Jeremy Avery
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A FEAST FOR ODIN!

I know, I know. Everybody be like...




And so, with a irritated grunt and a heavy sigh, you are thinking: This game is overhyped. Rosenberg is overrated. This game is too sandboxy. It's too expensive. The box is too big. The number of components is ridiculous; Uwe is jumping the shark. We don't need another Rosenberg conversion game. Get off my lawn. Etc. Etc.



Liar. You must be at least a little curious about this game or you wouldn't be reading this. You came because something about this game has peaked your curiosity, tickled your gizzard, salted your salmonberries. You want to know more, so I volunteer for reviewer duty. So put aside your crotchety grumblings, you cranky curmudgeons, and let's take a peek at this game!




Preparing for Odin
I did my due diligence! I prepared for this euro-gaming behemoth like no other game I had ever anticipated. I read the rulebook not once, not twice, not even three times, but five times all the way through! I watched Michael Wissner's video twice. I read the appendices, and then I wrote not one but two separate previews of this game!
- This one is a broad overview that also includes some comparisons to other games by the same designer.
- But this one focuses on the worker placement actions spaces, and basically explains what you can do in the game. READ THIS ONE because it's part rules overview and part strategy overview!

And yet, despite all this preparation before the game arrived, as I stared at the board for the first time, I was confounded.



It's one thing to see a board with a lot of options; it's a whole other thing to actually have to start making choices from all of those actions. And that right there is a lot of possible actions. That's the kind of thing that makes a gamer either recoil in abhorrence or salivate in anticipation. I fell somewhere in between abhorrence and anticipation. Abhicipation. Like Krispy Kreme donut-burgers.


What do you think of a plethora of puzzling possibilities? Because the TL;DR of this whole review will really boil down to: "Do you like the idea of being a Viking clan with a *helheim of a lot of choices as you find puzzly storage solutions for all your loot?"
*clever Norse wordplay




"Don't make me wait! Tell me if it's good or not!"
I will be the first to admit that I was fairly hyped for this game from the first time I looked into it. The Viking setting seemed cool. It looked epic, and I am enjoying bigger games these days. A Feast for Odin is designed by Uwe Rosenberg, who has created several games I like, including my favorite game of all time, Agricola. The inclusion of dice intrigued me ("In a Uwe game?!"), especially tied to hunting, trapping, whaling, raiding, pillaging (thematically it makes a lot of sense). And visuals matter to me, and this game did not disappoint.

But it wasn't blind hype either. I'm no mindless fanboi. Uwe has created some games I don't really care for, and other games that I think are brilliantly designed but not that fun to play. With all the actions available in the game, I also had some concerns about gameplay tension, especially in the 2p game. And dice in a euro game is always a sketchy proposition, and it elicited strong ambivalence in me, even if it did seem thematic. ALSO: I didn't like the font they used in the game. That shouldn't bug me so much, but it does. It's the single biggest reason to hate Glass Road. Damn fonts.


But now all of the wondering is over. For I have played it.

And?


It's not good. It's very VERY good.

And it has exceeded my pre-play expectations. It's a 10 for me, and make well be my favorite game of all time. I want to go back and play. And play. And play. I didn't even want to write this review this morning, because I have a half-finished solo play on my table and I want to play the game more than I want to write a review. I must really like you guys! The sacrifices I make!


(I am actually lying here. I have already paused twice during the writing of this review to play it... Sorry, all. I really did think you all were that important to me.)

Despite what would initially seem to be a fairly abstracted puzzle mechanic, the Viking setting sticks really well. Going whaling and pillaging, shipbuilding and crafting, mining and trading, exploring and emigrating - it all works so smoothly, carefully ensconced in a well-crafted mechanical narrative that manages to evoke a bit of adventure too! The strategies are myriad; occupation cards add variability. The central mechanic of the puzzling is unlike anything I've played before, and is an fascinating locus of gameplay. I LOVE THIS GAME!


REACTION SHOTS

Me:
You:



"That's all well and good," you say, "but I ain't no jive turkey. You need to tell me why it works so well for you. Use your words. Be articulate. Give me a good reason to spend $100 (!!! ?!) on a game that is the size and weight of three thrift-store encyclopedia volumes."

I'll give you what I've got.


It Looks and Feels Epic
Once you've got everything set-up, the game is quite imposing (ridiculous?). But the bright colors and good visual design really pop, and help set the tone: no serious brown-green euro doldrums here - instead, lots of bright blue to emphasize the nautical theme, a bright bold feast of a game. There are ships, treasures, exploration boards, player boards, two large trays stuffed full of four colors of tiles, a round phase board, resource strip boards, special treasure tiles in disparate sizes and shapes, and the rather overwhelming worker-placement action board. Your table will be smothered in all things Rosenbergian, and you will wonder if it will necessitate the purchase of a larger gaming table. (I already play GMT COIN Series and Eclipse; I already bought a larger table. Thank goodness for that!)


Set-up for a solo game with only one player board.
More players will mean more boards as well as space to play cards and hold tiles!


All of this comes across as quite grandiose, but that's the vision the designer clearly had, and the main board supports the vision. By my count, there are 61 different places to send your worker Vikings. You can hunt, craft, ship-build, trade, and, well, a whole host of things you can do. (Again, I direct you to the second preview mentioned earlier. You did read that, right? Pretty please? It will save me a lot of typing.) But the actions are organized into action types (making it easier to find the places that will give you the kind of action you want to do), as well as being organized by strengths (bigger actions require more Vikings, and all of that is organized by columns).


But, 61 spaces?! (Interaction)
This is where I think the crux of the conversation will be - with this many spaces to go to, how tight could the design possibly be? The answer, not surprisingly, is a bit complicated.


Use wood and stone to Build Houses for storage and points and Build Ships for Sailing and points.


The innate tightness of the worker placement in this game depends a lot on how many players you have at the table. 1p is surprisingly excellent (and elegant - more on that later); 2p is the most open, but also potentially the most "blocky"; 3p and 4p are tighter. So one complaint you could easily level at this game is the board doesn't scale to different player counts, so it changes the feel of the game depending on player count. Agricola fixed this by having more spaces available for higher player counts; A Feast for Odin has no such accommodation. So now you know: 2p feels different. (Having said that, I still love the tension in this game at 2p, as I'll explain later...) This isn't a problem unique to A Feast for Odin though, as quite a number of games (high-rated, and otherwise) have a different feel for each player count.

Sixty-one spaces may seem like overkill, but I really like the multitude of options. For one, it lends to the game's almost ridiculous epic scope (epic for a 2-hour euro at any rate!). But mostly because the decision on how to group your Vikings is interesting. One Viking for little jobs seems great, but if I banded it with the others Vikings, I could take a valuable 4-action and get an Occupation into play as a bonus. Or do I need a new card more, which comes as a bonus with any 3-action space? All those spaces give me the option of small, short term moves (say, crafting small with just a stone to generate a silver and runestone), or large long-term moves (say, crafting big with wool (which required sheep I acquired earlier)and silverware (tricky to get in any case)). In essence, the choices are what give the game such breadth, which is precisely the reason I love it so much.


Here are the Hunting spaces, most of which require dice rolls for success (with the goal being 0).
Whaling requires a whaling boat. A number of them give compensation if you fail.



Viking Rules! (Rule Overview)
I am not including thorough rules overview here because so many reviewers do that, and then my writing is redundant and my energy wasted. I mean, you could go read the rule book for yourself, since it's right here. Another reason I won't write it all up is because it's a worker placement game. Most of the game is placing workers and doing whatever the space says. But the biggest reason I won't give you a big rules overview here is because I've already got you covered!

As I mentioned above, there are two previews that will help you out: This preview covers a few of the basic parts of the game and compares it a bit to other titles by the same designer; The second one is the one you want, as it covers all of the action spaces in detail, so it gives context for all these options I am talking about!

(I guess this is as good a place as any to note that the rulebook is a little above mediocre. There is a bit of Deutsch-glish here and there, and the explanations of the dice-rolling spaces are a bit overwrought and still leave a question or two. The Almanac is gorgeous though. Reminds me of a COIN game!)


So what will I be doing, exactly?
Okay, so you are too lazy to read the preview right now, but I don't want to do a lot of re-writing either. So here it is in a nutshell: you have a player board in front of you that is half-full of negative points (shades of Agricola). You then send out your Vikings (workers) to do lots of different types of actions that ultimately result in you getting a lot of tiles into your supply. Those tiles (the hard-to-get greens and blues, at least) can cover up those negative points on your player board. With very careful placement, those tiles can also unlock income and bonus tiles for you, but that will require some careful "puzzling". And, of course, getting tiles isn't easy, and the tiles that are easiest to get (oranges and reds) aren't allowed to go on your player boards. Thankfully, you can upgrade those goods over time (from orange to red to green to blue), which means you could potentially acquire "easy" tiles and upgrade, or you could go big and try and snag greens and blues from the get-go with actions (like whaling and raiding!) - but that takes some preparation (like building boats!).

At the end of every action round, you puzzle your pieces together onto your board, trying to position your tiles in such a way as to gain income and bonus goods. The puzzling is the longest and most thinky part of the game, and it is central to gameplay. (It is also what differentiates A Feast for Odin completely from Uwe Rosenberg's other big designs, in a very good way.) Hate the puzzling, hate the game. Love the puzzling, love the game!


Notice that no green tiles touch, but grey and blues can be adjacent. Ore and coins can fill gaps.
These restrictions are indicated on the small legend in the bottom center-right of the board.
In this play, I decided to put tiles on other boards, and only covered -1's here. That meant I generated very little income this game.
My focus for tile placement was on the islands in the next image.



The Narrative is Strong...in a Euro Way
One thing I love in a game is the sense of gameplay building up: we start small with meager holdings, and we end with tons of points, options, and goodies. On the other hand, I don't like point salads in which points can be easily had anywhere by anyone doing anything. (I hate it when games have final scores that differ by a point or two because, in essence, you could have a monkey at the table making random moves and still do well because there are points everywhere. STEFAN FELLLLLLLLLLLLD IIIIII'M LOOOOOKING AT YOUUUUUUUUU!) A Feast for Odin executes this incredibly well, offering large gameplay and tons of options, but offering good scores only to skillful play (my first three solo scores were 54, 67, 68; my next solo scores were 82, 99, 119, 115). You will get points for many things, but you will only win if you play well.


I picked up Labrador in Round 5 for the points/goods mix.
Three -1's was a small price to pay for all these valuable bonus goods.



How to Win (Victory Points)
If that was all there was to the puzzling - thunking down rectangles inside a bigger rectangle - the game would be a little on the simple side, and not very interesting for those of us who love a challenge. But merely eliminating the negative points on your starting player board simply won't win you a game. You must find other ways to get points too. There are simpler ways like Sheep (2-3 points), Cattle (3-4 points), Occupation cards (generally 0-3 points), Shipbuilding (3, 5, and 7 points for the three types), Coins (1 point each), and Emigration (18 and 21 points respectively. Those are certainly the easiest ways. But if you are playing Rosenberg games, you probably aren't doing it because they are easy.

Another possibility, and still fairly low risk, are the House boards. You can build Sheds (8 points, 5 negatives, and covered by wood and stone), Stone Houses (10 points, 7 negatives, green Leather bonus good), and Longhouses (17 points, 15 negatives, Oil and Beans and Peas as bonus goods). The nice thing about the last two boards is that they can be puzzled with tiles of any colors, including the easier to acquire oranges and reds.


The Houses are more flexible than Exploration boards because you can place any color tile on them.
The Shed is worth 8vp -6. Cover the empty slots to keep all 10vp.
The Stone House is worth 10vp -9. You need 1 Wood, 1 Stone, and tiles. Bonus: Fur (green 1x3).
The Longhouse is worth 17vp -15. You can't cover the support posts. Bonus: Oil (green 1x2), Beans (orange 2x2), Peas (orange 1x2)


Far more difficult, but more lucrative, are some of the Exploration boards: they come with a slew of negative pre-printed negative points that need to be covered, but they also come with a fixed amount of points (from 4 to 38!). The boards also come with the potential for either bonus goods (which you can use to do even better on your puzzles) or income (which earns you coins (i.e. points) every single turn) or both! You will probably need some of these, maybe a lot. There are only four exploration boards total - I have had games where I claimed three of the four for myself! (If you look near the bottom of the review, you will see eight boards: they are double-sided.)


I picked up Shetland early in the game and focused on surrounding bonus goods.
From Round 2 on, I was getting free beans, silverware and oil. I added meat and cabbage in Round 3.



IN THE BEGINNING


Six Penniless Vikings and a Whole Lot of Negative Space (Starting Situation)
In the beginning, the game feels wide-open, as if the players could do anything and everything. On the other hand, you feel quite small compared to what the game asks of you: you have only 6 Vikings in Round 1, and 61 spaces to choose from. If you were to choose two 3-Viking actions in consecutive turns, you'd only get two actions in the first round! What's more: you have one player board on which to place your goods - and that board is huge! After Round 1, you might have no squares covered yet, only a few tiles in your supply, and no income. Aaaaand the game is already 1/7th over. "I've only got 6 more rounds?!", you might say, and you'll despair of ever filling that board. How could you possibly also take on and fill exploration and building boards as well (a difficulty first time players often shy away from)? 7 rounds is going by entirely too quickly, and the pressure mounts.



By the end of the game though, you have accomplished so much! You've managed to do the impossible! To give one possible endgame scenario: You have several ships, you've emigrated one group, you've covered your board with loot and treasure, you have explored two nearby lands and covered them with loot too. You have a number of specialists that helped you along the way (Occupation cards), a pile of silver worth more points, a solid income for even more points, and your only regret is that you didn't have enough room to stow that large blue tile you just pillaged in the last round. "What a waste!", you'll think. (True story: last night I grabbed the biggest tile in the game, only to realize that I already had enough tiles to fill my main board and Labrador! I filled three boards and had a 3x4 tile left over!)




It's Something Like a Sandbox, Until It's Not
Not everyone liked sandbox-style board games, and I happen to be one of them. (I thought Fields of Arle (by the same designer) was brilliant but ultimately boring. There was so many things you could try, but after three plays I felt like there was no direction but self-direction, which is only slightly better than One Direction.


I'm not sure why, but I need a reason to try different strategies, some direction to my play, like asymmetrical starting abilities. GOOD NEWS! AFFO has that! Weapon cards come to you randomly, one per round, and make certain actions more attractive to you by offering you lower risk. Building resources also have a simple but clever mechanic (called a "Mountain Strip") to change the availability of resources. But the key mechanic for asymmetry is the Occupation deck. If you have played Agricola, then these will be familiar - very much like the Occupation cards in that game. Essentially they are special ability cards that players pick up over the course of the game. Each player starts with one, and there are no duplicates, which means that players will have their own special abilities. Those abilities can be as much of a focus or as little of a focus as a player desires, I suppose, but who wouldn't want Weapons from feasting on Whale Meat when a Barbarian clan joins your people??!



The Occupation cards are not nearly as strong as the cards in Agricola, which is both a good and bad thing. Being weaker, they don't dictate strategy, which means they don't force variability), which also means that the power level of the cards allows players to be more flexible to what other players are doing (i.e. you can head for open actions, and are less likely to get screwed over). On the other hand, playing the cards well gives incremental advantages throughout the game, and the sum of those incremental advantages can be the difference between winning and losing. The skill with which you deploy your Occupation cards and exploit them matters. But because the cards aren't that easy to get or to get into play, players will have to make hard decisions about how this gets done.



Occupation cards make different parts of the game really shine. Like flax. Flax is stupid. Until it isn't. Flax baker? Now suddenly you want flax. In fact, you want more flax than the game will give you. AND THAT could have you picking up an Exploration board you normally wouldn't have taken because it has an easily surroundable flax. Of course, the next time you play, you might acquire the exact same Exploration board but take a completely different approach to filling it, ignoring the flax completely because you now need the income the board offers more than the flax that would require careful positioning of smaller tiles.




In-Your-Face? (Competition and Conflict)
As with all worker placement games, some of the tension comes from the competition for certain action spaces. If you need to trap for a Fur tile, and someone beats you to it, you are out of luck this round. Some might complain that this competition for placement is watered down somewhat by the large number of actions available, but some of the actions are in very short. That will send you sideways: unlike some games where you can be stuck with nothing useful to do, in AFFO there is almost always something useful to do - it just might not be what you were dying to get done.


Duet for Odin (The 2p Game)
The 2p game is a bit of an outlier here. Obviously there is more space for placement in the two player game, which you think would make it easier to get all your stuff done. The flip side is that, in a 2p game particularly, players can far more easily track what the other player is planning. This allows players to block more strategically if they were so inclined. Because the game allows flexibility in strategy, you can afford to develop a sub-strategy that will impede your opponent's tempo - the ability to get the exact spaces that they want, when they want them, and in the order they need to take them. They will still have some useful options, but they might could lose the tempo they needed to get an Exploration board filled. And that could matter.

For example, you see that they have four Trap cards and an empty slot on an Exploration board that has negatives and income spots. It's fairly obvious that they need the Fur from the Trapping space. So you take it. If you get the Fur, great! A green 2x4 is useful in almost any strategy; if you don't get it, you get a Trap card and a Wood, and you had planned to use wood for another whaling boat anyways. Them? They are seriously harmed. Now the only way for them to fill that gap is the overous work of getting two other tiles to fill it, and tile colors can make that very difficult to get done. They are stuck with -6 for now, and they didn't get that two income increase they were banking on. You are also set up to Trap later with the extra Trap card you gained, so you could do it again!

You won't play every move like that (you are, after all, working on your own goals), but a move or two like that every round could seriously disrupt your opponent, forcing them into uncomfortable strategic space, and less optimal moves. I think good play in a 2p game will dictate that you utilize key spaces one turn ahead of your opponent, blocking them out. In fact, in my 5 plays of 2p so far, there has been much cursing at each other (figuratively, not literally!) as we scoop spaces we knew the other person was honing in on. And I feel like we are only going to get better at harassing each other's strategies.

This idea of creating sub-strategies that utilize spaces that your opponent needs is a surprisingly satisfying form of confrontation, and proves the flexibility of the game, in my opinion. 61 spaces sounds like a lot, but I guarantee your opponent uses some spaces better (and more often) than others - take them for yourself! This forces your opponent into unfamiliar spaces that don't do exactly what they need or want, which changes (and, hopefully, slows) their tempo. Your opponent definitely believes that some spaces are better than others. And with comborific Occupation cards, they are definitely going to want access to certain spaces. In this way, it becomes a bit of a fencing match as we try to do little moves that hurt the opponent and support our sub-strategies. The game definitely offers more than a little battling.

Want proof the 2p game is tight? OUR LOWEST SCORES ARE AT THE 2P COUNT!


Two dangerous opponents out for each other's blood!


But don't misunderstand here: there is more pressure in Agricola at ANY player count than there is in A Feast for Odin, in the same way that there is more pressure in Eclipse than there is Agricola - every game is its own thing. AFFO is just not the kind of game where you get to hamstring your opponents. As I keep mentioning, most of the tension in the game is the "stretching" - how many boards are you willing to take a risk on in order to generate points? Some is in the worker-placement.

It should be noted though that while some people will prefer the 3p game because there is more blocking, I have found that most of the blocking in 3p is incidental and accidental, which makes it more difficult to plan around what other players might do. In other words, there is more blocking, but it is semi-random; in 2p there is less blocking, but it can be specifically targeted by the opponent.




But What About Us Care Bears? (Playing Nice)
Good news! While you can play in a confrontational manner, in a 2p game, it's easier to play nice that it is to play mean (unless you both happen to have cards that support one strategy). Even outside 2p, there are a lot of useful options, and choosing the path of least resistance by playing to a strategy that won't interfere with your opponent(s) seems to work quite well. (Heck you could even play the 2p game as a coop high-score game much like the 1p game). That could be a complaint by those who want more tension, but - again - the game seems to allow both styles of play if players want it.


"Let's go to the mountains for ore! YAY! What fun we shall have!"



Tension Comes in Three Ways
More good news! There is tension outside of the worker placement, and it comes in three ways.


First there is the puzzling.
If you've played Patchwork or even Tetris, you know the challenge of fitting together awkward tiles in order to maximize points, AFFO does that well, but changes it up by offering new dimensions. Most of the pieces are rectangular, so they are incredibly easy to fit together. Which would be terribly boring. So the game cranks up the difficulty by introducing some rules:

- Blue tiles are hard to obtain but can be adjacent to any other piece.
- Green tiles are easier to obtain but cannot be adjacent to other greens.
- Income can only be increased if you have covered every square below and to the right of the income space (i.e. the income is the top-right corner of a square with no gaps).

These restraints making tile placement quite tricky.

So now it is a little hard. But it gets better:

- Exploration boards (which have tons of cool stuff on them like free goods and points) have irregular perimeters that make it much more difficult to place tiles on (especially green tiles) because these coastlines are not rectangle-friendly.

And then it gets even better (worse?) :

- All boards have bonus goods that are awarded to a player every round if the player manages to surround the bonus square completely (i.e. all 8 surrounding squares). Try surrounding a small square that is itself adjacent to an irregular coastline and an income space that you are not allowed to cover yet. And try to do that with lots of green tiles that are not allowed to touch!

So the puzzling (that is, the setting down of tiles and silver on your boards) can be very difficult. In fact, this is one of two places where AP (analysis paralysis) is going to set in if any of your group is prone to this sort of thing. In the late game, trying to decide what will fit on your boards, and what things you still need to acquire to make everything fit perfectly...well, let's just say it could get boggy.

Keep it quick though, and the puzzling aspect of the game drives gameplay wonderfully. There are different strategic reasons to approach your puzzling in different ways, and it is a fun and unique mechanic in a heavier euro game. If you hate the puzzling, you aren't likely to enjoy the game. But judging from the success of Tetris and Patchwork, plenty of you like puzzling, and this game offers up the most interesting twist on puzzling that I have ever played. It keeps me coming back over and over, because each time I play, the puzzling changes.


The second tension is which boards to acquire.
I talked about this earlier, but let me supplement. Stone Houses and Long Houses allow for placement of orange and red tiles, in addition to green and blue tiles, but the bonus goods they offer are smaller and less valuable, and they offer no income. The early Exploration Boards offer income, few points, but a lot of bonus goods if you get aggressive with surrounding. The later Exploration Boards offer big points (and lots of -1's to cover), and big bonuses that sadly won't get to be claimed for more than a round or two. Each board has it's own shape, bonuses and "theme" (scoring, goods, etc), which makes the decision of what to get and what to work towards on each board its own puzzle. (Related to the AP I mentioned earlier.)


Examples of how you might fill House boards. The two boards at the bottom are identical, but have been puzzled with different ideas in mind: the top one was puzzled for bonus goods, the bottom one was puzzled at game-end for points.


The third tension is the big one: you decide how big of a risk you are willing to take. This is where the game shines.
See, in AFFO, you need points to win. Lots, in fact. Probably close to 100, likely more. You are gaining all these tiles, but without a place to put them, the tiles are useless. Which makes those extra boards attractive: they offer tons of potential points. But there are only four Exploration Boards available, and they have a lot of negative points that need covering. You can't wait too long to acquire them, or someone else might claim them and get the points for themselves. Or, wait too long, and you won't have time to plan how to get them filled by game-end. So you will find yourself taking boards and then racing to fill them. How many boards should you take? And there's the rub.

I'm no strategic master of this game, but boards have mattered in every play I have had so far. Choosing well, and stretching for an extra board to make extra points, makes a big difference to final scores. But deciding what to stretch for (a decision you make for yourself), weighing the risk-versus-reward of the different boards, and then trying to race to finish the boards that you claimed - this is tough! And deliciously satisfying when done well. Essentially what I'm saying is that: the degree to which a player is willing to stretch for extra-board points is the degree to which they put pressure on themselves. In my last solo game, I took too Exploration boards and got my highest score. Had I failed to plan well to cover with tiles, I would have had my lowest score, due to all the negative points.




This create-your-own tension is actually more like the large late-game acquisitions in Ora et Labora and Le Havre, than it is like Agricola or Fields of Arle. Creating your own risk-vs-reward decisions is quite satisfying (you could always go with lower risk House boards after all!), and the ability to do this also allows for better players to challenge themselves against less-skilled players but taking on an extra board here and there.


Where is the Skill?
The skills of the game are so deeply intertwined that it is hard to separate them cleanly, but by and large I would say that the skills come in four chunks: Stretching, Puzzling, Flexing, and Resource Management.

"Stretching" I'm defining as the ability to decide on the risk you are willing to take with extra boards. (I.e. How far are you willing to stretch for points?) You will need to visualize and plan for extra boards, then acquire those boards and get them filled adequately to justify their acquisition. All extra boards have predetermined positive VP values as well as a swatch of negative spaces that need covering. The houses boards are generally low risk, as they can be filled with cheap goods (including orange and red tiles), and aren't too painful even if they are not stuffed full. The earlier exploration boards have smaller VP values and small bonus goods, but are generally easier to cover; the later boards have bigger bonuses, no income, and massive VP value - with, of course, negative points that need covering.

You don't have to pick up any of these boards. Unless you want to win, that is. Newer players tend to not risk the extra boards...and their scores are generally low. I am slowly improving at deciding how much to stretch. In my last play, I took 3 Exploration boards and a Longhouse. This proved to be stretching a bit too far, as I would have done better to stay at 2 Exploration boards and to pick up one additional Longhouse for a total of two. The key is to get enough boards to use up all your goods by game end, but not be stuck with tons of negatives.


Puzzling is a skill that you will get better at quickly. Once you have the boards (or as you acquire the boards), you will have to decide what your goal for them is: income, bonus goods, eliminating negative points, or some combination of all three. Those different decisions radically change how and when you puzzle them, as well as what sizes (and shapes) you will need. Then they have to play the rest of the game carefully to get the size, shape, and colour of the pieces that they need (related to Resource Management).


Flexing is the ability to be flexible with your plan in two ways: you have to be able to find other paths when you original spots are taken; you also have to be able to (in a 2p game especially) take key spots away from you opponent in such a way that you will still get good use out of the spot. Unless you are anti-whaling. I love anti-whaling almost as much as I like whaling!


Resource Management isn't really any different in this game than any other heavy euro of its type. You need to know what resources to use, and when, and do it all efficiently for minimal waste and leftovers. Part of that management is confounded by the spatial aspect of the tiles, which is a nice wrinkle for players to work with.


Holistically, you need to have an idea of where you will get your points from, then time all your acquisitions and upgrades so that you cover/finish everything in Round 7. Acquiring and upgrading, then puzzling well is quite a nifty challenge, and there are a number of approaches you can take that will yield good scores. (I'll let you explore a bit, but suffice it to say that one of my high scores came when I ignores the income track on my main player board; I only covered the -1's).

I will say this: The more I play the game, the more I realize just how high the skill ceiling is. The game also feels more tense the better I get at it.



How Bad are the Dice? Skill Killers?
Some of you will hate the dice. I feared I would, but upon playing, I love them. The players can mitigate against bad luck by playing weapon cards and/or paying resources, and are compensated when they fail. Having said that, if a player keeps rolls blue 12's while pillaging, and you are rolling 2's, she is going to be taking home a lot of large, useful grey tiles while you pick through the small blue bits. This can matter because the grey tiles are incredibly helpful for filling your boards, as they are the only irregular tiles available. Though there are things like compensation and mitigation, at the end of the day the dice are still dice, and if you hate this idea, this could kill the game for you. I thought it fit the theme of the animal harvesting actions well, and wouldn't play without it!




Fee Fie Foh Faroe! Want You Income, or Want You Marrow?" (Variability and Replayability)
Will you get 20 plays out of this game. Try 50 times. I'm 17 games in and I've only owned the game for 8 days.

As long as you like the style of the game, there is no doubting the replayability. The central focus of the game is acquiring tiles and putting them on your board (or boards, plural, if you want a chance at winning...), but the number of ways you go about this, and which boards you choose to fill, and how, and when - it's fairly staggering. I could imagine 30 plays of this game where no play was all that much like previous plays. Longboats and Pillaging, with some Animal Husbandry on the side? Orange goods in an upgrading strategy with lots of buildings? Minimal commitment to your main board so you can focus on ancillary boards? Wood into Ships into Emigration with some Raiding and Pillaging on the side? There's also style of play: do you want fewer big actions that give extra Occupation cardplay? Or a whole of smaller actions instead. If you like sandboxes, you will love this game at the 1p and 2p counts.

As mentioned earlier (see me wax all about flax!), the Occupation cards (and to a lesser extent Weapon cards, and available Resources) drive a lot of the variability of the game. But it's actually more complicated than just changing the value of certain actions spaces. As the values of the action spaces change for you (for example, you have no Traps, so you can't Trap), it changes the way you play everything, from support actions to your strategy for your player board. More importantly, it radically changes the value of the Exploration boards, and changes the way you want to puzzle them.

Different Occupations push you towards different strategies, and different strategies require a different balance of colored tiles, goods and income, and the timing in which you get them (early-, mid-, or late-game). If you want income, Iceland is a good bet, but then you have to decide whether to do it quickly for the income, or take a bit longer and puzzle it for the bonuses as well. And since every game you pick up colored tiles in different sequences, the way you puzzle them changes, even if you want the exact same things from the exact same island.

And, of course, the best laid plans can be disrupted by a wily opponent stealing a few key spots from you, which requires you to play the strategy out with a different tempo, possibly rejiggering parts of your strategy in large and small ways.

I find one of the great things about this game is the sum of all the variability. Every single time I play, even if going in with the same overall strategy, it plays out differently.


"There's No Puzzling in Viking!... Is There?" (Theme)



This is not Ameritrash, it's a euro - there are limits to then how well the theme fits. But a surprising amount does, in a worker placement sort of way: You need to send out workers to get your raw materials, use materials and workers to build Houses and Ships, use ships and workers to explore, etc. The dice are very much welcome from a thematic point of view: players will have to gamble on success when hunting, trapping, whaling, raiding etc. (I currently live in a rural area and know a number of hunters - they'll attest to the difficulty of all this!) The compensation meachanic even fits here: while waiting for deer (or heffalumps, or whatever it is we'd be hunting), you craft additional weapons/tools.

But the puzzling. That is a strange thing isn't it? Ultra-gamey and overly mechanical?

Well, it's a euro. If you are playing and enjoying euros, you sure as heck aren't doing it for the theme. You want good mechanics, and the puzzling in this game is far and away the highlight of this game. It is brilliant: endlessly fascinating, quite addictive, highly variable. But is it themey? Short answer: No, not really. Long answer...

The rulebooks explain it this way: As Viking acquire treasures and goods, they are able to use that wealth to settle their people on the new lands, and to build substantial structures at home to hold lesser goods. The negative points represent the initial costs to secure those areas for settlement and exploration. If, by game end, you don't accumulate the wealth to recoup your costs, you are a very poor Viking indeed! So far so good. Negative points thematically explained.

Here is where I stretch for the theme: Careful use of your wealth (goods tiles) allows particular parts of the lands to continue to produce bonus goods (like whale meat in Baffin Island), but an indiscriminate dispersal of wealth results in these fragile opportunities disappearing, much like the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources. Why are the grey special tiles so odd and large? They represent artifacts that tap deeply into the mythic understanding the people have of themselves as Vikings, furthering their sense of belonging to the core construct of "tribe".

And that's why the Ornamental Clothespin is shaped like an "L" and takes up 6 spaces!

uh...

hmmm...

*crickets*

You get my point: there are limits to the application of the theme in this game. As a setting, it's great. The theme works well enough for most of the mechanics, but the puzzle stands alone as an oddity. Again: euro fans won't care, and will likely love the puzzling; everyone else will have to decide if they want to play an epic euro with a great central puzzle mechanic.



Shall I Compare Thee to a Tenser Game? (Agricola, Caverna, Fields of Arle)
People who have played Agricola, Caverna: The Cave Farmers, and Fields of Arle (three mechanically-related games by the same designer) want to know which game A Feast for Odin is most like when it comes to "openness" or "tension".

Compared to AGRICOLA
Agricola is considered "tight": lots of competition for the best spaces, lots of pressure from the mechanics (i.e. feeding and scoring). AFFO does not have the same feeding pressure, nor does it have "bonanza" spaces that award massive amounts of goods at different times. BUT! AFFO really starts to shine when players push to take extra scoring boards (which is how you score high). When you have four boards to fill, the pressure of the mad scramble at the end to eliminate negative points reminds me a lot of Agricola's mad-pressure scramble to get it all done before the game ends.

Compared to FIELDS OF ARLE
Fields of Arle is considered "open": often little to no competition for spaces as (two) players put together and execute their rather solitary plans, and very little mechanical pressure (easy to feed, points for most everything). It's a sandbox-style game in that many strategies are available to try out. AFFO has some similarity in the large amount of actions there are to chose from, but the Occupation cards will steer players to try new strategies, and a good player in AFFO can (and should, in a 2p game) track what actions have value to their opponent and use some well-timed blocks to disrupt the tempo of your opponent (like taking the cheaper whaling action and purposefully failing for the compensatory resources).

Compared to CAVERNA
Caverna is somewhere in between Agricola and Fields of Arle: actions are a bit more crowded, but still lots of room to maneuver, and not too much pressure from gameplay, allowing players to specialize a bit. Having said that, there are often hot-spots in Caverna, like the gem spaces; AFFO has similar hot-spots in my experience so far. But, again, no innate pressure from the requirements of the game itself. Unlike Caverna, AFFO has Occupation cards which means you do have direction from your strategy, as well as built-in mechanical variability that Caverna doesn't have.

Compared to PATCHWORK
Obviously the weight and size of this game are nothing like Patchwork (which is more of a light couples' puzzle). I'm only including this section because, before release, we'd heard a lot of buzz about AFFO using the same patching idea of Patchwork - placing pieces on the board and fitting them together. But the play of the puzzles is very different in the two games.

Patchwork has one board for each player and pieces can be placed anywhere. In AFFO, only the player board is square, pieces that are placed have to follow rules about color adjacency, and there are bonus goods and income squares that require different placement strategies - none of that in Patchwork. In Patchwork, almost all the pieces are irregular (i.e. not rectangular). In AFFO most of the pieces you will be using are rectangular, and the irregular ones (which are incredibly useful) are hard to get. The actual work of "patching" in both games feels very different. I find AFFO to be much more interesting than Patchwork, and I'm a guy who loves Patchwork!

In my opinion, A FEAST FOR ODIN is halfway between Agricola and Caverna in Terms of Pressure
The first few time you play, you (like me) will probably think the tension is about the same pressure as Caverna - light. But with repeat plays, as your skills increase, you will get greedier and greedier for high scores, which will have you exploring and building more aggressively. YOU will create the tension because YOU want to win. (At least, I assume you want to win.) My best score by far in solo play was when I took TWO exploration boards AND a stone house, and I should have built another stone house, because I had so many goods left over.



This same scrambling pressure simply doesn't exist in Caverna. Also, a player who goes out of their way to block in Caverna may be playing sub-optimally, but there are lots of spaces in AFFO that ban be used to block that are flexible enough to fit your gameplan - there is simple more flexibility in AFFO overall than there is in Caverna, as well as having more workers to send out to do actions. And as I said earlier, now that I have experience with the game, the mad scramble at the end to get everything done feels more like Agricola!



If you have to have an answer, I'd say it's more like Caverna than the other two. That's probably a good thing for most of you (Caverna is a Top 10 game, after all!), but Agricola fans looooove crushing tension (I know because I am one of them), and some of them might be a bit disappointed. But, as will be detailed later, AFFO has its own way of creating tension.


Solo-able? (Short answer: Best solo game I've ever played)
Absolutely. In fact, the solo game is great because it is so much of the multiplayer game, with a few very small elegant rule changes. Use two colours, alternating colors every round. Whatever you did the previous round you won't be able to do the next round. That's it. You won't have to memorize a bunch of extra weird steps or anything like that, and the game will feel much the same. (Which, some of you will point out, proves how solitaire-like this game is. Yes and no. In the 1p game, you block yourself!) I've played the solo game five times, and believe this is the best solo euro I've ever played, and quite a bit better as a solo than Uwe Rosenberg's other big games.

The designer suggests players search and choose their starting card so they can try out different strategies, which I have put to good use. I'm at 16 plays as of this sentence, and every play has felt different.


Any Other Complaints?
One: Players start with one Occupation card in hand and can plan around a strategy. But after that, cards come into your hand throughout the game, and may or may not work with what you have already accomplished. This is very unlike Agricola, where you had all the cards ahead of time and could plan around what you wanted to use. A bad or awkward combo of Occupation cards[/b] could make it hard to get a decent combo off the ground, and then the game slides back into sandbox territory, and could leave a player feeling ripped off that they didn't have as good of a draw of cards as their opponent. Having said that, good cards are usually worth less points, and weak cards are worth more points, which helps a bit. But a strong card worth zero points acquired in the last round will be basically useless; you could have just as easily drawn a 3 point card, for example. Still, I'd rather have a good combo than 3 points. I can make a lot of points out of a good combo.

If you don't have a plano box for storage, setup and tear-down will be time consuming, and the table will be a bit messy. But with a plano box: all wooden bits go into a Plano box, all boats go into one baggie, all grey tiles into another baggy. 5 min set-up, maybe 10 minute tear down.


Stylish end of game photo.



Verdict - Althings to All People?

First off, make no mistake - this is a euro, and a bit of a big one at that. Very casual gamers won't enjoy this one. Having said that, it isn't hard to learn, which is surprisingly for such a big game. That should work for middleweight gamers who want a bigger field to play in. Very easy to teach, and not a lot of tricky things to track. This broadens the audience appeal, and opens up the possibility that this could be a smash hit.

Solitaire gamers who enjoy euros should love this one. Everything about it works for solo play, and the variability is great.

"Gamer couples" is a nebulous term because there are all kinds of couples out there, but based on what seems to do well in discussions and forums, I'd say this is an excellent fit for gamer couples, and a terrible fit if you are trying to win your SO over to gaming because she only likes Ticket to Ride. Still, the "gamer" in gamer couples denotes both people enjoying games, so I'll give this a full star.

It's a Rosenberg euro, which is less euroey than Feld or Dorn, but it's still a euro. This is not Merchants & Marauders. Ameritrash gamers may not like it, but they might like it more than most euros.

It's a euro with a grand vision, and Uwe Rosenberg really came through. Rosenberg's games are often highly polished and very smooth, and it's entirely possible that this is his smoothest, most intricate game yet. So this works well for euro fans, especially worker placement fans.

The game is a bit of a sandbox, but unlike Fields of Arle, where I had a million options and didn't find too many of them interesting (cartmaking sounds as boring as it is; travelling to other cities was much less exciting than I supposed), in A Feast for Odin, I was excited for my options, largely because of the Occupation cards. AND THERE ARE 190 OCCUPATION CARDS! Lots of strategies, decent tension partly controlled by a player's decision on how to take on risk for points, beautiful art, easy to understand rules, smoooooooth gameplay, well chosen theme. What's not to like?

It can be played nicely or confrontationally. More skilled players can push themselves with bigger risks, or by trying unfamiliar strategies with new Occupation cards. It's also a Rosenberg fan's game through and through, but also different enough from his other titles that non-Rosenbergians could well enjoy it. And all of this epic feel fits into a game that can take as little as 60-75 minutes (1p/2p game). Wonderful!

TREASURES
Beautiful visuals and excellent graphic design
Nearly perfect rulebook and fairly easy ruleset
High skill ceiling
Can be played "mean" or "nice"
Can be handicapped quite easily
A tons of possible strategies to explore (a bit of a sandbox)
Good tension through high-desirability spaces, and race to acquire valuable expansion boards
Lots of variability through Occupation cards
The central mechanic of puzzling is very enjoyable and challenging
Excellent solitaire game (best solo euro I've played)
Quite different from other Rosenberg games
The puzzling mechanic is brilliant, and quite different from Patchwork.

LOST BATTLES
A bad combo of Occupation cards can frustrate when your opponent combos well
Between-round upkeep (feeding, restocking strips) is fiddly, and so is tear down
The puzzling can bog down (AP) - but it gets easier with more plays
Board does not scale (so 2p is more open than 3p)
I hate the font


There have been four games that have managed to provide incredible fun, nearly limitless variability, tense challenge, and superb mechanical design that exactly suit my tastes. Agricola, Race for the Galaxy, BattleCON: Devastation of Indines, GMT COIN Series. Now we can add a fifth. A Feast for Odin is an opus. It is not just a 10: it's an easy 10.

A Feast for Odin provides a sense of epic, of exploration, of risk, of real choices your clan has to make about how they make their way through the world - I believe all of that comes through within the framework of its euro gameplay.


A veritable Rosen-euro, with a helping of puzzle and a pinch of adventure.

Go out and get your copy.

Follow me on twitter if you want to be alerted of my previews and reviews! @CascadiaXwexwene
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Massimo Sforzo
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Re: Odin MASSIVE: A massive review of A Feast for Odin, as befits such a massive game by a massive designer who is ensconced in massive hype.
Thank you so much!
One of the best reviews I've read so far!
Bravo!

Now the countdown has started until I'll finally put my hands on this massive gem!
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Stephen Miller
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...Hm. About as tense as Caverna is a bit of a downer for me (Since the reason I have both Caverna and Agricola on my shelf is that I prefer the tension of Agricola and the mechanics of Caverna, though could have used a bit less sandboxy for the improvement tiles - using a different subset each game rather than all every game), particularly since I play most of my gaming two player where the tension seems to be least.

How does the block yourself mechanic in solo work in this, out of curiosity, since I haven't been that enamoured by Uwe's previous solo efforts - at least not Agricola's and Caverna's looked too similar to Agricola for me to bother with.
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Jeremy Avery
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Gizensha wrote:
...Hm. About as tense as Caverna is a bit of a downer for me (Since the reason I have both Caverna and Agricola on my shelf is that I prefer the tension of Agricola and the mechanics of Caverna, though could have used a bit less sandboxy for the improvement tiles - using a different subset each game rather than all every game), particularly since I play most of my gaming two player where the tension seems to be least.


I revised the review, in part because I wrote in a way that undersold the tension of A Feast for Odin, and in part because of the way I organized the headings. Also in part because I've played three more times since the review was written, and with an increase in my skill, I find the game getting tenser and more sophisticated.

I would rate the tension of skilled play halfway between Agricola and Caverna. Unskilled play will feel more like Caverna.
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Derek Andelloux
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+1 for "Abhicipation". Great review, felt like I was reading an reddit post for a little bit. Thanks for the opinions.
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Awesome review man.
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Bravo! It's the best review of AFfO that i read. Now i know all about this game=)
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Fantastic review, thanks!
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Do you take requests? I need you to review all the games I'm interested in
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Jérôme
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familygaming wrote:





This!

had me laughing so hard

And the review is wonderful. If I hadn't Fields of Arle already waiting for some gaming love, I'd run to the nearest store to go get Odin.

Cheers!
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Wow great review!

No matter how good this game sounds I don't think I'll ever want a game this BIG. Having limited shelf space, I could easily fit 3 games in the space required by this.
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Jim Parkin
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Jeremy--a spectacular review. Thank you for putting this together. From the gifs to the analysis to the breakdown of so many common questions and considerations, it was a blast to read and very informative. Precisely my kind of preferred review format!

I'm enamored with Agricola and Ora et Labora, and to a lesser degree, Le Havre. I'm floored by this presentation of A Feast for Odin. I can easily see this becoming a favorite.

I play nearly exclusively at the two-player count, and many other comments about this game have skewed away from this count given the potential for multiplayer solitaire. You seem to disagree strongly, and I like your rationale. Given that there is no board scaling, the two-player game is "wide open" in comparison to a three- or four-player game. You argue that strategic blocking is still very plausible and encouraged. What would you say to the contrarian who argues that a game this open at two players would just cause the "blocked" player to go off and win with some alternate strategy?
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Jeremy Avery
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Annowme wrote:
Jeremy--a spectacular review. Thank you for putting this together. From the gifs to the analysis to the breakdown of so many common questions and considerations, it was a blast to read and very informative. Precisely my kind of preferred review format!

I'm enamored with Agricola and Ora et Labora, and to a lesser degree, Le Havre. I'm floored by this presentation of A Feast for Odin. I can easily see this becoming a favorite.

I play nearly exclusively at the two-player count, and many other comments about this game have skewed away from this count given the potential for multiplayer solitaire. You seem to disagree strongly, and I like your rationale. Given that there is no board scaling, the two-player game is "wide open" in comparison to a three- or four-player game. You argue that strategic blocking is still very plausible and encouraged. What would you say to the contrarian who argues that a game this open at two players would just cause the "blocked" player to go off and win with some alternate strategy?


Thanks so much for the comments and feedback. That sort of things makes all the effort I put into these (p)reviews worthwhile.

I'm at work right now, but I think it's time for me to do my best to expand my ideas on the 2p game and add that to the review. Right now I am mostly playing it 1p/2p, and I am loving it - and I am an Agricola fan who loves pressure.

At the same time, I don't want to get so good at defending the 2p mode that I end up starting to manufacture things that I don't even believe are true about the 2p game. There is more pressure with 3p. But there is more pressure in Agricola at ANY player count than there is in A Feast for Odin. It's something you just have to accept about this game. It isn't Agricola. It isn't even Le Havre. It's just not that kind of game. As I mentioned in the review, most of the tension in the game is the "stretching" - how many boards are you willing to take a risk on in order to generate points?

But even within that framework, the 2p game is still an enjoyable experience, and can be "blocky". In my 5 plays of 2p so far, there has been much cursing at each other (figuratively, not literally!) as we scoop spaces we knew the other person was honing in on. And I feel like we are only going to get better at harassing each other's strategies.

In 2p, players must create substrategies that utilize spaces that their opponent needs. It's a surprisingly satisfying form of confrontation, and proves the flexibility of the game, in my opinion. 61 spaces sounds like a lot, but I guarantee your opponent uses some spaces better (and more often) than others - take them for yourself! This forces your opponent into unfamiliar spaces that don't do exactly what they need or want, which changes (and, hopefully, slows) their tempo. Your opponent definitely believes that some spaces are better than others. And with comborific Occupation cards, they are definitely going to want access to certain spaces. In this way, it becomes a bit of a fencing match as we try to do little moves that hurt the opponent and support our substrategies.

The game is flexible, but that doesn't mean that your opponent is. Most of us aren't.


But, again, this isn't Agricola. Just as importantly, it is also not Caverna. It is it's own thing. Sitting between Agricola and Caverna will still likely result in a Top 20 game. I, for one, am pretty much ready to declare this the best game I've played since 2012's Andean Abyss.
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Jim Parkin
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Excellent clarification. Thanks!
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Drugo81 wrote:
Wow great review!

No matter how good this game sounds I don't think I'll ever want a game this BIG. Having limited shelf space, I could easily fit 3 games in the space required by this.


Honestly Claudio, this game is so good, it replaced more than three games for me. As soon as I started play this, I realized that I just don't need to own such a large collection (100+) when I want to play games like Agricola, Race for the Galaxy, Terra Mystica, A Feast for Odin, etc.

In a way, Odin will be saving me money long term because it has reduced my desire to acquire new games, and will be saving my spaces because I feel like the amount of plays I will be putting into Odin will allow me to get rid of 5-10 games easily because they won't get played as much.

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So, this is kind of like Tetris?

Vikings go raid & plunder to neatly fill a large box with differing shape smaller boxes.
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kronlin wrote:
So, this is kind of like Tetris?

Vikings go raid & plunder to neatly fill a large box with differing shape smaller boxes.


I don't know if you are asking about the puzzling mechanic, or if you are making fun of the "theme" of the game.



The rulebooks explain it this way: As Viking acquire treasures and goods, they are able to use that wealth to settle their people on the lands. The negative points represent the initial costs to secure those areas for settlement and exploration. If, by game end, you don't accumulate the wealth to recoup your costs, you are a very poor Viking indeed!

Thematically, careful use of wealth allows particular parts of the lands to continue to produce bonus goods (like whale meat in Baffin Island), but an indiscriminate dispersal of wealth results in these fragile opportunities disappearing!

And yes, it is a tiny bit like Tetris...if, in Tetris, you had to leave certain square open, and the borders of your "frame" were obscenely difficult to fit pieces into...and you had to manage euro-strategy mechanics to get the Tetris pieces you wanted in the first place...and colors mattered for placement rules...

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kronlin wrote:
Vikings go raid & plunder to neatly fill a large box with differing shape smaller boxes.


You have a point there. I wonder how Uwe Rosenberg thought the puzzling fits thematically with the Vikings.
In Cottage Garden it makes sense to a certain degree to fit flowers in your flowerbed, avoiding the things that should not be overgrown.
In Fields of Arle you're not puzzling but still have to arrange your land so all of your ventures fit, again.

Then again, A Feast for Odin is a game and it looks fantastic so I'm following this review and its reactions because when I ever get bored of Arle need a new Uwe-fix, this will probably be next.
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I amended the review to include a more explicit section on the theme of the game. TL;DR: It's a euro that uses the worker placement reasonably well for theme; the puzzling is awesome, and makes a bit of sense, but mostly isn't thematic.
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familygaming wrote:
I amended the review to include a more explicit section on the theme of the game. TL;DR: It's a euro that uses the worker placement reasonably well for theme; the puzzling is awesome, and makes a bit of sense, but mostly isn't thematic.


I mean no disrespect. Your review is AWESOME, maybe a top 10 review on BGG ever. And I think you made very clear how important the puzzling aspect of the game is. I just find it, ahem, puzzling how this game mechanic fits with the theme. I'm sure it's an outstanding game. As an Agricola fan I'll likely get this one (once in stock somewhere?), in large part driven by your great review(s)...

But puzzling? In a Uwe game?
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Jérôme
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familygaming wrote:
I amended the review to include a more explicit section on the theme of the game. (...)


Your review has become even better

I like your explanation of the theme, but politely disagree that theme is not an issue for eurogamers. Theme is exactly why I admire Fields of Arle so much; it's an autobiographical game which gives you a sense of another era and lifestyle while playing. That comes very close to art, like literature, poetry or cinema. Uwe is telling a story and you're the main actor. It's not that I really feel like a farmer, but I do understand more about life in 19th century Germany. I hope that Odin will give a similar experience.

Disclaimer: I do enjoy themeless euros like Keltis as well but can become a bit cranky when a theme is too obviously pasted on.
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Jeremy Avery
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Kamloops
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Tsaar wrote:
familygaming wrote:
I amended the review to include a more explicit section on the theme of the game. (...)


Your review has become even better

I like your explanation of the theme, but politely disagree that theme is not an issue for eurogamers. Theme is exactly why I admire Fields of Arle so much; it's an autobiographical game which gives you a sense of another era and lifestyle while playing. That comes very close to art, like literature, poetry or cinema. Uwe is telling a story and you're the main actor. It's not that I really feel like a farmer, but I do understand more about life in 19th century Germany. I hope that Odin will give a similar experience.


Good news. I believe you will enjoy A Feast for Odin for precisely the reasons you state. Yes the puzzling has an element of disconnect from the theme, but the sense of epic, of exploration, of risk, of real choices your clan has to make about how they make their way through the world - I believe all of that comes through. I think A Feast for Odin is an opus.

Truthfully though, I would still disagree that eurogamers generally hold their games to a high thematic standard. A quick glance at the euros in BGG's Top 200 tells a story of clever mechanics, not of well-integrated theme.



Quote:
Disclaimer: I do enjoy themeless euros like Keltis as well but can become a bit cranky when a theme is too obviously pasted on.


Me too. I prefer "hybrids", but since most people mean "weuros" when they say hybrids, I'll say euros with strong thematic connection, variability, asymmetry, and a dash of luck!
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kronlin wrote:
So, this is kind of like Tetris?

Vikings go raid & plunder to neatly fill a large box with differing shape smaller boxes.

I've been assuming that we're Viking Feng Shui masters.
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Jérôme
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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familygaming wrote:
(...) the sense of epic, of exploration, of risk, of real choices your clan has to make about how they make their way through the world - I believe all of that comes through. I think A Feast for Odin is an opus.


Wonderful, this sounds very exciting.
Now I must get Odin, too.
meeple
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Tsaar wrote:
familygaming wrote:
I amended the review to include a more explicit section on the theme of the game. (...)


Your review has become even better

I like your explanation of the theme, but politely disagree that theme is not an issue for eurogamers. Theme is exactly why I admire Fields of Arle so much; it's an autobiographical game which gives you a sense of another era and lifestyle while playing. That comes very close to art, like literature, poetry or cinema. Uwe is telling a story and you're the main actor. It's not that I really feel like a farmer, but I do understand more about life in 19th century Germany. I hope that Odin will give a similar experience.

Disclaimer: I do enjoy themeless euros like Keltis as well but can become a bit cranky when a theme is too obviously pasted on.


Likewise - I can enjoy themeless Euros; I enjoy Castles of Burgundy, though it's not something I'm in the mood for, and Orleans while having even less theme also feels less dry to me meaning I gravitate towards it more; but thematic Euros are a style of game I really, really enjoy. Not necessarily my favourite style of game, but... If I had to pick something specific as my favourite, thematic Euros probably would be it.

What differs between theme in American style games and Euros, for me, is that in Euros the theme is - usually - mostly in the mechanics. You don't get a brief sentence of flavour text telling you a nugget of lore or a teeny tiny story about a location, which seems to be where most of the theme lies in the American style games I've played (And this isn't a criticism of theme in those games, that works. When there's more space like in a campaign game with a campaign book it works even better, but... - Playing Arkham Horror with someone who insists on not reading the flavour fluff on the various encounter cards really diminishes from the experience), instead you get mechanics that just make perfect sense for the theme the game is evoking. Wines getting better with age each year, and only being able to do some things in some seasons in Viticulture; the way crops work and the animal husbandry rules in Caverna; the way the resource market in Power Grid responds to the demands of the economy, prices going up as resources become more scarce due to consumption, and down if there's no demand for them, etc - When a Euro has theme, it's usually baked right into the mechanics of what the players are doing, rather than mostly coming out through art and flavour text. Both are absolutely valid approaches to theme, though.

...I mean, obviously, war games have both Euros and American Style gaming beat hands down for thematic gaming, but...
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