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Subject: H2P Gaming Reviews: In the Name of Odin - I need a hero! rss

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Bryan Gerding
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I will preface this review by saying that this is the first game I’ve been given as a review copy. I do not believe it to have colored my opinions on the game, but some people feel this information important.


I often wonder if Kickstarter is great for the industry as a whole, but at the detriment of individual games. Every so often I play a Kickstarter game that offers fun and interesting gameplay, but is mired by Kickstarter bling and overproduction. Thus is the problem with In the Name of Odin, a great experience that is burdened with a Kickstarter price point.

BEGIN RULES EXPLANATION

Your job is to become the new Jarl, and you’ll do that by gaining the most renown amongst the clans. To do this you’ll need to raid the surrounding lands, the more daring the raid the more renown you gain. Each raid card in the game lists a required amount of units you’ll need to perform a successful raid as well as a number of renown for a successful raid. In order to go on a raid you’ll also need a longboat capable of reaching the destination (aka, the boat has enough range) and a hero to lead your units (your hero will also count as one of the units).

On your turn you’ll have a hand of six action cards. Each card has one of three unit symbols and one of three development symbols. You must spend the cards in collections of required costs. For example, getting a new hero may cost anywhere from two to four hero development symbols depending on which hero you want to recruit. You will also spend boat development symbols to buy ships and building development symbols to buy helpful buildings that give various effects. The unit symbols can be spent to buy a number of one type of unit. You can take as many actions as you want but you spend the cards from your hands when performing actions, so eventually you’ll run out of things to do.

After a successful raid you’ll be given three cards from the action deck and you’ll need to discard cards from your hands that match those development symbols. Matching the cards will affect your score from the raid. But before you get those three cards, other players in the game have a chance to spend a card instead of the deck’s random card, allowing that player to cycle a card in their hand for something more helpful.

When the raid is finished your hero leaves you and your ship gets damaged and stuck at the foreign location (you’ll have to spend cards to bring it back and the damage reduces its range). You’ll need to start planning your next raid by refilling your units, getting a new hero, and repairing your boat. The game continues until all raids have been accomplished. After scoring a few bonus points the most renowned player is the winner.

END RULES EXPLANATION

While playing the game a friend called this “Raiding in the Mediterranean”. I feel that description fits fairly well. The theme of the game is carried only by its art and components. Instead of loading a boat with goods to trade elsewhere you are loading your boat with people to pillage various lands. Your Hero could thematically just be a Merchant and your boat could be replaced with… a boat. Use some dry soulless art and you’ve got yourself a classic Euro! Luckily this game’s art is really good and creates enough thematic atmosphere to pull you into the game.

MECHANISMS

In the Name of Odin is mechanically pretty solid. There is a structure to the game that is easy to understand after the first play through, but there are strategic elements that will make each game feel different. The design of options makes this feel like the perfect introduction to the hobby after someone has already waded through the standard list of gateway games. The game doesn’t feel like Ticket to Ride, but it plays out with enough simplicity and gives similar enough goals that moving from there to here would not be a challenge.

What makes this game simple is that the actions available to you are the same every turn and each time you raid you basically reset your board and need to get all your pieces back. But what makes this game strategic is that you can mitigate your losses if you plan accordingly. For example, one of the heroes has the ability to not go away after the raid while another can make it so that you don’t lose units. Certain buildings and ships also allow you to spend less units in the raid. The strategy of this game is the need to constantly plan ahead for future turns and be able to raid more often. If done correctly, the only thing that will throw a wrench in your plans is not having certain actions available through the cards you’ve drawn.

When you first read the rules the action cards seem unnecessary because you get six, can switch one out a turn, and most actions cost three of one type. So initially you think that it would be easier to just limit people to two actions a turn. But this is far from the truth when you actually play and you’ll often be begging for that one last symbol for the action you need and everyone has stolen it from you; either because another player took it from the queue on their turn or because someone did a raid on their turn and another player picked it up after the challenge.

The cards lead the player to really contemplate their turn as soon as their previous turn ended. The moment another player starts a raid you get the option to exchange a card due to the challenge system. Midway through the game there will probably be a raid happening very frequently. You really want to know what cards will help you so you know what to grab after a challenge. But challenging the other players might help you even if you don’t get the card you want because it refills the queue of available cards that you might grab on your turn. It works as a great way to make you play the hand you’re given but allow you the opportunity to not feel cheated by blind luck.

Speaking of luck, the raids and the boats all feel mathematically balanced to a strict point. To some, this may seem boring, but this is a game that screams out desires of being highly strategic and the balance of the pieces is a key piece of this. I haven’t had a game where the winner was decided simply because they lucked out and got the highest powered pieces. The heroes may feel imbalanced, but that is mainly due to playing your combos correctly and setting up those amazing turns. A great hero for me may not be a great hero for the other player. Buildings feel the same way with each offering something that one player will dive to own while the others simply let it linger in the pile.

All this being said, I have no idea how powerful the shipyards are because we never saw them. I don’t know what sort of hex was placed on our building deck but three games later and still no one has had the chance to buy a shipyard.

EXPERIENCE


Overall the experience is very relaxing. There is strategy to the game but you never feel mentally taxed by it. Your opponents can steal your plans but there are still opportunities for you. You will not be getting a tight, cutthroat game of battles and betrayal, but you will be getting a game that allows for both relaxation or deep analysis depending on what the players want.

In the Name of Odin gives me exactly what I need right now. With the new family, my wife and I can easily play this game while taking care of the baby and still have time to have conversation with the others at the table. It isn’t a game that requires full attention if you can’t spare it, but still allows you to do well if everyone is using the game as an addition to the night rather than the main focus. That said, I’ve also played this at game night without the baby around, and it created a game where everyone was focused on planning their turns for maximum benefit.

But in both settings we still had player interaction. Players still tried to play the right challenge card to make the opponent lose points, or shouted at an opponent for “stealing” the card they needed or raiding the card they wanted. I don’t need a game that requires cutthroat focus, sometimes I just need a fun experience to share.

COMPONENTS

Ah, Kickstarter, how I both love and hate you. I love when you allow me to get a great game with great components only possible because of you, yet I hate when you cause otherwise great games to be corrupted by your need for shiny trinkets.

In the Name of Odin has a few faults, and all of them are component based. Let’s first talk about the Kickstarter effect; this game does not need plastic units, and the price point because of them causes me worry. The gameplay that you are given in this box is worthy of a $35 game. At that price point this is an easy pick up, worthy of hitting the table every few weeks when you want a lighter game that isn’t used as a filler. But these days, in order to really succeed on Kickstarter, you better be willing to show the goods. And thus we have plastic units.

The problem with the plastic units is not the cost but simply that they don’t really add anything to the game. They are effectively the same as goods you’d store on your board to be loaded onto ships. Any other game (Lords of Waterdeep being a perfect example) would simply replace them with wooden cubes. There are lots of games out there that are better for the plastic because it provides the needed immersion, but the units here don’t really do that. I don’t blame NSKN for this, because they did exactly what was necessary to please the Kickstarter masses. I’m just sad that a great game may not get the continued recognition it deserves simply because of its Kickstarter price point.

The plastic being unnecessary as it is, the art for this game is really great. I love the aesthetics they’ve used to give the game a theme. I think the iconography is really well done and looks great when combined with all the pieces. The heroes look realistic, not a single underdressed female among them. I wish there was more art for the boats, though, as I think it would have made them feel more personal. For a game that could be essentially themeless, the art does a great job of giving the game its own feel.

As an aside, this game could have really used a crib sheet for the first couple of games. I really like how the game board looks because it is incredibly well organized, but while the locations of actions are present there are still a few actions that might be forgotten by first time players.

CONCLUSION

In the Name of Odin is a great game when you’re looking for something light, a step above gateway, that still feels like a full game and not the filler in between. Its mechanisms work to add a strategic element that you don’t expect to exist in your first play but will be easily recognized when you sit down the second time.

It is important that you know what you’re getting when you go in for the game. If you’re looking for a rules heavy, deeply thematic Viking experience, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a strategic Viking themed Euro that is easy to digest, then this is something you should check out. It is a great experience that doesn’t cause too much mental taxing but still gives you strategic gameplay.

I just wish Kickstarter didn’t get its dirty swag involved.

----

See more of my reviews: HERE
Follow me on Twitter @HeirToPendragon
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Scott Mohnkern
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Excellent review.

I agree, I labeled this as an excellent mid weight game, a step above a gateway, but not a heavy game. While there is competition, its not really cutthroat, except perhaps at the end.

I agree that the art (save the figures) is just beautiful for this game. Some people I've played with complain that its too pale. I disagree, I find it a really good feeling game.

I also agree the miniatures are kind of a waste. Now I'm also not a miniatures player, for the most part. I have a few miniatures games (blood rage, Zombicide: Black Plague and Space Cadets: Away missions being the most prominent ones), and the miniatures here just don't add much to the game. Plus, while all the rest of the components are very elegant, the miniatures are kind of cheap looking (If I painted them all it would be better, but there are 100 or so minis).

This is definitely one of my favorite games to play, particularly when I just want to chill.

BTW, if you're looking for a heavy Viking themed game, Feast of Odin is an incredibly complex worker placement Viking themed game, that I also happen to really like.
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Bryan Gerding
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mohnkern wrote:
BTW, if you're looking for a heavy Viking themed game, Feast of Odin is an incredibly complex worker placement Viking themed game, that I also happen to really like.


I had an Essen preorder. Should be here any day now. There will definitely be some confusion at game night if someone asks to play Odin. I should buy Odin's Ravens just to up the confusion.

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Anthony Ferrise
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This is a great review and deserves more likes. Well done!
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Thanee
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Excellent review!

I also agree about the miniatures, they don't add anything to the game. Viking meeples would have been perfect for this game, IMHO. Wooden cubes would also work, but would be a tad boring.

I love miniatures in games, but only when they serve a real purpose.

Bye
Thanee
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Krzysztof Zięba
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Check out my first published board game: In the Name of Odin!
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I'm glad you liked the game! What you mentioned about its general weight and feel is roughly what I was aiming at when I designed it, so I'm happy it seems to be doing its job pretty well
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Bryan Gerding
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Lord_Kristof wrote:
I'm glad you liked the game! What you mentioned about its general weight and feel is roughly what I was aiming at when I designed it, so I'm happy it seems to be doing its job pretty well


Thanks for the design! I really enjoyed getting this to the table. And thanks again to NSKN for getting me a review copy. Hopefully the game can finally make it into Polish distribution soon and you can see it on store shelves.
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Bryan Gerding
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tonyf55 wrote:
This is a great review and deserves more likes. Well done!


I would definitely enjoy that as well! It's hard getting yourself recognized as a reviewer when you aren't making videos.
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