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Subject: The most surprising game from Essen 06, not to be overlooked rss

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Phillip Schwarzmann
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Biggest surprise from Essen '06

I’ve played 17 Essen 2006 games so far and “Walhalla” was definitely the biggest surprise out of the bunch, and I’m even more surprised that this one has gone below everyone’s radar because it is one of the cleverest and most unqiue games I’ve played recently.

Theme

First off the theme - I was taught the game so I’m just guessing the theme from the artwork and gameplay but – Walhalla is a place for slain warriors in Norse mythology. You control a team of Viking-style warriors, you put them on boats to conquer areas of land, if you die you’re sent to Walhalla (which isn’t a bad thing). And the hook is, the defender always decides who wins and who loses…

Your Turn

The game plays quite smoothly – It lasts over three rounds, each round 12 boats are placed, at the end of game the player with the most VPs win. On your turn you flip over a boat and must place it on the board with the option to place some of your warriors on it and possibly an opponent’s warrior. This is tough to explain in words, I recommend you take a look at a photo of the game but, you place the boat onto one of four rivers that border 1-2 shores. After the boat is placed, the warriors may disembark onto the available shore(s) where benefits will/can occur – some of these benefits are gained immediately, some are gained at the end of the round, assuming you still occupy that land.

Partnerships, Negotiation, and never making a "bad" move

There’s very nice changing-partnership and negotiation aspects to this game. Opponents are invited to join your boat, but they may not know where they’re being sent. When placing the boat onto the board, players are encouraged to “advise” (threaten) to the location. Each round you only have a few warriors to place, so you must choose wisely - but it’s one of these types of games where you can’t make a “bad” move, only “better” moves. No warrior will ever goto waste.

The hook

This is thanks to the unique and simple combat system. Whenever one of your warriors disembarks from a boat onto the shore, there may be an opponent’s warrior waiting for him. If this happens a fight occurs and the defender decides who wins. “Wha???” you say? Yes, the defender decides the outcome – if the defender decides to “win”, the attacker is sent to Walhalla, however a defender must already have a warrior in Walhalla who is then removed from the board. If the defender decides to “lose”, he is sent to Walhalla while the attacker takes his place on the shore. So basically, in order to defend yourself, you must already have dead warriors in Walhalla. So dying isn’t exactly a bad thing. When attacked you have to decide how valuable that land is you’re standing on, and when attacking you may want to look out for opponents without any warriors in Walhalla because it’s an easy win. I hope I’m explaining this well beucase it’s very clever and a lot of fun, and causes for some great negotiations thanks to the defender deciding the outcome of battles.

How you score

At the end of the round VPs are awarded for various things. Cards are earned throughout the game that can give you advantages during the game or VP bonuses at the end of the round. Whoever has the 1st or 2nd place majority in each of the three shores earns some VPs. At the start of the next round, depending on how many warriors you have in Walhalla will dictate how many warriors you have in hand for the next round, VPs are instead awarded in the final round for this.

Bits, board, and players


I’ve only played this with 4-players and I’m pretty confident that it’s best with 4, but no doubt really good with 3. It plays fast, 60 minutes top, and there’s very little downtime in the game. This game really calls for some nice wooden ships and fancier pieces, I wish Zoch would have produced it instead of Amgio. And since it’s Amigo, we probably won’t see this in English which is unfortunate. The artwork is nice I guess, but kinda hard to see, that’s my only beef about this game but not a big problem.

Summary

So – if you’re looking for a rather fast, clever, unqiue, smooth, fresh game with elements of partnerships and negotiation, this is perfect. Probably my second favorite game of the Essen lot. A solid 8, maybe higher with more plays.
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david karasick
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Any chance of this being a 2 player game?
 
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Phillip Schwarzmann
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Re: The most surprising game from Essen 06, not to be overlo
I guess it could work, but this is definitely better with 4-players.
 
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david karasick
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Could you play with two, each using 2 colors?.................I'll try it and let you all know. First a 3 player game though.
 
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