Out of print since 2002, there came a clarion call for the reprint of the classic game Odin’s Ravens, and it looked like it would happen with the help of Kickstarter. The game reached its funding goal on Kickstarter but was never made for whatever reason (my guess is shipping!). But due to Osprey Games and their renewed commitment to producing high production value games, they stepped in and decided to pick up the now dead project and publish it. I heard that they even offered to provide a free copy to everyone who had backed the original Kickstarter. Now you might ask yourself why they would do this? My guess is they saw that there was a market and demand there for the game (remember that the Kickstarter project had actually funded) and decided that they simply needed to pick up the pieces, dust them off, and with minimal effort, they would have a surprise hit on their hands!
What is Odin’s Ravens About?
Odin’s Ravens, designed by Thorsten Gimmler (The Thief of Baghdad, Cape Horn, Aton), is a game in which two players take on the role of Odin the Allfather’s pet Ravens, named Huginn and Muninn, on their daily journey across Midgard as they watch over the land for their master. This daily reconnaissance flight has turned into a competitive race between the two wise Ravens and even the Trickster God Loki has become involved, in order to keep the race interesting of course!
Summary of Set-up and Gameplay
Components and Set-up
Odin’s Ravens is a small game that comes in a small, unassuming clamshell box. But that small box is truly deceptive as the contents sure pack a powerful punch! There are 33 beautifully illustrated and oddly shaped cards for each of the players. There are 25 Flight Cards for each and these cards are used to move along the flight path consisting of Land Cards. Each player also has 8 Loki Cards. The player’s cards are differentiated by the color and design on the back of the cards that match the Raven that they are to be used for. The players also each receive a beautifully sculpted wooden meeple of a Raven, which I think is the best part of the game and one of the more beautiful components I have ever seen. Each player then shuffles their two different types of cards (remember Flight Cards and Loki Cards) separately and draws five cards in the combination of their choice.
The players then create the flight path using the 40 Land Cards by shuffling them and placing a line of sixteen cards between the players. The cards have two different landscape spaces on each card to form the flight path. As this line is created, there are some rules to observe. No two spaces in a row should show the same type of land. If this happens, the players simply rotate the card and if the lands are still the same, return the second card to the bottom of the Land Card pile and place a new card.
After completing the flight path, each player puts their Raven at one end of the path. Each Raven should be on a different route. When they reach the end of the line, they should switch to the other side and fly back down the line.
The game play in Odin’s Ravens is very simple….but that doesn’t mean that there is no strategy! On a players turn they choose the cards from their hand that they wish to play. They can play as many cards as they wish, but they have to have the right cards. There are two actions the player may take; either playing a Flight Card or a Loki Card.
Flight – To “fly” or move their Raven, the player must play a Flight Card that matches the terrain of the next path space. For example, if they want to move into a Mountain space, they must play a Mountain card. When the spaces in front of the Raven are the same, they only have to play one Flight Card to move along all of the identical spaces. If the player does not have a card matching the space in front of them, they can instead play two identical Flight Cards as a “wild” to move one space. Used cards are placed in a discard pile that will be reshuffled when the player runs out of Land Cards to draw and needs to create a new draw pile. This aspect of the game is somewhat dependent on the luck of the draw but you must remember that there are 5 cards of each land type in your Land Card deck of 25 cards. As I have played, I try to remember what cards I have played and what cards may be left in my deck. This allows me to plan somewhat for the journey through the flight path in order to maximize my turns and in order to smartly use my available Trickery cards to hinder my opponent.
Trickery – During their turn, the player may also want to use their Loki Card for their benefit or the detriment of the other player. Each Loki Card has two different available actions. For example, one Loki Card allows the player to rotate a Land Card 180 degrees, or remove a Land Card from the flight path. The player may only use one of the two actions on the card when played. Also, the Loki Cards cannot be used on a Land Card where there is a Raven. When a player plays a Loki Card, it is removed from the game. The Loki Cards are tricky and their proper use is very tactical! Imagine that. You have to plan out their use or they can affect you as much as they affect your opponent. For example, if you decided to play the card that adds a Flight Card alongside the path creating an additional 2 spaces that must be traversed, this is a card you most likely don’t want to play early in the turn as if you do, you will also have to maneuver through that obstacle slowing you down. I like to play that one on the backside to create a longer path for my opponent once I have already passed through that area.
End of Turn
After the player has finished playing their cards, their turn is over, and they draw three cards from either of the 2 decks. Each player has a hand limit of seven and must discard any cards over seven.
As soon as a player moves their Raven to the last space on their opponents side, the player is the winner. If that player was the first player, the second player is given one more turn to finish their flight, and if they can, the winner becomes the player with the most cards in their hand. If there is still a tie, the players play a new game to decide the winner of the race.
What I Liked About Odin’s Ravens
There are many things to like a lot about Odin’s Ravens. Their was a call for the game to be reprinted so you know that it was good. But, how good is the question? Sometimes people just like a game because it sold out and there was demand. But that doesn’t always ensure that the game is good or worth it. So lets take a look at what I liked about Odin’s Ravens.
Components – I have always liked high quality and well produced games. In my recent experience with Osprey Games and their efforts to create games, I have seen that they care about the quality of the game as much as they do about the playability and game play experience. The components in this game are top shelf! The cards are unique as they are long and skinny. I have played a lot of card games and these cards are not only unique but well made. They fit in your hand nicely and can be easily shuffled. I am not a sleever of my cards but I don’t know if there are sleeves made for these type of cards so that could be seen as a negative for some.
The artwork on the cards is awesome. The landscapes depicted, while some are harsh and stark such as the deserts and snowy mountain peaks, are anything but when viewed through the use of beautiful color pallets and well drawn features. I actually found myself longing to fly over these terrains to see the majesty that they are, alas to be a Raven for a day! Also, once the cards are laid out in the flight path, the design really shines and stands out as the path becomes a panoramic tapestry of color and beauty.
The laser cut wooden Ravens are the pièce de résistance of the components and are of the highest quality. It is truly a joy to move that little wooden Raven meeple along the path with its wings spread to catch the breeze as you race to the end! What a great choice of pieces.
The art style chosen for the figures is also superb! The box cover is very inviting and almost sells itself as it draws you in and begs you to ask the question, what is this masterpiece about?
Short and Interesting Game Play – Odin’s Ravens plays in about fifteen minutes. I love short, quality games that still provide a good gameplay experience. At its heart, the game is simply a race between the two Ravens. The mechanics are interesting, such as the choice to draw from either of the two decks each turn to form your hand or the ability to use the Trickery of Loki to either help your Raven of hinder your opponents, but simple. The game is perfect for families or to be used as a filler. Short and simple though doesn’t equate to mindless. This game has enough strategy to keep it interesting and to make it a challenge! Hand management and playing cards well will lead the players to victory.
The Loki cards add interaction to the game as you can directly choose to influence the other player’s path. If you decide to hinder the other player, you lose the chance to help yourself with that card. For example, if you choose to draw another land card and place it alongside the flight path, making the other player’s path longer, you lose the chance to draw two extra cards. This option to help yourself or hinder the other player are important decisions in the game. Those who enjoy player interaction will like this aspect of the game. Using the Loki Cards against the other player may be the difference between winning or losing the game, making the choice to use trickery against the other player necessary. This trickery is in the spirit of the game and players should remember that. As I mentioned earlier, when Loki is involved, you know that someone is going to get hosed!
What I Didn’t Like About Odin’s Ravens
Racing Mechanic – I have never really been a fan of race games. I just don’t like the focus on sprinting ahead as I prefer the feel of other Euro themed games that are about planning, gaining resources and building something. Racing is about speed and generally, nothing else! But, Odin’s Ravens adds in the Loki Cards to the mix and makes the game about planning as you have to think about when it is best to use them….and the resources are your cards so, there’s that, planning out your flight path to maximize your route! Oh, and there is also the fact that you are building the flight path. Gee, when I look at it like that, I love this game. Turning a negative into a positive.
Two Player Games – I am a war gamer at heart and two player games are normal for me. But, I would love this game more if it could be expanded or added to in order to make it an up to 4 or 5 player game. Some people just aren’t into two player games.
For my money, this game is a great value! The art is fantastic, the components are top notch, there is strategy and planning needed to succeed and the game play is short and interesting. I consider this game a great filler that should be in everyone’s collection for that time you are simply looking for a good, fast play with some tactical decisions. Osprey Games has done a great job in making this game a keeper.