With Viking blood running through my veins (actually I think everyone with European ancestry has at least a little), I am most definitely attracted to games about Vikings. I have played dozens of games with this theme, and if you ask my gaming group, always exhibit the famous Viking ferocity in both my head-long diving into combat, sometimes without thinking, and my foul temper when I don’t win! In this edition of the Best 3 Games with…, we take a look at the games out there that seem to integrate the Viking theme well into the gameplay.
3. Raiders of the North Sea from Garphill Games
Raiders of the North Sea is set in the central years of the Viking Age. As Viking warriors, players seek to impress the Chieftain by raiding coastal settlements as well as more secure and well defended inland villages. Players will need to assemble a warrior band filled with different types of attack and containing different abilities, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock from various types of settlements including outposts, villages and monasteries. As players move further inland, the areas become more and more difficult to vanquish. This game uses the worker placement mechanic but with a twist. Each action requires different colors of workers (either black, grey or white) and sometimes the benefit you gain is improved with a different color worker. The different colors are hard to come by though as some can only be found from raiding settlements. During your turn, you will place one worker and take the benefit from the chosen area, but you also will pick a worker up and take that action as well. So you see what is happening? You are placing your Viking workers in locations but have to leave them there for the other competing chiefs to take and add to their hordes. I love this thematic element as it made me think of the sometimes mercenary like attitudes of Vikings as true loyalty was only really given to the chieftain that most recently earned it by successfully leading these fierce warriors into battle! The game also includes ways to score points by making offerings to the king and for the number of dead Vikings each has from glorious battle, if they have collected the appropriate card. You see, true Viking glory comes from battle, taking spoils, and even death….and a trip to glorious Valhalla!
2. Blood Rage from CMON Games
Another fantastically thematic Viking game is Blood Rage from Cool Mini or Not Games. In Blood Rage, each player controls their own Viking clan’s warriors, a leader, and even a long ship. Ragnarök has come, and it’s the end of the world! The players will go about drafting cards that can be used in battle or as goals to expand their influence across the land. There are many ways to score points, all which are very thematic and lend that crunchy Viking feel to the mechanics of the game. You can either invade and pillage the land for its rewards, building up your abilities and improving your statistics, or you can simply go out to try and crush your opponents in epic battles, fulfilling quests, and even score points from dying gloriously either in battle or from Ragnarök as it will inevitably destroy a targeted part of the board after each round. This game also has an expansion, the Gods of Asgard, that adds even more thematic depth to the game as you are trying to please the Gods for various boons as well. Overall, the game is a battle game, where players have to wisely draft cards, and where you more often than not simply move your soldiers into an opponents territory, playing a battle card and seeing what the outcome is. What could be more Viking than that?
1. Champions of Midgard from Grey Fox Games
Champions of Midgard is a mid weight worker placement game in which players are leaders of Viking clans who have traveled to an embattled Viking harbor town to help defend it against the threat of trolls, draugr, and other mythological Norse beasts. By defeating these epic creatures, players gain glory and the favor of the gods. When the game ends, the player who has earned the most glory earns the title of Jarl and is recognized as a champion of Midgard! Placing workers allows players to gain resources, including food, wood and warriors, in the form of new custom dice, that all are used to travel across the frozen sea to do battle with large creatures. Your warriors are represented by different types of 6-sided dice. Swordsmen (white), Spearmen (red) and Axemen (black) are the three different types of warriors you can train. They all have unique traits as Swordsmen are your all-around good fighters with a mix of attack (sword emblems) and defense (shield emblems). Spearmen are a bit better with fighting but a little less proficient at defending. While Axemen are true Vikings, and have no defense and are just all out berserkers as they attack with two handed battlesxes. Some enemies that you fight are immune to Spearman or Axemen, so having to decide what warriors to choose against which enemy is a real nice touch. You also might be fighting different enemies in a round and then have to decide which warriors are going to be better against which enemy. One of my favorite parts though is the choice each round to decide if players will attack the vicious trolls that beset the village. If players don’t choose to attack these beasts that are at the very gates of the town (and are admittedly worth less VPs) and instead go for greater glory and more VPs across the sea, they will be shamed and will receive blame tokens. Depending on how many blame tokens players accumulate at the end of the game, they will lose points and this can really make a difference, setting the cowardly Viking player apart from the brave and bold. A really fun and engaging worker placement game with some really nice elements of the Viking theme integrated into every element of the gameplay.
While it is difficult to choose just three games for these posts, there are many other Viking themed games that I have enjoyed immensely and honorable mentions could be given to Asgard’s Chosen from Mayfair Games, Villainous Vikings from Victory Point Games and Explorers of the North Sea from Garphill Games. Let me know what games you think are better at integrating the Viking theme into gameplay than the three that I chose.