Radio Review #91 – Champions of Midgard

 

cover_Champions-of-Midgard

(2015 – Grey Fox Games)

 

“We come from the land of the ice and snow….”

 

Although Caylus is most considered the birth of the modern-day worker placement mechanic, 2012’s Lords of Waterdeep became the streamlined, worker placement gateway game that pops up every now and again, crossing beyond the borders of the board game hobby and into a more mainstream setting. Although completely enamored when it was released, I never expected Lords of Waterdeep to reach the audience it has. However, if there was a single complaint that seemed to bear the most weight within the gaming community, it was the lack of theme and detachment from the Dungeon & Dragons source material it was named after. Three years later, designer Ole Steiness (Police Precinct) has built upon the basics of these worker placement concepts while implementing die collection, die rolling, and set collection in a more thematic way, with Champions of Midgard.

The Jarl is dead. Word has spread to the threats that border the region. The clan’s village is vulnerable. And the Champions of Midgard must act to protect their people. Each player takes on the role of a Viking Champion, each with their own special ability. Using a worker placement mechanic, players will send workers to various locations amongst the village and outer regions beyond to gather resources, protect their village from oncoming threats, and ultimately gain glory (Victory Points) in hopes of being crowned the next Jarl. Unlike Waterdeep, when players hire Warriors, they come in the way of dice (Swordsmen, Spearmen, and Axemen) that are actually rolled when attacking an enemy. Player’s will need to assign these Warriors to the threat they wish to extinguish, but must be careful in deciding how many to send. Enemies can potentially destroy these units, removing them from the player. The village expects its Champions to protect them, and failing to do so against certain enemies may gain the players a negative amount of glory. Players will also be able to draw secret objectives, which if they are completed by the end of the game, will earn bonus glory. At the end of the game, the player with the most Victory Points (glory) is the winner and crowned the new Jarl of Midgard.

 

 

 

Components:

– Champions of Midgard game board

 

– Player boards

 

– Market tiles

 

– Longship tiles

 

– Merchant Ship cards

 

– Journey cards

 

– Rune cards

 

– Destiny cards

 

– Troll cards

 

– Draugr cards

 

– Monster cards

 

– Warrior dice

 

– Workers and Player markers (a set for each player color)

 

– Food and Wood tokens

 

– Favor tokens

 

– Blame tokens

 

– Wound tokens

 

– Gold coins

 

– Round marker & Start Player tile

 

 

 

Characters

Before discussing gameplay, I first wanted to take a look at the Champions themselves and the various special abilities that they contain. Some of these abilities will make more sense as we walk through the different elements and mechanics of the game, but I wanted to go ahead and list them here as a reference point.

Asmunder the Pious – As seen on the left, Asmunder has the ability to use his Favor tokens for free. Usually a player will need to discard a Favor token in order to reroll any number of dice. Favor tokens still in hand are worth 2 Victory Points at the end of the game. Therefore, Asmunder can spend his Favor tokens to reroll, but still keep them in hand for end-game scoring purposes.

Dagrun the Destined – As seen in the middle, Dagrun has the ability to draw an extra Destiny card when visiting the Sage’s Hut. She can then choose to keep one of the two cards, returning the other to the bottom of the Destiny card draw deck. Destiny cards have objective which if completed by the end of the game will gain the player bonus Victory Points.

Gylfir the Seaworthy – As seen on the right, Gylfir has the ability to send a worker to the Merchant Ship and gain the Warriors/Resources listed on the card without having to pay the Gold cost. All opposing Champions must pay the cost when visiting this location.

Svanhildr the Swordmaiden – As seen on the left, Svanhildr has the ability to add +1 hit with her Swordsmen. Swordsmen are generally the weaker of the three types of Warriors, but if Svanhildr’s Swordmen roll for a hit, it counts as 2 hits instead. A Swordsman that rolls a double hit, counts it as 3 hits instead.

Ullr the Berserker – Last but certainly not least, as seen on the right, anytime Ullr scores at least 1 double-hit result when rolling his Warrior dice, he will immediately score 1 Victory Point.

 

 

 

Setup:

The game board is essentially divided into three main areas. The northern portion of the board is where Trolls will attempt to invade the village, as well as where players can sent their warriors to assist neighboring villages with fighting the Draugr. Players can also send warriors to the north to hunt for food and gather resources.

At the beginning of the game, players will shuffled the deck of Troll cards and shuffled the deck of Draugr cards and place them face down in their corresponding sections on the board. The Round marker is also placed on the 1st space of the Round track.

The middle portion of the game board houses the Vikings’ village. Here players can visit various market stalls and buildings within the village in order to gain resources, an additional worker, build a personal longship, amongst other things. Players may also visit the local Runesmith to gain new Rune cards (in-game bonuses) and the Sage’s Hut in order to gain new Destiny cards (possible end-game bonuses).

At the beginning of the game, players will randomly place a set of Military and Economic market stall tiles onto a number of spaces in the village depending on the number of players in the game. In a 4-player game, two Military and two Economic tiles are placed. Military stalls will function as places were players can gain new warriors (dice), whereas they can visit Economic market stalls to gain certain types of resources. Since the game includes four of each of these types of stalls, players will always have varying combinations from game session to session.

Below these market stalls is a dock that houses the Merchant Ship. There are 8 total Merchant Ship cards, and a new one is drawn at the beginning of each Round for players to use. When a player visits the Merchant Ship, he’ll need to pay a coin, then is awarded with the amounts of resources or warriors listed on the card. At the beginning of the game, these cards are shuffled together and placed face down on this space.

Every Round, an additional Warrior of each type and a Food token is placed in the village. There is a separate village space for each of these items. At the beginning of the game, 1 Swordsman (white die), 1 Spearman (red die), 1 Axman (black die), and a food token are placed on these spaces. Players will also place a Worker of their color on the adjacent Worker Hut location. This additional Worker can be gained by going here and spending a certain number of Gold coins.

To the left of the Worker Hut are the Runesmith and Sage House locations. The Rune cards are shuffled together and placed face down on the Runesmith space. These cards will not only give the receiving player a special ability that he can perform during the game when playing it from his hand, but also a certain amount of Victory Points at the end of the game. The Destiny cards are then shuffled and placed face down on the Sage House space. These cards will offer end-game Victory Points if the player can achieve the quest listed on the card. For instance, being the player that has killed the most Draugr by the end of the game. Players will draw a Destiny card to begin with from this deck at the beginning of the game.

The Southern portion of the board includes the open sea and the dangerous monsters that inhabit it. Players send a group of Vikings by ship to destroy them, but these monsters are usually stronger than the Trolls and Draugr found in the north. However, they do provide a higher amount of Victory Points. At the beginning of the game, all of the Monster cards are shuffled to create a draw deck which is placed on its corresponding space. The set of smaller Journey cards are also shuffled and placed in a draw deck right above it. These are cards that players will need to interact with before attacking a monster, and these can include forcing the player to lose a number of Vikings and/or food.

Players are only able to reach these monsters by ship, and the main dock sets at the edge of the village. There are two longships that are available for all players to use during the game. Players will load combinations of Vikings and food on the boat before their journey out to sea. If the players do not have enough food to feed their Vikings by the time they attack a monster, some of their Vikings may die from starvation (lose a number of their warrior dice). Players also have the opportunity to build their own longships, and these boats are placed to the left side of the game board near the dock.

Once the game board has been set up, each player receives a player board the includes their Viking leader, their listed special ability, and eight spaces for their warrior dice. They also receive three Workers in their color, a Swordsman (white die), a Food token, a Wood token, a Favor token, and a Gold coin. If you’ll remember, players also received a Destiny card in their hand earlier during setup.

 

All remaining components including Warrior dice, Favor token, Blame tokens, Damage tokens, Gold coins, Wood tokens, and Food tokens are placed in a general supply area near the board. Players will determine a Start Player and that player receives the Start Player tile. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:

 

 

 

Gameplay:

The main mechanic found in Champions of Midgard is worker placement. As with any worker placement game, on a player’s turn he will place one of his available workers on one of the many locations on the board. Each location contains a circular space attached to the location that will house the worker. Once placed there the player will resolve the location and access to this location is now blocked to any other player’s worker.

A game of Champions of Midgard includes 8 Rounds, and in each Round players will take turns (clockwise starting with the Start Player) and place one worker on a location space. This continues until all players have placed their workers are the locations have been resolved. Each Round is comprised of 5 phases; the Refresh Phase, the Worker Phase, the Warrior Phase, the Combat Phase, and the Cleanup Phase. Let’s take a look at how each phase works:

 

 

I. The Refresh Phase:

At the beginning of each Round, a number of cards need to be replenished from the various draw decks on the game board. A new Troll and two new Draugr cards are placed face-up in their corresponding spaces at beginning of each Round. As we’ll discuss during the Cleanup Phase, any remaining face-up cards in these areas at the end of a Round are discarded from the game.

A new Merchant Ship is also revealed at the beginning of a Round, replacing the previous one. Players can send a Worker to this location and pay a Gold coin in order to receive a number of Warriors or Resources; usually more than they would normally get at any other location.

In the 1st Round of the game, during the Refresh Phase, three Monsters are drawn and placed face-up in the Monster area. During future Rounds, Monster cards are only drawn and placed in empty, available spaces. Unlike the Troll and Draugr cards, Monsters are not discarded from the game from Round to Round. Instead, if they still remain at the end of a Round, a Gold coin is placed on them and players will gain this extra Gold when defeating them. Journey cards are placed out in the same way as Monster cards, though they are kept face-down. If any of these spaces are empty during the Refresh Phase, a new Journey card is drawn, otherwise the remaining cards stay in place.

Finally, at the beginning of each Round, a new Food token, Swordsman (white die), Spearman (red die), and Axeman (black die) are placed in the corresponding village locations, whether there are any remaining there from previous Rounds or not.

 

 

II. The Worker Phase:

During a player’s turn, he will place one of his Workers on one of the various locations on the game board. Players continue clockwise placing one Worker at a time until all players have run out of Workers. Starting with the various locations in the Village, let’s take a look at what these areas can provide:

 

 

The Market Stalls

There are 8 different Market Stalls (4 military and 4 economic) and 4 of them (2 and 2) at random will be used in a 4-player game. Taking a look at the two economic stalls shown, we can see that by going to the Wealthy Stranger the player will receive 2 Gold coins. By going to the Generous Merchant, the player will receive a Wood and a Food.

 

 

The Merchant Ship

Below the Market Stalls on the east side of the village sits the Merchant Ship. Players will need to pay a Gold here, but can gain up to three Warriors, or even three Resources depending on the card. There are 8 cards in the draw deck and each card only stays active for one turn before being removed from the game.

 

 

The Swordsmith, Hafter, Blacksmith, & Smokehouse

As mentioned before, a new item according to the location, is placed in each of these spaces during every Refresh Phase. When a player goes to one of these locations, he’ll collect all items on that space. So for instance, if no players send a worker to the Hafter until the 3rd Round, he will collect all three Spearmen dice that are on that would be there.

 

 

Worker Huts & Stave Church

The only way for a player to gain his additional worker is to send another worker to the Worker Huts location (left of the Swordsmith, Hafter, and Blacksmith spaces). When doing so he’ll need to spend a number of Gold coins based on how many other players have previously visited this location. If he is the 1st player to send a worker here, he’ll need to pay 5 Gold coins, if he was the 2nd player to visit here, he would spend 4 Gold coins, and so on. Once his money has been spent, the new worker is added to his play area and can be placed out on his next turn.

Players will gain Favor tokens when destroying Monsters at sea. Favor tokens are worth 2 Victory Points each at the end of the game. Players gain only 1 Victory Point for every Gold coin at the end of the game. Therefore, it may be beneficial for a player to visit the Stave Church where he can donate Gold coins to receive Favor tokens:

– Donating 1 Gold coin earns 1 Favor token
– Donating 3 Gold coins earns 2 Favor tokens
– Donating 6 Gold coins earns 3 Favor tokens
– Donating 10 Gold coins earns 4 Favor tokens

 

 

 

Jarl’s Longhouse & The Market

At the northern end of the Village sits the Jarl’s Longhouse and the Market. Players that send a worker to the Jarl’s Longhouse will immediately receive the Start Player tile and collect a Swordsman (white die). If however you are the current Start Player and you go to this location, the Start Player tile is given to the player to your left.

Players can go to the Market to freely trade Food, Gold coins, and Wood with the general supply at a direct 1:1 ratio. This can be a helpful location towards the latter part of the game when players are overstocked on one resource, or desperate for a particular resource and all other locations provided it are taken.

 

 

The Runesmith & Sage’s House

When visiting the Runesmith, the player must pay a Wood token, then can choose to take one of the face-up Rune cards or draw a random one from the draw deck. Each Rune card contains an amount of Victory Points that it’ll be worth at the end of the game as well as an ability that the player can activate when playing the card from his hand.

For instance, the Gifts rune card (when activated) gains the player any combination of four resources; wood, food, and gold. It is also worth 2 Victory Points at the end of the game. Potential allows the player to reroll any dice with blank facings after rolling these dice when hunting or in combat. It is worth 3 Victory Points at the end of the game.

At the beginning of the game, players received a Destiny card which gave them a quest to complete at the end of the game. Players can earn additional Destiny cards by visiting the Sage’s House. When visiting here, the player will draw the top Destiny card and is also allowed to look at (in secret) one of the Journey cards that have been placed in front of the Monster cards in the southern region of the game board. This will give the player information on what types of obstacles may come in the way during a journey on the longship to face that particular Monster. Taking a look at the two Destiny cards above, the Craftsman quest awards a player 5 Victory Points at the end of the game if he has the most Wood token, or 2 Victory Points if he is tied for the most. Trollslayer meanwhile awards the player with 6 Victory Points at the end of the game if he has killed the most Trolls, or 3 Victory Points if he is tied with the most.

 

 

The Hunting Grounds & Fight the Troll

Unlike all other locations on the board, any number of players can use the Hunting Grounds location in order to hunt for Food. Players will roll a number of their Warrior die and collect Food tokens based on how many of those dice resulted in successful “hit” facings (up to a max of six Food). It’s important to note that when sending a worker to this location, and any other location which require the player to roll a number of his dice, the Vikings dice are not assigned to the locations until after all players have finished placing out their workers. When resolving the Hunting Grounds during the Combat Phase, the player will roll all of his remaining Warrior dice not assigned to any other locations (Troll, Draugr, and Longships).

Only one player can Fight the Troll per Round, though having someone fight the Troll is important for all players. If no one kills the Troll during a Round, all players receive a Blame token from the villagers for not defending them. A Blame token itself is not horrible (-1 Victory Point at the end of the game), but accumulating multiple Blame tokens by the end of the game can be disastrous.

– A player with 1 Blame token at the end of the game loses 1 Victory Point.

 

– A player with 2 Blame tokens at the end of the game loses 3 Victory Points.

– A player with 3 Blame tokens at the end of the game loses 6 Victory Points.

– A player with 4 Blame tokens at the end of the game loses 10 Victory Points.

– A player with 5 Blame tokens at the end of the game loses 15 Victory Points.

– A player with 6 or more Blame tokens at the end of the game loses 21 Victory Points.

 

Each Troll has an amount of damage it can potentially do to the player listed in the top left corner, and the Troll’s defense amount in the top right corner. If defeated it also awards an amount of Victory Points listed in the bottom left corner and a Wood token. Each Draugr and Monster enemy contains a colored border around the card. If players collect sets (1 blue, 1 red, and 1 yellow) of these cards, they will score bonus Victory Points at the end of the game. If you’ll notice, Troll cards do not contain colored borders. However, if a player is able to successfully kill the Troll, he is able to remove a Blame token. He will also be allowed to take a Blame token from the general supply and give it to another player. I’ll discuss more about resolving combat here in a bit.

 

 

Fight the Draugr

Each Round, there are two Draugr that players can choose to fight. Unlike Trolls, choosing not to fight the Draugr has no consequence to the players, though any remaining at the end of the Round will be discarded and replaced with two new ones. The Draugr have similar damage and defense stats on their cards, as well as rewarded Victory Points listed, same as the Trolls. In addition, some Draugr are immune to certain types of Warrior attacks. The symbol they are immune to are listed at the bottom of the card with a red “X”. Any Warriors that are sent to fight an enemy with an immunity to their particular icon are destroyed before combat resolves, meaning they are removed from play before they are even rolled. For instance, taking a look at the Draugr card above (on the left), we can see that this enemy ignores all damage from Axemen, only taking damage from Swordsmen and Spearmen. Any Axemen sent to attack him would be immediately destroyed before rolling them. Each Draugr card also lists an amount of Gold coins at the bottom right of the card as a reward for the player killing it.

 

 

The Shipwright & Longships

When players wish to send Warriors to fight Monsters in the sea and in lands beyond, they must load Warriors and Food into one of the ships to journey out. There are two public Longships available to all players at the beginning of the game; one that can hold a maximum quantity of 5, and the other a maximum quantity of 10. When sending a worker to one of the Longships, a player will need to pay 1 Gold. He will then move the Longship into one of the three available sea spaces opposing one of the Monsters. Players will not need to assign Warriors to these Longships yet, they are simply showing which area they will be journeying to. You can think of this as the Vikings planning out their journey.

While there are only two public Longships available to everyone, players can send a worker to the Shipwright location in order to build a Longship of their own. Each of these private Longships have a building cost that may require a combination of Gold and resources. Once built, the private Longship is placed beside the player’s personal board and can only be used by him for the rest of the game. These private Longships are also worth various amounts of Victory Points at the end of the game, shown on the bottom of the tile. Players can never build more than 1 private Longship.

 

 

 

III. The Warrior Phase:

After all players have finished sending out all of their Workers, players will begin to assign their Warrior dice in the following ways:

– The player attacking the Troll will place Warriors on the Troll card and players attacking the Draugr will place Warriors on the Draugr cards.

 

– Players with embarking Longships will place a number of Warriors and Food tokens on their ship tile. This combination can not exceed the quantity listed on the tile. Therefore if a player is using the Small Public Longship (quantity of 5), he could not assign 3 Warriors and 3 Food. Food is important because Warriors must be fed in order to survive the sea journey before attacking Monsters. Different sea spaces have differing Food requirements per Warrior. Players will check to make sure they have enough Food to feed all of their Warriors right before resolving combat with the Monster. If there is not enough Food, the player will need to discard the number of Warriors he can not feed, then roll the remaining dice. I’ll discuss this more in detail in a bit.

– Finally, as mentioned before, any remaining unassigned Warriors are placed in the Hunting Grounds if the player has sent a Worker there.

 

 

 

IV. The Combat Phase:

And now we battle! For Valhalla!! After all players have assigned their Warriors, combat with these Warrior dice will resolve, beginning with the Hunting Grounds. As mentioned above, when a player rolls his remaining dice not assigned to any other area for the Hunting Grounds, he gains a number of Food equal to the number of total hits rolled. So for instance, if Player B rolls four Warriors that result in the die facings seen above, he will gain 3 Food tokens.

When fighting the Troll, Draugr, and Monsters, players will roll all assigned Warriors, damaging the enemy with Wound tokens depending on the number of “hits” rolled, and blocking the enemies attack value with any “shields” rolled. Any unblocked damage taken from the enemy will result in the player having to destroy that many assigned Warriors. Players can spend a Favor token in order to reroll any number of dice, and may spend multiple Favor tokens to perform this over and over until choosing to resolve combat. However, remember that Favor tokens are worth 2 Victory Points each at the end of the game. When defeating the enemy, the player will collect the enemy’s card next to his player board, collecting the listed rewards on the card. If the enemy was not completely destroyed, and the player still has assigned Warriors alive, he must roll for combat again and assess damage, continuing this until either the enemy has been destroyed or all of his Warriors have been destroyed.

After the Hunting Grounds area is resolved, if a player had chosen to fight the Troll, he would roll the Warriors he assigned there. As mentioned earlier, if no player chose to fight the Troll this Round (or the assigned player fails to kill him), all players immediately receive a Blame token. If the player is able to kill the Troll, he receives the Victory Points listed on the Troll card, along with a Wood token. He will also be able to discard a Blame token to the general supply. Whether he had a Blame token to discard or not, during the Cleanup Phase, he will also give a Blame token to one of his opponents from the general supply for being a complete coward.

Player C has chosen to fight the Troll seen above with 3 Swordsman and an Axeman. The Troll does 2 damage and has 2 defense. The player rolls his four dice resulting in two blank facings, a shield facing, and a double hit facing. Because he was able to match the Trolls defense with hits, he has successfully killed the Troll.

 

He will lose one of his Warriors since the Troll dealt 2 damage and he only rolled a single shield to block. He chooses to destroy one of his Swordsmen, sending him back to the general supply, or as I like to thematically refer to it as Valhalla. Since he’s killed the Troll, Player C gains 5 Victory Points and a Wood token. After the Combat Phase, during the Cleanup steps, he will remove a Blame token from beside his player board, and then choose to give an opponent a Blame token from the supply.

After the Troll space has been resolved, players assigned to the Draugr enemies will resolve their combat in the same way, beginning with the Draugr to the left. Remember that some Draugr are limited to certain types of Warriors who can attack them. By killing a Darugr, players will receive the Victory Points and Gold listed on the card as rewards. Unlike Trolls, players are not penalized for failing to kill Draugr or Monsters.

Combat then moves to the sea region. Although not specifically stated on the game board, the two leftmost sea spaces are considered the furthest away from the village, while the two rightmost spaces are considered a fair bit closer. Think of the leftmost spaces as being month-long journeys while the rightmost spaces are week-long journeys. This is important to remember because players will need more Food to feed their Warriors when embarking on the longer journeys on the left side as opposed to the shorter journeys on the right. Immediately before rolling assigned Warriors for Combat against the Monsters (after resolving Journey cards, seen below), players will need to check to make sure they have enough Food to feed their Vikings. If they do not, they’ll need to destroy a number of Vikings until they can successfully feed the remaining ones.

 

– For the two leftmost sea spaces, 1 Food will feed 1 Warrior.
– For the two rightmost sea spaces, 1 Food will feed 2 Warriors.

 

 

Journey cards can further disrupt the Warriors sea expedition, therefore an important reason for players to visit the Sage’s Hut so that they may secretly look at these cards before embarking on their journeys. Combat with Monsters will resolve from sea spaces on the left to those on the right. Each space contains an attached Journey card and Monster.

When resolving combat, the Journey card is revealed and resolved. Some Journey cards may contain nothing, while others will require players to lose a Food, destroy a Viking, or in the case of the Kraken card, will have to resolve a separate combat with the creature himself, which may result in him losing Food and Warriors. After resolving the Journey card, players will then check to make sure they can feed their Warriors with the leftover food provisions, then combat will take place with the Monster. All Food tokens are discarded before Combat begins.

Monsters are the most powerful enemies in the game, therefore they provide the most Victory Points when defeating them. They’ll also provide a Favor token as a reward. As with the Draugr cards, each Monster card has a colored border of blue, red, or yellow. As mentioned before, this will be important when tallying bonus Victory Points at the end of the game.

 

 

 

V. The Cleanup Phase:

After all combat has been resolved, players will perform a few steps of cleanup before a new Round begins. Players will take back all of their placed Workers and return any used Longships back to their space. Each player receives a Blame token if the Troll was not killed this Round, then the Troll card is discarded. Any remaining Draugr and face-up Journey cards are also discarded, however remaining Monster cards are kept in place. Instead of discarding them, a Gold coin is placed on each one remaining, therefore increasing the reward for killing them in future Rounds.

 

 

 

End-Game Scoring:

The game will end after the completion of the 8th Round. Players will add the following bonus Victory Points to their current score on the game board:

 

Victory Points earned from Destiny cards. If the player is the only one to have completed the objective on his Destiny card, he’ll score the full amount on the card. If he has tied the condition with at least one other player, he will score the lower amount of Victory Points on the card.

– Players will score the listed Victory Points on all Relic cards, whether they resolved their abilities or not.

– For every enemy card set (blue, red, and yellow cards), a player will score 5 Victory Points. The colors are the only thing that matters in this case. Cards in a set do not have to be the same type of enemy.

– Any player that built a private Longship will score the number of Victory Points listed on the Longship tile. If you’ll remember, each player can only build one private Longship in a game.

– Every Favor token a player has at the end of the game is worth 2 Victory Points.

– Players will receive a Victory Point for every 3 Gold coins he has remaining.

– Finally players will lose the corresponding amount of Victory Points based on how many Blame tokens they have at the end of the game.

 

The player with the most Victory Points is the winner and considered the Champion of Midgard!

 

 

 

Thoughts:

Although they’ll be compared quite often with the worker placement mechanic and similar included gameplay elements, Lords of Waterdeep and Champions of Midgard are still quite different from each other. In Lord’s of Waterdeep, players are more focused on gathering resources (in the form of warriors, rogues, clerics, and wizards) in order to fulfill quests. These quest then provide rewards in the form of more resources to help fulfill other quests, and can sometimes provide ongoing bonus effects. There’s a hint of set collection in determining which types of quests to complete based on the player’s hidden character card, but for the most part completing quests the most efficiently is that main strategy in Waterdeep.

Champions of Midgard uses similar mechanics, but takes them in a much involved direction. Instead of simply gathering resources, players will also need to gather dice. They will send these dice in the form of warriors to fight for them. Players are required to manage their warriors, deciding where to send them, and how many to send. Sending too few warriors against an enemy can potentially destroy them all, while sending too many will limit how many the player can send to other locations. The warriors themselves are also different from one another. Swordsmen are weaker than Spearmen, and both contain less hit facings than the Axemen (however they contain shield facings where the Axemen do not). There’s a thematic feel to loading warriors onto a Viking longship with food provisions and sending them off to battle with huge monsters. Protecting the town from the Troll is also an interesting endeavor. While not a cooperative game in any sense, you’ll find players attempting to encourage other players to go fight the Troll so everyone doesn’t gain Blame tokens.

There’s a lot of different ways for players to score end-game bonus Victory Points, so much so that it can be hard to tell where players truly are on the Victory Point track. This is something that I absolutely love. Completed colored sets of enemies (5 Victory points each at the end of the game), completed hidden Destiny cards, and collected Rune cards are all scored at the end of the game, along with bonuses for Favor tokens and negative points from Blame tokens. It can be easy to dish out Blame tokens to the player currently in the lead throughout the game, however because of all the hidden end-game bonuses, that player may not be the leader at all. This may be a detractor for players who wish to keep track of opponents points throughout the game, but this just felt fresh to me.

Where Lords of Waterdeep uses its theme simply for functional reasons, Champions of Midgard involves its theme within the framework of the game mechanics themselves. Villagers scorn the champions if they’ve not protected them against the Troll. A journey across the ocean to battle the fiercest of monsters will require food provisions and loading the warriors on a ship. The journey can be perilous even before reaching the enemy. Visiting the Sage’s hut allows one to look into the future and envision these forthcoming tests at sea. Thematically, everything makes sense. Warriors sent to battle enemies are likely to take some casualties, and as such players will probably lose some of them, or all of them.

With the amount of success the worker placement mechanic has seen in recent years, its great to see that designers continue to find new ways to approach the genre. Champions of Midgard’s incorporation of dice combat and an embracing of theme have helped it to become one of the top releases in 2015, and one that can hopefully continue to grow with supported future expansions.

 

 

 

If you’ve enjoyed this review, make sure to “follow” the Radio Review series below. You can also show your support by “upvoting” our ranking on Boardgamelinks.com.

 

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