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

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Vikings Gone Wild: Master of Elements

Game: Vikings Gone Wild: Master of Elements

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Designer: Julien Vergonjeanne

Year: 2018

Master of Elements is the latest expansion for Vikings Gone Wild – the hit deck building game from publisher Lucky Duck Games. A new kind of warrior has entered the arena in this Viking land – the Druids. The Druids’ strength is derived from sacred artefacts and they are powered by the elements; nature, fire and water. Your Master of Elements is the source of the elements in the game who power your druids, as well as powering the abilities of your three special artefacts.

Master of Elements brings a significant amount of new content to Vikings Gone Wild. It also adds some complexity with more resources to manage and more interplay between the cards. Vikings Gone Wild was already a ‘large’ deck-building game, so does the extra content bring with it enough fun factor, and is Master of Elements a must have expansion?


A game of Vikings Gone Wild with the Master of Elements expansion is set up much in the same way, but with a handful of differences. The previous attack and defence cards are removed to be replaced with the new elemental creatures. A number of decks get additional cards shuffled into them and, importantly, each player is given an artifact board. On the artifact you will store your druid and 3 artifacts, which will be drafted for at the beginning of the game.

Druids act much like the town hall in that they can be upgraded for resources and upgrading them unlocks new potential for your game. In the druids case they control what you can do with your artifacts, a level 1 druid lets you use only the level 1 abilities of your artifacts, but a level 3 druid lets you use level 1, 2 or 3 abilities. Artifacts aren't activated by using beer or gold, but instead via the new elemental elements. Each round your druid can enchant one of your buildings to begin producing an elemental token in addition to it's normal function. These elemental tokens are spent to power your artifacts which in turn give you powerful abilities. These range from card drawing to boosting your attack power when you assault a building.

While artifacts are the most obvious change, the introduction of the elemental creatures is arguable just as important. Gone are the defence cards that used to litter your deck with cards that were entirely useless should no-one attack you while you had one. Instead most of these new creatures are dual cards, allowing your to attack during your turn *or* defend during an enemies. Either way you only get to use a card once, so you'll have to be careful not to waste all your good attackers on defence!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

The artifact system is nice and it does add a good deal of flexibility to the game (you can always use your elemental tokens to alchemically produce beer or gold if nothing else). They do end up creating more nasty surprises for your opponents, but as in the base game the loser of combat has little to feel unless they have been stockpiling resources en masse. It's certainly nice to have a system that uses relatively little resources to gain from (you're going to be making buildings anyway), but is strong enough that committing to create your level 3 druid unlocks some strong powers.

But if the artifacts are a nice addition it's the new elemental creatures that really change the game. Defence cards were such a bummer in the original game, getting the objective that required you to buy one was a pain as it meant your deck permanently had this card that was at best a slight pain for another player, and at worse just junk filling your deck. Now there are no dedicated defence cards and so being defensive costs you attack, it's not just hurting your opponent, but also you! Being too defensive can result in your losing points that you could have gained by staying on the offence, but it's certainly worth denying your opponent the bonus points for destroying certain buildings. This simple change made combat more dynamic, defence was more common and therefore players were more likely to combine warriors to attack a building with overwhelming force, or to probe weaker buildings to try and lure out defenders.

On the negative side of things Vikings Gone Wild was already a little bit clunky at times with the plethora of tokens and resources, with even simple beer being available in 2 forms. Adding 3 new elements to this mix (and you bet that they come in physical and temporary forms too) adds more admin to the game, which led to more mistakes. Particularly common was forgetting to enchant a building or to swap elements for beer when you were one short. This has a net effect of making the game a little bit slower, though not necessarily longer, which isn't something I appreciated.

Overall if you like the base game I'd strongly recommend picking the expansion up. While it can be a bit clunky at times the new content makes it easier to plan your deck and your game plan from the get-go. I can't see myself ever playing Vikings Gone Wild without Master of Elements. When it comes to an expansion that's exactly what you want!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

A game of Master of Elements begins with a draft of the artefacts. In our first game, I totally didn’t understand and tried to make engine out of the three cards that essentially achieved nothing. After more games, I think most players might end up with a favourite strategy for these cards. In our house, drawing more cards appeared to be the preferred way to win Vikings Gone Wild so those cards become favoured. In addition, I tend to draft for a variety of elements to ensure that I can combine elements for bonus resources, but you could also decide a strategy at the start of the game where you focus on a certain element and its corresponding druid. This is an interesting way to define a strategy in a game that is often more tactical for me.

During the game, you’re now thinking about more than just beer and gold as currency, all of your element tokens form a currency too and its worthwhile adding cards in your deck that can use this. I’ve certainly pulled off more impressive turns with Master of Elements that I have done in the base game. However, this can also be a downside if you don’t get your engine going quick enough as the other player, in a two player game can really get ahead.

The druid cards are my favourite addition to this expansion and we’ve seen them start to highlight different strategies. In particular one card allows you to thin out your deck which had a very interesting effect on the arc of the game as one player made a huge comeback in the final rounds. With more familiarity and practice, Master of Elements could become a game that we really enjoy – there’s definitely enough variety there, but the really bad experience of losing at this game, put’s me off wanting to invest more time in it.

You Might Like...
  • Master of Elements adds some of the combos that we felt were missing in the base game. Cards don’t really trigger each other, but the elements trigger different abilities.
  • There are some engine building mechanics, which are appealing to us as you specialise your deck, more than you might in the base game and pick your elements accordingly.
  • Some of the druid cards and the asymmetrical starting artifacts introduce new interesting strategies.
You Might Not Like...
  • More tokens makes it easy to miss something you could have done.
  • The use of the elements can feel quite incidental in the game, so some games do not feel considerably different from the base game.
  • If one player gets ahead, it’s still very hard for the other player to come back.

The Verdict

6.5/10 Master of Elements can create really interesting games, with fun combos and lots of interlocking parts to think about. However, it still comes with some of our reservations for the base game, where there seems to be a 50/50 chance that one player streaks ahead in a two-player game. If you loved Vikings Gone Wild, then we’d totally recommend Master of Elements, but it won’t change your opinion on the base game if you were on the fence like we were.

Viking Gone Wild: Master of Elements was a review copy kindly provided to us by Lucky Duck Games.

No comments:

Post a Comment