What're you looking at!
My wife and I enjoy the Kosmos 2-player series, and Odin's Ravens is no exception. It is a race game in which you can manipulate the course with some interesting hand management decisions. The Raven is known for being a trickster, and this game is tribute to his cunning.
Odin's Ravens is primarily a card game, consisting of three different types of cards: landscape cards (which form the "board" or flight path), flight and Odin cards (which the players have in their hand), and Magic Way cards. The cards are long and narrow, as in Caesar and Cleopatra (another of the Kosmos 2-player line). The artwork is bright, though not terribly interesting.
The game also comes with two wooden ravens, and an Odin marker token. The components are fine, if not impressive. The rules are well-written.
Set up is quite simple. Nine of the landscape cards are laid out side by side. The landscape cards depict a terrain on the top and bottom of the card; thus forming a different path for each player when laid out. In the initial set up, you have to make sure that two identical landscapes are not side by side.
Each player gets a deck of cards consisting of 33 cards: 25 flight cards, which depict terrain corresponding to that laid out by the landscape cards, and 8 Odin cards which have special text.
You choose a raven for your playing piece and place it on your side of the row of landscape cards.
The object of the game is to race your raven to the end of your row before your opponent gets to the end of his row, and/or get more cards placed in the Magic Way, to score more points than your opponent.
On your turn, you can play cards from your hand (consisting of five cards), or, after your first turn, your auxiliary stack, to a maximum of three from each. From either you can play a flight card that corresponds with the landscape immediately in front of your raven. For example, if your raven is in front of mountains, you need to play a
mountain flight card to advance him to that space. If you do not have that particular card, you can play two of any other type of flight card as a joker to advance your raven.
You can also play cards from your auxiliary stack. This stack is built with cards from your hand, which in turn allows you to play more cards on your turn as you can play three from each, allowing you to move your raven much further than simply playing from your hand. Whatever order you place your cards in the auxiliary stack, however, is the order you have to play them, so you need to plan carefully.
Aside from playing flight cards to move your raven, you can also play flight cards or Odin cards to the Magic Way. At the beginning of the round, a Magic Way card is flipped up, which depicts either two types of flight cards, or an Odin card and a flight card. To play a card to the Magic Way, you simply place a corresponding card on your side. Whoever has the most of those types of cards placed in the Magic Way at the end of the round gets three points. If both players are tied, no one gets any points.
The race itself is one in which the course can be manipulated and obstacles thrown in the path of your opponent. For example, at the end of your turn, you can add a landscape card to the end of the path in order to prolong the round when your opponent is winning; however, as your score points according to how many spaces you are ahead of your opponent, you can lengthen the path in order to gain more points. When you place these new cards, you can place them such that you have similar terrain adjacent on your path. Only one flight card is necessary to advance you any number of similar terrains, so you can extend the path, but at the same time make it easy on yourself.
The Odin cards also allow you to manipulate the course and the outcome of the race. Each card consists of two different special texts, so when you play one, you choose which text to use. There are four different types of Odin cards:
Move your opponent's raven 1 space back/Move your raven 1 space forward This card can save you having to wait for the flight card you need, or using two of a different kind, to advance; it can also be extremely useful in frustrating your opponent. If you see that your opponent had to expend two cards to move forward, you can send him back to have to do it again.
Rearrange your auxiliary stack/Place 2 additional landscape cards at the end of the flight path As the path can be manipulated, your auxiliary stack can quite quickly be in disorder, so rearranging it is sometimes necessary. The importance of placing two extra landscape cards (in addition to the one you always get at the end of your turn) can work both on offence and defence.
Turn an unoccupied landscape card 180 degrees/Remove an unoccupied landscape card Both of these powers are extremely useful in foiling your opponent, and advancing your own raven, especially if you can get similar terrain adjacent on your side of the path.
Place the Odin marker on an unoccupied landscape space/Swap 2 unoccupied land scape cards Swapping two landscape cards has a similar function to the card above. The Odin marker is placed in front of your opponent's raven, and they cannot advance until it is removed. It can only be removed by playing an addition flight card of the type on which it has been placed, For example, if the marker is placed on a lake, I would have to play two lake cards to remove the marker and move my raven forward. I could also play one lake card, and two of another landscape as a joker, or even two jokers (four cards).
At the end of your turn, you draw from your deck until your hand is back up to five cards.
Players take turns playing cards from their hands and auxiliary stack until someone reaches the end of the flight path. The winner scores as many points as he is ahead of his opponent. Whoever has the most cards in the Magic way gets three points. Your scores are recorded, and the first player to get 12 or more points is the winner. In the case of tie, whoever won the last race is the winner.
The auxiliary stack is critical in this game, and it is definitely worthwhile building it up to make the big push for the finish line. You can stack it with the next few landscape types that are on your path, although your opponent might play an Odin card and change the landscape.
As you can only play from your auxiliary stack, cards in the wrong order can hold you up.
Odin cards can almost always be played, so they are usually pretty safe to stash. Also as two of the same type of flight card can be used as a joker, separating a pair in your hand is also useful: on your draw you might get the card your actually need for the next turn and have the pair for the next landscape you don't have; if not, you still have your pair to use immediately. You can also place the pair in your auxiliary stack.
Being without an auxiliary stack near the end of a round is detrimental, as you just don't have the reserve cards to get you to the finish line. Try not to burn through the stack too early, or fail to build one in the first place.
You can also put cards you plan on putting into the Magic Way into your auxiliary stack; then draw more cards. On your next turn, you have your full hand to work with on the race, while your auxiliary stack takes care of the magic way.
Whatever flight cards are being put in the Magic Way are going to be in less abundant for the race; therefore, when swapping landscape cards or turning them 180 degrees, it is worth putting those types of terrain into your opponent's path. Also, note what types of flight cards your opponent has had to use a lot of and put those in his path as well.
Adding cards to the path can slow down your opponent, but also give him a wider margin for victory if he is poised for a big run for the finish. Placing them when your opponent's auxiliary stack is low is more likely to prevent your opponent from winining.
Getting your auxiliary stack set up just right so that you can cover alot of ground is main tactic of this game. Being able to turn, swap and remove landscape cards can allow you to cover a lot of ground if you can get similar terrain adjacent.
The Magic Way is a good means of saving a lost race, but also a good means of gaining a significant lead if you can win it and the race. In a tight race, it can be decisive.
This game does a very good job of combining a hand management game with a racing game, allowing you to manipulate the race conditions with clever hand management. Rounds and games can very quite a bit. Some of our games have only been two rounds long, while others have lasted six or more rounds.
This is quite a portable game, and we have taken it on backpacking and cycling trips. We have 22 games in the Kosmos 2-player line, and I would rate Odin's Ravens in the top ten, though not in the top five.
I give this game a 7.
I fight lost wars, see light, fear sight
I open my mind, need flesh, fear mine
I would rate Odin's Ravens in the top ten, though not in the top five.
I'd be interested in you listing your top 5.
What're you looking at!
I'd be interested in you listing your top 5.
Blue Moon would definitely be in my top five but I won't include it here as it involves expansions:
5. Die Pyramiden des Jaguar
Odin's Ravens would probably would be sixth or seventh.
Nice review for a great game, but I was hoping that you had written some sort of raven poetry as your title suggested!