Designer: Michael Kiesling
Vikings is not a game I researched before acquiring, it was actually one of our early car boot sale finds. Normally when you see a Rio Grande label at a car boot sale, the game is one of those that you sometimes find in “The Works” (a UK discount store) and that normally means it’s not a great game. However, once I got home and did some research, I realised Vikings was a pretty well regarded game that was actually out of print at the time so I was very happy with my £6 investment.
Vikings is a game for 2-4 players which relies heavily on a rondel mechanic, but also has some tile placement and worker placement elements. The game takes place over 6 rounds. In each round you will acquire tiles to place in your laying space, creating islands with start, middle and end portions. You place the coloured meeple on these tiles associated to the different kinds of people eg. fishermen, soldiers and nobles. If you choose not to or can’t place a meeple they can await a trip with a ferryman at the end of every other round. Based on their placement you can receive either money or victory points.
Each round, 12 tiles are placed around the rondelle – all land tiles are placed first, then any boat tiles on the higher priced positions. 12 meeple are then drawn blind from a bag and are placed in association with the 12 tiles. The yellow meeple’s are the lowest priced, up to the grey meeples which are highest priced. The rondel is numbered with cost from zero to 11, setting the price of each tile. The rondel spins every time all the meeples of the first colour have been bought. Any tile can be purchased at its current price, but you can only take the free tile if it has the last meeple of that colour.
|The rondel - The tile with the green meeple is now free and can be taken because it is the only green meeple remaining, but if you want a start island, end island or boat you'll have to pay up for a higher cost tile.|
When placing land you choose a row to place it on and you must match up the tiles to create islands. If you have the right colour meeple for the row you can place the meeple too. If you choose a boat tile, these go in the first row and they attack your coloured meeple. You must manage to place a black meeple beneath each ship to enable the meeples in that column to score again. On rounds 1, 3 and 5 you want to have lots of active yellow meeple to earn you money. On rounds 2,4 and 6 there is a big score, where yu can get both points and money and you can also use your ferrymen (grey meeple) to redistribute any waiting meeple onto islands to make the best of your scoring.
At the end of the game there are also some end of game bonus points for having the most completed islands, the longest island, the most remaining ferrymen and you determine if you have enough fish to feed all your Vikings, which can result in a gain or loss of victory points. The player with the highest points total wins.
|Two of the player boards|
If you’re going into this game expecting a heavy Viking theme then you’ll be disappointed. You only have to look at the designer’s name to realise that this is a pretty themeless euro game. The Viking theme governs the artwork only here and even that is a pretty toned down version of Vikings to look more like a more quaint game of Carcassonne.
We only recently got Vikings back to the table. After trying Isle of Skye and really enjoying it, we wanted to make sure that Vikings wasn’t too similar and needed to justifying having Carcassonne, Vikings and Isle of Skye in our collection – all three look quite similar when you look at their square tiles and artwork! After a recent replay, I think Vikings really deserves its place. It’s not a complicated game, but its combination of mechanics make for some interesting decision making. There’s only a couple of strategies, generally dictated by the end of game bonuses, but the way the tiles come out onto the rondel also help you decide how to play – some games end up being very interactive and defensive, whereas others are aggressive and sometimes the tiles and meeple colours are well distributed which means you game is about optimisation and is more solitaire.
Vikings is a game that I don’t think many people own and I’m very happy to keep it in the collection to show to people. It probably won’t be exciting enough to make them want to buy it, but to me Vikings is a solid game that we really enjoy, even if it’s just the two of us. The Yellow Meeple gives Vikings a 7/10.