I just received my Kickstarter copy of Explorers of the North Sea on Saturday, August 27, 2016. My wife, Rachael, and I played our first game on Sunday.
I was quite excited to open this game up and get it to the table. Shipping was ahead of schedule for this one, as the date listed on Kickstarter was November 2016.
The box was smaller than I was expecting with a very nice linen finish.
The insert is a little cheap, thin cardstock, but seems adequate. We'll see how well it holds up over time.
The rule book was very concise and clear. This is a simple game, but it was one of the the better written rule books I have read.
The components are very nice. All tiles and captain cards are linen finish.
The tiles are smaller than Catan tiles and seem to be cut symmetrically, but Rachael said some of them on her side of the table fit a little weird. This may be from the table top having some warping to it.
The wooden bits are all very nice. There are different pieces for each of the different livestock. I did notice one of the red meeples had a void/crack in it. I don't think this will be an issue. And honestly, with as many games as I have played with wooden components, this is not that uncommon.
Explorers of the North Sea is a nice light or light/medium weight game. Both of us compared it to Carcassonne, but slightly advanced.
Each player has a hand of three tiles. Each turn starts with placing a tile. After that you have four actions you may perform and then you draw a tile to complete your turn. The game ends when the first player has no tiles left to place.
Construct an Outpost
All the actions were intuitive enough, having played a variety of euro games.
Loading the Longships was the only area we had any confusion. We weren't sure if we needed one viking in the ship and on land or just one viking on the land or just one viking on the Longship to be able to load Livestock. We played as needing one Viking on land to load the Livestock into the ship.
Unloading was simple. The rules were very clear that any number of Vikings/Livestock could be unloaded.
The Move Longship action is simple and defeating an enemy ship is incorporated with moving into that tile.
Moving Vikings was another straightforward action. Raiding Settlements is also incorporated into moving, provided you have enough Vikings on the tile to meet or beat the number located on the settlement token.
Transporting Livestock was also a very simple action; one Viking can move one Livestock one tile.
Constructing an Outpost takes two of your four actions to complete and placement is similar to building a settlement/city in Catan. An outpost is placed at the intersection of three tiles and then prevents anyone else, including yourself, from building on any space on those tiles. This is a little farther reaching than in Catan, but was easy enough to grasp.
Actions can be taken in any order and any number of times, up to four.
The placing of tiles was very similar to Carcassonne, but simpler as there is only land and water on each tile. This still lead to some tough decisions on placement though. End of game scoring includes points for the size of islands you control. After the middle of the game, it almost becomes a push your luck type situation with regards to completing islands. Do you keep pushing out the borders and make a larger island or just place a tile that will finish it off?
There is definitely some luck involved as to what tile you draw but I am absolutely fine with that. It is Explorers of the North Sea after all.
End game scoring is simple, especially with the included score pad. All pages are double sided, which is nice. Just about everything you do scores you points. You are rewarded for building Outposts, collecting Livestock, destroying Enemy Ships, Vikings being killed, Raiding Settlements and controlling islands.
It all seemed very thematic, without being overly adult or gratuitously violent. You could definitely play the game with children. In fact, Rachael said the Livestock meeples were "very cute".
I do think the scoring for the Captains is a little underwhelming. My captain got bonus points equal to the number of tiles away from the Mainland my farthest outpost was. This scored me 7 points. Rachael got an extra point for every pair of livestock she collected, only netting her one extra point.
I wish they had a little more impact in final scoring. 7 extra points for my Captain was nice but didn't impact much. 1 extra point for Rachael, to me, seems completely useless. Even the examples in the rulebook don't show many points. I suppose with a group of experienced players, just a few points could mean a win or a loss, but they just seemed lackluster.
We really liked the game. As I said before, it all seemed very thematic. The more vikings that die from attacking enemy ships, the more points they are worth. Death in battle is glorious indeed!
My complaint on the Captains is minor. I like that they are a part of the game. They give you a direction to head in from the start, however small that direction may be.
Comparing the tiles in your hand to the current board gives some interesting options to mull over while you wait for your turn. Downtime, at least with two players, seems minimal.
There doesn't seem to be much interaction in the game other than taking some Livestock off an island or Raiding a Settlement before your opponent can reach it, but that does not detract from our enjoyment.
I have only played a two player game, but I imagine the three and four player game would last about the same amount of time as the number of tiles in the game determines how many turns there are. Our first game clocked in at 55 minutes compared to the 45 minutes listed on the box. Now that we are familiar with the rules I expect future plays to come in at 45 minutes or less.
If you like Carcassonne, I think you would like Explorers of the North Sea. Its a quick, light, enjoyable little game that definitely has a place in my collection.
Nice review. Mine just arrived in the mail today. It really looks great. Looking forward to playing.
Loading the Longships was the only area we had any confusion. We weren't sure if we needed one viking in the ship and on land or just one viking on the land or just one viking on the Longship to be able to load Livestock. The best explanation I heard was that the viking either 'pushes' the livestock onto the land/boat or takes it with them. So to load the animals on the boat the viking must start on land... and then either remain on land or join the animal on the boat. Reverse when unloading.
Pushing only, not pulling, so a viking on land can load a boat by pushing the animal inside or move with it, but he cannot unload from land. To unload there has to be a viking on the boat that either pushes the animals out or moves along with them (and if you have ever tried to pull a goat or a pig to make them move you'll understand the logic of this rule).
- Last edited Wed Aug 31, 2016 5:26 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Aug 31, 2016 5:24 am
Thanks you two. That is what we assumed an how we ended up playing. Have fun playing your copies!
They are both tile-placement games, yes, but I find them extremely different.
In Carcassonne, the tile you are placing is yours. You have ownership of it and you decide whether you'd like to score it in one of the many ways possible.
In Explorers, often times you're placing a tile far away from your ship, just because the game tells you that you must place a tile, and you may never interact with that tile.
On the surface that would mean Carcassonne can come down to the luck of the draw, but there are usually so many placement options that I don't find it terribly constrictive. Contrary to that, I find Explorers very luck based. For example, there are only 3 horse tiles and 3 cow tiles. If a player is taking a heavy livestock approach, they better hope to draw into these tiles or be playing with merciful opponents; otherwise that strategy is capped at 10 points.
I much prefer Carcassonne (and Cacao) to Explorers. There were many turns I didn't want to place a tile at all, because was really only interacting with a small portion of the board (especially in a >2p game).