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.

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Sunday 3 May 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Raiders of the North Sea Digital

Game: Raiders of the North Sea

Publisher: Garphill Games

Designer: Shem Phillips

Digital Edition By: Dire Wolf Digital

Year: 2015

Raiders of the North Sea has become a very popular euro game. It really put designer Shem Phillips and his publishing brand, Garphill Games on the map. Raiders is the most popular of the North Sea trilogy, but that has since been followed up with the West Kingdom Trilogy which perhaps surpasses even Raiders in terms of praise.

What was unique about Raiders of the North Sea was the worker placement mechanisms. On your turn you place a worker and retrieve a worker from another spot on the board - meaning that you essentially take two actions per turn. This also gives you the ability to swap out the type of active worker you have, which in turn unlocks access to new places that your vikings can raid.

We played the physical game once and were quite taken with the mechanisms, but not enough to add it to our collection. Fortunately, digital board games take up no shelf space, so Raiders of the North Sea Digital was a great addition to our Steam library.

I spoke about this when I reviewed Sagrada Digital a couple of weeks ago, but Dire Wolf Digital really know how to make a good board game app. They appear to have found a winning combination of colourful, thematic graphics, a good tutorial, local game modes, online play and solo campaigns. The user experience with their apps is just so slick! Raiders of the North Sea is definitely a digital board game, rather than an app experience and so the actual board space is pretty vast. The user interface allows you to both pan around the board and also to access a map. Planning a strategy does require you to keep checking on these resources, especially if you don't have a strong familiarity with either the analog or digitial game. This is the main drawback I have with the user experience and with time, I'm confident it will become easier to manage.

Raiders of the North Sea isn't the simplest board game and I went into the app with essentially zero knowledge of the rules. The tutorial is split into two parts and guides you through the actions in the village and onto raiding harbours, monasteries and more. I like how they didn't try to take you through a tutorial of the whole game, but did give you most of the basics. When I launched myself into a full game, I did have to reference the rules on a couple of occasions, which were well laid out, but perhaps a bit of a burden compared to being able to click on something in the interface to find out what it did. I also found the normal AI a bit of a baptism of fire. The campaign mode was a much gentler entry point that seems to lead naturally from the tutorials. The scope of the first couple of campaign missions is smaller and the opponent seems to be playing with their eyes closed!

I'm really looking forward to playing more games and improving my strategy to a point where I can compete with the AI, plus I'm hoping to encourage some friends to buy the game and play together with me. The game against the AI last 20-30 minutes and I'm sure it will extend with more human players, such that it's a good, meaty, board game like experience for people who I miss playing those bigger games with. Roll and writes and party games are great for Skype, but I still want some heavier gaming experiences during this lockdown and Raiders of the North Sea falls nicely into a middle-weight category.

Given the need to navigate the whole board to determine your turns, I'd recommend Raiders of the North Sea Digital for larger devices, either on Steam, Nintendo Switch or on a tablet. It's a very well designed app that still feels like a board game, in spite of the fancy design, music and animations. It's definitely aimed squarely at board gamers wanting a digital gaming fix and right now that's a must for me and many other people!

You Might Like...
  • The AI is definitely a worthy opponent for me.
  • Campaign mode keeps you coming back for more.
  • The two tutorials give you a great overview of how to play, even if you've never played the physical game.
You Might Not Like...
  • Not being able to see the full map at all times can inhibit your ability to plan.
  • The interface can be a little tricky and I found it very hard to see my card or character abilities.

The Verdict
8/10 Raiders of the North Sea Digital is definitely my choice for how to play this board game. Whether on Steam or on Switch, or perhaps a larger tablet, this is a really well designed adaptation with great graphics, helpful tutorials and tips and an addictive campaign mode. For a game with a large board, a couple of compromises have been made, but nothing that familiarity won't overcome.

A Steam code for Raiders of the North Sea Digital was kindly provided to us by Dire Wolf Digital. Raiders of the North Sea Digital is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Google Play.

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