Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Raids

Game: Raids

Publisher: IELLO

Designer: Matthew Dunstan, Brett J. Gilbert

Year: 2018

We first saw Raids at the UK Games Expo this year. It was particularly exciting, as it was one of the only big, early new releases available at the show. On the demo table it really reminded us if the art design of Jamaica, which is certainly no bad thing! Once we understood the movement mechanics, the game seemed to feel like the love child of Jamaica and Tokaido.

Raids is a game for 2-4 players which mixes a lot of different mechanisms. It looks like a race game, but depending on your strategy you might play for set collection, do some engine building or engage in combat with other players. How well do all of these elements blend together? Let’s find out how a game of Raids plays.


A game of Raids consists of 4 rounds, during each round all players will complete a lap around the game board, collecting tiles, recruiting warriors and fighting monsters along the way. As the rounds go on the stakes get higher with tougher monsters, higher value goods and stronger weapons/sails to build.

In Raids it is always the turn of the player furthest behind, the first thing they do is collect the tile that they started on. They may then move as far as they like, but must overtake at least 1 other boat. Several spots offer rewards when sailed by, typically coins (end game points) or vikings. Monster tiles also activate when you sail by them, for monsters you either sacrifice enough vikings to kill it for end game points, or simply throw one viking to his death while your boat heroically sails away at top speed! Most places though you must stop at if you want to reap the rewards, but make sure you have enough vikings to defend your place!

Should you land on the same tile as another player you will fight. Battles are very simple and fast paced. First the attacking player losing 1 viking, the defending player can then choose to lose 2 vikings, or sail on to a new location. Should the defender sacrifice 2 vikings then the attacker must sail on unless they are willing to lose 3 and so on.

Tiles themselves all have different abilities, some, such as runes which score based on set collection, are kept off of your boat. But the majority, such as axes which help you kill monsters by lowing the viking cost, are kept on your boat. You have a limited amount of space and carrying too many goods to sell will reduce your ability to carry viking warriors. At the end of each round you will return to port and earn bonus coins based on how you achieved this round's objective. These objectives vary from simply being the first player to sail home, to having the largest army of warriors! After 4 rounds the game ends and the player with the most points wins.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Raids has a lot in it that I really enjoy. It's extremely fast paced; turns are lightning quick 95% of the time which means you rarely spend much time not actively playing the game. The boat customisation works well, with getting powerful upgrades often giving you a severe limit in viking capacity. Sure it's great to raid towns and take their goods, but then you still have to make space for it on the damn boat! Viking income doesn't vary much between each player, so while fighting each other for spots is a regular activity, the high cost means you will only do it when it's worth the sacrifice.

Raids isn't a particularly deep game, gameplay is simple: move your boat as far as you'd like, then , unless someone fights you for it, get the thing you landed on.but there are just enough decisions to be made along the way to keep you drawn in. There is a two player variant, but it works elegantly. The "ghost ship" acts as a 3rd player who simply sails 1/4 of the board every time it gets a turn. This stops players from going slow to collect loads of tiles as they must overtake at least one other ship on their turn.

There is an element of luck which can play a big factor: the order in which tiles come out. Each round has a fixed selection of tiles, but it's quite possible that all of the markets this round are before the goods, meaning you'll have to carry any goods you get to the next round and hope that there's a sensible place to sell there. This does end up leading to some good confrontation though, as the last market in a round is often fiercely coveted. Combine this simple, but elegant gameplay with some gorgeous art and wonderful laser cut wooden viking meeples and you get a game you'll be happy to come back to time and time again.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Raids is simply a pleasure to play. The four rounds just sail by, especially in the two-player games we have played. There are many different paths and strategies you can follow in the game and it’s a testament to the game’s design that they all feel seamlessly integrated and well balanced. We’ve seen a number of different strategy combinations win the game.

Every round of the game is filled with interesting decisions. Do you race forward for the tile you really want or hold back to pick up more tiles? Should you hoard Vikings or get axes which limit your Viking capacity but help with taking on monsters? Should you waste time denying that rune tile to your opponent to stop their set collection tirade? What can you do to make sure you don’t throw any Vikings overboard? Is it better to go for end game points or in game points? For a game that is mechanically so simple, Raids just gives me so much to think about and so many different ways to play.

The two player game does use a variant, with a ghost ship, that may not be to everyone’s taste, however, for me, it just added extra interest to the game. The predictability of the third ghost player led to some really tactical moves and interesting moments. More players would be more unpredictable and perhaps more combat might enter the game too, which isn’t always my favourite aspect in games. In addition, there are the same number of tiles around the board at any player count, so in a two-player game, I think you might get more tiles each which highlight the aspect of selectively building up your longship, which I really enjoy.

Overall, Raids is a lovely, elegant gateway game that can be used to introduce quite a lot of mechanisms to new players, but that shouldn’t be overwhelming. It’s a quick game to play, but it offers a lot of game in a short time frame. It’s definitely one we’ll be keeping on our shelves.

You Might Like...
  • The component quality and artwork are really eye-catching. We love the metal victory point coins and the wooden Viking meeples.
  • The game is accessible for new gamers, but also has plenty of good decisions for more experienced players.
  • There are many strategies that we have seen result in victory.

You Might Not Like...
  • Although the board layout is different every time, the game plays quite similarly with every play.
  • The two player variant is so good that it might be our favourite way to play, so the experience with more players might lack a few of the more interesting tactical elements.

The Verdict

8/10 Raids is a really great 45 minute racing game. The movement mechanics are simple, yet they lead to really interesting decisions. The balance between loading your longship with Vikings and upgrading it with better equipment and goods is always really interesting to weight up. The game mechanisms are unlike many gateway games we own and Raids is a fantastic, well produced game to demonstrate the variety in our hobby.

Raids was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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