My #9 game on my Top 10 Games I’m Interested in Trying Out at Gen Con 2016 was Vikings on Board by Blue Orange Games. I am a huge fan of Viking themed games and own Asgard’s Chosen by Mayfair Games and have played numerous others including Blood Rage by Cool Mini or Not and Champions of Midgard by Greyfox Games. Typically, what I enjoy about the Viking themed games is COMBAT…bloody, raging, vicious combat! But, I also like other elements of the theme and am always on the lookout for a good Viking Game (I’d love to try out Haithabu by Spielworxx as well as Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga by IDW Games and Tim recently purchased the North Sea Saga Trilogy of Games by Garphill Games). Blue Orange Games is traditionally known for their children’s games but in 2015 they came into the family game category with their New York 1901 which was a well received game and now are following up that effort with Vikings on Board.
What is Vikings on Board?
Vikings on Board is a family style strategy/worker placement game in which your objective is to set sail with your clan of Vikings on board ships best supplied for a successful voyage to foreign lands to do Viking things, while simultaneously placing bets on which clan you think will control each ship as they set sail. Ships are divided into three sections: the front (bow), the middle (body), and the end (stern). During the course of the game, players will place supplies on the ships’ bows, while moving around their ship body pieces so that their clan has majority control of a ship when it finally sets sail which is determined simply by the number of shields that are present (each body piece has a different number of clan shields, some have one, others two and finally three). Stern pieces are used to show which ships have already set sail.
Each turn, the active player will perform one of the remaining available actions. Actions include: taking first pick of actions for next round, rearranging ships’ pieces, placing bets on ships, adding randomly chosen supplies to a ship, increasing the value of supplies in the market, or setting sail. When a ship sets sail, players will share its supplies in order of how many times their clan’s shield appears on the body pieces of that ship. Starting with the player with the most shields, players will claim a supply token of their choice from the bow of the ship and place it facedown on their scoring circle. These supply tokens will score points based on their value in the market at the end of the game. Additionally, if a player placed a bet on the clan that had majority control of the ship, then they take their winning bet and place it facedown on their scoring circle which will score them from 1-4 VP at game’s end.
What I Liked about Vikings on Board
Simple yet strategic game play – the game is very simple and is a worker placement game at its core. You place your Viking markers on the actions you wish to take, perform those actions and get the benefit. Simple! But, the game is very strategic and we found ourselves having to think about each action and how to effectively maneuver our shields on the boats to win them. I also liked that you can focus on only 2 different ways to score points. Betting is a very solid strategy and the player that won the 3 player match during the demo won at least 4 of the bets he was involved in. I also scored a lot of points building up the value of my goods.
Great theme – I liked the theme a lot as I could see my clan vying for the best seats on the boats in order to get the largest share of plunder from our planned raids. The game is also “mean” as you regularly move a players boats causing them to lose out on scoring. This “mean” factor is very Viking!
Components – I really loved the components for the game, although what I played with during the demo was different than what was contained in the game. The art and color choices were excellent and well done!
Quick play time – we played a full game during the demo and with instruction it only took about 40 minutes. Very fast!
What I Didn’t Like about Vikings on Board
Limited ways to sail ships – there was really only one way per round to cause a certain ship to set sail and this in my opinion is the heart of the game. I would have liked to see at least one additional way to set sail or a way to somehow hijack the action away from a player. This does make the turn order change action very important as if you truly wish to set sail, you simply change the order and do it on your first turn during the next round.
Lack of a combat mechanism – I know that this is not what the game is about but a Viking game without some form of combat? Doesn’t seem right. The combat mechanic in my mind is the moving of ship body parts. As mentioned above this is a little bit of a “mean” mechanic and in essence takes the place of combat for me.
While I only have played one game as part of a demo at Gen Con 2016, I really liked Vikings on Board! I would have purchased a copy then but they were sold out for the day. The game is a family centered design and is actually very easy to learn. The theme is very well integrated into the game, the components are great and the game play is very satisfyingly strategic yet plays quickly. I have added Vikings on Board to my wish list and feel that it was worthy of the #9 spot on my Gen Con list. Enjoy!