can establish first pick... this may mean being the top troll in a sea lane that is about to be activated.

The Weather Tile Optional Variant.

Weather Tiles Variant

The default thematic "clustered weather pattern" board setup encourages players to spread the allocation of trolls at sea. The great thing about the weather distribution on the printed game board (without the use of random weather tiles) is it forces players to have to claim weather cards of all types (due to the fact that weather allocation is aligned to islands). This is great as it forces non-gamers to experiment with the use of the storm and wind actions (otherwise they will get an unused card penalty at end of game). My advice to gamers is to play with the weather tiles for a more competitive style of game.

Adding the weather tiles to gameplay introduces added replayability in addition to a deeper level of strategy. With that said, I would encourage experienced players to leverage the random weather tile setup.

Summary

Why is Trollhalla a must add for any game collection ?

Trollhalla will please both gamers and non-gamers. It is an extremely fun and approachable game with many quick yet interesting decisions per turn. Trollhalla has good player interaction as players jockey to manipulate Troll ship point to point movement paths and offset opponents' plans.

Trollhalla plays great with 2-4 players. If you are looking for a quick competitive 2 player game there is nothing better I can suggest. If you are looking to play a quick 4 player game with non-gamer family members Trollhalla is a great choice. The game is just fun with new groups. Sure non-gamers won't know that underneath this fun themed game is a "thinky" euro style game...they will just feel the adventure of traveling the sea as troll vikings plundering sets of amusing looking whimsical characters. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I think Ryan Laukat is an amazing artist. He once again did a tremendous job to bring the Alf's Troll universe to life. I only hope there will be many more Z-Man Troll themed games in the future...whistle

Pros:
1) The game has a great light-hearted and fun thematic feel. (In typical Seegert game design fashion, to succeed you must mess with your opponents). devil
2) Simple yet elegant mechanics and rule set.
3) Multiple paths to victory with varying risk rewards.
4) Plenty of thematic player interaction.
5) The die roll mechanic introduces the perfect amount of suspense and fun and is the only random element to the game.
6) Player turns go quickly as there are only a few decisions to make. The game does not get bogged down due to the clever implementation of Chief Troll placement at sea and on boat mechanics.
7) An excellent gateway game choice for non gamers (especially with 3-4 players).
8) An excellent strategically deep 2 player game.
9) Trollhalla is great choice for fans of Alf's previous game - Bridge Troll.

Cons:
1) This game has a series of interwoven mechanics which create intricate strategies which may require multiple plays to fully appreciate.
2) Nothing else I can think of.

Personal Note:
I can't thank Alf Seegert enough for allowing me to playtest and contribute with creative development on this project. My game development involvement was a great game design learning experience. My girls learned a lot as well with their playtesting responsibilities.

-Paul Incao



Playing my first game of Trollhalla (the production version) with one of my playtester daughters.

Thanks to BGG User ckirkman for uploading some great Trollhalla images. I used a few of them in this writeup as noted below the pictures above.
55 
 Thumb up
3.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin Garnica
United States
Buena Park
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
An Excellent review! It was very insightful in terms of strategy. And I really appreciate the time you took to illustrate its strategic depth, something I've already discovered in my plays.

I've always said that this game might have an uphill battle with popularity based on the way it "looks" like it could be a kids game. But I know better. Thanks for helping spread the news!

Really enjoy Trollhalla.

8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alf Seegert
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow, thank you Paul! This is an excellent guide and I'm grateful for your in-depth treatment of a design I worked very hard to make as solid and enjoyable as I could. I especially appreciate your so clearly laying out the major paths to victory and important strategies. I've learned a lot by reading it! thumbsup
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
boardgamemuse
United States
Denton
Texas
flag msg tools
mb
A superb review Paul.

You certainly did the game justice with the lavish photos and suitable explanation including variants [weather patterns]. To be honest, I was not sure that this game would be one for our family. But you have changed my perspective.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Incao
United States
Upper Montclair
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
Ask me about Kanban:Automotive Revolution
mbmbmbmbmb
pacman88k wrote:
An Excellent review! It was very insightful in terms of strategy. And I really appreciate the time you took to illustrate its strategic depth, something I've already discovered in my plays.

I've always said that this game might have an uphill battle with popularity based on the way it "looks" like it could be a kids game. But I know better. Thanks for helping spread the news!

Really enjoy Trollhalla.



Thanks. I agree the cute theme might lead one to believe this is a kid game but we both know what lies beneath. That was my biggest motivation for writing up this strategy guide.


alfseegert wrote:
Wow, thank you Paul! This is an excellent guide and I'm grateful for your in-depth treatment of a design I worked very hard to make as solid and enjoyable as I could. I especially appreciate your so clearly laying out the major paths to victory and important strategies. I've learned a lot by reading it! thumbsup


Thanks Alf....I look forward to someday sitting down with you to play this game. Problem is you now know all my secrets.


pratchettfan777 wrote:
A superb review Paul.

You certainly did the game justice with the lavish photos and suitable explanation including variants [weather patterns]. To be honest, I was not sure that this game would be one for our family. But you have changed my perspective.


Thanks for the kind words. This game works great with my family.
During playtesting, we played it a couple times a week for a few months and I usually struggle to get my family to the game table. That wasn't the case with Trollhalla.

You won't be disappointed.



-Paul
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don Lloyd
United States
Colorado Springs
CO
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow, this is really good stuff. The way you analyze the strategic decisions is very thorough, with multiple options to the game play approach. The multiple paths to victory was a nice touch.

I cant wait to have you on the team for Dark Horse!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Incao
United States
Upper Montclair
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
Ask me about Kanban:Automotive Revolution
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks Don. I am very excited about Dark Horse. I think it's going to be great. All the things I love about dice euros with a Settlers of Catan feel built around a western theme.

Congrats on meeting your funding level. I'm glad I got into your Kickstarter program before the Monday deadline.

-Paul
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jesse Mindel
United States
Louisville
Kentucky
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I bought this game approx one month ago to introduce to my 9 year old based primarily off of this review and Tom Vassals. This is a great game and suprisingly complex. It's a big hit at my gaming house. Thanks for the review.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Incao
United States
Upper Montclair
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
Ask me about Kanban:Automotive Revolution
mbmbmbmbmb
jesker wrote:
I bought this game approx one month ago to introduce to my 9 year old based primarily off of this review and Tom Vassals. This is a great game and suprisingly complex. It's a big hit at my gaming house. Thanks for the review.


Thanks. My family and I are still getting a lot of play out of this game.

-Paul
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jod Lamarche
Canada
flag msg tools
Thanks, great Game Design skills! You keep it simple and it's an add-on to the rules. I printed your flowchart
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Incao
United States
Upper Montclair
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
Ask me about Kanban:Automotive Revolution
mbmbmbmbmb
gourgane wrote:
Thanks, great Game Design skills! You keep it simple and it's an add-on to the rules. I printed your flowchart


Thanks. Be sure to download the lastest version of the flowchart:


A Gamer's Decision Tree for a Gateway Game with Depth
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.