Published by Schmidt Spiele
Designed by Christian Fiore & Knut Happel Illustrated by Michael Menzil
2-4 Players 60-90 minutes Aged 12+ Priced @ €40.00
Having been summoned to Asgard by the Gods, you have to lead your Viking Warrior Horde across distant lands searching for fame and fortune. Traversing the nine exciting Norse realms including those of the (in)famous Frost Giants in Jotunheimr, and the world of Humans (aka Midgard) by land and by sea, you accumulate additional Viking Warriors in a deck-builder type game.
You have one mission that drives you on wild and dangerous, often mythical, journeys, until you reach the Rainbow Bridge and cross it to enter Valhalla (aka the ninth realm).
Although The VIKING SAGA doesn't have the feel of a regular Schmidt Spiele publication it does have the Schmidt spiele quality of component and despite it looking like a core-strategy game (which it sort of is) this is still a family game; a good hour or more of luck and judgement. Some folk may have expected it to include moulded Viking miniatures, metal money (gold coins) and/or a push-out/assemble Viking longboat with the character movement spaces on the deck. I must admit that would have been super, and possibly a slot-together Viking ship would have given the game a more visual appearance; drawing more players to it.
As it is, The Viking Saga is a good fun game with excellent illustrations, bright (easily recognised) colours and a good card-keeping system within the plastic component insert. It is also a little flat on the table to attract people to a table where it is being played or displayed. In a convention such as Essen Spiel or GenCon Indy where there are thousands of people passing by all the time noticeability is not such a problem, but in a smaller event it is usually games with 3D pieces that attract the instant viewers.
Having said that, I have previously noted how good the quality of those components is, and for regular use (and The Viking Saga should get plenty of regular use) the cards, Missions, and wooden Meeples are indeed of top design and sturdiness.
The rules are very family friendly, but this doesn't mean they are overly simple. They are easy to understand and as such they make the game a pleasure to play; you are not constantly referring to the rules booklet. Having said that, I have the German language version (Schmidt Spiele are still one of the very few hold-out games companies that don't always include English translated rules) and there is a lot of text on the cards, especially the Quest cards. There is also enough text on the Viking cards, God cards, and Route cards to ensure it is language dependent. Luckily I found a pdf of the English rules with card translations, but this does mean that if you have the same edition then you are regularly referring to the card translations - believe me though it is well worth the time it takes. However, even if you cannot obtain an English language version, the enjoyment of playing far outweighs the 'hassle' of requiring card translation sheets.
The mapboard is a stretch of ocean over a stretch of land with a movement ladder sandwiched between them and a scoring track floating above the sea. The current quest determines whether the Vikings travel by Sea (on the Longboat tile) or by Land (using the ladder-like tile). The Quest card sits above the land or below the sea, matching its numbers to those on the mapboard. The player's have their own deck of cards that they use to move their Viking figure along the Deck or Ground according to the number on the card they played. Then the Ground tile or Longboat is moved according to the number of the newly turned Route card. The idea is to manoeuvre your Viking so that they end up on a space in-line with a Bonus on the Quest card. There are some non-Bonus (hazardous) spaces on the Quest cards that you should really try to avoid.
At the beginning of their turn the players have the opportunity to recruit new Vikings from a face up line-up of talent. It costs Gold to recruit new Vikings, with each new recruit having something different or special to offer; this is the deck building part of the game. These abilities can be advantageous when it comes to grabbing Loot from the quests.
The VIKING SAGA actually plays just as well with one, two, three or four players. In my opinion this is quite unusual. It's not that other games marked 2-4 players cannot be played with 2, 3 or 4 players, but in many cases you often find special rules for 2 players and sometime also for three players; things like cards removed, extra Gold at the beginning, different quest cards etc. The VIKING SAGA is a 2-4 player game in a box. There are, to my knowledge, no expansions (there really is no need for them) no rules differences depending on the number of players, nothing out of the ordinary in fact.
I have said this before in other reviews, it does come to mind many times over a year to be honest, but this definitely would be a perfect game to introduce new players to Euro-style board games.