This Christmas was a very merry Academy Games Christmas in the RockyMountainNavy household. Our Birth of America collection was completed with 1754 Conquest: The French & Indian War and 1812: The Invasion of Canada. The first of the Birth of Europe titles, 878 Vikings: Invasion of England also landed under the tree. This weekend, 878 Vikings found it way to the RMN Game Night in a full 4-player scenario. 878 Vikings delivers a fun family game that strikes a nice balance between playability and teaching.
Academy Games calls the Birth-series “light grand tactical play.” In reality, these games are light strategic play with little “tactical” elements. In 878 Vikings, two factions of Viking invaders are trying to conquer England which is defended by the Housecarl and Thegn. Each turn, a new Viking leader will invade and try to conquer shires while the English try to hold back the Viking hordes.
It is actually a bit rare for all three RMN Boys to play on a game night. This is usually because the oldest RMN Boy, a die-hard video gamer, often chooses to pass on boardgames. However, in this case it was he who wanted the game because he absolutely LOVES Vikings. Thus, the teams were Oldest RMN Boy – Viking Beserkers, Youngest RMN Boy – Viking Norsemen, Middle RMN Boy – Housecarl, and myself as Thegn.
As we were setting up the game it became very apparent that the game had struck a cord with the oldest RMN Boy. Without reference to any materials he was talking about the history of various Viking Leaders. Youngest RMN Boy had pulled out his Guts & Glory: The Vikings book and was trying to keep up with his older brother. You have to understand something about these two; the Youngest RMN considers himself the smartest and was not prepared for his older brother to be so far ahead of him in Viking knowledge.
This “conflict” between the two of them continued as play began. Youngest RMN considers himself a bit of a tactician and usually leads his middle brother in plan development when they play against me. This time, it was literally like watching two Viking factions arguing amongst themselves.
The initial Viking invasion went well but was stopped in the south. Aggressive Thegn play (by me) and a Reinforcement rather than another full invasion slowed the Viking advance and allowed the English to take advantage of Viking overreach. The first invasion was eventually defeated (the leader eliminated) but at the cost of many Thegn which weakened further defenses. A lucky Saxon Navy card play forced the next Viking invasion to land in a less-than-optimal location and gave time for the English defense to stabilize. When the next Viking invasion arrived, an absolutely heroic stand on the beach (with Middle RMN rolling 5 hits on 6 dice) gave the invaders pause and made them adopt a less aggressive strategy. One feature that (happily) surprised us was the many Event Cards that feature some sort of betrayal. Both Viking Treaty of Wedmore cards were out by the end of Round IV, meaning Round V would be decisive. This was also the turn of Alfred the Greats arrival and when Housecarl went first they took back two Viking controlled shires. At the end of Round V, the Vikings only controlled 8 shires, short of necessary victory.
All the RMN Boys have played 1775 Rebellion: The American Revolution which is the first of the Birth of America series featuring the least complicated rules. Although the basic game mechanics are similar in 878 Vikings, all agreed that the Leader rules and invasions makes 878 Vikings play very differently. In this case the difference is welcomed as 878 Vikings plays very thematically appropriate. The rules overhead is very light but delivers a powerful gaming experience. As an added bonus, the Viking knowledge that Oldest RMN Boy possesses has challenged Youngest RMN to go back and carefully reread his Viking book and dig into the historical notes in 878 Vikings. In this way, 878 Vikings has achieved a goal that Mrs. RMN and I both strive for in gaming; teach the Boys.
So as 2017 comes to a close I have to give a big shout-out to Academy Games for delivering not only a fun game, but one that makes my boys hungry to learn more. Such is the power of gaming. Here is looking forward to many more learning chances from gaming in 2018.