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Subject: Norwegians Solo Review rss

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Travis Vandenberg
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Credentials:

I've been playing feast for the past year and a half. While I've gotten it out with friends around 20 times, the vast majority of my games have been solo. I've played around 50 solo games, with about 25 of them including the Norwegians expansion. I received the expansion officially today but I've been playing with a print-and-play version that was developed late in expansion testing. The average of my recorded scores during this period is 167 points, but since some of the better islands and sheds have been lowered in VP since then, it's probably more accurately at 165. While there are more experienced and better players than me on these forums, I hope that my insight will help guide some of you that are newer to solo play.

Purpose of Review:

The purpose of this review is not to convince you to buy Norwegians. My assumption going in is that you already love this game and enjoy playing the base game solo. Instead, this review is designed to talk about some of the key changes to the solo game via inclusion of Norwegians, pointing out which strategies and action spaces benefited in the overhaul and which suffered. My review will have absolutely no bearing on 2-4P both because the action board is in some cases radically different and because I don't feel qualified, having only played two Norwegians games multiplayer. The review will be broken into different sections, talking about new additions.

New Feature: Artisan Sheds

Artisan sheds are a fantastic new feature to the game. They are far more worthwhile to build than the normal sheds but sometimes can be nice conjunction with them as well. In general, the sheds are an early game addition. Most feature an income track that caps at 1 but one goes up to 2. As such, they should be built within the first three rounds if you hope to gain a maximum benefit. In general, an excellent solo strategy can involve the following actions:

1V: Collect wood
1V: Build shed
Final V: Herbs, mead, coin

With this setup (and your beginning harvest and mead), you can fill almost any shed, gaining an income of 1 and a potential bonus. Additionally, you're left with three vikings to still make other things happen with. While the usefulness of your shed will vary based on your starting profession and the strategy you wish to take, there are some sheds that fall behind the others regardless, particularly, the cow shed and barn. The issue with both of these is that they require you to use a cow or horse (respectively) to fill up the shed. This is both difficult to do in the early game and detrimental to any strategy as you're effectively giving up 10/12 spaces worth of coverage to get the income and bonus. On both your home board and your islands, there's far more efficient ways to get income using something as huge as these animals. Additionally, the rewards they give (milk and wheat respectively) are already something you can pick up in the daily market by having these animals so it makes even less sense to use them. The pig sty, on the other hand, is very easy to fill as pigs breed quickly and you can easily fulfill this in the first round. The other sheds are all fairly good and can be used early on to gain some nice bonuses, but I would also be cautious about wasting a fishing boat on the whaling hut.

New Feature: Pigs and Horses

The new animals are quite handy. It is extremely efficient to pick up a pair of pigs early on in the game as it only costs 2 coins, 1 beans and 3V and provides you one pig every round of the game BEFORE feasting and bonuses. They fit very well in longhouses and can work well in stone houses too. They're even decent for just using as food when you need. Finally, they're easily upgraded into antlers and can be used to surround many of the open bonuses like fish on Isle of Skye, or tools on Wexford and Limerick.

I really like using horses as they tend to fit nicer in a number of places like when you're securing the last two income spots on Iceland or covering rows and columns in the home board. While I wouldn't say that they are superior to cows early in the game, you can make a nice play in the final round if you have already filled in your boards with tiles. If you use 4V to grab two horses, you'll get a guaranteed 14VP from them breeding, plus 2-4VP from the profession you play at the cost of a wheat and 3 silver. In most scenarios this amounts to slightly over 3VP per viking which is generally considered to be good viking efficiency.

New Feature: VP Tokens

While these were likely developed with multiplayer in mind, to allow for balancing when someone draws terrible professions, it is a huge boost to solo and probably accounts for at least a 5 point boost in your average scores. Nearly every game I will take advantage of this new mechanic by putting 3V on the "play 1-4 professions" space. If you're holding 3 professions already, you'll draw one more and play 4 down. Regardless of what they say (you can play some for the effect if you want), you're guaranteed 14VP unless you took tokens earlier in the game. There are very few spaces that will give you this level of VP efficiency late in the game so take advantage of it!

New Feature: More Grey Tiles

If you don't have the promo tiles, this is the first big influx of grey tiles into the game for you. While undoubtedly necessary in multiplayer games, these tiles provide a number of options for you in solo as well. The low sword value of a number of them improve the Raiding and Pillaging action spaces. The low silver cost of a few improve the Special Sale action. As well, the new ore trading space in the final column is very efficient with a few of these. While they may have flown under the radar, the chain mail vest and anvil are also great in that they improve the 3V ore crafting space. Before this space maxed out at 9VP of gain while paying an ore, making it an inefficient trade, but now you can have a 10 or 11VP gain which is much better.

New Feature: Whaling Boat Emigration

Although this is a very cool feature, it's not bound to be super useful in most games. There is very little reason to pick up more than one Whaling Boat in solo and blowing your whaling boat early on to save one slot for food doesn't make sense when there are no opponents to contest the whaling action space. While the action itself is quite VP efficient, it does nothing to progress your board state and as such, it's best saved as an end of game action when your boards are sure to be filled. Note that this may also find heavier use in conjunction with the Cork island as you will gain whaling boats as a bonus.

New Feature: New Exploration Boards

Though there has been some minor VP tweaking between the copy I tested and the final result, there are still some clear outliers for islands.

Waterford gives amazing bonuses. And while it has lower VP than Newfoundland and requires more coverage, the bonuses and the ease with which you can cover them makes up for it. You can easily toss an upgraded horse below and above the longhouse bonus to provide great coverage and then fill with other tiles. Most of my top scores included Waterford in them and are often accomplished by picking up one or two islands between rounds 1-4 and then using the bonuses provided to quickly fill Waterford on round 6.

Isle of Skye is a great early game building that is very easy to fill. A whaling boat will pick the island up and one whaling action will let you fill a good portion of the income. The two best bonuses, wool and rune stone, are achievable pretty early on and you can get either decide to pick up the other bonuses or leave them as is (though you can get most of them by the end of T2 with proper play)

Limerick is an excellent and easy fill, particularly if you pull off a pair of cows in round 2, using one to fill the bottom when you grab this in round 3 and the other to fill in the top the following round (after it gives birth). The right side also goes well with the hide from trapping.

Isle of Man is in my opinion the weakest of the islands. It's very difficult to fill, requiring some odd shapes and constant filling of everything to the left to progress in income. Pigs aren't a fantastic bonus to get (since a pair of them does the same thing anyway) and you likely won't get to the pig bonus until round 3. With no good tile help from any of the other bonuses, you'll be set back pretty far by going for this island early on unless you want to fill a TON of houses.

New Rule: Draw two starting professions, pick one

While I have always played this way in multiplayer, it's nice to have this option in solo. Though there is no real strategic thought in choosing one profession over another in a vacuum (there's optimal strategies for each profession and when you know them, you can always go that route), when combined with two artisan shed choices, you are now given the opportunity to decide upon the most synergistic course of action. This is reminiscent of the opening of a Terraforming Mars game which I really enjoy.

Added Action Spaces

Theft: Absurdly useful. In various strategies, you'll be left with extra weapons that you have no use for. Knarrs become quite the powerhouse with this addition as overseas trading has become more necessary (will elaborate later) and special sale has far more cheap options to choose from. The Knarr price has even gone down! All signs point to Knarr usage.

Catching Fish: Very strong as well. If you don't go down the whaling route, you'll have lots of leftover spears. Two fish and a whale oil is amazing efficiency provided you roll well.

Butchering spaces: While these two (sheep/horse/cow and pig) are not absolutely incredible, they are quite handy, particularly when using horses. This helps make up for the loss of the 2 upgrade action and should be regularly used in any animal strategy.

1 ore = grey tile <9: Another very good space. If you can find a way to fit in the cross or the scythe, you're gaining effectively 5VP by taking this action. The other tiles are great too if you have a constant source of ore.

1 upgrade, 2 =/= resources: Being able to pick out a stone or ore early on in the game is very nice as these often don't show up until later in solo. The upgrade is often a necessary addition due to the loss of numerous upgrade actions.

1 silver, 1 herbs, 1 mead: As mentioned previously, this is a fantastic space for filling up an artisan shed early on. Additionally, it's a great card for end game when you have an empty longhouse as you can effectively cover 4VP and gain a silver for a net gain of 5VP.

Pay 1 silver + 1 wood for Whaling Boat and island: In openers that build a whaling boat T1 for island exploration don't include trying to whale (risky endeavour anyway), this action space is a straight upgrade for you as you can now take the beans + silver action space with the saved viking and end up with a better net gain overall. The only downside is the opportunity cost of missing out on a different last column action space but most of those aren't terribly useful in early island filling.

Removed/Changed Action Spaces

1V, 2 upgrade: This was the biggest removal of the expansion IMO. It seems odd, but this little space provided so much power for such an efficient cost that I would argue the removal of it may lower your scores by as much as 5VP per game. This removal indirectly reduces the effectiveness of hunting, whaling and trapping (to a lesser extent) as they were often paired with this action. It also indirectly improves the effectiveness of Pillaging and Raiding as well as overseas trading (which received a price increase).

Ship OR Houses: This one hurts a lot too. While only two spaces are affected, you now need to be careful about when you choose to buy a Knarr, Longboat, Stone House and Longhouse as you can shoot yourself in the foot by blocking something crucial. This also makes the already too good 4V action space in this joint category even better so don't be surprised if you see this happening more often.

3V Pillaging and 3V Emigration: While these are not frequently used in solo, they can be nice action spaces when you have professions related to them. I haven't personally felt the loss of these yet as I generally don't go too hard into one strategy but I could see it being rough if you have Refugee Helper.

Draw 1 Profession, 1 silver: When short on silver, I preferred this space to the beans + silver one. For whatever reason, it has been removed. The 4P addition is pretty awesome but unfortunately, we don't have access to it.

Pay 1 silver, gain 2 fish: While this wasn't always the best route to go, pulling out some clutch fish for a cheap price was a flexible action. Though the new action space is arguably much better, it also conflicts with other new actions like Elk Hunting and Thievery in that they share some weapons.

Upgrade silverware into jewelry, wool into coat, gain 4 coins: While this one was very specific, I always enjoyed grabbing this spot when I had Shetland and a couple of sheep. Wool and Silverware show up again on some of these islands so it would have been nice to have this in the solo game as well.

Overseas Trading: While this space has become more necessary due to fewer upgrade options, the price increase to two coins is definitely a hit. I would still recommend regular use of the space, however, since Knarrs are so much more valuable in the expansion.

Concluding Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read my review. You'll note that I did not comment on everything in the expansion. I commented instead on what I believed to be the most relevant to the impact on the solo game. While I may elaborate more on some concepts in here, I'd love to discuss thoughts in the comments section as well.
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Jon W
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WhatAChamp wrote:
there are some sheds that fall behind the others regardless, particularly, the cow shed and barn. The issue with both of these is that they require you to use a cow or horse (respectively) to fill up the shed. This is both difficult to do in the early game and detrimental to any strategy as you're effectively giving up 10/12 spaces worth of coverage to get the income and bonus.
I agree, these do seem a little off. My first game with the Barn I used it as early as I could (hey, it's a new thing, try it) but it clearly set me back. The bonus and/or the VP value seem too low for the investment.

Or maybe they were intended as mid-late game situational plays where you've been breeding and have an extra tile? Skeptical either way.
 
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Travis Vandenberg
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I was thinking the same. I could maybe see it with the cow shed as cows themselves are not worth very many VP so it could be a good way to spend excess cows at the end of the game (which really shouldn't happen either unless you have Orkney), but horses are already worth 6VP so it's hard to justify paying 1 wood for no net gain in VP (aside from the 2 coins if you also fill the bottom. At least with the cow shed you can build it early on and just gain 1 silver per turn. Maybe that makes it a bit more worthwhile?

EDIT: The funny thing is that the Barn received a VP nerf of -1 VP between my playtesting and now. So perhaps there's something I'm missing here...
 
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Jon W
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WhatAChamp wrote:
New Rule: Draw two starting professions, pick one
Curious about this one; where is this? I can't find it in the rulebook. I wonder if this was cut post-development.
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Gernot Köpke
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The artisan sheds are just an offer and you can decide to build it in a right strategy-moment on one of the two sides. The backside (animals/whaling boat) is mostly at the mid or end game of interest, the frontside at the beginning.

One cow/horse (+1 grain) can be bought for 3 hacksilver and two meeples (~9+ VP), if you do not breed one.

A cow needs an upgrade and a place to place it, a cow shed not and you get +1 milk bonus +1 hacksilver income +8 VP for one cow and a flax/grain. All for one action and a wood. If you collect cows, the milk might be not so nice, but milk is reduced to 1/2 for 2/3 cows (+1 bean +1 hacksilver) and if you take only one cow without playing animal strategy, it is a valid strategy in the mid or end-game, if you do not have enough space for cows, I think.

A horse might be left for 6 VP without upgrading it. Than it offers together with a pea/flax +1 grain bonus, +2 income and +6 VP. This might be of special interest, if the other horse is pregnant and you don't want to upgrade them. A third horse is of no engine-use. But placed in a barn, you raise your income and a grain is a worthy orange tile. The market place offers an extra grain with having a horse, but that is quite a normal move than, not a great one. Without the grain it is like in the basic game an action space for failed plans to get food and some hacksilver, no real good move (better than 2 hacksilver and 2 mead, but still not so good).

The boat shed can be build also in an early moment: If you take an early whaling-boat-island and don't want to use the whaling action. If you have enough money in a later phase of the game for buying a whaling boat, it is also interesting to play the boat shed.
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Gernot Köpke
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Let me note at first, that it is a great review of a deep analyse, that needs a BIG THANK YOU !

I do agree most of the written thoughts :-)

Let me make some footnotes and 'toenotes' to some aspects:

- Isle of Man: It needed a long testing time to open this special strategy for longhouses and pigs on the map of this island. If you play Isle of Man, you need to find a way to use all the pigs from the island and later breeding. If some are left at end of game, you need to try it better in a future game - one VP is not enough ;-)
If you play this island, you need to fill it up consequently to get the pig and 6 income. Like with Faroer, hesitating makes it a more or less worse choice. If you got a trap at the beginning and layed sucessfully a snare, you have an alternative start to the homeboard (2 income and a mead) with just one tile. The wood for laying a snare and for the whaling boat might come from the 2 meeple action, that gives 3 wood and an ore. The ore might be used to raise the income up to 3. A linen, made by flax, might give another income on the homeboard. In a solo game, the last action for forging is uncontested and the helmet might do here good work -> 4 income and a mead in the first round are possible! The mead and the stone helps to ignore the homeboard until you got the pig and 6 income. After this, you have many options to play on.

- shipping OR housing/knarr: The best way to get a ship, is to use no action and to buy it instead from income. The knarr did cost in the basic game to much wood to be interesting enough to build it early. With one wood and the better use of the knarr, it is now hopefully an equal early strategy comparing to a longship.

- the space for getting a hacksilver and an occupation card still exists, but you need now 2 meeple instead of one and can get another card and play one. An interesting alternative to pay a stone/ore for playing a card and getting a hacksilver or doing it with the last action. But well, you need than two actions. If the hacksilver is the reason, the new last action herbal+mead+hacksilver offers also one.

- wool/silverware => coat/jewellery: As written, it was very specific and the more important idea was to reduce the options on the board for 1-2 players. In a game of 3-4 you get now the much more useful 'vadmal' (speacial woolmade 'impregnated' sails for faster sailing) instead of the green coat and two hacksilver.

- overseas trading: The cost needed to be raised from one to two hacksilver, because it is a very good move and with the new green tiles an even better one. The second expansion The Danes will also bring new green tiles...
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Matthew Robinson
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waddball wrote:
WhatAChamp wrote:
New Rule: Draw two starting professions, pick one
Curious about this one; where is this? I can't find it in the rulebook. I wonder if this was cut post-development.
I don’t see this anywhere in the rules either.
 
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Gernot Köpke
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trilamb wrote:
waddball wrote:
WhatAChamp wrote:
New Rule: Draw two starting professions, pick one
Curious about this one; where is this? I can't find it in the rulebook. I wonder if this was cut post-development.
I don’t see this anywhere in the rules either.
Me in the German rule too :-(
I don't know why, but I guess it will come than officially with the next mini-expansion: Sons/Children/Family of Odin.
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Travis Vandenberg
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My apologies. I thought I remembered hearing about it from Gernot in our conversations. Didn’t realize it wasn’t official! I didn’t use this rule in playtesting but tried it out yesterday... Whoops!
 
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Jon W
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WhatAChamp wrote:
New Feature: Pigs and Horses

The new animals are quite handy. It is extremely efficient to pick up a pair of pigs early on in the game as it only costs 2 coins, 1 beans and 3V and provides you one pig every round of the game BEFORE feasting and bonuses.
After another couple of solo plays, I think I like upgrading herbs to get my first pig (then always keep one around for the breeding), rather than using the 3V market space. Okay, dug out the game and checked, and I had the Hermit's Hut (bonus herbs), which is why I could bypass buying pigs outright.

Sheep are getting short shrift now, though. I'm struggling to find a good argument for grabbing them. The 3V market space is really the only way, but...for just one more viking you can nab two horses or cows.
 
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Dok Indigo
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waddball wrote:
upgrading herbs to get my first pig (then always keep one around for the breeding), rather than using the 3V market space.
Pigs breed every round but you still need two to breed.
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Paul Arezina
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waddball wrote:

Sheep are getting short shrift now, though. I'm struggling to find a good argument for grabbing them. The 3V market space is really the only way, but...for just one more viking you can nab two horses or cows.
Wool synergy? That's how somebody won our first game, hitting up the market for 3V fruit and wool and 4V herbs, spices, meat and wool.
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Gernot Köpke
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Glazius wrote:
waddball wrote:

Sheep are getting short shrift now, though. I'm struggling to find a good argument for grabbing them. The 3V market space is really the only way, but...for just one more viking you can nab two horses or cows.
Wool synergy? That's how somebody won our first game, hitting up the market for 3V fruit and wool and 4V herbs, spices, meat and wool.
And don't forget the wool to wadmal way...
 
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waddball wrote:
WhatAChamp wrote:
New Feature: Pigs and Horses

The new animals are quite handy. It is extremely efficient to pick up a pair of pigs early on in the game as it only costs 2 coins, 1 beans and 3V and provides you one pig every round of the game BEFORE feasting and bonuses.
After another couple of solo plays, I think I like upgrading herbs to get my first pig (then always keep one around for the breeding), rather than using the 3V market space. Okay, dug out the game and checked, and I had the Hermit's Hut (bonus herbs), which is why I could bypass buying pigs outright.

Sheep are getting short shrift now, though. I'm struggling to find a good argument for grabbing them. The 3V market space is really the only way, but...for just one more viking you can nab two horses or cows.
It's not just one more viking, but a grain and 1 additional silver, all of which can make or break your rounds. For example, it's much easier to fit in buying sheep/pig round 1 (discard occ for 2 silver then buy sheep) than cows.

I also disagree that sheep is worse than pigs. Sheeps are much more less needy and require less dedicated actions to convert into green tiles, which are critical for filling in your homeboard/islands early. Upgrading a single pig into a 5 tile green is obviously less efficient than upgrading a single sheep to an 8 tile green, and strategies that are short on upgrades would much rather have sheep than pig (such as going for islands that produce a lot of large red tiles that also need upgrading). The slaughtering action for sheep is also more flexible than the slaughtering action for pigs, since the sheep one doesn't take the coveted last row action space, letting you use it for something. This is relevant especially in solo mode, where upgrades are scarce and you can't afford to make all your pigs green.
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alexander stark
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Thanks for this review. Now I have more doubts about getting or not this expansion cry. From one side I think it gives more options to explore and play, however from the other side I think it create some disadvantages to previous actions/strategies so at the end of the day I'll have the same number of "viable" ways to achieve good amount of points (I mean, with this expansion I'll playing a different game with the same options as before).
 
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Jon W
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NorthernPolarity wrote:
I also disagree that sheep is worse than pigs.
Fair points, and I think a useful "rebuttal" has emerged. I've since forced myself to try sheep, and had a largely successful game (153 pts).

So I guess I'll at least partially retract my impression from above. I'm still not sure they're a reasonable buy compared to horses, but I think you make a good point in comparison to pigs. Jury is still out for me on cows (particularly compared to horses); just haven't played enough yet.

All of this does make me wish a bit more that a focused mini-deck of Norwegians-specific occupations had been provided. My usual approach in the base game was to let my occs dictate which (if any) animal path I might go down, but now it's all a bit more deterministic if you just want to maximize points.
 
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