Tag Archives: viking

Fire And Axe: A Viking Saga – A Written Review

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In my Champions of Midgard review I proclaimed 2015 as the year of the Viking. Grey Fox Games gave us that excellent worker placement game, CoolMiniOrNot hit us with the absolutely stunning Blood Rage, and now IDW has won me over with yet another Norse-fueled rampage across European waters – Fire And Axe: A Viking Saga.

This is a re-release of the classic Ragnar brothers’ Viking Fury which was later picked up by Asmodee and given the title we see here. IDW has resurrected this out of print modern classic with solid new miniatures, great evocative artwork, and one of the best game boards I’ve ever seen. You can tell this release was handled with care and attention to detail was of the utmost concern.

 

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My only previous exposure to a Steve and Phil Kendall design was their recent offering DRCongo. There’s a definite similarity in approach as both games are concerned with a streamlined and accessible take on simulation. This isn’t a GMT heavy game with an extreme amount of detail, but the overarching actions and behavior of play mimics a realistic take on Viking exploration and its fallout.

Fire and Axe is primarily a Euro game about maximizing actions and effectively delivering trade or violence. Players begin the game wintering in Scandinavia where they will prepare for their epic journey by loading warriors and goods into their longboats. On your turn each player is given seven days – the equivalent of action points – which they can spend loading or at sea. Loading one token of goods as well as one warrior miniature takes a day. Sailing to adjacent spaces and into or out of ports also requires the expenditure of a day. It’s all pretty simple stuff, load up a mix of ferocious Norsemen and horns/fur/fish, then sail out across the far reaches of Europe to deliver and pillage.

Ports laid out across the map may be traded with and settled. Trading simply requires you deposit a good at the town and receive victory points in return. The catch is that ports are divided into regions of like colors, and you can never trade more than one of the same good to any region. Additionally, each individual port may only hold one good total for the entire game.

The ports themselves contain a value which corresponds to their reward. So trading with far flung Rome is worth more than a peasant town off the coast of France. This combination of limited trading connecting with ranging values provides for some definite player interaction in the form of a race to certain points of the map. This intersects nicely with the buildup in the winter zone as you may sometimes wish to sail out at half-capacity to beat another player to the punch.

The design sheds some of its Euro trappings when going the route of Settling or Raiding. Much like Trading, Settling can only occur once per port space. To “domesticate” the region you need roll up to three dice – one per Viking hell-raiser you want to commit to the taming of the heathen land; each die greater than the port value is a success, and each failure results in the bearded fella being sent to Valhalla. If you get at least one success your warrior now occupies the port space and you will score points at end game.

Raiding works similarly but has you rolling against small and large plastic villages that are pre-seeded throughout the map. Attacking in this regard requires you roll one die, if you fail you lose a warrior and may continue if you have more bodies to commit to the pyre. There’s a definite push your luck element in both mechanisms but they do feel just different enough to keep the mechanical variety. Villages raided are also worth straight up immediate VP based on a hidden value on the underside of the miniature.

 

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The Raiding and Settling reliance on luck has caused much consternation among Fire and Axe’s detractors. It stands in stark contrast to the Euro pickup and deliver style trading mechanic and can certainly be jarring. Yet I absolutely adore it.

Much like DRCongo I think this injection of chaos adds dramatic tension to what would otherwise be a rote experience. Those moments of chucking dice late in the game can result in everyone standing and shouts of laughter as more Viking spearmen are ground up on the shores of England. It’s visceral and exciting – just as raiding and pillaging should damn well be.

There’s no denying you can suffer major setbacks from those six-siders. You are afforded opportunities to mitigate the luck by packing extra warriors aboard or by utilizing the interesting and powerful Rune cards. This is a deck of one shot special powers which players may draw when back at their home port. They can certainly be swingy but support a take that style of interaction that adds a nice degree of closure to the Ameritrash aspects of the design. You can throw other player’s settlements into revolt or hit them with bad weather. At times you will get cards that allow you to manipulate the odds of raiding in your favor and can use this to stymie Loki’s wrath.

All of these elements combine to highlight the shining glory of Fire and Axe. This hybrid design utilizes its sense of Ameritrash drama with a well-studied historical background to provide a strong narrative context to the action of play. Unlike its peers, this design props itself up by telling a story. You won’t get minute details of blow by blow action, but my clan will sail down the rivers of Eastern Europe and colonize Germanic territory under intense pressure. Jeremy’s will run into horrid weather in the English Channel and have his trade route slowed as Josh picks up steam and beats him to the punch, delivering mounds of fur to foreign peoples.

The Ragnar brothers do a fantastic job incentivizing realistic behavior in an organic way which furthers the narrative. The difficulty of conquering or settling a port is lowered by one if trade has already occurred there – this means players can get a leg up by delivering mounds of fish and establishing trust with the locals before catching them unawares and removing their heads from their fat necks. The thematic approach here is never spelled out but rather players are gently encouraged to perform actions in a way which makes narrative sense while maintaining historicity. In many ways, it’s the design team’s brilliant trademark that punctuates their work.

 

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I also can’t help but highlight the philosophical undertone in the subtext of play. As you’re lining up your little intoxicated Norse dudes on the cardboard long-ship and looking beyond their shoulders at the blistering horizon, that vast sense of opportunity catches your peripheral vision. You almost don’t realize that buried notion of manifest destiny creeping in, but the act of spreading out across the ocean and colonizing foreign lands – under the guise of trade supplanted by violence – is powerful. It provides an emotional tie to the mechanisms which will lightly dig into your conscious and you may never even realize was there. This is all happening in the background of play and is easy to overlook, but it’s there in a kind of sinister yet inviting atmosphere that evokes thought and contemplation. The fact that this age old tale of laying waste and conquering in the guise of exploration can be made so palatable and fun in the medium of a board game is certainly worth ruminating on post play.

Fire and Axe was regarded as a classic for a reason. This is a strong and enjoyable game that stands up to modern critique. It’s not a flash in the pan or a nice game to simply experience once and then move on from. The strategy at play is deep enough to provide a longevity and joy equivalent to that horrific journey down the coast of Spain and into the Mediterranean. Fire and Axe isn’t Blood Rage or Champions of Midgard, but it doesn’t want to be. It’s all about reverence and history, wielding both as sharp blades to jam into your soft and squishy parts.

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Gone Viking Review

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In Gone Viking, you want to become the richest Viking in the clan – of course! You will compete against the other players, as you raid and pillage for valuable resources, call upon the Nordic gods to aid you with their divine powers, and do your best to avoid the nasty Jarl who always taxes the one Viking who returns home with the most plunder!

Gone Viking at its heart is a trick-taking card game for 3-5 players. However, judge not! In this game you have to take the right tricks at strategic times to get yourself into the best position each round. With a double-edged-sword resource collection element, Gone Viking elevates itself as a uniquely competitive game, and one that reminds the players of what it was like to be a Viking Raider.

Before the Raid

  • Players get dealt their hand
  • Leader gets to swap up to four cards for free.
  • Trump is Declared
  • Players then get a chance to swap their cards for a price!

Going Raiding 

  • tricks are played in typical trick-taking fashion
  • winning tricks awards players with plunder resource tokens which are used to win the game
  • players are allowed to ‘boost’ (add multiple cards together to make a larger total)
  • players are also allowed to play viking god card which have special powers

Returning Home 

  • Viking god that is last standing has an additional benefit to its owner
  • The richest player receives a visit from ‘The Jarl’ who takes half of their wealth!

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Archon: Glory and Machination (Video Preview)

Archon

The land of Cardis has been ruled for many years by King Rhodrig. Cardis is a rich and powerful kingdom controlling all neighboring provinces, which provide valuable resources. All this wealth attracts warlords and raiding parties who more than often launch attacks against the kingdom. So far Cardis has stood against such attacks but with heavy casualties. Thanks to the support of wealthy Archons, the kingdom gets rebuilt so that Science and Arts can flourish once again. At the same time new soldiers are recruited and the army prepares for the inevitable moment when the kingdom will need to be defended once again.

In Archon: Glory & Machination, players are powerful Archons who support Cardis in order to win King’s favor. Players use their influence on their Courtiers and on various figures of authority (Magisters).

Each game consists of three Seasons. For each of these Seasons, the King issues different demands that players must fulfill in order to score Victory Points. Each season consists of 3 rounds during which players use a card-driven worker placement mechanism to perform various actions that will allow them to gather resources and income, recruit soldiers and, rebuild the city, and acquire scoring cards (Science & Arts). They will also have the chance to train Elite Warriors to assist in the city’s defense. After nine rounds, the game ends and the player with the most Victory Points wins.

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Hegemonic Video Review

Hegemonic

It is a momentous time for the Post-Human Assembly. Having populated the Milky Way Galaxy, the Great Houses turn their eyes towards a neighboring galaxy, endeavoring to venture across the inter-galactic void to stake claim among uncharted stars. Each Great House seeks dominance, for in the race to achieve hegemony only one will be victorious.

Hegemonic Kickstarter Click Here

Hegemonic is a game of galactic exploration, empire building, conflict, and cunning for 2-6 players playable in 30 to 45 minutes per player. Each player assumes the leadership of a Great House. Players will explore sectors of the galaxy; build up their empire’s industrial, political, and martial capacity; employ far-reaching technologies to outmaneuver and out fight competing empires; and perform calculated actions to plot their way to hegemony.

Hegemonic is distinct among empire-building games because the industrial, political, and martial systems of your empire each expand your overall economy, can be used to initiate direct conflicts across lines, and contribute power towards victory. Players earn points at the end of every turn based on the relative power they have in each galaxy region. Players able to strategically hold and maintain a majority stake in the regions through industrial expansion, political leverage, and military force, will be poised for victory. But never underestimate a well-timed and daring move from your opponent – they may snatch victory from your grip!

Hegemonic uses a modular board system, tile drafting, and simultaneous action selection mechanisms to create a balanced, low-luck, and highly replayable experience across all player counts. Players will progress through each phase of the turn collectively, resulting in fast-paced and engaging gameplay. The game proceeds for a variable number of turns until the stack of sector tiles is depleted, triggering the final turn of the game. Each turn consists of an income collection phase, exploration phase, three action phases, and an arbitration phase.

In the collection phase, players earn CAPs (short for capacity) based on the level of their empire’s development along the industrial, political, and martial tracks. CAPs are a unified resource that all actions in the game consume. Players must carefully balance the growth of their empire in all dimensions to ensure a steady supply of CAPs.

In the exploration phase, players explore sectors of the galaxy by drafting sector tiles from a pool and adding them to any location on the galaxy boards; allowing players to expand the galaxy in a way that supports their strategic goals. Players must carefully guide the exploration of the galaxy to their own advantage while denying opportunities to their opponents. Next, players discover and advance technologies through managing a hand of Technology cards. Advanced technologies unlock powerful abilities that augment the industrial, political, and martial powers of a player’s empire.

In each of the three action phases, players secretly select one of six action cards to play. Players must carefully sequence and time their own actions while anticipating their opponent’s moves to have maximum impact and seize the imitative. All players reveal their chosen action cards simultaneously, which are then resolved in order based on the action card number. Each action card lists two or more actions that can be taken, and players must spend CAPs to pay for executed actions. Actions allow players to expand their industrial complexes, political embassies, and martial outposts; build quantum gates, agents, and fleets; and initiate conflicts to sabotage, subvert, and assimilate opposing bases.

In the arbitration phase, the player with most remaining CAPs becomes the Arbiter for the next turn. The Arbiter functions as the first player and they may further manipulate player order and the action timing of the next turn to their advantage. The Arbiter’s ability adds a key negotiation dimension to the game, as players may endeavor to sway or bribe the Arbiter to provide them with a strategic advantage next turn. Unspent CAPs beyond their empire’s retention limits are then consumed as an upkeep cost; requiring players to balance the growth and power of their empire across with a sustainable resource flow.

Over the course of the game, each player must balance his hand of dual-purpose Technology cards, which are used to influence success in conflict or can be played for a permanent technology benefit. Players must decide carefully how and when to use these cards as there is a tradeoff between saving high power cards for their conflict power versus using them for their distinct technological advantages. These dual-purpose cards ensure that each one can serve a strategic purpose in expanding a player’s reign while greatly mitigating the luck of the draw.

Scoring is based on players accumulating VPs at the end of each turn based on the relative control they have over each galaxy region. The game ends when the stack of sector tiles is depleted, typically in 5-6 turns. Final scoring includes bonus points for technology advancement. The player able to extend their power and influence the most strategically across the galaxy will establish the new dominant hegemony and win the game!

~ Minion Games

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Exodus: Proxima Centauri Video Review

Exodus Proxima Centauri

 

After a devastating nuclear war, six human factions are seeking shelter in the Centauri system. On the verge of extinction, the humans are saved by a superior civilization, allegedly the Centaurians, and each faction is given a fresh start on a new planet. Thus the exodus of humanity seems to have ended on the planets orbiting the star called Proxima Centauri. When the Centaurians announce their departure, the struggle for power commences once again.

In Exodus: Proxima Centauri, the six factions fight for dominance in an epic empire-building game, striving to build a new human empire on the ashes of the Centaurian civilization. Each player will build his own space fleet of customized ships and conquer new planets, fight the Centaurian Resistance and the other players, negotiate and vote for political decisions, research Centaurian technologies, and much more.

~ NSKN Legendary Games

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