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FJORDS is a tile laying, exploration, worker placement and area control game, similar to many others, past and present, in this popular genre. This version is a reworking of the 2005 game from Hans im Glück (RioGrande in the USA). The author, Franz Benno-Delonge, remains the same but this 2021 edition introduces variants from Phil Walker-Harding and the illustrations are by Beth Sobel, replacing the original art of Jörg Asselborn and Christof Tisch.

Included are alternative ways of playing and scoring (Phil Walker-Harding) which involve Rune Stones. There are eight of these: Odal (Home), Raido (Journey), Ehwaz (Horse), Odin (Wisdom), Thor (Strength), Laguz (Water), Gyfu (Friendship) and Peorth (Secret); each of these having there own speciality effect.

What follows is my preview of the game from seeing the tiles and reading the rules without having played it. The tiles shown below are from the original game. Other tiles had mountains on and some of the new ones have icy terrain as well.


The 2005 version was only for two players, though apart from the variants in this latest edition it seems that very little in the way of rules and components has changed, and yet it is now for 2-4 players, something many players thought it should have been originally.

The game is simplicity itself. On your turn you place a tile, if you can, adjacent to two sides of a previously laid tile and with terrain matching. Terrain must abut terrain.

In the original game the players had to draw one tile from the bag and hope it fit, casting it to one side if it didn't and leaving it face up to be selected later if/when possible. In 2012 four tiles are drawn from the bag as a supply to allow players a choice and to more likely find a usable tile. 

Once a tile has been placed the player has the opportunity to claim it by putting one of their Longhouses onto it - always placing them on green 'grassy plains' sections. Once a Longhouse has been placed it remains there throughout the game.

The idea of the game is to claim the most territory by having either a Longhouse or a Viking on it. This means that in a 4-player game the highest, yet, and most unlikely, highest score can be 24 (20 Vikings and 4 Longhouses) - you only score tiles you occupy, not adjacent or encompassed tiles that only you could claim.

If you are playing with 3-4 players then it's a good idea to add the Runes into the mix because, of the variants offered, this is by far the best, and also the only one that reads like it would change the game by any worthwhile distinction.

Read through the effects each Runestone has and then decide between you which one or more than one to include in your game. There is a recommendation that you select all four of Journey, Horse, Water and Strength if there are 3 or 4 players as their inclusion ensures more possibility of the useful placement of tiles; without them it is easier to cut tile connections. Whichever tile/s you select all players begin the game with one of each type.

So what we have here, in my opinion, is the author, Franz Benno-Delonge, being able to revisit one of his popular games so that it reaches an audience anew. The different ideas/variations have arisen since the original's publication. This is quite common with game designs, the finished product is often viewed as being not the completed article - more could have been done - hence the numerous extensions and expansions that keep multitudinal popular games prominently amidst the mainstream and in almost constant demand. 

The result of the changes brings FJORDS from a Lite Carcassonne a-like to a Medium Carcassonne a-like. If you already own, play and enjoy Carcassonne, then this is a step backwards. That's not necessarily a bad thing but most people prefer to move onwards, expanding their games library and complexity.

If you have never played Carcassonne, which is one of the better and most popular tile-laying/area management games, maybe because you think it may be a little complex for you and/or your family/friends, then FJORDS is a more than reasonable entry level to the game genre.

As I say, these are my thoughts on the game from just the rules I have seen. 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021