GREY FOX GAMES of St Louis MO. (an upgrade expansion - not reviewed here - is also available)
CHAMPIONS of MIDGARD is a board game for 2-4 players, aged 10+, and designed by Ole Steiness. It is beautifully created and published by Grey Fox Games £42.99 rrp
It is another game where the designer and publisher have decided not to skimp on the number of components, the box is brimful with cards, counters, dice, wooden pieces, game boards and rules. Although it wouldn’t have made one iota of difference to the gameplay it would have been a nice touch to have had the player’s meeples in Viking helms rather than just being regular plain meeples.
Champions of Midgard follows an all too familiar theme as far as the tale that brings it to the table is concerned. The players are Viking Leaders in competition to become the new Jarl of Trondheim following the death of the old Jarl. The City has fallen into disrepair and the new Jarl has to be cunning, strong, brave and Glorious, in fact gaining Glory is the road to victory. So the players have 8 rounds to gain the most Glory and be crowned or heralded or acclaimed Champion of Midgard!
Whether the game was originally for 5 players or whether the fifth player Viking Leader board has been added to give an opportunity for each game to include different characters, I don’t know, but there are five player boards, but only 4 colours of Viking meeples (without Helms) and player markers.
The 5 characters and their special abilities are:
Asmundr: The Pious – Dice re-rolls gains him bonus Glory
Dagrun: The Destined – Draws an additional Sage Hut card to choose from
Gylfir: The Seaworthy – Gets goods from the Dock for free
Svanhildr: The Swordmaiden – may do additional damage when strikes land
Ullr: The Berserker – Gains bonus Glory for certain successful hits
The board is set up easily and surprisingly quite quickly by referring to the rules booklet, which itself also is a surprise, being just 12 pages including cover, components list, full page photo of the board and glossary.
Around the edge is the score track 0-100, and within this framework are the spaces specifically for the various types of cards and, where necessary spots for placing Vikings who are to take the associated action.
The game is designed to play in just over an hour once all players are knowledgeable of the rules, so halfway through your first game it should speed up considerably. There are plenty of options for the players but it isn’t always possible to plan your turn in advance because the majority of locations are only available to one Viking per turn. The First Turn player changes each turn to allow for some balance.
The Red wooden cubes represent Food and the Brown cubes, Wood. These resources have to be collected from locations and spent at others. One of the locations where Food is required is when a player hires a ship and takes it on a sea adventure to defeat the Monsters, the food is needed for the Warriors (represented by dice). There is a minor printing error in the setup shown in the rules booklet as it shows available for sale 2 ships valued 8 and 2 ships valued 7, these are not amongst the ships that come with the game so one must presume that they were changed prior to publication
Apart from Viking Meeples the players use (the previously mentioned) Warriors who are represented by dice. There are three types, White, Red and Black, each slightly different from the other. The White dice have 3 blank sides, 1 with a single sword, 1 with two swords and 1 showing a shield. The Red dice have 2 blanks, 2 single spears, 1 double spear and 1 shield and the Black dice have 2 blanks, 2 single axes and 2 double axes. To be successful in your campaign you will need to collect and use the correct dice. Each Hero can only have 8 dice at a time – there are specific spaces on the Character Board for your Warriors – and as you use them they are returned to the dice pool. Generally combat is by dice, you roll your dice against Troll, Monster, Draugr etc. On the creature cards there often shows a weapon that cannot be used, meaning you cannot roll that type of dice against it.
When the roll of the dice shows a weapon, ie Sword, Spear or Axe (or doubles thereof) each one counts as a hit, Shields rolled discount one hit per shield. Creatures have specific Damage and specific Defence values, thus, for example a Monster of 3 Damage 2 Defence requires 2 Hits to be defeated but simultaneously does 3 Damage, any shields you rolled in your attack negate one of those hits. The creatures do not roll dice. Trying to maintain 2-3 of each die type may seem like the obvious idea, but it all depends on what you are facing.
Each Turn a Troll wanders into the game and it needs to be defeated by one of the players. If no one sends a Warrior to fight the Troll or if the Warrior loses then all players take a Blame token. If a player does defeat the Troll then they can discard one of their previously gained Blame tokens by giving it to one of the other players. Obviously, Blame tokens count against you when the game ends, the more Blame you have the more Glory you lose 1-1, 2-3, 3-6, 4-10, 5-15 and rising to 6+ -21.
When you defeat a creature you collect its card so choosing your fights is another part of the game for collecting sets of creatures (3 per set of 1 Red, 1 Yellow 1 Blue) for bonus points. Rune cards, Destiny cards and Private Ships (owning a ship is one of the easiest ways to get a good bonus) as well as Favours of the Gods and coins (3 coins=1 Glory) all come into the equation when determining the final scoring.
CHAMPIONS of MIDGARD is an easy game to learn and an easy game to teach to new players. However despite this easiness it is not in any way a by the numbers type of game, there is no one thing you must ensure you control each turn and the variety of Destiny options means that players are not all aiming for exactly the same finale.
With elements of resource and man management alongside adventure and combat, it is a good strategy game for gamers and a great introduction into strategy boardgaming for players only used to games like Monopoly and its like. We thoroughly enjoy playing it and would have no qualms suggesting it to others.