The starting tile formation printed in the rules is 100% impossible. They have printed a mirror image of what the tiles actually look like. Once you recognise that though you can begin.
My wife and I discovered that, too--we suspect that they either misprinted the starting tiles in the rulebook or else they misprinted the front sides of the tiles themselves.
If you rearrange the three start tiles a bit, it's possible to arrange them in such a way as to give you a legal, usable starting position. You have to swing the tile with the rock on it around the water-and-rock tile, and then set the plains tile on top of the other two. That will get you what we believe was the desired effect of the starting setup that's printed in the rulebook. Still, it's a shame that they screwed up such a simple thing. Things like that certainly don't make a new game any easier to learn!
Having said that, however, my wife and I really liked this game once we got past that stumbling block. It's quick and tactical with just the right balance between luck and skill.
There are not many placement possibilities for any randomly selected tile so there is not much control over the game, and it isn't really possible to have a rigid strategy. In fact I didn't really feel at all in control of the tile placement round.
Why should you? Did Viking farmers have much control over the landscape they were trying to farm? And do you really find fault with the game because "a rigid strategy" isn't possible? Personally, I think an inability to have a rigid strategy is a huge plus in a boardgame. The only rigid strategy in baseball is to score more runs than your opponents. Some teams do it by having really great pitching that holds their foes to fewer runs, other teams try to outslug their opponents, still others try to build a team around speed and defense. There are many ways to win at baseball, and being held to some rigid strategic blueprint that always works would make the game boring, just as it would any other game.
Scores were so close each game that there hardly seems any point to the game. That's a shame because the idea in principle seems quite interesting.
Consistently close scores could simply mean that you and your opponent were well matched for this game; you can hardly fault the game for that! While games that use some artificial means of hampering the leader in order to avoid blowouts are pretty lame, I certainly don't see that in Fjords.
Oh well, to each his own, I suppose. Good luck finding your dream game that lets you blow away opponents with your rigid strategy!