Radio Review #58 – Vikings

 

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(2014 – Z-Man Games)

 

 

 

While a majority of designer Michael Kiesling’s work are acclaimed collaborations with highly regarded designer, Wolfgang Kramer (the Mask Trilogy, Torres, Palaces of Carrara, etc) possibly his most celebrated masterpiece is Vikings; one of the his few individual designs. First released in 2007, Vikings went on to receive a Spiel des Jahres recommendation, but printings soon became scarce and have been almost impossible to find the last couple of years. Because of this, Vikings has become a title that many have heard great things about amongst others in the hobby, but haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to play themselves. Seven years after its release, Z-Man Games is finally producing the long-waited 2nd edition to this economic, tile-placement classic.

In Vikings, players take on the role of Viking Lords, bent on expanding their wealth and exploring new lands. Every year, the Lords gather around a central meeting place (a large stone table), selecting new Viking recruits and purchasing sections of the newly discovered islands as they are explored. Players receive money and Victory Points depending on how efficiently they can settle their owned islands with their new recruits. Occasionally, invading ships will fire upon the islands, and players must send forth warriors to protect the other Vikings. Players must also employ fisherman to feed their units by the end of the game. After 6 completed rounds, the Viking Lord that has amassed the most Victory Points wins.

 

 

 

Components:

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– Vikings Game Board

 

Photo(1)

– Player boards

 

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– Land Tiles

 

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– Ship Tiles

 

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– Special Tiles

 

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– Vikings (Fishermen, Goldsmiths, Scouts, Nobles, Warriors, and Boatswains)

 

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– Player tokens

 

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– Summary cards

 

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– Start player marker

 

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– Coins

 

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– Cloth Bag

 

 

 

Setup:

Players begin a game of Vikings by first receiving their own personal player boards. Each player board displays a mainland area along its left side, from which players will send their Vikings out to explore the various new lands amongst the uncharted territories.

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The mainland area is split into sections, with each section representing a different type of Viking in the clan. Starting at the top, Boatswains (gray) are clansmen that will help to ferry others to the various discovered lands. Warriors (black) will help protect these new lands from oncoming invasions. Nobles (red) will lead the recently established villages to prosperity. Scouts (green) will act as lookouts for those behind them. Goldsmiths (yellow) will generate money and help the clan pay for the accumulating cost of their expeditions. Finally, Fishermen (blue) help to feed the clan and the members within.

 

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The main game board is comprised of a round, rotating stone table, which the Viking Lords (players) will meet at each Round in order to divvy up new sections of explored lands, as well as recruit new members to their clan. At the beginning of the game, players will separate the set of Special tiles from the regular Land and Ship tiles. These Special tiles are placed face down near the designated areas closest to the rotating table. The Land and Ship tiles are then mixed together, and when placed face down in the designated spaces above the Special tiles area, will make up six stacks of twelve tiles each.

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All 78 Vikings are placed into the cloth bag. At the beginning of each Round, players will gather some of these from the bag and place them around the stone table. They will represent the different types of Viking recruits available for purchase during that Round.

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Each player will place one of their player tokens on the #10 Victory Point space. It is possible during the game for players to spend Victory Points to use as Coins instead. Therefore, all players begin the game with 10 Victory Points instead of starting with 0. The additional player token is placed on the player’s personal board to represent his color on the Victory Point track.

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Players also receive a starting Land tile to begin the game with. These are marked with a Viking silhouette on its backside to show that it is kept separate from the other tiles when setting up the game. Each player will also receive a Summary card and a number of Coins depending on the number of players in the game:

 

– Players will each receive 30 Coins in a 2-player game.
– Players will each receive 25 Coins in a 3-player game.
– Players will each receive 20 Coins in a 4-player game.

 

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Players will designate a Start player and that player begins the game with the included Start Player marker. The remaining Coins and Cloth Bag are also placed in the general play area. At the end of setup, the game should look something like this:

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Gameplay:

Vikings is split up into 6 Rounds, in which different types of scoring will occur after each individual Round. One at a time, in clockwise order (and beginning with the start player), players will take turns purchasing new lands and recruiting new Viking units, then add these new lands and units into their personal ever-expanding play area. Each Round is made up of three main phases; the Draw Phase, the Recruit & Explore Phase, and the Scoring Phase. Let’s take a look at each of these and see how they work.

 

 

1.) Draw Phase – Before the Viking Lords assemble to recruit new Vikings to their clans and purchase uncharted land territories, the lands and units that will available during this Round must be placed out on the main game board. At the beginning of a Round, the leftmost stack of standard tiles (mixture of Land and Ship tiles at the top of the board) are removed from their space on the game board. The icon depicted on this space after the tiles are removed represents how scoring will resolve at the end of the turn (we’ll discuss this a bit later).

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For instance, after the first stack is removed from its space at the beginning of the 1st Round of the game, the icon depicted on the space shows a picture of one of the Goldsmith Vikings. This will help remind players that at the end of this Round, all Goldsmith Vikings will resolve and are thus scored.

 

 

Once the stack of tiles have been removed from the space, they are placed face-up, one at a time around the stone table in the following way:

– The 1st revealed Land tile is placed on the space represented by a 0 on the table.

 

– Each additional Land tile revealed thereafter is placed directly adjacent to the previously placed Land tile, moving in a clockwise manner around the table (0, 1, 2, 3, etc).

 

– The 1st revealed Ship tile is placed on the space represented by an 11 on the table.

 

– Each additional Ship tile revealed thereafter is placed directly adjacent to the previously placed Ship tile, moving in a counter-clockwise manner around the table (11, 10, 9, 8, etc).

 

 

After all tiles of the stack have been placed, the start player will randomly draw 12 Vikings from the Cloth Bag, placing them adjacent to each Land/Ship tile around the table (beginning with the 0 space) in the following way:

 

– All Fisherman (blue) Vikings are placed first.
– All Goldsmith (yellow) Vikings are then placed second.
– All Scout (green) Vikings are then placed third.
– All Noble (red) Vikings are then placed fourth.
– All Warrior (black) Vikings are then placed fifth.
– Finally, all Boatswain (gray) Vikings are placed last.

 

 

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Using the previous example, the tiles in the stack that were removed from the board at the beginning of the Round are then revealed one at a time, and placed around the stone table according to their type. After all have been revealed, we can see that spaces 0 through 8 consists of Land tiles, while spaces 9 through 11 consist of Ship tiles.

 

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Player A (the current start player) then draws 12 random Vikings from the bag, that when revealed consists of 3 Fishermen (blue), 2 Goldsmith (yellow), 4 Nobles (red), 1 Warrior (black), and 2 Boatswains (gray). Unfortunately, no Scouts (green) were drawn during this 1st Round.

 

The Vikings are then placed around the stone table, in regards to their specific order according to the placement rules. After the Tiles from the stack and Vikings from the bag have been placed, the areas that revolve around the table should look like the picture above.

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After Tiles and Vikings have been placed in their designated spaces around the table, four Special tiles are drawn from amongst the two Special tile stacks and placed face up in their designated spaces on the game board. These are unique tiles with special abilities that can be gained and used during the game.

 

 

 

2.) Recruit & Explore Phase – Once the Vikings have assembled and new lands have been discovered and placed around the table, the Vikings Lords (the players) will take turns recruiting these new members into their clan, along with purchasing sections of the various newly explored lands. Beginning with the Start player, each player (moving clockwise from player to player) will choose which combination of Viking recruit and Land/Ship tile he wants to purchase. The player may never take the free combination (Viking recruit and Land/Ship tile at the 0 space), unless one of the following holds true:

 

– The color of the Viking on the 0 space is the last available Viking of that color.

 

– If the player does not have enough Coins to purchase any other available combination, he can take the 0 space combination.

 

 

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Each Viking recruit is tied to the Land/Ship tile that is placed in the same section as it, around the table. Player must take a combination on their turn and must take the Viking and Tile located in the space by paying the cost connected to it on the table. For example, taking a look at the picture above, if player A were to purchase the Goldsmith and Land tile located on the #3 space on the table, he would pay 3 Coins and transfer the Goldsmith Viking and the Land tile from this space on the table, to his personal player board. At any point that the Viking/Tile combination is take from the 0 space, the table will rotate clockwise, until a new combination is set at the 0 space.

 

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For example, later in the Round, Player B takes the last Fisherman on the game board (which is located at the 0 space), along with the Land tile attached to it. Since there are no longer a combination at this location, the table will rotate clockwise until it gets to the space with the Noble.

 

 

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Since the table rotates, all remaining available combinations eventually become cheaper. In the example above, the 2nd Noble/Land tile combination began the Round costing a player 6 Coins. After the table rotated however, it decreased its cost to only 1 Coin. Being that Coins are such an important commodity in being able to purchase the combinations you need, it becomes rather important to balance the supply and demand elements of certain favorable combinations, with the risk in waiting for that specific combination to become cheaper later in the Round.

 

 

 

Placing Tiles:

Once purchased, there are very specific ways in which Vikings and Tiles can be placed in the player’s area. There are 3 different types of standard Land tiles; beginning tiles, middle tiles, and end tiles. Beginning tiles will always be the leftmost tile in the make up of an island, in the same way that end tiles will always be the rightmost tile that will complete an island. To extend the length of an island, players can choose to place as many middle tiles to the right of a beginning tile, before completing the island with the placement of an end tile. Once an end tile is placed, that island is considered complete and no more middle tiles can be added.

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Players can place tiles in spaces that are connected to the leftmost side of the player board (these must be beginning tiles) or anywhere else in the play area as long as they are directly adjacent to at least one other tile (cannot be placed diagonally). Land tiles must always be placed so that land connects land, and sea connects sea. Therefore, a middle tile could not be placed on the right side of a end tile.

While a majority of the standard tiles are Land Tiles, players will also obtain Ship Tiles during the game. These represent invading Viking clans that attempt to take out the various Vikings placed on a player’s islands. Ships must always be placed along the row containing the ship icon towards the top section of the player’s board. All other Land tiles can be placed in any of the Viking rows as long as they do not break the normal placement rules for the islands. When the player purchases a combination (Viking/Tile) from the game board, he immediately places the Land/Ship tile into the corresponding space in his play area. If the player can not place a Land tile because there are no allowable areas, he must discard the tile from the game.

 

 

Placing Vikings:

After placing the tile, the player can immediately place the Viking on top of the Land tile he just placed, as long as the tile was placed in that Viking’s designated row. Land tiles are limited to only 1 Viking per tile. If the Viking can not be placed (or the player chooses not to place him at this time), the Viking is placed on the top left-hand corner space of the player board that depicts the Boatswain. These collected Vikings will remain at this location until a Boatswain can ferry them to one of the available islands.

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Player C purchased a Noble Viking and a middle Land tile during his turn. He has an available space to add this tile to his Noble island in his play area, and does so. He then places the matching Noble Viking on this tile. He is allowed to do so immediately after placing the tile, since the tile was placed in the Noble Viking’s row.

 

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On his next turn, he purchases a Scout Viking and a beginning Land tile. He does not currently have any available spaces to add this tile to his Scout island, since the only other tile there is already a beginning Land tile.

 

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Therefore, he would have to place the Scout on the Boatswain space. He places the beginning Tile he purchased this turn on the Fishermen row in order to start a new island there.

 

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Special Tiles:

At any time during these turns, if the player purchases the highest valued Viking/Tile combination available, he also receives one of the Special tiles available on the game board. These will grant bonus abilities for the player during the game. Once all four available Special tiles have been removed from the board during a Round, new ones are not drawn until the Draw Phase of the next Round. Let’s take a look at some of these Special tiles and what they can award players.

 

Building Bonus

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During the game, players will find Land tiles with various types of buildings. There are also Special tiles that contain these same buildings types. When a player takes one of these Special tiles, he can replace it with a Land tile containing the same building in his play area. If he does not have a Land tile with the same building, he can keep the Special tile to the side until he does. At the end of the game, if this tile is in a player’s area, he will score 1 Victory point for a Viking on this tile, as well as 1 Victory point for every Viking on a Land tile surrounding this one (includes diagonally).

 

 

Goldsmith Bonus

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When a player obtains this tile, he will place it to the left of the Goldsmith icon on his player board. Normally, a player will gain 3 Coins for every active Goldsmith in his play area after each Round. This special tile however will add an additional Coin for each active Goldsmith when calculating this scoring.

 

 

Victory Point Ratio Bonus

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Normally at the end of the game, 1 Victory Point is awarded for every 5 Coins a player has remaining. If a player gains this Special tile however, that ratio becomes 1 Victory Point for every 3 Coins.

 

 

3.) Scoring Phase – Scoring will occur at the end of each of the 6 Rounds in the game, though there are 3 different types of scoring amongst these Rounds.

 

– The ends of Rounds 1, 3, and 5 (odd numbered Rounds) will have a small scoring phase that is comprised of resolving only Goldsmiths.

– The ends of Rounds 2, 4, and 6 (even numbered Rounds) will have a large scoring phase that is comprised of resolving all Viking types (excluding Fishermen), along with resolving Ships as well.

– The end of Round 6 also has a final scoring phase (completed after the normal large scoring phase) which will provide end-game scoring bonuses and resolves the Fishermen.

 

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Vikings will only score if they are considered active. Invading Ships can cause a Viking to become inactive if the Ship is able to affect it. Ships will attempt to attack Vikings that are directly below the column the Ship is in. Each Ship contains a color, and that color corresponds to how far down the Ship will attack. For instance, taking a look at the picture above, if the Ship was green, it would attack all Viking types ending with the green Viking (Scout). Therefore, a green Ship’s attack would not affect a Goldsmith or a Fisherman in that column. If a Viking has been attacked, it is laid face down and will not resolve its bonuses during the Scoring phase. The only way to protect these Vikings from invading Ships is by placing a Warrior Viking in front of the Ship. This will repel any attack from that Ship.

Let’s now take a look at each type of Scoring Phase and how Coins and Victory Points are accounted for during these phases. Remember that a Viking type will only resolve scoring if it is considered active.

 

 

Small Scoring Phase (Rounds 1, 3, and 5):

At the end of each of these Rounds, players will total their number of active Goldsmiths. The player will earn 3 Coins for every active Goldsmith in his play area. For example, Round 5 has been completed and the small scoring phase begins. Player A currently has 3 Goldsmiths in play area, however 1 of them is inactive because of a Ship invasion. Therefore, Player A would collect 6 Coins during this phase (3 per active Goldsmith).

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Large Scoring Phase (Rounds 2, 4, and 6):

At the end of each of these Rounds, players will score Victory Points, collect Coins, and ferry various Vikings to their newly discovered lands. The Large Scoring Phase resolves in the following order:

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– A player can place 1 Viking from his Boatswain area onto an available Land tile, for every Boatswain Viking he owns. For instance, if a player has 3 Boatswain Vikings, he can place 3 other Vikings from his Boatswain area to the various available Land tiles during this action.

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– Next, all Warrior Vikings resolve. If a Warrior Viking defends against a Ship in its column, the player gains the reward according to the icon on the Ship. For instance, taking a look at the above Ship tile, if the player defended this Ship with one of his Warriors, it would earn him 2 Victory Points.

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– Next, the player will earn 2 Victory Points for each active Noble in his player area.

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– Then players will resolve their Scouts. An active Scout by itself is worth 1 Victory Point. However, if a Goldsmith is also in the same column as the Scout, the player will earn another Victory Point. On top of this, if a Fisherman is in the same column as the Scout, the player will then again score another Victory Point. Taking a look at the picture below, Player B would score a total of 6 Victory Points for his 3 active Scouts. Three Victory Points for the 1st column, one for the 2nd column, and two for the 3rd column.

– As with the small scoring phase, the large scoring phase also resolves the Goldsmith Vikings. Coins are earned in the exact same way here, as they are during the small scoring phase.

 

 

Final Scoring (Round 6):

After the 6th Round’s Large Scoring phase, the game ends and a Final Scoring phase triggers to calculate the final Victory Points that player’s will earn in the game. There are six ways players can earn (or lose) Victory Points during this final scoring phase:

1.) If players have Ships in their play area that are not defended by a Warrior at the end of the game, the player will lose the amount of Victory Points or Coins that is depicted on the Ship itself.

2.) Players will earn 1 Victory Point for every 5 Coins they have left over at the end of the game.

3.) The player that has the most Boatswain Vikings in his player board receives 10 Victory Points.

4.) The player that has the most completed islands in his play area receives 7 Victory Points.

5.) The player that has the longest individual island in his play area receives 5 Victory Points.

6.) Fishermen Vikings are finally resolved. At the end of the game, players must be able to feed their Vikings, which is done so according to the amount of Fishermen a player has in his play area. A single Fisherman can create a total of 5 servings, thus feed a total of 5 Vikings (includes himself). If after feeding all of the Vikings in the play area, a Fisherman has extra servings left over, the player receives 2 Victory Points for each of his Vikings that can eat twice. If the player does not have enough Fishermen to feed all of his Vikings, the player will lose 1 Victory Point for each Viking that can not be fed.

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For example, Player A finished the game with 4 Fishermen and 18 total Vikings. Since he could feed a total of 20 Vikings with his 4 Fishermen, he would be able to feed an extra serving to 2 of the Vikings. Therefore, he would score a bonus 4 Victory Points (2 Victory Points for each of the extra servings).

 

After totaling up Victory Points from this Final Scoring phase, the player with the most Victory Points wins the game.

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Thoughts:

Vikings is a classic tile-placing design that combines various elements of management. Risk management; in when to obtain the most valued Viking/Tile combinations. Area management; in that players need to explore islands in a way that will not only provide space for their various types of Vikings, but also focus on completing a number of islands and/or trying to complete the longest island. Viking management; in obtaining a balance of different types of Vikings, especially Warriors that are needed to protect all other Vikings. And maybe most important of all, resource management. Although 20 Coins may seem like a lot to begin the game with, money runs out fast in this game, and not being able to afford the valued combinations you’ll need to succeed can severely hurt one’s chances in winning.

The game is simple enough to learn and teach. The concept of forming islands and placing Vikings on their allowed tiles is intuitive and easy to grasp for new players. The challenge however, comes in the various strategies built around how to balance everything in your favor. Since there are only 6 Rounds, players will have a limited amount of time to develop a direct plan for amassing Coins and Victory Points, while balancing which types of Viking recruits they’ll place on their islands. While every Viking type can provide Victory Points for players, the game’s strategy revolves around maximizing those points based on the opportunities provided.

The theme doesn’t necessarily convey the true mechanics and aspects of the game. While the Viking theme is appealing, some may be disappointed to know that there is no direct conflict, nor pillaging of any sorts in the game. However, don’t let this simple fact be a deterrent. Vikings is a classic, one that rewards clever decision making and deductive management. It’s a game that works for all ages, and one that deserved a 2nd printing long ago.

 

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