- James SmithAustralia
Midgard is game for 3-5 players by Eric M. Lang (World of Warcraft, Call of Cthulhu CCG) the suggested time is 45 minutes. Midgard gives each player the opportunity to be a Viking chieftain, hell-bent on having a good time, fighting and then gloriously dying and being sent to the heavens. Sounds like many people I meet out on a Saturday night!
The layout of the board consists of an initial supply of warriors placed on your Viking ship. An off board supply of warriors is also available to each player. The land of Midgard is separated into three kingdoms: Alfheim, Mannheim and Jotunheim, the former two having three provinces and the latter having four provinces. On top of this there are also the heavens: Asgard, Vanaheim and Valhalla. Through the management of controlling majorities in these areas players earn victory points at the end of each round.
The driving mechanics of this game are a card draft to start each round where players are dealt a hand of six cards: one gold, two silver and three bronze cards, where gold cards are generally the most prized. One card is chosen then the remaining hand is passed to the left, this continues until each player has a hand of six. The another important mechanic is the area majority aspect. Each province has a number of huts depicted on it, each hut can house one warrior, so some provinces may only be able to house three warriors, whilst others may be able to handle six. In Midgard each player has Viking leader which acts as a tie breaker in ties for majorities in provinces. Having a cap on the number of warriors that can be in each province makes the game very interesting as it is very hard for one player to have a lock on one province, as the balance can be tipped so easily.
The most unique mechanic is that of the Doom Tokens. At the start of each round five doom tokens are drawn, each depicts a province, at the end of the round warriors on these provinces die and are sent to Valhalla. This sound like a bad thing but players earn victory points for their warriors dying so gloriously and perhaps more importantly every warrior that ends at Valhalla will be placed on your Viking ship ready for the start of the next turn. So a player that can get many warriors to Valhalla, not only earns glory but also can get an advantage in the next turn if he has more warriors at his disposal.
The game is played over three rounds: the first has 4 actions, the second 5 actions and the third 6 actions. Each action is simply the playing of a card from your hand. The ramping up of the actions is a significant factor as the play goes from getting a foothold, to trying to utilise the final actions better than your opponents. At the end of each round a scoring phase occurs where players get points for each province they control and will gain more points if they gain majorities in a number of provinces within one kingdom (i.e. a player who scores for 2 provinces in Alfheim, will earn more points than a player who has a majority in 1 province in Alfheim and one in Mannheim). Players also gain kingdom tokens for each province they have a presence in; a player who has warriors in three provinces of Jotunheim will receive three Jotunheim kingdom tokens. Kingdom tokens are important because for each set they collect (one each of Jotunheim, Alfheim and Mannheim) 5 points are scored at the end of the game.
Then the heavens of Asgard and Vanaheim are scored; a player with a majority in Asgard earns 5 points and a player with a majority in Vanaheim will receive two kingdom tokens of their choice. As an aside there is no limit to the number of warriors that these heavens can hold. Warriors that are in doomed provinces are then sent to Valhalla, each warrior who dies this way earns 2 points, then Valhalla itself is scored, where each player scores one point for every warrior they have in Valhalla (there are cards that can send warriors to Valhalla and as such these warriors won’t score the 2 points bonus from being in a doomed province). Then warriors in Valhalla are returned to their Viking longboats.
The game has a very unique feel to it as you are not just trying to get majorities, you are also trying to target specific provinces to gain kingdom tokens, whilst also balancing the desire to get warriors into a doomed province to score points and to be able to use them next turn. The game can get very hectic when there are provinces that are hotly contested, but the chaos and even the bluffing element to the game are very good elements. There is also interplay in trying to get your supply of off board warriors into the action through the playing of certain cards.
The luck in the draw of your cards means that you cannot have a set formula to obtain the maximum points and there is a lot of player interaction so to play well you must be able to think quickly and off the cuff, which I like in a game. Having said that there are avenues for a skilled player to explore, denying other players important cards, or the strategic placement of your Viking leader so that he is a tie breaker or in an inconvenient spot as it is difficult for an opponent to displace a leader. I find the game to be well balanced, there is enough luck for inexperienced players to enjoy and stand a chance in scoring, but there is enough strategy for an experience player to win more games than the average.
The more I play this game the more the theme strikes me. Ultimately when I am playing an area majority game I don’t feel that the setting would matter and that doesn’t bother me. However, when I play Midgard I feel that the theme does work, I could not see it as a ringmaster at a circus trying to control the most tents and events. That would not gel with this boardgame and its mechanics. Also there has been criticism of the board saying that it looks horrible. Well it isn’t the best board I have seen, but it does not have too much going on, it has a very good summary of the points and rounds and does not have bright colours that distract you from working out where you are placing your piece. The board also fits the theme, it is dark like the North Sea. Plus it is the first game I have bought where the board was wrapped in shrink wrap so that has to be worth something.
This game is a great game, it took me a while to get past the Viking on the cover having bloody horns on his helmet! After frequent counseling I have risen above this issue and I can enjoy the game for what it is: a fast paced, condensed game that has a great blend of skill and luck in a package that plays in 30 minutes to an hour. It will definitely be getting more plays with my game group.
- [+] Dice rolls