Review – Villainous Vikings from Victory Point Games

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Review – Villainous Vikings from Victory Point Games

Designed by Jeremy Stoltzfus w/ Graham Weaver

Thanks to Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of this game.

Who doesn’t like Vikings right? And yet, there aren’t a load of notable games out there about Vikings. I wonder why. I mean, the Vikings provide a rich historical flavour as well as the exploration, conquest let alone the mythology. It’s a strange one in board gaming that there isn’t a robust library of awesome games covering this topic.

Well with Villainous Vikings, Victory Point Games have entered the arena so I will tell you what I think about it.

Villainous Vikings is a game for 2-4 players age 13+ that takes about 45 minutes and covers the Vikings at a strategic level with additional elements reflecting the operational raiding and trading aspects as well as the tactical level of battles.

From the rules-
A Viking’s Mission
Your goal in Villainous Vikings is to amass as many Valhalla Points as possible so that after Ragnarök occurs your Captain has the best seat in Valhalla to tell his tales of battle and drink his mead. You will gain Valhalla Points by raiding, trading, and battling the other Captains who are also vying for Odin’s favor.

Unboxing

Here is what comes in the box.
1 Game board with a very nice map depicting Europe and North Africa

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13 counters
4 Shield markers 1 Trade Network token
3 Draugr tokens 1 Conquest Legacy token 4 Longship standees

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The cardboard is thick and sturdy and the artwork is excellent whilst remaining functional. The board comes in 5 parts which are put together in puzzle fashion. The Longship standees stand out in particular as they give the players a 3D ship to move around the board which looks great.

103 cards
9 Asgard cards – these are special gifts from the Nordic Gods which can come in handy
1 Ragnarök card – this card triggers the end of the game

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50 Map cards – these are the locations that the players travel to to attempt their Viking adventures

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23 Hero cards – certain locations have Heroes, Mercenaries or Bosses assigned to them

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12 Longship Crew Section cards – each player has 3 cards which represent 3 crew sections

8 Viking Captain sheets – each captain has their own set of actions, one of which is guaranteed

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The art really stands out for me here. Very thematic, the art really brings out the feeling of the Viking era without being overly cheesy or ultra-authentic. I love the look and feel. The card content is easy to read and clearly laid out. The cards are sturdy and will withstand many plays.

6 dice with stickers
The weak spot in the components if there is one. And this is just about taste. I would have preferred etched dice for the cool factor only. The dice are big and chunky and you have to put stickers on them. The stickers are well done. So the dice are functional and they do the job they are supposed to.

Gameplay

Villainous Vikings is relatively easy to get into. It’s not a complex game and I taught it to a 10 year old who completely grasped the gameplay pretty quickly.

Player Turn
At the beginning of the Current Player’s turn, she may choose to permanently expand the Journey Card Pool by one card if it is not at the maximum of eight cards; the cost of expanding is as follows:
6th Card . . . . . . . . 1 gold
7th Card . . . . . . . . 2 gold
8th Card (Max) . . . . 3 gold

The journey card pool is the game engine and drives the process. Each turn, the players are constantly traveling and looking to conquer, trade or influence, or to replenish crew. The deck mostly has locations which progress in difficulty. Sprinkled into the deck are cards which give you assistance from the Norse Gods.

A starting set of 5 cards are laid out from which to choose from. Each card chosen is replaced with a new card from the deck. A 6th, 7th and 8th card can be bought and added to the available cards displayed.

Each turn, the player takes one of the following actions:
Use a Map card – Raid or Trade – players travel and conduct a Raid or seek to trade. If there is another captain already at the location, a battle between the players might take place
Interact with the Gods via an Asgard card
Regroup in the Northlands to replace crew that have fallen in battle.
Replenish the Journey Card Pool.

The process is easily learned and works very well. There are choice each step of the way and the players don’t always get their own way.

For each Raid, dice are rolled and you will compare attack and defense values to see who wins. If you roll a Hammer, it is usually applied to a captain’s special ability. Each location has its own individual strength and as you proceed through the deck, they become progressively more difficult to overcome, especially as you find locations with Heroes, Mercenaries or Bosses.

A really nice feature is that there is a limit to the number of cards in the deck during a game with plenty of spare cards for future games which means no 2 games will ever be the same. Lots of replay value here.

As an alternative to Raiding, you can opt to trade and this gives you the chance to hire crew and mercenaries and bribe local officials to increase your chances of conquering a location later. There are some really nice touches.

Another nice touch is that the cards have multiple uses including the ability to spend them to aid in a raid or battle for instance and just push you over the top to victory. Trouble is, it’s a trade off as you then lose a card in your hand which might come in handy for victory points.

Ragnarök (game end)
As soon as the Ragnarök card is chosen from the Journey Card Pool, the game ends and the players are summoned to their final showdown in front of Odin the All-Father. Each player has an opportunity to replenish their crew as if trading (two gold per Crew Section to be replenished) before all of the Viking Captains enter a free-for-all Battle against each other. This is very cool. After this you then add up gold and victory points including extra set collection bonuses.

Did I enjoy Villainous Vikings?
For me, a good Viking game has to have the feel of an epic Viking saga along with a sense of the historical. If it’s too silly and reliant upon the myths, I’m not sure it would be as interesting.

Villainous Vikings really gets the balance right. It leans more towards the historical feel which makes it more interesting. You certainly get a feel for the strategic scope of exploration a and raid and trade aspects. The mythology aspect is there but just enough.

This game is easy to play and teach and plays relatively fast but it gives you a nice set of choices. If you just look to raid, you won’t win. You have to pick your battles and also trade effectively or you will be in trouble. There is a push your luck element as you have to ask yourself how far do you risk losing your crew.

Luck plays a reasonable part in the dice rolls and cards but to me this adds to the fun. This is not a simulation or a game for heavy strategists. But you have a nice balance of choices and decisions to make. The dice and cards keep you surprised and having to rethink. This is not a game that allows forward planning. The test is how will you deal with a changing situation.

This game has to be played with 4 players for sure to get the most out of it and guarantee player interaction which is a must in a Viking game.

I would say that Villainous Vikings is a really fun and interesting game which doesn’t lose it’s bite after a number of plays. The design is sound with an emphasis on fun play rather than the detailed minutiae. Combat and trade are nicely abstracted and quick. The pace is good. The tension high as you seek the right combination of conquests to build a strong combat position.

The bottom line? Villainous Vikings is one of my favourite games of 2014 and I highly recommend it if you are interested in the theme and a lightish game with a good balance of luck, choices and player interaction. It would not surprise me at all if this game become one of VPG‘s stronger sellers.

For more information, go to the Victory Point Games website.

http://www.victorypointgames.com/games/villainous-vikings.html

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