Vikings, created by Michael Kiesling, is a novel game where you and your band of Vikings are exploring the islands near your home land. Viking is a 2007 game published by Rio Grande Games. As these islands are discovered you will populate them with Noblemen, Craftsmen, Fishermen, Warriors and Scouts. In addition, your Boatsmen will assist in transporting your Vikings to the islands. All the while your islands will be threatened by local pirates attempting to rob you of the bounty you look to gain from these newly discovered islands.
It sounds interesting doesn't it? I thought so as well. This review will be done as a "First Impression", just as my review of Shipyard was, as I have played it just once. It was actually during the same session as we first played shipyard. Also, I will say now that even though we read and fully understood the rules, we did forget an important aspect of tile placement, I'll explain this later.
"Opening the Box!"
As I stated in my first review, I put significant weight on how I feel after opening the box and checking out the bits and pieces. Ironically, I am again reviewing a game which was purchased by my friend Braden. I did get a good feel for the experience though.
The rule book is fairly small, a fold out sheet of four, front and back, pages. This is promising since we were looking for a light, fun game with a decently strategic mechanic. Then you get out the main board and see that there is, what appears to be, a spinner to be mounted on the board. A spinner? That can't be right! I don't play games with spinners?! Well, it isn't exactly a spinner in the traditional scene. Although it does spin, it isn't used as a random "spin to see what you get" type of deal. It is "rotated" to indicate the price on tile/Viking pairs (explained later). Other than that, you have a cloth bag of 70+ little Vikings of 6 different colors, good quality; I like the "horns". You also have a similar amount of island/ship tiles, good quality again. I'm optimistic here, looking forward to figuring out how this spinner works. (I had the same feeling when I opened El Grande and saw that there were, not one, but 5 spinners included!).
(I will note here that we didn't play with the auction mechanic or the special tiles)
Vikings is played in 6 game rounds. A small or large scoring occurs at the end of each of these rounds. The 1st, 3rd and 5th rounds have a small scoring, while the 2nd, 4th and 5th rounds have a large scoring. In addition there is a "Final Scoring" after the 6th round's big scoring.
During each of these 6 rounds, players will take turns choosing from one of 12 available Viking/ Island tile combos which have been drawn randomly and placed around the 12 spaces of the "spinner". The tiles and Vikings are drawn at random, but they are placed around the circle in a specific pattern. Essentially they are placed in a semi-value based order. On your turn you will choose which of the pairs you want to purchase. Each pair is lined up with a number from 0 to 11 on the wheel. You have to pay the amount on the wheel to take the tile/Viking combo next to it. You cannot take the pair costing zero unless you are out of money or there are no other Vikings of that color remaining around the wheel. When the pair costing "0" is taken the wheel is rotated so that the next available pair becomes the "0" pair, this will change the price for all remaining pairs of tiles/Vikings. For instance, if the first two players take the pairs costing "1" and "2" coins, then the third player takes the "0" pair (only allowed if he is broke or there are no other Vikings of that color remaining on the wheel). Now, the wheel is rotated so that the "0" is lined up with the next available pair, in this case it would be the pair that originally costed 4. This is the main player interaction of the game. Otherwise your decisions are fairly independent of the other players. You will find it is important how you choose your tiles/Vikings. If there are several open spots next to the "0" and you take that combo, you will drop the price for all other combos quite a bit for the other players. But, the price will be lower for you on your next turn as well. See, there are 12 pairs available for each round, in a 3 player game you will be choosing 4 combos per round. You will need to plan ahead for what you need and what the other players need. Also, money becomes a factor. If you are unable to pay for any available combos you will be forces to take the 0 combo or to sacrifice victory points for money, which isn't ideal since victory points are hard enough to come by as it is.
So, what do you do with these island tiles, pirate ships and Vikings you ask? Well, you place them on your player board, or player "L" if you will. The player boards are just an upside down "L". Along the left side you will see 6 Vikings matching the colors of the Viking pieces you are picking from.
The island tiles come is three varieties. Beginning island tiles, middle island tiles and ending island tiles. Then there are 4 different color pirate ships, red, green, yellow and blue. Each player starts with a beginning island tile which they place along with their first acquired island tile.
Island tiles must be place in such a way that they are either adjacent to the left side of you board, in one of the 5 rows, or above/below/to the right of another island tile, again, in one of the 5 rows. (This is the part we forgot about, we never realized that we could put tiles above or below others on the board, this was very limiting). You also can only place island tiles in such a way that the water aligns with water and land aligns with land. So, you can't put two starting pieces next to each other or two ending pieces, you can't place a middle piece to the right of an ending island tile or to the left of a beginning tile. It is very simple and intuitive really. Just like Carcassonne, roads with roads, cities with cities.
When you place an island tile you also have to place the Viking that came with that tile. If you are placing the island tile in the row that matches the color of the Viking, than you can place the Viking on that tile and that tile alone. If the row you placed the island tile in doesn't match the color of the Viking then he must be placed on the mainland. This is the top right portion of the board. These, stranded Vikings, will have to be boated to the islands later by your boatmen. If the Viking you received was grey, he is a boatsman and should be placed on the mainland as well, he'll be used later.
The pirate ships are placed in the top row. The first pirate ship can be placed in any of the first three columns. Each ship after this one must be placed adjacent to a previously placed ship. The pirate ships are "attacking" the row of island tiles that are in the same column as the ship. They can be repelled if that column of tiles has a Warrior (black) Viking in it. Otherwise the ship will "attack" and render useless the Viking on the island down to the row matching the color of the ship. I.E. If a yellow ship isn't repelled, the Vikings on the island down to the yellow row are rendered useless. The blue Viking would still be active when it is scored since it is below the yellow row.
At the end of each round, before scoring, you are able to send Vikings to the islands using your boatsmen. This allows you to fill empty spaces with Vikings that you were unable to initially place.
Small scoring rounds are for money only. You get 3 coins for each yellow Viking in your islands that isn't threatened by a pirate ship. This is the main source of income.
Big scoring rounds score money for protected yellow Vikings as well as victory points for combinations of green, yellow and blue Vikings in each column. Also, a repelled pirate ship scores money or victory points equal to that printed on the pirate ship tile.
At the end of the game you perform a big scoring and also a Final Scoring. In final scoring you are penalized points/coins for ships that are not repelled by a warrior. You also gain or lose points for the number of Vikings you can feed with you fishermen (blue) Vikings as compared to the total number of Vikings you have.
There are also a few bonuses available; largest completed island, most completed islands and most remaining boatsmen all score victory points at game’s end.
Vikings is a fun game. It has a simple mechanic that is easy to learn and takes little time to "figure out". The luck factor is, well, medium. I say that because the tiles and Vikings come out randomly but a poor draw is a poor draw for everyone. If there is nothing but ending island pieces than that's how it is, everyone has to deal with it. Although we only played one game, I did feel inclined to play again. We had already planned to move on to Endeavor as it was. This happens to be my "next up" for review. I look forward to playing Vikings again with a better understanding of how the tiles are placed. We were stuck in our first game because several times you were unable to place a tile in the same row as the color of the Viking which led to each of us having several Vikings on the main land. If we had remembered the correct tile placement rules we wouldn't have run into that problem. I imagine that I will enjoy it more the second and maybe third times I play but after that it will plateau out to a game I enjoy to play on occasion but not every game night. It is a great intro game or second level game for new gamers. It's a little heavier than a Carcassonne but not quite a Puerto Rico or El Grande. Weight wise I would put it right along Alhambra. The mechanic is very easy to explain and not difficult to master but first time players will be inefficient and waste money and Vikings by making poor choices.
Game design- 7
Game mechanic- 7
Game Components- 8
Luck vs. Strategy- 7
Over all- 7
Thanks again for reading "First Impressions" by Brian. Look for my upcoming review of Endeavor.
More to come.
Try the advanced game. It is far different and far superior to the basic game.
1. Special tiles - the real addition special tiles bring is they reward players who buy the most expensive item on the board (often a ship)
2. Viking draft - there's no preset order to the Vikings. The order is chosen by the players. There's some serious screwage that takes place here.
3. Boatsmen are far less powerful, now only able to ferry a single Viking instead of a whole color group or one of each color. (A special tile gets around this.) This aspect ties in very nicely with #1 since Boatsmen often don't come hand-in-hand with ships.
4. The auction is an excellent rule, but honestly, only necessary in four player games. With three players, a rotating start player rule works just as well.
Everybody I've played with was amazed at how much the game improves when playing with the advanced rules. (As for me, I've never played by the basic rules--I never knew they existed until I got my own copy. When I read the basic rules, it just didn't seem as interesting, so take from that what you will.)
Hope you like it! This is my personal favorite boardgame.
Nice review! I've only played Viking once and I had the same impressions. I've never tried the advanced rules but it sounds like they may be worth a shot.
Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and without panic; it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation.
A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.
I really like Vikings ... but I've only played with the advanced rules. The game works as well with two as it does 4; although I find 3 to be the magic number.