This is the game that first got me interested in the North Sea Trilogy of games. I wasn’t even aware of the “trilogy” part. All I knew is, this looked like a game that I would be interested in. I am a big fan of Euro style games with unique mechanisms. I was looking into Champions of Midgard at the same time then realized that even though these two had similar themes, they were quite different from each other. When I backed Explorers of the North Sea on Kickstarter I knew this was coming with it. Let’s see if it was as good as I had hoped.
Publisher: Garphill Games
Designer: Shem Phillips
Players: 2-4 Vikings
Time: 60-80 minutes
Raiders of the North Sea is a worker placement game set in the Middle Ages of the Viking era. After players were able to battle it out while creating their massive vessel arsenal in Shipwrights of the North Sea, they will travel across the bay to pillage other villages that they find. Meanwhile, still screwing with each other. Players will gain spoils during their pillaging to help get them points. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
This game takes a little to set up. You first give everyone ONE black worker. On the main board, you shuffle the offering tiles and put 3 in the spot available. Put workers in the designated areas. In the village, put black workers in the starting areas. There are 3 different tracks on the board. Each player will put one of their color discs on the start of each track, which includes strength, Valhala and victory points. Also on the board are all the areas that will be pillaged. Put all the resources in the bag and randomly draw resources to put in each area. The amount of resources are in the green shield of each spot. Shuffle the crew deck and place it to the side. We are now ready to start pillaging!
On a player’s turn the first thing they MUST do is place their worker. You will only have one worker at any one time. Where you place your worker will determine what you do next. There are two different regions you can put your worker in…..the village or beyond. Each region has multiple areas for you to go to. If you place your worker in the village you simply take an action. These actions consist of getting money, crew cards, playing crew cards actions or gaining provisions. There is also a spot to complete offerings to the king. After you place your worker and do an action in the village, your next move is to take a worker from the village and do the action. So, in essence you are going to do two actions each round….one when you place your worker and one when you take a worker.
The other thing that you can do with your worker, instead of placing him in the village, is go raiding. You need to make sure you have the requirements in order to raid. These requirements are number of crew members, gold of provisions and worker color. When you go raiding you place your worker in the appropriate spot of the area you want to raid. Discard your money and provisions you need to raid that area. You get to take all the spoils of one area in the raid and one worker. Most of these will be grey or white workers that open up more available spots in the village. You do not get to do a second action when raiding. This will end your turn. The workers that you use to go raiding with will also never be used again. Raiding is also how you will earn victory points. When you raid you will roll some dice, add the strength of your crew and the military strength on the board track. Each area will have two numbers, but sometimes three, that you will need to exceed. Depending on your military strength and the strength value of that spot, you will get victory points. Once all the areas of that region are taken, no one will be allowed to raid there anymore.
The game ends if one of three things happen….all the offering tiles in the draw pile are gone, there are no more Valkyrie on the board or there is only one area in the Fortress left to plunder. When one of those conditions are met you find out who wins. Ending scoring consists of where you are on both the Valhalla and Military tracks, one point for each gold and iron, one point for every two cattle and your offering tiles. The player with the most points wins this round of Raiders of the North Sea.
The components are pretty solid for this game! As with all the North Sea games…..the art is just fantastic! The wood components are fine with the same issue from Shipwrights where the iron actually looks like stone. The cattle meeples are great and the workers are top notch. The board really looks nice and I love the smaller box for this bigger game. Everything is really nice in this game, just not great. The metal coins are fantastic!!!
I love the worker placement in this game and the levels of progression!! This is where it shines the most in my opinion. You get one worker and you have to place that worker first…..there are so many times where the spot where you want to go is open but then someone will put there worker there to not allow you to place there….but then someone might take the worker at that spot freeing it up for you to place there…..but then someone else places their worker there. It is an awesome roller coaster ride through out the game. I also love the progression of the game. The best spots to raid need white workers. Everyone has black to start with. You have to get grey workers to get white workers. You also open up new areas in the village when placing white or grey workers. But when you place a white worker….you are allowing other people to get the white worker when they go to the village. All your hard work just to allow someone else to take it. It is so good. I like the raiding and how you can get more or less points based on how strong your party is. I really like the fact that once you use a worker to raid, that worker no longer is used in the game. But there are times when you really want a black worker but they are all used up. I really enjoy this part of the game! I also like the crew members and you can use them for raiding or you can use the action on them to do other things. The more I talk about them the better I like the mechanisms in this game.
There are some solid strategies in Raiders. You can focus on military force and raid as much as you can, while another player can start pumping out offerings like crazy, at the same time another player is killing off all his crew members to gain points from Valhalla and another player is just doing a little bit of everything!!! There are plenty of ways to play this game. Getting the most out of every turn is critical. There is this nice gain the stuff you need to make a couple big moves, then sit back and gain while others are maximizing. You feel like you are not doing much one round but then in the next round your leaving everyone in the dust only to have them work their way back in a couple of rounds. It’s really good! This got dinged a little because towards the end of the game it seemed like everyone was doing the same thing.
This game plays great at 2 players and more. Each time you play you can change strategies and focus on another path. It’s different enough from your standard worker placement to keep it fresh and a nice change every so often.
Final Thoughts: 17/20
What can I say about Raiders of the North Sea……I love it! I really like how simple the rules are and how easy it is to teach yet has a nice depth of strategy. I love how the game progresses through out, opening new things over time and getting better raids with time. I really enjoy the different strategies that can be taken through out the game. It does force you to raid to get those valuable resources but what you do with those resources makes a difference. I love the strategy that is involved with having only one single worker to place.