Sunday, 19 June 2011

Vikings

Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

Vikings is a game about discovering new islands and populating them with your people. No looting or burning. In fact you may be the victim of such nasty deeds by other less peaceful Viking tribes, if you don't have enough warriors to protect your people. There are many ways of scoring points, some done every two rounds (the game has 6 in total) and some done at game end.

At the start of every round, 12 tile-and-Viking pairs are made available. They are randomly drawn, but are arranged around a rotating price wheel following specific rules. During the round players take turns buying these tile-and-Viking pairs and adding them to their personal play areas. As tiles are bought, prices may drop, and sometimes tiles can even be free. Here players try to manipulate prices and also often need to evaluate whether it's worthwhile to spend a lot of money on tile-Viking pairs that they really want.

The price wheel on the central game board. The $0 cost spot always moves to point to the first available set, but you can't buy this set unless there is only one Viking of that colour remaining (i.e. yellow here). So at least the $1, $2 and $3 sets with yellow Vikings will need to be bought before the $0 set can be bought. Once this $0 set is bought, the wheel needs to be turned so that the $0 spot points to the green Viking.

That little diagram on the right indicates that Vikings are to be placed according to the colours blue, yellow, green, red, black and grey from cheapest to most expensive spots, while island tiles are placed in the cheapest available spot and pirate tiles are placed in the most expensive available spot.

Tiles can be the start of an island, the mid part of an island, the end of an island, or a pirate. When gaining an island tile, you must place it. This is discovery of new lands. The new tile must be placed next to an existing tile or next to your homeland coast. You can immediately place the Viking on the tile if the tile is in the appropriate row for the Viking type (black is warriors, red is nobles etc).

If you buy a pirate tile, it is placed in the top row of your play area, and depending on its colour it will attack and neutralise certain tiles in that column, unless you have a warrior protecting that column.

There are 6 types of Vikings. Warriors protect specific columns in your play area, and in fact counter attack those pirates and give you money or victory points. Nobles and scouts give points. Goldsmiths give money. Fishermen give food at game end, and you gain or lose points depending on whether you have surplus or are short. Boatsmen are important. It is not easy to always place your new Viking together with your new tile, so often you have to temporarily set aside your new Viking. You use boatsmen to ship these set-aside Vikings to vacant tiles, making them useful.

In summary, players compete to buy tiles and Vikings from a central board, and then place them as optimally as possible in their respective play areas, building up a grid made up of islands which will hopefully score lots of points.

The top row in the player area is for pirate ships (I don't have any yet). The other five rows are for islands, and each row allows Vikings of a specific colour to be placed. That scoring reference card on the left is very useful.

The Play

I played a 2-player game against Chong Sean, who taught me the game. In our game we were never short of money. I wonder whether that's normal or we have been unusually thrifty. Every $5 is 1VP at game end, so you shouldn't waste money anyway.

I collected many warriors to protect my settlements. I also built my islands to be quite compact, leaving few blanks. Chong Sean's islands were more dispersed. He had fewer warriors than pirates, so his approach was to leave vacant tiles that he could not protect.

My pirate ships are very colourful. The rightmost green pirate ship only threatens the first three spots in the row, i.e. down to the green row. So the yellow goldsmith I have in that colomn is under no threat.

Player interaction was mostly limited to the tile-Viking pair buying. We did watch each other's islands, to decide which end-game scoring criteria to compete in, and to gauge which tiles or Vikings each other needed more desperately.

Chong Sean collected and preserved his boatsmen from quite early, aiming for the game-end bonus for most leftover boatsmen. I used mine freely during the game to get my Vikings onto the islands to earn points and money during the intermediate scorings. There is a game-end bonus for longest island. I had one long island from early on. Since Chong Sean didn't have any that were even close to mine in length, I was complacent and completed that island. That decision came back to bite me because later on he made one even longer island.

At game end, when the dust settled, we tied! I won by tiebreaker - money left. Well, he said if he had just placed one Viking differently at game end he would win by one point. But of course that doesn't count. Nyah nyah.

Game end. I have 6 (black) warriors protecting my realm from all pirates.

The Thoughts

Vikings turned out to be better than I expected. It's a little solitairish, in how you are mostly planning and building your own play area, and direct interaction being only in buying Viking-tile pairs. However you do have to pay attention to how your opponents are building up their areas, so that you can decide which game-end scoring categories to compete in. I enjoyed the puzzle-like aspect of how to fit everything together, fully utilising your tiles and Vikings, and always keeping an eye on the game end scoring criteria. Who would have thought Vikings can be so industrious. Just be prepared that the theme is a little thin.

3 comments:

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Daniel Fallas said...

Are blacksmiths the only way you can get money in Vikings? Do pirates count for points at the end of the game?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Daniel, it's been a while since I played, so I have forgotten most of the details. You can also earn money by having warriors attack the pirates. I can't remember whether pirates score points at game end. I don't own a copy of the game. Try looking up boardgamegeek.com.