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Subject: A Detailed Review of The Norwegians Expansion rss

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Jay I

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Introduction

Like many others who are reading this review, A Feast for Odin (AFFO) holds a special place in my gaming heart. It’s a truly magical game that provides just the right blend of mechanics, variety, multimodality, and whimsy. Leafing through the scoresheets (which I have dutifully retained) reveals that I have played several dozen games of AFFO since acquiring it in early 2017 making it easily one of my most played games. The vast majority of those games have been at 2-players – it’s a venerated treasure as far as my partner and I are concerned – although I have had at least a few plays at every possible player count. Thus, when news hit of a full-blown expansion for the game, I was windswept with both excitement and intrigue.

Although I found myself wondering what more could possibly be added to a game that no one would deny is already sufficiently robust, I was also quite encouraged by the fact that last year’s Tea & Trade expansion for Fields of Arle managed to take an already nearly flawless game and improve upon it dramatically. Could the same hold true for AFFO? Well, now that I have had a chance to delve into the numerous aspects of the expansion, I’m urged to provide as detailed a report as is reasonable. However, the responsible reviewer in me feels the need to disclaim that my longstanding enthusiasm for and intimate relationship with the game makes it nearly impossible to approach from a standpoint of pure objectivity. Please accept that my impressions are invariably flavored by austere sentiment.

With that said, let me put it to you bluntly: The Norwegians is as much a revision as it is an expansion. While it certainly adds an array of new content, this new content is layered inside a framework that fundamentally alters the core of the game in subtle but pronounced ways. In the following sections, I will outline the additions and revisions included in the box. Then, I will conclude with my (apologetically subjective) thoughts.

What’s added?

The Norwegians brings several new additions to the standard formula subscribed to by the base game. There are new animals to breed (and potentially slaughter), new goods to obtain, new islands to explore, new sheds to build and stock with goods, and an otherwise generous portion of new bits and baubles to add to the game’s already grand table presence.

The two new animals – pigs and horses – represent the bottom and top of the animal hierarchy respectively. Pigs are relatively cheap (in the Odin sense of the term) and low in value, but they breed rapidly and can become a reliable source of meat for your feasts. Horses, on the other hand, are more costly to obtain but also quite valuable both as sources of points and goods as well as sources of precious leather (once they’ve been- ahem-sent to the proverbial glue factory). Both of these new additions to the Odin animal kingdom add some much welcome variety and versatility to the game.

Four new double-sided islands offer new opportunities for plunder and abundance. They vary from the base game islands significantly both in terms of the new layouts they boast and the accompanying challenges that come with trying to fill them with goods, as well as in terms of the types of bonuses they can provide which range from a steady supply of animals and weapons through to very lucrative islands that can provide you with new ships each turn once they are properly stockpiled. Notably, the expansion also includes slightly tweaked versions of the islands from the base game, making the once ill-fated lands of Greenland and the Faroe Islands now strategically-viable candidates for prolific exploration.

Six new double-sided artisan sheds which are dealt randomly to players at the start of each game add some color and variety to the options for building up the local Viking infrastructure. Each shed requires an assortment of specific goods – everything from fish to horses – in order to become a positive source of points. The new sheds add a touch of flavor to the game albeit not in a way that compels your attention.

Topping it all off, there are also a few new goods to be found that boast new shapes, including a bevy of new special tiles representing suits of armor and various other appropriately Viking-themed collectibles. While the base game was certainly not lacking for variety in this regard, the new additions are still more delicious meat on the bones of the game.

What’s changed?

Without a doubt, the standout modification The Norwegians brings to the game is the new, fully revised and modular action board. That’s right loyal followers of Odin: upon acquiring the expansion you can now repurpose the game’s original action board into a quirky wall-hanging as it is no longer used in the game. Instead, the action board consists of three separate boards that are different on each side according to the player count.

The changes brought to the game by these new action options alter the core gameplay fundamentally. Firstly, both in general and in the 1 or 2 player games specifically, competition for action spaces is much, much tighter. AFFO long stood as one of the most relaxed and inherently non-competitive competitive gaming experiences I’ve ever known. Well, no longer can you sit back and entirely ignore the progress of your opponent as they have the power to significantly disrupt your plans if you are not astute in your planning and timing.
Adding to the much-enhanced need to actually pay attention to the turn order is the addition of a fifth column of action spaces. These actions, which boast a strength that hovers somewhere in between the typical 1-2 worker actions, can be taken by placing either one or two workers. Placing two workers allows you to play a card in addition to the action, while placing one worker nets only the rewards of the action itself. In either case, once you take any action in the fifth column, your turn ends and you can no longer place any Vikings for that round. Consequently, the fifth column adds a whole new dimension to planning and anticipating your opponents since you are forced to wait until the late stages of the round to place workers there.

In addition to placing a new emphasis on planning and turn order, the revised action boards also introduce a drastic reimagining of some (although, notably, not all) of the core resource-gaining mechanisms of the base game. This reimagining is most noticeable within the weekly market series of actions. Animals play a much more pronounced role in making it so that weekly market actions are lucrative enough to be worth the expense of workers. Moreover, there are few direct options for obtaining any red goods without first having the right animals in your barn. Therefore, coming up with food for the weekly feast poses a greater challenge in terms of planning and efficiency. To compensate for the increased pressure of working out a sub-strategy to keep your people fed, the new board make it so that acquiring animals is much more straightforward matter of simply paying some silver to gain the animals of your choosing. Additionally, the introduction of a new fishing action that can be attempted by spending any combination of snares and spears offers another dice-based opportunity for acquiring valuable fare for your feasts.

A final standout revision to the base game comes in the introduction of victory point tokens that can be gained when you discard occupation cards. There are 2 four-point tokens, 6 three-point tokens, and an ostensibly endless supply of 2-point tokens. Any time a player is allowed to play a card, they may choose to discard one instead and gain the highest value VP token remaining in the supply. While this change certainly answers to the problem of having a handful of useless occupation cards, we also found that it sometimes over-encourages discarding cards for fast points instead of trying to utilize them in nuanced ways to bolster your strategy.

My Thoughts on it All

There is no doubt that the revised and expanded content offered in The Norwegians is the product of contemplation on the core structure of the game, reflection on the overall game flow and level of player interaction, and responsiveness to player feedback and metagame pontificating. Every alteration, despite the extent to which it can make the familiar experience of playing AFFO feel suddenly very strange, also feels expertly organic to the game’s engine and elegant design. AFFO 2.0 is just as much a masterpiece of a game as AFFO 1.0 was and The Norwegians is in some ways a testament to how even the most immaculate gaming experiences can evolve alongside the tastes and analytic propensities of their players.

There are many games on my shelf that I enjoy playing but also feel could benefit from an expansion that both adds new content and revisits some elements of the game to make them feel tighter and more focused toward a particular type of experience. AFFO was never one of those games. I didn’t mind the prospect of having more stuff to play around with, but I never really desired a refined vision for the game that turns it into something that leans toward being a more tense and unforgiving strategic challenge. The languid, picaresque nature of the base game was precisely the thing that I loved most about it. I never felt like I had to play AFFO to win; I played to build, to experiment, to explore, and to try to do something I’d never done before (like score big with Greenland!). The revised version of AFFO, for better or for worse, is not quite that kind of game anymore. I have to pay attention. I have to play the board. I have to play my opponents. I have to work at it in completely different ways.

Nevertheless, pulling off a strong plan and seeing it all come together is just as satisfying as ever. In fact, the new islands make it so that perfect planning and execution can pay off in ways that are even bigger and grander than anything the base game could offer. There’s nothing like watching your islands crank out free horses and longships every turn while you stuff your sheds full of the bundles of wheat those horses help you to generate. The revised version of AFFO is still a great game, it’s just not the same game.

The existential side of me cannot resist the urge to lament what is lost, though. Sure, there’s nothing stopping us from simply reverting back to the vanilla game when the need arises. But doing so also means we don’t get to play with the shiny new toys that are sitting in that other sandbox – the one just across the street that seems to cater to the part of us that’s just a tiny bit more grown up and competitive. For now, the possibilities that lie within the new vision for the game are enough to tempt me back to it, at least a few dozen more times, before I draw any definite conclusions.
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sparko
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Fantastic and thoughtful review - thanks for sharing it!
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Gernot Köpke
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Very good explained and analysed!

Well, my conclusion is a bit different: The competitive adds are at my point of view still subtle. We discussed, to make them stronger on the action board, because of many people, that asked for more competition ;-)
-> the first player is now more competed, but a bit less important, because of having more islands in the game and new options like taking any island for 4 meeple (+ small emigration).
-> depending on, what occupation cards you get, there might be a small competition around the two new 4 VP chips (and later maybe the 3 VP-chips).
-> the competition on the action board in a basic game of 2 players was very low.


Just let me note some details:

- the new board is different for 1-2 and for 4 players, but also different for 3 players (flipping three-parted board as needed on front-/backside).

So it is more competitive now. If you don't like that competition, you can use the board for 4 players - like in the basic game - also in a game of 1-3 players!
This is also well balanced, because it was tested in this way for a long time. We should have written that option into the rules.

- you do not have the choice to end your turn earlier by using the fifth column. You are only allowed to use the fifth column with your last (or two last) meeple.

- the last action is about 1 VP more than a normal action in the first column - estimated about 25% more.

- main parts of the first (+mini+second) expansion were developed while playtesting AFFO in 2014, but the idea of board-flipping for 1-2,3 and 4 players was a late one.
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Jay I

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Gernial wrote:
Very good explained and analysed!

Well, my conclusion is a bit different: The competitive adds are at my point of view still subtle. We discussed, to make them stronger on the action board, because of many people, that asked for more competition ;-)
-> the first player is now more competed, but a bit less important, because of having more islands in the game and new options like taking any island for 4 meeple (+ small emigration).
-> depending on, what occupation cards you get, there might be a small competition around the two new 4 VP chips (and later maybe the 3 VP-chips).
-> the competition on the action board in a basic game of 2 players was very low.


Just let me note some details:

- the new board is different for 1-2 and for 4 players, but also different for 3 players (flipping three-parted board as needed on front-/backside).

So it is more competitive now. If you don't like that, you can use the board for 4 players - like in the basic game - also in a game of 1-3 players!
This is also well balanced, because it was tested in this way for a long time. We should have written that option into the rules.

- you do not have the choice to end your turn earlier by using the fifth column. You are only allowed to use the fifth column with your last (or two last) meeple.

- the last action is about 1 VP more than a normal action in the first column - estimated about 25% more.

- main parts of the first (+mini+second) expansion were developed while playtesting AFFO in 2014, but the idea of board-flipping for 1-2,3 and 4 players was a late one.
Thanks for the clarification -- and, of course, for the amazing design of the expansion. Just to note: my partner and I did play a 2-player game using the 3-4 player sides of the boards. She felt like it played more like the "old Odin" that way. It's great to have that option.
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Dustin Gervais
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Quote:
You may place one or two Vikings on action spaces in the new fifth column of the action boards. However, after placing Vikings on action spaces in the fifth column, you cannot place any more Vikings that round (you must pass). If you place two Vikings on an action space in the fifth column, you may play an occupation card in addition to performing the action.
There doesn't seem to be anything in the rules to suggest that you can't use your earlier Vikings and then pass in your next turn, when it comes back to you. My recollection from the original rules is that you could always pass if you wish, but that is hardly ever done.

Is there something different in the German rules that would prohibit this sort of move?

Thanks.
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Simon
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Gernial wrote:

So it is more competitive now. If you don't like that, you can use the board for 4 players - like in the basic game - also in a game of 1-3 players!
This is also well balanced, because it was tested in this way for a long time. We should have written that option into the rules.
This I am really intrigued by, as I quite like the openness of the solo base game. You mention testing the 4 player board at lower player-counts, was it tested much for solo? How much do you think the 4player board would affect solo scores?
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Travis Vandenberg
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Simonjohn wrote:
Gernial wrote:

So it is more competitive now. If you don't like that, you can use the board for 4 players - like in the basic game - also in a game of 1-3 players!
This is also well balanced, because it was tested in this way for a long time. We should have written that option into the rules.
This I am really intrigued by, as I quite like the openness of the solo base game. You mention testing the 4 player board at lower player-counts, was it tested much for solo? How much do you think the 4player board would affect solo scores?
Though this doesn't directly answer your question as I never tested the 4-player board during solo, my solo scores jumped quite a bit when adding the Norwegians in (anywhere from 10-30 points from my vanilla scores) so I don't think you need to worry too much about your solo game suffering. The 4-player board provides far more upgrade opportunities (including the coveted 1V 2upgrade action) which would conceivably increase your score a decent amount. If you find yourself relying on upgrades a lot, the loss of these on the solo board can be a little detrimental to your scores. Other than those slots and a heavy pillaging or emigration strategy, the 4-player board won't change too much for you.
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Y P
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such detail. Despite being on the opposite side of the aisle from you in terms of desire for a tighter and more competitive AFFO, I've wondered a lot recently just how many AFFO fans would be turned off by The Norwegians due to its relative tightness compared to the base game. Thankfully, as previously stated the solution is simple: play with boards for higher player counts.

The more I read about this expansion the more it seems like a stroke of genius. It manages to add a lot of new stuff for fans to play with while also applying a significant tweak to the core of the game to bring in players who weren't fans of the base game's openness. Fantastic!
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Steven Durst
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WhatAChamp wrote:
Simonjohn wrote:
Gernial wrote:

So it is more competitive now. If you don't like that, you can use the board for 4 players - like in the basic game - also in a game of 1-3 players!
This is also well balanced, because it was tested in this way for a long time. We should have written that option into the rules.
This I am really intrigued by, as I quite like the openness of the solo base game. You mention testing the 4 player board at lower player-counts, was it tested much for solo? How much do you think the 4player board would affect solo scores?
Though this doesn't directly answer your question as I never tested the 4-player board during solo, my solo scores jumped quite a bit when adding the Norwegians in (anywhere from 10-30 points from my vanilla scores) so I don't think you need to worry too much about your solo game suffering. The 4-player board provides far more upgrade opportunities (including the coveted 1V 2upgrade action) which would conceivably increase your score a decent amount. If you find yourself relying on upgrades a lot, the loss of these on the solo board can be a little detrimental to your scores. Other than those slots and a heavy pillaging or emigration strategy, the 4-player board won't change too much for you.
I noticed my solo scores immediately jumped about 15-20 points with my first 2 plays of Norwegians. Obviously you want to get those 2 4-point tiles for discarding unwanted profession cards.
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Erick Sklar
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Rules say, once you pass, you may not place any more vikings even if there are some left in your Thing Square. Also, says each turn you place vikings and take the action of the space immediately. To me, this means you cannot pass and jump back in. (On both occasions. )

ZargonDDG wrote:
Quote:
You may place one or two Vikings on action spaces in the new fifth column of the action boards. However, after placing Vikings on action spaces in the fifth column, you cannot place any more Vikings that round (you must pass). If you place two Vikings on an action space in the fifth column, you may play an occupation card in addition to performing the action.
There doesn't seem to be anything in the rules to suggest that you can't use your earlier Vikings and then pass in your next turn, when it comes back to you. My recollection from the original rules is that you could always pass if you wish, but that is hardly ever done.

Is there something different in the German rules that would prohibit this sort of move?

Thanks.
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Gernot Köpke
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WhatAChamp wrote:
Simonjohn wrote:
Gernial wrote:

So it is more competitive now. If you don't like that, you can use the board for 4 players - like in the basic game - also in a game of 1-3 players!
This is also well balanced, because it was tested in this way for a long time. We should have written that option into the rules.
This I am really intrigued by, as I quite like the openness of the solo base game. You mention testing the 4 player board at lower player-counts, was it tested much for solo? How much do you think the 4player board would affect solo scores?
Though this doesn't directly answer your question as I never tested the 4-player board during solo, my solo scores jumped quite a bit when adding the Norwegians in (anywhere from 10-30 points from my vanilla scores) so I don't think you need to worry too much about your solo game suffering. The 4-player board provides far more upgrade opportunities (including the coveted 1V 2upgrade action) which would conceivably increase your score a decent amount. If you find yourself relying on upgrades a lot, the loss of these on the solo board can be a little detrimental to your scores. Other than those slots and a heavy pillaging or emigration strategy, the 4-player board won't change too much for you.
The less competition effect gets realised in a game of 2 or 3 players. In a solo-game the diffence is at my point of view not so big - as the 'champ' wrote :-D Maybe around 5 Vp more? I can't say it in VPs...
The Norwegian exansion itself brings about 10-20 more VP. I had crazy games with 180+ VP (210+ VP and up to 30-60 minuspoints). But thats my special yet secret strategy, pssst ;-)
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Leonard Ash
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Gralem wrote:
Rules say, once you pass, you may not place any more vikings even if there are some left in your Thing Square. Also, says each turn you place vikings and take the action of the space immediately. To me, this means you cannot pass and jump back in. (On both occasions. )
I think you may have misunderstood Zargon's question. Gernot, in his initial response to OP had said that one may not use the Fifth column action to end the turn early:

Gernial wrote:
you do not have the choice to end your turn earlier by using the fifth column. You are only allowed to use the fifth column with your last (or two last) meeple.
I (and I posit Zargon) found that confusing because the base rules state that you may pass on any turn, though if you have no vikings left you must pass. Furthermore there doesn't appear to be anything in the expansion rules that mandate that it be your last viking(s) from your thing square that are allowed to take fifth column actions, simply that after taking a fifth column action you must pass--in effect making those your last vikings. To me this opened a potential strategic avenue because in the base game I could not come up with a situation in which passing with vikings left was a good idea, now with highly desireable fifth column actions, there may be good reason to snatch it up when you still have one or two vikings left in your thing square.

I don't believe Zargon believed you could pass and then jump back in, though @Zargon please correct me if I'm wrong.

Regardless AWESOME EXPANSION AND ALL GLORY TO ODIN

ZargonDDG wrote:
Quote:
You may place one or two Vikings on action spaces in the new fifth column of the action boards. However, after placing Vikings on action spaces in the fifth column, you cannot place any more Vikings that round (you must pass). If you place two Vikings on an action space in the fifth column, you may play an occupation card in addition to performing the action.
There doesn't seem to be anything in the rules to suggest that you can't use your earlier Vikings and then pass in your next turn, when it comes back to you. My recollection from the original rules is that you could always pass if you wish, but that is hardly ever done.

Is there something different in the German rules that would prohibit this sort of move?

Thanks.
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Olli Juhala
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German rules could be interpreted to imply you must use your last Vikings, although it just says ypur last two Vikings used this round. English rules just say you must pass after taking the 5th column action.

Gernot, if the intent was that you can only use your last Vikings for the 5th column, then it has not made it into English or German rules.
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Shader10 wrote:
German rules could be interpreted to imply you must use your last Vikings, although it just says ypur last two Vikings used this round. English rules just say you must pass after taking the 5th column action.

Gernot, if the intent was that you can only use your last Vikings for the 5th column, then it has not made it into English or German rules.
I agree. Gernot has made it pretty clear here that this is only for your last remaining one or two meeples, so it would be great to know why in the rule book it says "... after placing Vikings on action spaces in the fifth column, you cannot place any more Vikings that round (you must pass)", what is this implying?
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Gernot Köpke
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Well. You can read out of the basic rules the possibility to pass also with a meeple left. This was made for the rare circumstances, that all 1 meeple actions are used and you have one meeple left. Not using a meeple, if possible, is like shooting oneself in the knee.
I do not see any situation in the expansion, where all actions for meeple are used and a startplayer is worth around 3 VP or more. So here I see also no advantage situation in any game by not using a meeple to get startplayer. But hey, maybe you will find one .
It is a bit sofistic to discuss this, but if you read the rules (I do this not often ), you could interpretate it in that way, that you also can pass with more meeple left, even it is at my point of view always a bad move and not really intended. But however, a robust made game like this does not get hurt by such things kiss

Toenote: An argument was, to get startplayer by using not all meeple and passing earlier. I did not realise it yesterday: The last person, that passes gets startplayer, not the first. Maybe you play the rules wrong?
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gregory rivera
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The rules on discarding occupations for victory point tokens seems to be open to interpretation to me. If you use the level three action to play up to 4 cards, it seems like you could choose to discard any number of them to take the corresponding amount of victory tokens.


The Rule When ever you have the opportunity to play an occupation card, you may instead discard that card in order to take one available victory point token. These provide the shown number of victory points at the end of the game.

If the language said you may only discard one occupation per Viking action this way, then it would be clear. In lieu of this it seems like you can discard away and rein in VP tokens.
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Gernot Köpke
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grecorivera wrote:
The rules on discarding occupations for victory point tokens seems to be open to interpretation to me. If you use the level three action to play up to 4 cards, it seems like you could choose to discard any number of them to take the corresponding amount of victory tokens.


The Rule When ever you have the opportunity to play an occupation card, you may instead discard that card in order to take one available victory point token. These provide the shown number of victory points at the end of the game.

If the language said you may only discard one occupation per Viking action this way, then it would be clear. In lieu of this it seems like you can discard away and rein in VP tokens.
In German language it is clear, that the used singular is a general advice, that includes also playing more cards. I am all but an English expert, but to me this is the same in the English text.
However, it is allowed to get for every in this way removed card a chip. Also for the three meeple action that allows to play four card.
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I love your review. I hope they would do the same to Agricola. I know it would take a lot of work but I guess it would be a great 10 year anniversary gift to fans
 
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