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Numerous games have come out in the past where you’re tricked by the front cover of a box in terms of what type of game is within. Now it’s up to publishers to print an enticing box cover to draw people to the product, but at the same time you don’t want to get burned on a game because it isn’t what you expected. The best example of this I can think of in recent years is Hyperborea (see my review here). The game is great and that box cover is superb, but how many threads did you read online where people complained that they were expecting an epic, heavily thematic fighting game and instead got a solid, yet dry bag-building Euro?
In The Name of Odin starts off with a nice looking box cover about Vikings – which seem to be the hot theme to have these days. However this theme above all others has been renowned for not having the most thematic game behind it. Some gamers may recall the old “Vikings” game where you essentially bought tiles off a Rondel mechanic and built up various rows on a board for victory points. Yeah, OK, that’s fun, but not overly exciting. An even worse offender was an old game called Beowulf: The Legend with this awesome picture of a Viking dueling a red dragon on the cover. And what was it about? You were essentially a squire and used auction mechanics with card play. . . . .FAIL!
So will this be a repeat of previous misinterpretations? Or regardless will In The Name of Odin be a good game in general?
DEATH OR GLORY. . . AND SYMBOLS!
Right, first off, I’m shortening the title to “Odin” for this review just to make it easier to read. Players take the role of ambitious Vikings who want to prove that they are the chosen one to become the new clan leader. Of course a real Viking gathers his men, buys ships and goes on raids… Because what else was there to do back in those days I guess? And whoever is best at this will be the true heir of the old Jarl.
There are four different kind of cards: Hero, Raid, Building and Long Ship cards. Each card type has its own zone on the game board, with spaces for the deck and several offers (face-up cards). Each player also gets his own player board which contains places for up to five buildings, one ship and one hero. In addition there is space for all of the Viking miniatures you can acquire during the game. But for now, you start off with just a hand of six Action cards.
Each of the Action cards has two symbols. The top symbol can be used for acquiring new Vikings, and Odin features three different kind of Vikings: Warriors (red), Traders (green) and Sailors (blue). The bottom symbols on the Action cards determine the available actions for which a card can be used: Recruitment, Craftsmanship and Seamanship. As is the norm for a multi-use card mechanic, each one can only be used for one purpose and so you must work with what you’ve got.
Every raid demands a specific combination of Vikings. Far away destinations also require additional Vikings, but naturally the Fame rewards are higher. Action cards can be played to acquire Vikings and the more cards with the same symbol you use in a turn, the more Vikings of the corresponding colour you will get (1 for one card, 3 for two cards and 6 for three cards).
Of course Vikings aren’t known for their ability to swim long distance, so you’re going to need a boat. A big boat. A longship to be precise. To acquire a ship you must pay three cards with the Seamanship symbol and with the right buildings, you may also buy a second or even a third ship, so you can have your own Viking fleet if you want to!
The available building cards again can be obtained by spending three Action cards with the Craftsmanship symbol. In addition, you also have to spend a Construction token, and these tokens can be purchased too, but their cost increases with the number of buildings you already possess. You can quickly see how the main mechanic of Odin revolves around set collection. Buildings provide players with useful abilities as well as Fame points, for example, a Forge would provide you an additional Craftsmanship symbol every turn, whereas a Runic Circle allows you to hold 7 Action cards in your hand.
Last but not least there are the Heroes who can be hired by spending cards with Recruitment symbols (yay, more symbols!). You can use either the Hero’s special ability, or you can send him along on a raid – either way he’s discarded after use.
Now of course, you’re not a Viking unless you go out on a good days raiding in the name of Odin! After a player has declared to take the Raiding action, he must choose one long ship for this raid. Every ship has its own range (two or three zones), and depending on that range the player must choose a destination for the raid bearing in mind that venturing further afield to the second or third sea zones will require additional Vikings to crew the ship.
All other players can modify the requirements of the raid chosen by the active player by playing one of their Action cards to scupper things. Three cards will be used to modify the raid either from players or the deck. The active player then may then expend cards with the same symbols from his hand to get rid of these. After all this, the final value of the raid is determined based on the initial requirements modified by whether he was able to remove all of the additional played cards.
At the end of each round, the active player will fill up his hand of Action cards to his individual limit of six cards unless boosted otherwise. Odin ends after the last raid card has been chosen, at which point the new Jarl is the player with the most Fame points.
DOESN’T TRY TO TONE DOWN ITS PRESENCE
Now I went into this from literally only knowing about the box cover and the setting it was based on. And from that I admit I was expecting a rich Viking theme especially when I saw miniatures on the back as well. Well we’ll get on to that later, but for now certainly from a visual standpoint, Odin is well produced.
The board has a good map backdrop (not actually “used” in the game) and easy to follow spaces for all the different card decks. It’s functional without looking too busy. The artwork actually looks pretty good as well, both on the board and the cards themselves so you can see the effort put in to make the theme stand out as much as it can. The graphic design is easy to follow and even though everything is colour coded for the ease of the majority of readers, the symbols are differentiated enough for colour blind people to distinguish them. A slight mis-step though is that there’s no reference player aid provided for how the symbols are spent for specific cards or actions. Some information is on the board dotted about, but really I’m more for having a small piece of card in front of me for a quick glance when I forget something.
The miniatures are your standard plastic affair, although somewhat pointless as you literally just take them off the board until you need to spend them later on raids so you could have easily just done this with tokens. Yes it makes everything look nicer, but not everything is about miniatures these days (cough cough Cool Mini Or Not)! Maybe using tokens instead would have allowed the publishers to use solid tile boards for player buildings rather than flimsy card. Mine even had some “dog corners” from opening the box up.
HANDLING A VIKING RAID IS EASY!
Even though it appears that there is a lot of moving parts, Odin is actually pretty easy to get into. I’m not talking gateway level by any means, but for most gamers, it won’t take long to pick up the multi-use card concept. And because there are only a limited amount of offers on the table, which change depending on the other players, you don’t play Odin in a strategic manner. Instead more as a tactical tableau building game where you have to make the best use of what’s available. You can say ahead of the game that you’re going to aim for all the buildings, but if 3 of the 4 available are all ones you’ve built already then you need to focus on something else.
Odin is also surprisingly quick. You get the impression that it’s going to longer than it does, but with the majority of games clocking in under an hour, this actually fills a nice gap in between heavier affairs. And it’s not like it ends abruptly where you don’t feel you’ve done enough, it hits that sweet spot where you’ve reached that “I’m done” phase at the time the end game is triggered. Had this taken an extra 30-60 minutes to complete I feel that would have outstayed its welcome, but even with some of those AP players you try to avoid usually, it shouldn’t take longer than 75 minutes after explanations. It’s a welcome blessing if you’re in last place, because unfortunately Odin does suffer from a run-away leader issue. If you’ve fallen behind in the first few turns, your chances of pulling it back are slim to none, which would be unforgivable in a longer game.
Replayability is going to be an important factor though. There’s only so much variety in the cards and at the end of the day, Odin is a fairly generic Euro game. There’s nothing really unique about it, but nothing glaringly horrible either. It starts and ends and players nod their heads and go “yeah that was fine, what’s next”? So I feel you’ll get some initial fun, but sooner or later hit that wall of hesitation when you want to take it off the shelf again.
NOT FOR THE THEMATIC LOVERS
Now as I mentioned, I was expecting a rich, thematic Viking game. That’s not what I got and it was a pretty big downer for my first game. Odin is your standard Euro game with a Viking paint job. You’re not fighting each other for supremacy or pillaging a board for loot and area control, You’re basically engaged in a tactical race against time to obtain the most points by the time the last raid card is chosen. You don’t at any point feel like you’re building a huge Viking force of death or constructing a healthy civilization, you’re adapting to a changing board state with tactical card play, end of story.
Even player interaction is practically non-existent. Aside from some mild card play to make raids a little more difficult, you have no connection with other players bar the classic Euro cliche of “you took my card before me”, and even then it’s pretty easy to deal with the attempts to influence your raids so there’s certainly no degree of harsh “take-that” in Odin. For the most part, this is multiplayer solitaire, which I wasn’t really after from a Viking game, but those who enjoy the Euro style it’s based on, will appreciate that more effort was put into applying a more interesting theme than shifting cubes or appeasing Renaissance Lords.
I suppose the best game to compare Odin to is Lords of Waterdeep. Regardless of their themes they boil down to recruiting cubes/mini’s to spend on quests/raids. I give the edge to Waterdeep due to the added variety with the buildings, the excellent Scoundrels expansion and the quest rewards having some thematic tie-in to what the quest is about in the first place. With a much clearer rulebook than Odin’s which is pretty subpar, it’s also a lot easier to teach and therefore meets the gateway criteria. However this is my personal opinion, you may feel differently, but I still say your enjoyment of Odin is going to be based on your enjoyment of Waterdeep as the style of gameplay is very similar, just with card play rather than worker placement.
VERDICT ON “IN THE NAME OF ODIN”
Odin is very much a standard tactical Euro card game. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but nothing to really hate it for either once you’ve gotten past the initial thematic disconnect from opening up the box and reading the fiddly rules. It’s well produced and illustrated, even if it goes over the top in some areas and won’t break your bank balance to acquire. It’s clean and functional, allowing for a pretty quick experience at under an hour most of the time while keeping scores tight, though if someone gets an early strong lead, there’s a high chance they’re the ones holding the trophy when Odin does end.
Odin can be compared to Lords of Waterdeep in terms of style, but it lacks enough replayability and variation to beat it. You’ll get a few plays out of Odin and enjoy it, but there’s a good risk of the generic nature of the game impacting on how often you’re going to pull it off the shelf. So overall Odin is fine, it’s not going to wow you with innovative mechanics or exciting game play, but it will keep you going for an hour when you need a bridging gap on a game night.
BROKEN RATING: 6 Very Clean Axes Out Of 10
YOU WILL LIKE IN THE NAME OF ODIN IF:
You enjoy tactical Euro games with multi-use card mechanics.
You want a game to take around 60 minutes or less.
You like the solid production quality and miniatures it contains.
YOU WILL NOT LIKE IN THE NAME OF ODIN IF:
You wanted a super strong theme based on Vikings.
You were expecting an Amerithrash fighting game with Vikings – it’s pure Euro.
You hate multiplayer solitaire games as there’s practically no interaction here.
Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
The player interaction is more a way for other players to get a card out of their hand anyway; whether the players add them or they are drawn from the deck a raiding player always faces three obstacles that need to be matched by cards from their own hand.