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Subject: My Take on Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga - Adventure Ahoy! rss

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Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga

I lucked into a copy of Viking Fury for cheap some time ago and ended up playing several times. I considered it to be one of those weird games that would never be reprinted in a million years. Well, a million years have elapsed and I’ve also played it several times in its new incarnation as Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga.

Components
The old version of the game was a self published job. Most of the game was colored white or off-white. The “board” was a large white cloth with dark lines delineating spaces. Cities were white cardboard disks. The Vikings were some of the only color, and they were represented by wooden cubes. Cards were also mainly white with text on them.

The new version’s board is in full and glorious color mounted on cardboard. The Cities are actually plastic miniatures, as are the Vikings and their Ships. The cards are illustrated in full color with detailed renderings on each one, though they do have some minor typos.

There is some missing reference material on the board relative to the original. The original had places to put all the draw piles for the cards and the score was kept with a traditional score track around the border. The new version has some dead space on the board players can place the draw piles in and the score track is replaced with VP tokens that players can pile up in front of them. These tokens take the form of treasure so the proud Vikings can watch their stash grow. In Fire & Axe, he with the most treasure at the end wins.

The Game
The game play between versions is exactly the same. There are some added Rune cards in the new version (which purists can remove from the game if they desire) otherwise players are getting the same experience with the new version as with the old, only with better bits. I see no reason why anyone would pick of the old version over the new with the possible exception that the old box is much smaller.

At the beginning of the game all players are holed up in the Wintering Port. The City tokens are placed in certain Ports on the board, three Saga cards are placed face up and play begins. On a turn a player gets seven action points. They use these actions in different ways depending on where their ship is. If they are in the Wintering Port they can load goods and men onto their ship. If they are in one of the starting Ports of Sweden, Denmark or Norway they can draw Rune cards. Rune cards give players special powers that they can use for free during their turn. A player can use them to jack up others or help themselves. Once a player has set sail from a starting port they use action points to sail.

The sea lanes are divided up into four Seas: North, South East and West. There are limits on how far a ship can sail without having to suffer penalties. Also many of the Ports of call are grouped into sets of three. These sets play a role in Settling and Trading in particular.

Additionally there are always three Saga cards face up. Sagas act as missions for player to accomplish. The mission may say to trade with or settle particular Ports. Some Sagas require players to sack cities. The player who completes the mission gets the Saga card. So if a Saga card says, “Sack Paris and Bordeaux,” and one player nails Paris, any other player can hit Bordeaux and take the Saga card.

I’m no expert on Viking history but presumably the missions on the cards are historical Viking undertakings. In this way there is a feel of the progression of history as the game plays out and there is a lot of maneuvering going on between players to set themselves up to grab the Saga cards.

Speaking of sacking cities, when a player enters a Port they can either Trade, Raid (if there’s a city) or Settle. Raiding and Settling require brave Viking warriors to attack with, which attack is diced based combat. There is an attack bonus for Raiding or Settling if that Port has been traded with. The locals’ve been softened up, so to speak.

When Fire and Axe is played, players must plan out their route when filling up their ship. It’s possible to follow others, sniping Saga cards along the way. It’s possible to strike off in the opposite direction of the other players in order to avoid confrontation. The dice based combat keeps things from being too deterministic. Rune cards can be used to improve the weather conditions and provide an ace in the hole for when times get tough. The game involves strategic planning and logistics as well as exploring and adventuring.

The end-game starts when the last Saga card is drawn. When the game’s over players tally up their points. Points come, not surprisingly, from Trading, Raiding and Settling as well as from Saga cards. Appropriately enough, there is a “Bloody Axe” bonus for the player who did the most Raiding. These various accomplishments provide various amounts of points so it’s important to maneuver for position relative to other players in all of these goals in order to do well in the game.

My Take
Now for the subjective part of the review: Fire and Axe is one of the best games I’ve ever played. I’m a very big fan of adventure games from way back due to games like Mystic Wood and Talisman. Fire and Axe provides that sense of adventure in the pursuit of the Saga cards and the discovery and settling of new lands. But I also like to have some control over my destiny and in Fire and Axe there is the strategic element of loading your boat properly to meet your goals and finding the most efficient way to accomplish them. Fighting over Sagas and so forth makes for a dynamic race element to the game. Rune cards allow me to surprise my opponents and be surprised in return. It’s an all around exciting and thematic experience. Additionally it is a very unique game. I’ve never played anything like it.

As a side note, I think Fire and Axe and Winds of Plunder have a lot in common. They use similar mechanisms and have similar subject matters. Yet they use these mechanisms in a unique ways to create individual game experiences.
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Seth Jaffee
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rayito2702 wrote:
Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga
My Take
Now for the subjective part of the review: Fire and Axe is one of the best games I’ve ever played. I’m a very big fan of adventure games from way back due to games like Mystic Wood and Talisman. Fire and Axe provides that sense of adventure in the pursuit of the Saga cards and the discovery and settling of new lands. But I also like to have some control over my destiny and in Fire and Axe there is the strategic element of loading your boat properly to meet your goals and finding the most efficient way to accomplish them. Fighting over Sagas and so forth makes for a dynamic race element to the game. Rune cards allow me to surprise my opponents and be surprised in return. It’s an all around exciting and thematic experience. Additionally it is a very unique game. I’ve never played anything like it.

As a side note, I think Fire and Axe and Winds of Plunder have a lot in common. They use similar mechanisms and have similar subject matters. Yet they use these mechanisms in a unique ways to create individual game experiences.

Good review, Ray. I agree with everything you said, except that I like Winds of Plunder better than Viking Fury/Fire & Axe - mostly because of the really swingy point scoring and worse, the really swingy Rune card abilities in the latter. The first time or two I played, I liked F&A a lot, but it's dropped out of favor with me after the last play or two.

The new version does have really, really nice bits though.

- Seth
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sedjtroll wrote:
the really swingy Rune card abilities in the latter.


The cards in Winds of Plunder serve almost the exact same purpose as the cards in Fire and Axe. But I think in Fire and Axe the length of the game, the three card hand limit and the optional "discard to change the wind" use actually makes them less of a game swinging factor.

I kind of see what you are saying about the points swing. The last game I played was with hederj and rethington. rethington and I spent two whole turns squatting on ports we wanted to settle so that the other wouldn't take the Saga card. This of course gave hederj free reign to do what-ever and he used the time to pick up several Saga cards on the other side of the board.

I thought rethington and I were out of the running but the game ended with me only about 7 points behind hederj and rethington maybe 15 points behind me. That's a very close game for Viking Fury. I don't think there's an issue with how much the points swing. Being 7 points behind the leader in this game is like being 1 point behind the leader in Puerto Rico. Doing things slightly differently would have made me the winner instead of hederj. Players just have to recognize where their points are coming from and, with regard to settlements, how many points they are giving to other players.
 
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