Radio Review #28a – Voluspa: Order of the Gods

 

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(2014 – Stronghold Games)

 

“Think of all the roads….think of all their crossings….”

 

In 2009, designer Scott Caputo released a tile-laying game with a Native American theme, entitled Kachina. In 2012, the game was reworked to include a Norse mythology theme, and released under the name, Voluspa. In Voluspa, numbered tiles include individualized special abilities that can affect surrounding tiles in various ways. If the placed tile contains the highest numerical value amongst all other tiles in that row and/or column, 1 Victory Point is scored for each tile in that row and/or column. Players continue to place tiles until all tiles in the game have been placed into the play area, with the winner being the player with the most Victory Points.

The original Saga of Edda expansion for Voluspa was included with the base game upon its release, containing four additional tiles (Hermod, Jotunn, the Sea Serpent, and Hel) that added more depth and strategy to the initial set of eight tiles. The newest, stand alone expansion, Order of the Gods, includes an additional four tile types; the Dwarf, Freya, the Raven, and Niohoggr. Since, I’ve already done a rules overview and review for Voluspa, I’ll take the opportunity here to cover the different mechanics surrounding the newest tiles included with this expansion and how they work. If you would be interested in reading my previous review on Voluspa and learning how the game works, you can check it out here.

 

 

 

Components:

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– Order of the Gods expansion character tiles (Dwarf, Freya, Raven, and Niohoggr)

 

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– 150+ and 200+ Score markers

 

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– “0” Value tokens for Loki tiles

 

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– Boost tokens for Freya tiles

 

 

 

New Tiles & Powers:

The main addition to Voluspa comes with the four new tiles and their corresponding powers. In addition to these new tiles (which I‘ll cover shortly), the Order of the Gods expansion also adds 150+ and 200+ scoring markers. For those that have played the base game, the original Voluspa came with 50+ and 100+ scoring markers. Since the Victory Point track only contains 50 Victory Point spaces, these markers help to show how many Victory Points a player has amassed after surpassing the original 50. This expansion also includes “0” Value tokens that can be placed on top of tiles directly adjacent to Loki tiles, referencing that these tiles hold a value of 0 (Loki’s special ability). Let’s go ahead and take a look at the four new tiles from Order of the Gods, and what they can do:

 

 

The Dwarf

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The Dwarf only has a base value of 2, but when placed into the play area, he has the ability to absorb a portion of strength from those tiles adjacent to himself, converting these values into Victory Points. In order to do this, all numerical values of the adjacent tiles are added together. The number of Victory Points awarded is equal to half of this totaled amount, rounded down. It is important to note that placing a Dwarf next to a Loki tile does not negate the Dwarf’s absorb ability, although it will still change the Dwarf’s base value to 0.

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Player A places a Dwarf tile so that it is directly adjacent to an Odin tile (value of 8), a Dragon tile (value of 5), and a Troll tile (value of 6). Collectively, the values of these adjacent tiles equal 19. Therefore the placement of this Dwarf tile will automatically score Player A, 9 points.

 

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Dwarves add another level of strategy to the game, in that players will need to be careful not to clump high valued tiles near one another. A Dwarf can award a large amount of Victory Points without the need of lengthy rows or columns, but is not much of a threat when being placed beside lower valued tiles.

 

 

 

The Raven

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The Raven possesses the ability of flight that will allow it to score, fly to another area on the board, and then score again. Additionally, the Raven can perch on top of other tiles (similar to the Dragon‘s ability), meaning that it does not need to be placed on adjacent open spaces. Note however, that a Raven can not perch on top of another Raven. I mean, come on. That would just be silly!

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A Dragon tile is currently the highest valued tile in the row. Player B however, places a Raven tile on top of the Dragon, resulting in the Raven now being the highest valued tile. Thus, Player B would score 5 Victory Points for the row. The player then moves the Raven tile to the column to the right of this row. Because it is the highest valued tile in the column, Player B would score 3 Victory Points.

 

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Though they have similar abilities, the Raven has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to the Dragon. The Dragon’s scoring ability is more flexible, being that it has a value of 5. There are simply more tiles that it can score against. The Raven has a value of 4, one less than the Dragon, which makes it relatively weak. It won’t score against a majority of tiles in the game, especially rows and columns containing a larger number of tiles. However, the fact that it can be placed twice in a single turn makes it quite appealing. Scoring 4 Victory Points twice in a single turn becomes a strong tactic, slightly better than the 7 Victory Points with a Dragon on the maximum allowed row or column.

 

 

 

Freya

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While Freya can be placed for her base value of 3, her alternate ability is that she can boost the value of another tile being played. The player will simply discard a Freya tile from their hand to boost the value of the currently played tile by “+1”. A boost token matching the new value is placed onto the current tile. Players can discard multiple Freya tiles on a turn in order to boost the played tile multiple times.

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The highest value of the pictured row is 2, while the highest value of the column is 6. Player A places a Troll tile at the space where this row and column meet. Normally, the Troll’s base value of 6 would not be high enough to score the column. However, the player discards two Freya tiles from his hand when playing the Troll, thus boosting its base value to 8. In this case, Player A would score Victory Points for both the row and column.

 

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With a base value of 3, Freya tiles won’t see a whole lot of face time in the central play area. The majority of them will be hoarded by players to reel off large, individual boosts to tiles, which can result in impressive combos. With most of the tile values ranging from 3 to 6, being able to individually boost the value of any placed tile can be a huge advantage in acquiring Victory Points during the game.

 

 

 

Niohoggr

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The monster Niohoggr is a powerful valued tile of 7. On top of that, when scoring a row or column, if that row or column includes a Niohoggr tile, an additional 2 Victory Points is awarded for each Niohoggr tile present. Note that even if the value of a Niohoggr is negated by a Loki tile, the extra 2 Victory Points is still rewarded when scoring the row or column that it is present in.

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Player B places a Valkyrie tile at the end of the following row. Since another Valkyrie tile is present on the opposing side of the row, Player B will score for this row. Normally, he would only score 6 Victory Points, since there are a total of 6 tiles in the row. However, because of the two Niohoggr tiles present, 4 extra Victory Points would be rewarded, for a total value of 10 Victory Points scored.

 

Only Odin (value of 8) and Thor (value of 7) tiles are of equal or greater value than Niohoggr. This can basically make Niohoggr an more advantageous Thor tile. Players placing Niohoggr on the board however, need to be careful not to leave an opening for an opponent to come in and use him to score their bonus points. Also, scoring these bonus points with Niohoggr can be a bit difficult, considering that the placed tile would normally need to be a value of 8 or higher to score a row or column containing Niohoggr. Of course, Fenrir’s ability, placing Niohoggr next to a Loki tile, completing a row with the opposing Valkyries, boosting a value with Freya, among other abilities can be creative ways to pull this off.

 

 

 

The Lightning Bolt

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The Lightning Bolt is a set of special promo tiles that came with the preorder editions of the Order of the Gods expansion. The Lightning Bolt tile works quite simply. It can be placed on top of any tile, except a Hel tile, another Lightning Bolt tile, or a tile next to a Troll. When doing so, the player will score the shortest connected column or row that the Lightning Bolt is a part of.

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For instance, a Niohoggr tile intersects the row and column shown above. The row currently contains 6 tiles, while the column contains 4 tiles. Player A decides to place his Lightning Bolt tile on top of this Niohoggr tile. He would score 4 Victory Points (number of points equal to the shortest connected column or row) plus an additional 2 Victory Points (for the column containing a Niohoggr tile), for a total of 6 Victory Points.

 

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Thoughts:

For fans of the original base game, Voluspa: Order of the Gods incorporates four new tiles that provide divergent ways in which players can score Victory Points in the game. Whereas the base tile powers were mostly revolved around the scoring of full rows and columns, the four tiles found in the expansion provide a more direct way to score points, not necessarily hinged on waiting for the length of rows or columns to grow. Dwarves score a portion of the totaled values contained in adjacent tiles, Freya can be used as a value boost to other tiles, and Niohoggr can add bonuses to overall collected scoring. The Ravens are really the only similar power seen before, in that of the Dragons, except of their ability to fly around the board and resolve twice on a turn.

All in all, the four new powers are a good compliment to the previous twelve tiles found in the base game and Saga of Edda expansion. Although, 16 varied tile types (17 if you include the Lightning Bolt) can be quite intimidating to learn for new players. I would definitely recommend playing the game with the base set of 8 for a few games, before trying to learn all 16 powers at once. Even if you can remember all of the powers from the start, learning how to tactically use them all together can take some practice. Being that the game continues until all tiles run out, it is mentioned in the rules that it is probably better to not play with the full complement of 16 tile types, for duration purposes. I’d have to agree with this. The rule sheet for Order of the Gods actually comes with some recommended sets of tiles to play with, depending on which style you are in the mood for. For instance, the suggested Rise of the Serpents gameplay set would include all of the base tiles, the Sea Serpent and Hel tiles from the Saga of Edda expansion, and the Dwarf and Freya tiles from the Order of the Gods expansion.

Being able to mix and match which tiles you want to play with adds quite a bit of depth to Voluspa. With additional expansions, finding new gameplay setups can become a neat endeavor. If you enjoy Voluspa, there is really no reason not to add Order of the Gods into the mix. All four of the new tile powers are unique in their own sense, and add a nice variety to an already stellar game.

 

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