This is a review of Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga
This game is rather fun, and in many ways a sort of hybrid between what some might call an Amerigame type, and a Eurogame type. It's breakdown is as follows.
Rules Presentation - 9
Gameplay - 8
Personal Tilt - 7
Replayability - 8
Useability - 7
Final Score 8.2
Materials - This game comes with some wonderful materials. I normally don't give fractions, or decimal points, and so this game gets a 10 by rounding, as I'll explain.
It comes on a mounted board with nice artwork. Rivers have been widened considerably, but it's for game reasons, and is integrated well into the game itself.
It has multiple plastic peices. Five plastic Viking longboats, along with 75 Vikings to move around and show what you control. These peieces are integrated terrifically into the game and look great. In addition, it has cities that are used on the board. These are grey plastic pieces which add alot for the aspect of the game. In fact, it is the inclusion of these that actually ups it's material score a bit, for adding just that little bit more of detail.
In addition, the cities have cardboard chits that are utilized within them to help in the victory point totals, whilst hiding what one can expect to earn.
There is also quite a bit of cardboard, for goods, and vp/gold. I'm not a big fan of cardboard, but overall it doesn't fare too badly in regards to this game.
It also has several cards used to give goals for sagas, as well as to help determine some final victory points at the end of the game, and some Rune cards which add different aspects in the game such as hosing your opponents, or changing weather to aid you.
The materials rate higher than a 9 in my opinion, but lack the oomph for a complete 10 due to some of the smaller cardboard bits being easy to lose (especially the 1 VP pieces), and that trade goods are hard to distinguish at times. The parts overall are well integrated into the game, and look great, but it's in that grey area between a 9 and a 10. However, I don't give partial points, so I'm rounding it up overall, to a great score of a 10.
It scores a 10.
Rules Presentation - This rulebook is great. It has great art, great format, and is easy to understand. I read through the rules before I got the game to determine whether to get it or not, and understood them prior to getting the game. I got the game and with a quick refresher was ready to play. The rules are straight forward, and the examples help clarify problems people may run into. It's not as explicit or good or well made as Battle Lore, but overall it's a superior rulebook. I appreciated how well it was made.
It scores a 9.
Gameplay - This game is a hybrid between and Ameri and Euro type system. It is won or lost via Victory Points, which are gained, and utilized in a more Euro fashion. (in fact, if one did away with rolling, and just had automatic successes, it would be a Euro in game style, though with all the glitz and glamor of plastic). On the otherhand, it has the random dice rolling of an Ameri, along with all the bunches of plastic, and an occasional shot in the arm via player aggression via Rune Cards.
There are many reviews that cover this aspect, and the rules are easily available and easily readable, so the description on gameplay may be a little more brief than my usual full out details.
It begins with each player starting in the First Saga. The game is split into 3 Sagas, each determined when you draw a card from that Saga and place it on the board. There are three Saga cards on the board at any given time. These come from a pile of 18 cards, six cards from each saga 1 to 3, in order of the Saga Period. On these Saga cards are various goals which one can achieve. When these goals are completed, that person that completed the final objective gets the Saga card. On each Saga card is given one of three locations, which come into play in the final portion of the game. Some Saga cards grant victory points to the player who completes the objective (Normally some value between 5 and 12).
The player than has seven actions per turn, which can either be loading goods or men onto their boat, or travelling across the ocean. As free actions they can also trade with, attack/raid, or settle a location.
Each time one trades they get Victory points. It's as easy as putting down a good at the location and claiming the victory points for it.
Raids are a little harsher, in that each spot has a number, and this number represents how resistant it is to raids and settling. A Player must roll OVER this number in order to be successful, each non-success meaning a man is lost. If they suceed, they get the grey city. Under each city is a hidden victory point total that adds to the players Victory Points.
Settling can only be done if there are no cities in the area (as in grey cities which are plastic, and areas are a series of three ports/colored points in the region next to each other all of the same color). There are no immediate Victory points from this at the time they are settled. In order to succeed, a Player must roll over the number (as in raids) of defense for the city. If successful they mark it with one of their men from the boat.
In addition, a player in a home port may draw a Rune card as an action instead of loading or travelling. These can be played as a free action, and do various things such as enabling you to try to take over an opponents city (normally if your opponent vikings have settled a city, you cannot try to take it from them, however the cards provide exceptions to this occasionally), or adding spaces to the number you could normally move, to even having storms assail opponents ships and forcing them to roll to see if they lose men.
As Each Saga is completed, the goals obtained, the players claim them. When the final Saga card is placed, the game will end once the final objectives are reached, or when three turns have passed, which ever comes first.
Then comes the final scoring, in which the player who has raided the most cities gets 3 Victory points per city raided. Then comes the point where settlements gain one victory points. The scores next to the cities used for defense against raids and settling is now used to determine Victory point worth. If two of the three cities in a region are settled (it doesn't matter by whom, all who are a part of the region gain the reward) the point value of the city doubles, and if all three are settled, the point value triples.
Hence, this can get rather important at the end game (for example, if one has three cities which are worth 4 VP normally in a region all settled by them, that is a total of 36 points, vs. what normally would be 4 points per city).
Finally, the Saga cards also come into play. Those who have the most cards of a certain home port gain 10 points, with the second one getting 5 points.
All in all, whoever has the most victory points...wins the game.
This is terrific as far as game play goes, as this provides a player with several different strategies on how to win. Will they go for a trading strategy, or perhaps a raiding strategy to get city victory points combined with the most cities raided. Perhaps they want to go for a settling strategy instead.
Maybe instead they just want to focus on getting through the Sagas and getting the most Victory Points that way.
Normally its some combination of all of the above, with some focusing more on certain portions during certain parts of the game. Personally I like concentrating on trading during the First Saga, then on raiding during the second, and settling during the third.
The game works well, and flows well. There's just enough competition for areas, as well as the ability to hose your opponent via Rune cards that it keeps up player tension. At the same time, there is quite a bit of luck involved in trying to do the raids or settlements.
The gameplay works well, and flows well.
It scores an 8.
Personal Tilt - I really enjoyed the game. It doesn't quite have as intense a person to person aggression as I like in my games occasionally (but then many times I prefer wargames, so hopefully that's understandable), but it fares well as a hybrid of several aspects of Eurogames as well as American style games. I and my wife probably share a similar view in that if playing a hybrid game we'd probably prefer Twilight Imperium (though that has a different feel and for a different type of gamer), however, this one is great fun in it's own right. It scores above average.
It scores a 7.
Reuseability - Due to all the different options which one can choose, and the dynamic ways of scoring, this game can be approached differently each time. This makes it highly reuseable as a game, and worth while as an investment if you enjoy it.
It scores an 8.
Useability - Now this is the real trick to the game. Those who enjoy conflict, and direct player confrontation will probably play it, and enjoy it somewhat, but feel as if something is missing. It just lacks the confrontation that many would enjoy.
Others, who enjoy Eurogames will find too much chance in the dice rolling aspects. Hence they would tend to see it lacking as a Eurogame and see it much more like an American style game instead, despite the obvious Eurogame influences with it's scoring system and time advancement with the Saga cards. They'll also probably play it, like the others listed above, but it's not going to be at the top of their list.
I think both the above groups will enjoy the game, but it's going to be more of a game that one can take it or leave it. They'll have other games they'll rank higher or enjoy more.
On the otherhand, those who enjoy an intermixing of both types of games, or like hybrids, and like a LOT of plastic in their games will find much to love about this game. It has a different aspect and different feel that isn't really covered by any other game, and has a niche all to it's own in that regard.
So, for useability I think most gamers can play this game and enjoy it, and that makes it highly useable. However, it's going to be a little more limited in group play when looking for those who really love it.
Even then, they might find it not as great as some of the other games they love, such as Twilight Imperium (which fills a different type of gaming desire...so not a competely apt comparison, but I can't really think of any game that would be in the same category as Fire and Axe).
Overall, it's above average in Useability.
It scores a 7.
The game shows that it doesn't have to score perfects in many categories to do quite well, and overall gains it's score not only for superior materials and rules presentation, but excellent gameplay and Replayability.
It's final score is an 8.2
(For reference, link to explanation of my game ratings http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2426690#2426690 )
You may want to edit the part that says that players get points for having the most Saga cards of a particular home port to indicate clearly that it is 10 points PER CARD attained, not just 10 points for having the most. The same goes for the 5 point rule for second most; it is 5 PER CARD. Hopefully this is how you've been playing. We missed it the first few times we played, and I don't want someone reading your review to make the same mistake.
Thanks for the great review. I might just have to pick this game up on my next order. I love Twilight Imperium, but find it hard to get to the table because of it's length, but this might just fill a bit of a niche for our group.