The COO Viking – Raiders of the North Sea (English 2nd Edition, Graphill/Renegade Game Studios, 2017)

Or – a wargaming family’s journey into a true Eurogame.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys love Vikings. Not long ago we were in our local FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies, and my youngest saw Raiders of the North Sea (English 2nd Edition, Graphill/Renegade Game Studios, 2017) and it caught his attention. I eventually ordered it and the game arrived on Halloween and we slotted it for play on Saturday night. However, the Boys got done with all their homework and chores early enough on Thursday that they asked to learn the game.

According to BoardGameGeek rankings, Raiders of the North Sea is a very strong game with an average rating of 7.8. At the time of this post it was ranked 104th overall and 73rd in the strategy category. The publisher’s blurb certainly makes Raiders of the North Sea sound interesting:

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 unsuspecting settlements. Players will need to assemble a crew, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock. There is glory to be found in battle, even at the hands of the Valkyrie. So gather your warriors, it’s raiding season!

Raiders of the North Sea is a Eurogame using a worker placement mechanism. Every turn players use their worker (err…Viking) to Work or Raid. Workers Vikings come in three colors and not every action space is accessible by all colors. Players start with the black Viking which is the most common color. A white Viking is is most powerful with access to the best spaces. There is also a gray Viking that is more versatile than the black Viking but cannot access the better spaces like the white one. Each turn players get two actions; the first uses the Viking in their hand which is placed on the board and the second is from another Viking taken from the board into their hand.

Like so many Eurogames there is little actual player interaction. A few cards have a “take that” effect on another player but it usually is limited to taking a few items, trading cards Townfolk, or at worst swapping a worker Viking on the board.

Raiders of the North Sea is rated at 60-90 minutes. In our first game, which took nearly 2 hours as we learned, we quickly discovered the game can drag. The turns may be quick but the game is not. I think this is because there is a limit to the number of cards, coins, and Townfolk/Hired Crew you can have in your hand or on the table. This means your “game engine” has a governor on it. It takes a few rounds to assemble your team Hired Crew and gather Provisions to make a Raid. That assumes you get the right color worker in your hand at the right time….

After playing the game and considering it, I have two major problems with Raiders of the Lost Sea. One is the game, the other is me.

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Courtesy BGG.com

First, Raiders of the North Sea appears to hit the Viking theme to a T. The artwork is highly evocative of the theme (even if it is a little cartoonish). However, the use of the worker placement game mechanic doesn’t fit what I expected in a Viking game. Sure, the reality is that Vikings needed to do more than just raid and plunder (i.e Work) but I want to Raid!  In the end, the Viking worker placement mechanic actually doesn’t support the theme. The players are nothing more than a Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a unit trying to organize their workers Vikings by Working in the town and occasionally getting out of the office Raiding. Indeed, the players are not really in charge as they need to make offerings to the CEO Chieftain!

Secondly, Raiders of the North Sea shows me that the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself are more waro-gamer than Eurogamer. Truth be told, I am a wargamer first and a waro-gamer second. There are a many thematic Eurogames we like such as Ticket to Ride, Scythe, Firefly: The Game, or Battlestar Galactica: The Boardgame. Given our druthers playing a good waro is the most satisfying. Unlike 878: Vikings – Invasions of England (Academy Games, 2017) the core game mechanic in Raiders of the North Sea fails to create a compelling gaming narrative of Viking raids that we can immerse ourselves into and enjoy.

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Courtesy auztralia.net

Now, I am not ready to trade away Raiders of the North Sea just yet. I think it has a place in our collection, just not the prominent role that I was expecting given the ratings and hype around the game. Our reaction to this game does make me worry about another game I have on pre-order, AuZtralia (Stonghold Games, 2018). There is alot of buzz about that Martin Wallace title and I jumped at it because it was described as a waro. I certainly hope it is.

 

 

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Expanding the Game with 878 Vikings – Invasions of England: Viking Age Expansion (@Academy_Games, 2017)

The Viking Age expansion for 878 Vikings – Invasion of England (Academy Games, 2017) is actually nine (9) expansions. At first look this can be a bit overwhelming. Which one do you choose? All? Just a few? After looking at the forums on BoardGameGeek.com I took some advice and for the first RockyMountainNavy expanded game we used just a few. I am happy to report the results were, “Most Excellent.”

In our weekend Game Night play we used:

  • Expansion 7 – Epic Battle Events: This adds event cards to the Fyrd Deck (the Fyrd being peasants that join battles to defend their homes for the English)
  • Expansion 8 – Viking Ships: Adds Viking ships to increase mobility along the coasts
  • Expansion 9.2 – Legertha: Legertha is a Viking Leader that can be added to another invasion; she adds an “extra” invasion but divides the forces.

I played the Vikings against the RockyMountainNavy Boys who divided the English. My Viking hordes quickly conquered northern England. I was doing great until my third invasion which encountered the Traitor event card in the Fyrd Deck. In the Traitor event:

The attackers choose one of theirFactions to fight for the defenders asTraitors. The defenders roll the Traitor Faction’s dice and make decisions for the Traitor Faction’s Units during this Battle. Surviving Traitor Units are placed in the Fled Units Area. (Viking Age, p.9)

As this was the initial invasion for this leader the army was large and it was painful to have to “give away” a major portion of the army. Elsewhere, I got a bit too ambitious and ended up with both of my other leaders killed in battle. Of course, the next Round I drew a Reinforcement card and not another invasion which stopped any chance of seizing more shires. Desperately trying to end the game, I played both Treaty of Wedmore cards to trigger the end game conditions. Alas, in Round V I tried to use Legertha to add a second invasion leader but all I really ended up doing was diving my force. It also didn’t help that the English Ships event card made an appearance and severely limited my choice for landing locations. With the arrival of King Alfred I ended up losing my ninth Shire and failing watched helplessly as victory slipped away.

The added expansions were easy to incorporate into the game with no real additional rules overhead or extra play time added. They did add some major fun as the RockyMountainBoys were all high-5’s and the like when the Traitor card showed up. They also took great pleasure in burning my Viking Ships.

Between the Advanced Setup rules in the base game which allows players to customize their Event Card Deck and these expansions, 878 Vikings has shot to the top of my list for enjoyable family Game Night products. Although there are many games in the RockyMountainNavy collection, I fully expect this one to get to the table often because it has proven it can deliver great fun every time.

Featured image courtesy Academy Games.

Advanced #878Vikings from @Academy_Games

The RockyMountainNavy Game Night this week featured 878 Vikings: Invasion of England from Academy Games (2017). This was the first game we played using the Advanced Setup Rules found on page 2 of the Rule Book. This rule allows players to “customize” their deck by choosing which five (5) event cards of cards 08-19 they want to add to deck. Players still use a 12-card deck, but in this Advanced Setup version cards 01-07 are “fixed” and the last five cards are “customizable.” The resulting game was very fun!

The Youngest RMN Boy took the Vikings against Middle RMN Boy (Thegn) and myself (Housecarl). The first Viking invasion stabbed through the middle of England but eventually culminated with around seven shires taken. The Second Viking Invasion was stopped with its leader killed. A Third Invasion didn’t expand much. Alfred the Great eventually arrived for the English but the first attempt to push back the Vikings ended in near-total disaster.

In Round 6 the Vikings were forced to play their second Treaty of Wedmore card which ends the game after that turn. The Vikings held seven shires going into the Round and to win needed to take two more.

Middle RMN Boy played an Advanced Training Thegn Battle Card that converts all Thegn Fled results to Hits. Unfortunately, neither of us realized just how much this changes the die roll odds in favor of the Thegn and instead of removing Housecarl on Viking hits removed too many Thegn too early, thus missing a chance to attrite the Vikings a bit more. As it was, the game came down to a nail-biting conclusion where a lone Fryd (English peasants called up to defend their homes) stood against a single Norseman on the last battle of the last turn. The Fryd missed while the Norseman hit, delivering Youngest RMN Boy his ninth shire and (barely) making his victory condition.

The Advanced Rules Setup adds some simple player-driven variability to the game. This feature is not found in games of the Birth of America-series (at least the base games). I really like this rule as it has the potential to make each game different and allows exploration of subtly different strategies. Yet another example of how “lite wargames” from Academy Games actually deliver a deeper strategic challenge.

A Little Rebellion – #GameNight 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (@Academy_Games, 2013)

After playing Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) the past few weeks, the Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy picked an older but highly enjoyable title for this week’s Game Night. So it was that 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution (Academy Games, 2013) landed on the table. We once again played a three-player version, with the very typical RockyMountainNavy Boys teaming up against Dad. The Youngest played the Loyalists while the Middle RMN Boy took the British Regulars.

Battle Forth

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End of Round 1 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Knowing that the Boys are tough opponents, I struck hard and fast. The Continentals were able to eject the British from Boston while an early Benjamin Franklin allowed me to land French troops in Savannah. Dangerously, the Patriots Militia had to play the Treaty of Paris Card as it was the only movement card in the first hand! Meanwhile, the Loyalist were recruiting a large Indian army in New York. At the end of Round 1 the Americans led 4 (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, & Georgia) to 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, & Delaware).

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End of Round 2 in 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

Round 2 was more a war of movement as both sides postured for advantage. As the Americans I pursued a Southern Strategy and was able to bring Maryland to The Cause but was worried as the British were obviously looking to drive through New York from Canada and split the northern colonies.

End of Round 2 score:

  • Americans 5 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD)
  • British 3 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE)

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In Round 3 the Americans took South Carolina and moved into North Carolina. In the North, French troops arrived in Newport to bolster the defenses there. This was especially welcome given the relentless British march through New York, The British also used their Indian allies to take Pennsylvania. Of note, the Loyalists’ played their own Treaty of Paris card. The next Treaty Card played would end the game.

End of Round 3 score:

  • Americans 7 (MA, CT, RI, GA, MD, SC, NC)
  • British 4 (Quebec, Nova Scotia, DE, PA)
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End of Round 4 – 1775 Rebellion by Academy Games

The first turn went to the Continental Army that hunkered down building forces. The second Turn was the British Regulars who used Warship Movement to land a force in Savannah – negating American control of the colony. The British also took control of New York by defeating a mixed Continental/Militia force in the area between New York City and Albany. The game was turning in favor the the British who now were tied 6-6. However, it would the be Patriot Militia who played the spoiler. During Turn 3 the Militia played the second Treaty of Paris card meaning the game would end after this Round. The Militia was able to move a force into New York City defeating a Loyalist-heavy force making New York an uncontrolled colony. Another small Militia force with Indian allies entered Western Pennsylvania which also took control of the colony away from the British. In Turn 4 the Loyalist player had too little too late and was unable to reverse a single colony falling. At the end of Round 4 (and game end) the Americans took the narrow victory with a 6-4 final score.

After Thoughts

1775 Rebellion has the least special rules of the Birth of America-series and is in many ways the easiest to play. The game can also end early like ours did tonight with both Treaty of Paris cards out for the Americans by the end of Round 4. Total game time was a short 60 minutes. Though the game was short by our game night standards (2-3 hours being acceptable) it was nonetheless very fun. I get a feeling that this month will be an Academy Games month as the Birth of America-series and 878 Vikings – Invasions of England come out for play!

 

#FirstImpressions – Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing LLC, 2017)

Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing LLC, 2017) is a rules-lite, family-friendly, area control wargame. Well, sort of area control. Maybe too rules lite. Regardless, Enemies of Rome is a simple wargame that looks to be a fun shorter game that engages the entire family.

I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign in early 2017 that raised $17,000 against a $10,000 goal. The game is now reaching retail distribution where I got it. My interest comes thanks to a series of videos that @PastorJoelT posted on Twitter.

Components

The map has a very theme-appropriate presentation. The back of the Event/Action cards are a bit cartoonish as compared to the map but remain loyal to the theme. The card faces are easy to read and understand. The many cubes look overwhelming at first but once separated into color groups and matched with the few cardboard tokens they also support immersion into the theme.

Rules-Lite

The rulebook for Enemies of Rome is eight (8) pages. Actually, it is seven pages as page 8 is a simplified map. The mechanics of the game is very straight-forward; place reinforcements, play “Intrigue Talents” (special bonuses earned during play), play either an Event or Action card to move and maybe battle, then draw your hand back up to two cards. Victory points, called Glory Points here, are earned by conquering a territory and lost if you lose a battle against another player. Total play time is rated at 120 minutes, but even our first game was over in 90.

As simple as the rules are, the rulebook could of used a bit more work. Looking at the names of the designers and play testers, Enemies of Rome looks to be mostly a family affair. That is not bad, but I feel that if an outsider or a professional technical editor had looked at these rules they could be much clearer. Having grown up as a grognard with rigid SPI rules formatting (1. / 1.1/ 1.11, etc.) I find it helpful in breaking down a rule and making them easy to follow or cross-reference. I totally understand that this “rules lawyer” format is not popular with some, especially those who want to read a more “natural language” text.

Who are the “Enemies of Rome”

Enemies of Rome is for 2-5 players, making it high suitable for group or family gaming. What makes this game work is the presence in every game of a non-player, the “Enemies of Rome.” Enemies occupy every territory the players do not. During a players turn, some Event and Action cards allow the player to move the Enemies. This simple mechanic introduces a subtle element of strategy that quickly becomes a focus of all players – do I move my own Legions or do I move the Enemies? This makes for interesting dilemma’s – how do I move/battle the Enemies to my advantage?

Area Control – Sorta

On the surface, Enemies of Rome appears to be an area control game. Indeed, at game end the players with the most territories gains a Glory Point bonus. However, a closer look at the rules reveals that Glory Points are won/lost in battle. If at the end of a battle the player is in sole possession of a territory, a Glory Point is won. If the player battles another player (not the Enemies) and loses, Glory Points are lost. The subtlety of this rule can be lost on beginners. In the RockyMountainNavy family first game, as Red I had the least territories but fought a number of good-odds battles towards the end and tied Blue who had the most Legions and territories. In the tie-breaker I lost to the more numerous Blue Legions. The RockyMountainNavy Boys were a bit confused at first until they realized its the battles won, not the number of territories, that count for Glory Points. A quick glance through the forums at BoardgameGeek seemingly indicate this is not a popular way of determining victory with several alternate VP conditions being bantered about.

Similarities

What struck me after the first play was the similarity of Enemies of Rome to the very popular Academy Games Birth of America-series. This especially applies to the first game in the series, 1775 Rebellion: The American Revolution. The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself have many plays of the Birth of America series and the similar 878 Vikings: Invasions of England which are team-play, area control games. Indeed, @PastorJoelT mentioned in one of his videos that he saw Enemies of Rome and 1775 Rebellion as similar games. His comment is actually what triggered me to buy the game!

In my opinion, although superficially similar to Enemies of Rome, there are enough differences with the Enemies of Rome and the Glory Point scoring mechanics that these games are just that – superficially similar. I view Enemies of Rome as the simpler game of the two.

Collection Worthy?

Although Enemies of Rome is a simple game with a scoring mechanic that is a bit opaque, that does not mean it is not good enough for a gaming collection. If you look closely at the featured image of this post, you will see several Rick Riordan books in the upper right corner of the image. The RockyMountainNavy Boys pulled these out because the geography in the books was also found in Enemies of Rome. The Boys also found my copy of Decision Games’ Strategy & Tactics Quarterly #1 – Caesar. The Boys are making what Mrs. RockyMountainNavy refers to as “connections.” They are studying the map, reading the history on the Event cards, and learning.

Enemies of Rome promotes learning while having fun at the same time. That’s a winning combination in the RockyMountainNavy stronghold. Even if you are not into learning, the simplistic nature of the game, combined with subtle strategy, make Enemies of Rome a good group game, especially when introducing new gamers to wargames.

Personal Quick Take – 2018 Origins Awards Nominees

As found on the ICv2 website:

The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design (AAGAD) released the list of games nominated for 2018 Origins Awards. The Awards will be presented during the annual Origins Awards Ceremony, held on Saturday, June 16.  The Academy added a category to the seven from 2017, Roleplaying Supplement, bringing the total to eight.  The nominees were selected by the Academy; the winners will be selected by a jury of professionals.  Origins Game Fair attendees will vote for Fan Favorite winners at the show.

As a wargamer, I understand the the Origins Awards are not really my cuppa tea. For the longest time the Charles S. Roberts Award was all I cared about, but those ended in 2012. Since then, the Golden Geek Awards on BGG.com have been what I watch, but its really hard for me to get behind that award given that the demographic playing “war games” on the BGG sub-domain is quite different than players on ConsimWorld. Consequently, there are no “war games” of interest to me amongst the nominees.

All that said, I am kinda interested in the Origins Awards from a family gaming perspective. I regret to say that I have not played a single one of the 12 Board Game nominees. Card and Collectible games are not my thing so it is not surprising that I have not played any of those 20 games. I like miniatures but shy away from the cost, meaning the four games in that category are more unknowns to me. I guess this means I failed to qualify as a card-carrying COTN (Cult of the New) member or suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

I admit my roleplaying interests are narrow (usually sci-fi) and I am not surprised that my favorite Cepheus Engine publishers are not recognized. Shamefully, I see Mongoose Publishing somehow got their money-grabbing Traveller Starter Set on the list. I am heartened though by the diversity of other titles and publishers on the Roleplaying Game and Roleplaying Supplement lists.

Gaming Accessories? Looks like the Academy still has to decide what really goes into this category. I see everything from box inserts to game expansions. A firm definition of “gaming accessory” appears to be lacking.

Of course, who am I kidding? These days game awards are less professional recognition and more fan service. Look no further than the fact Gloomhavenwon six of 13 categories in the 2017 Golden Geek Awards. I consider it lucky that 878 Vikings – Invasion of England (Academy Games, 2017) was the 2017 Golden Geek Best Wargame Winner.

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Courtesy Academy Games

January Gaming – Just Kidding!

January 2018 was a usual, and unusual, month of gaming in the RockyMountainNavy domicile. In total, I played 16 different games a total of 47 (!) times. That’s almost 4 plays of each game!

fullsizeoutput_57bOf course, that is not what happened. January was very usual in that I got my usual weekend family game night (1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War, 1812: The Invasion of Canada, 878 Vikings – Invasions of England, and The Expanse Board Game). I also got a few extra games in, usually solo, and I even started looking at a new rules set (Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Starter Kit). Together these accounted for 11 games and 16 plays.

The unusual part of the month was the many kids games. You see, Mrs. RockyMountainNavy is teaching/tutoring young kids and she incorporates gaming into her time with them. Actually, she incorporates gaming into MY time with them, as she is usually talking with the parents while the RMN Boys and myself play games with the kids. She has two students right now, a kindergarten and 4th grader. This is why games like Animal Upon Animal or Ice Cool and even Math Dice Jr. appear on the play list.  All told, there were 4 games I played with the kids for a total of 23 plays – that’s basically half of the plays this month. The kids gaming has also changed my buying habits; right now we are usually searching for the best deal on various games and buying them for the parents. Mrs. RMN also wants to take several to Korea when she visits family later this year and see’s her brother-in-law who is fading fast from Alzheimers. She figures the “kids” games will be good for him too.

I expect February to be pretty similar. Actually, I hope to get a bit more family gaming or some 2-player games in too.