Radio Review #118 – Jórvík

 

cover_jorvik

(2016 – Stronghold Games, eggertspiele)

 

“All swallowed in their coats….with scarves of red tied round their throats….”

 

Stefan Feld has been on an unprecedented run over the past 5 years. But prior to the releases of Castles of Burgundy, Trajan, Strasbourg, Bora Bora, and Bruges, eggertspiele published The Speicherstadt, an auction game designed by Feld in 2010. Within two years, an expansion for The Speicherstadt, entitled Kaispeicher was released. While I’ve yet to have a chance to play the game, it’s one that’s always intrigued me by how its bidding process worked. In the game player’s controlled storehouses along a canal in Hamburg, Germany and worked to bid on and collect cards, which contained various uses. The actions on these cards helped players build upon the numerous aspects of their storehouse, whether it be unloading cargo from ships, fulfilling contracts to your wholesalers, allocating different types of goods to specific vendors, or even employing firemen to help protect your storehouse from tragedy.

The most interesting aspect of the game was its bidding system. As these cards came up for auction, each was placed below a storehouse containing a column of multiple floor spaces. Players would place their workers out onto these floor spaces, and each worker added to a particular column would increase the overall cost to buy the card at that column. Purchase priority would go to the player that placed their worker there first, however if he chose to pass, his worker was removed and priority would go to the next worker in line. Since the previous worker had been removed, the cost to purchase this card no decreased by 1. The Kaispeicher expansion added a whole new way to bid for cards, allowing players to reserve cards outright instead of having multiple bids on the same card.

This year, The Speicherstadt has been rethemed with a Viking skin (not sure if that sentence went the direction I wanted it to, but I’m keeping it), and includes the additions provided by the Kaispeicher expansion; now as one full base game entitled Jórvík. Since I’ve only played Jorvik, I’ll use this review to focus on how setup works in Jorvik and how the game plays, instead of discussing how the two versions may complement or contrast one another. In Jorvik, players are Viking leaders, attempting to provide for their clans during one cycle of the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn seasons. Certain cards will appear on the board during these seasons, consisting of traders, artisans, oracles, supply ships, etc. Some cards may even provide new buildings for a player to use, or warriors that will help defend their clan from the invading Picts.

By bidding and winning auctions, players will obtain these cards and eventually add them to their personal tableau. Once there, they become active to use and can provide some special actions and abilities during the game. In this way, players are building the different aspects of their village. The cards they own provide most of what they can do during the game. After all four seasons have been completed, the player with the most Victory Points wins the game.

 

 

 

Components:

– Jórvík game board

 

– Player boards (one for each player color)

 

– Winter cards

 

– Spring cards

 

– Summer cards

 

– Autumn cards

 

– Attack of the Picts card

 

– Goods tokens (amber, glass, gold, iron, jet, leather, silk, and wool)

 

– Vikings and Victory Point markers (a set for each player color)

 

– Reserve Vikings

 

– Coins

 

– Start Player marker

 

– Cloth bag

 

 

 

Setup:

In Jorvik, players will attempt to take care of their Viking clans during the span of a full year by trading goods with passing ships along with defending their tribe from Pict invasions. The actions players will be able to resolve are based on the cards they’ve been able to collect and add to their tableau during the game. These cards are earned by an auction/bidding process, and there are different types of cards that will show up during the various seasons of the year. At the beginning of the game, the Seasons deck is created. The double-sided Attack of the Picts card is first placed on the draw pile space of the game board.

Next, players will shuffle the four season cards into their own separate deck. Each deck contains one Attack of the Pict cards along with 23-28 other action cards. After shuffling, the Autumn deck will go on top of the Attack of the Picts card, then followed by the Summer deck, Spring deck, and Winter deck in order to create one single draw deck.

Each player receives a Player board, 4 Vikings, and Victory Point marker all matching their chosen color. Each player board references the four phases of the game (along with an optional phase if the Picts invade) on the left side of the board, and default actions the players can use on the right side. Players will place their Victory Point marker on the “10” space of the Victory Point track, as it is possible for players to lose Victory Points when the Picts invade. Players also start the game with 5 Coins each.

 

Finally, all Goods are placed into the cloth bag. When ship cards are revealed from the draw deck, these Goods tokens are drawn from the bag and placed on the ships. Players that gain the ship will gain the cargo it holds. All remaining Coins and the two reserve Vikings are placed near the game board. After the initial setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:

 

 

 

Gameplay:

While there are many different types of action cards amongst the four seasons, the game itself is quite simple. The game board contains two main areas, split by a channel of water. Cards will come out, face-up onto the hut spaces adjacent to this channel. Players will take turns bidding on the cards in order to claim then and add them to their play area. Players can either place their Vikings on the lower area of the channel in order to set the price for a particular card. Each Viking on the card’s track increases its cost. Or they can place a Viking on a card in the upper area of the channel to go ahead and reserve that card. When purchasing during the Buying Phase, the player will need to pay a cost equal to how many cards have been reserved at that time. Once in a player’s tableau, the many icons listed on the cards are available for the player to use. In this way, players are building and expanding their play area and what they can do in the game. Each Round consists of four main phases; the Supply Phase, the Demand Phase, the Buying Phase, and the Loading Phase. Let’s take a look at how each of these work:

 

 

I. The Supply Phase:

At the beginning of each Supply Phase, new cards are added to the game board. Starting with the 1st hut space and moving in numerical order, a new card is drawn from the deck and placed face-up in each vacant space. Though note that some spaces may not be used in a game less than 5-players. When placing cards on the board, if a ship card is drawn, goods will need to be drawn from the cloth bag and placed on the card itself. Each ship card contains a number of empty spaces to place these goods. No ship cards will appear during the winter months, though they will appear during the spring, summer, and autumn.

For instance, a ship card containing 3 goods spaces has entered play. The Start player immediately draws 3 goods from the bag, which end up being a gold (yellow), a glass (blue), and a wool (white). If a player is able to claim this card, he’ll be able to unload the goods during Loading Phase.

 

There are times during the game in which the Picts will invade. When an “Attack of the Picts” card is revealed during the Supply Phase, players will check the defensive prowess of their clan, according to the Warrior cards in their personal tableau. Warrior cards are one of the card types that players can claim during the game and their sole purpose is to help a player defend against the Pict invasions. Players will add together the total amount of defense points amongst their Warrior cards. The player with the most defense is awarded the Pict bonus, while the player with the least amount of defense will take damage from the Picts. The bonus and damage amount increase with each additional season. There is no Attack the Picts card in the winter season. Therefore, players will play through the entire winter portion of the draw deck before having to deal with a Pict invasion.

For instance, the Attack of the Pict card is revealed during the summer season. This attack immediately awards the best defender with 2 Victory Points and forces the weakest defender to lost 2 Victory Points. Totaling the defensive points on his Warrior cards, the White has a total defense of 5.

 

Going around the table, the Red player has 2 defense, the Green and White players have 4, and the Blue player has a total of 6. Therefore, the Blue player would gain 2 Victory Points and the Red player would lose 2 Victory Points. Once the Attack of the Picts card has been dealt with, it is discarded and returned to the game box.

 

There are certain cards that a player can add to their tableau that have special bonuses when resolving the Pict invasions. For instance, the card of the left contains an ongoing ability which allows the player to double the number of defense points provided by a single Warrior card. The card to the right contains a one-time use ability allowing the player to double the Victory Point bonus provided by the Attack of the Picts card if that player was the winner. This card would then be removed from the game.

 

 

 

II. The Demand Phase:

Once all cards have been placed on the vacant numbered spaces, players will begin to bid on the cards they wish to add to their tableau. Bidding works a bit differently depending on which side of the channel the card is located. On a player’s turn, he must use one of his Vikings to bid on a card. If he chooses to bid on a card located at one of the huts below the channel (1-6), he’ll place the Viking on the next available space of the track leading to the hut.

For instance, the Blue player decides he wants to bid on the Artisan card located on hut #3. Players can sell certain goods to the Artisan here in order to complete the card and gain a number of Victory Points at the end of the game. Since the White player has previously bid here, the Blue player places his Viking in the next available space. During the Buying Phase, the maximum cost of the card will equal the number of Vikings located at its associated hut when the player chooses to purchase it.

 

If the player chooses to bid on a card located at one of the huts above the channel (7-12), he’ll place a Viking directly on the card, reserving it for purchase during the Buying Phase. When a card on huts 7-12 is reserved in this way, the card is removed from the numbered hut space and placed on the leftmost available hut space at the top of the game board. During the Buying Phase, purchasing this card will equal the number of reserved cards in this row at the top of the game board.

For instance, the Green player decides to reserve the Skald card located on hut space #9. This card shows that each ship card in his tableau at the end of the game will be worth 1 Victory Point. When placing his Viking on this card, the card is removed from the #9 space and placed in the row at the top of the board. Since it is the 1st card to be reserved this round, it is placed on the 1st (leftmost) space of the row.

 

After all players have placed their Vikings, all lower hut cards (1-6) with no Vikings on the tracks are discarded from the game, along with any upper hut cards (7-12) that were not reserved. There are a couple of cards that when in a player’s tableau can be resolved during the Demand Phase.

The Loki card on the left allows the player to discard it from the game at the end of the Demand Phase in order to exchange the positions of any two Vikings on the game board. When obtaining the Building card on the right, the player will place both Reserve Vikings on it. These Vikings are now available to the player during any future Demand Phase. However, once they’ve been placed out, they won’t return to the player at the end of the round, and at that point the Building card itself is also removed from the game.

 

 

 

III. The Buying Phase:

During the Buying Phase, each remaining card is placed up for auction beginning with the lower hut spaces (1-6) in numerical order. Beginning with space #1, the player with a Viking in the 1st position on the track corresponding to the space will have priority in buying the card. The cost of the card for him is equal to the total number of Vikings on the track (including that one). If he chooses to purchase it, he’ll pay the cost, set the card above his player board (considered the loading area), and everyone will remove any other Vikings on that particular track. If he chooses to pass however, he’ll simply return his Viking to his play area, then the player with the Viking in the 2nd position will then have an opportunity to purchase the card.

For instance, using the previous example, there are a total of 4 Vikings on the track leading to the #3 hut. Since the White player is in 1st position, he’ll have an opportunity to purchase the Artisan card there for 4 coins. He chooses to pass by removing his Viking from the track, and now the Blue player is given the opportunity to purchase the card for 3 coins (as there are currently 3 Vikings left).

 

You’ll notice that the White player also has a Viking on the 3rd space of the track. If the Blue player passes, the White player will be given another chance to buy the card/ This time for 2 coins. This is originally why he chose to pass on paying 4. He’s taking a chance that the Blue player will pass on buying the card for 3 coins. However, the Blue player really wants this Artisan card and pays the 3 coins for it, placing it above his player board in the loading area. The White and Red players will remove their remaining Vikings on this track and players will resolve the next hut space with a card.

 

After all of the 1-6 hut spaces have been resolved, the Buying Phase will continue with the cards that were reserved during the Demand Phase in spaces 7-12. As mentioned before, any cards that were reserved will be present at the top row of the game board (and at this point in the game, the only face-up cards remaining on the board). Beginning with the card reserved at the beginning of the row, that player will be able to purchase the card for a cost equal to the total number of reserved cards in the row. If he chooses to pass or simply cannot pay the cost, his Viking is returned to him and the card is removed from the game. No other player can choose to purchase it.

For instance, since the Green player is on the 1st space of the reservation row, and there are 3 cards present here when it’s his turn to buy, he’ll need to pay 3 coins to purchase the Skald card. Whether he purchases it or not, the Red player can then choose to purchase the card he chose to reserve for 2 coins. Then the White player (no matter the choices of the other two players) can pay 1 coin for his chosen card.

 

One of the building cards can be used during the Buying Phase in order to gain another card from free. When a player has this building in their tableau, they can choose to discard it from the game when it is their turn to purchase a card. Instead of having to pay the cost to obtain the card, they gain the card free or charge. In this way, if a player has this building it can be in the player’s best interest to place a Viking on the 1st space of a track or to reserve the first card in a round during the Demand Phase, since he’ll know that he won’t have to pay for it, but maintains 1st priority for it during the Buying Phase.

 

 

 

IV. The Loading Phase:

During the last phase of the round, players will gain income and load collected cards from their loading area to their personal area. The Start player will resolve all steps of the Loading Phase before the next player in turn order resolves theirs. At the beginning of the phase, the player will first receive 2 coins from the general supply as income. If the player did not purchase any cards during the previous Buying Phase, he’ll receive 3 coins instead. Next, the player will move all of his collected cards except ship cards, from his loading area (above his player board) to his personal play area (below his player board). Once in the player’s personal play area, these cards are considered active.

Finally, players will attempt to allocate the goods on any remaining ship cards they have in their loading area using the various actions found on their player board and cards in their personal area. Each player board contains a space where 1 good can be stored for later use. There’s also a building card that contains four vacant spaces for player’s to store goods on. One of the other two actions listed on the player board shows that the player can place any three goods in the common goods space on the game board (directly below the draw deck), and then take any one good from the common goods space. The final action on the player board shows that the player can convert two goods (placing them onto the common goods space) into 1 coin.

As mentioned before, Artisan cards require certain types of goods to complete them. Each required good has a space on the card itself that players will load onto the card from a ship. If the player has been able to completely fulfill the Artisan card by the end of the game, he’ll score the listed Victory Points. For instance, the Artisan card above requires a leather (brown), wool (white), jet (black), and amber (orange) to complete it. If they player has acquired all four goods onto the card by the end of the game, he’ll score 11 Victory Points.

Goods can also be used for trade. Trader cards will allow the player to sell a particular good from a ship to a trader. Each Trader card list the good requested, along with how many coins the player will gain from selling it. When a good is sold, it is placed in the common goods area of the game board. Trader cards also contain an amount of Victory Points at the bottom of the card that it will be worth at the end of the game, if in possession of the player. For instance, the Trader card above (left) will buy glass (blue) goods from the player for 2 coins each. This card is also worth 2 Victory Points at the end of the game. Alternatively, Oracle cards will allow players to convert certain types of goods directly into Victory Points. For instance, the Oracle card above (right) will allow the player to convert a Wool into 2 Victory Points. Converted goods are also placed into the common goods area. It’s interesting to note that Oracle cards only appear during the Winter cards, while Traders appear only during Winter and Spring.

After the player has allocated all goods from his ship, the ship cards themselves are then moved below their player board and their turn ends. The three player board actions (trade 3 goods for 1 common area good, trade 2 goods for 1 coins, and store 1 good) are made in a way that players will always be able to allocate their goods in some way so that they’ll have none left before ending their turn. The next player will then resolve his Loading Phase and so on until all players have completed their turns. The Start player marker is then given to the next player moving clockwise, and a new round begins with the Supply Phase.

 

 

 

End-Game Conditions & Scoring:

As the draw deck begins to dwindle, the final Attack of the Picts card that was placed on the bottom of the deck at the beginning of the game will eventually become the last card remaining, after all hut spaces have been filled during a Supply Phase. After that round is completed, and players will then resolve this final Attack of the Picts card at the beginning of the subsequent Supply Phase, then the game ends. Players will then score the cards in their personal tableau that contain end-game Victory Points and add them to their current total on the track around the board. These will include:

 

 

Artisan and Trader cards, as discussed before. Victory Points from Artisan cards are only awarded if the required goods have been met, while the Trader cards award the amount of Victory Points listed for simply owning the card.

 

 

Feast cards award a number of Victory Points based on how many Feast cards the player has in total. If the player only has the one Feast card, it is worth 2 points. Owning two Feast cards is worth 5 points, while owning three cards is worth 9, and four cards or more are worth 14 points.

 

 

Journey cards simply award the amount of Victory Points listed.

 

 

Skald cards are worth a number of Victory Points based on how many cards of a particular type the player has, or money. For instance, one Skald card may award 1 Victory Point for every Ship the player owns at the end of the game. While another Skald card may award 1 Victory Point for every coin the player has left over. There’s even a Skald card that will allow the player to double the amount of Victory Points awarded by one of his Journey cards.

 

 

 

After all points have been totaled, the player with the most Victory Points is declared the winner and beloved leader of Jorvik.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

I have to say, I’m quite fascinated with the bidding process in Jorvik. Unlike most auction-style games, players here aren’t required to be able to pay for an item in order to bid on it. It’s actually something of an encouraged strategy, as bidding on a card can raise the cost of that card, forcing another player to spend more than they may wish to, or raise it high enough to where they can’t even afford it. You can also reserve cards with no intention of purchasing them yourself, simply just to keep other players from buying them. For instance, say that you currently have the highest amount of defense amongst Warriors and a Warrior card with a defense of 3 comes out on one of the 7-12 spaces. If no one else gains this card, you’ll remain the player with the highest defense. So you could place one of your Vikings on this card in order to reserve it, with no intention to buy it during the Buying Phase, with the sole purpose of keeping other players from getting it.

So do take note, Jorvik can be a vicious, cutthroat type of game. The game rewards blocking opponents and keeping them from obtaining their desired cards or driving up their cost as much as it does collecting the cards you want at a desirable price. It’s finding the balance between the two where players will find success. It’s a neat, unique by-product of bidding that I’ve yet to see in other auction-style games. With only four Vikings to place out each round, players will need to manage which cards they’ll focus on, with special attention to timing. This is one of the few games I can think of where going first is not necessarily ideal. Being the first to place a Viking on a card means that you’ll have top priority over everyone else during the Buying Phase, but it also means you’ll be paying the most for it. Alternatively, going later in turn order allows you to observe everyone else’s placement, and you can simultaneously drive up the price of certain spaces while making it cheaper for yourself if everyone else there passes on it. It almost seems best to bluff what cards you wish to go for with your first Viking placement just to see what other players are going to do before continuing. Very clever mechanic.

One element to 7 Wonders that I’ve always enjoyed is that certain cards only appear in certain Ages. So I was quite pleased to find that the season decks in Jorvik were constructed in a similar fashion. Ship and Pict invasions don’t appear until the 2nd season (Spring), so players will have time to focus on building up their defensive capabilities and acquiring Traders, Artisans, and/or Oracles before they’re revealed. A majority of buildings appear in Winter, Spring, and Summer, but not in Autumn. Although I haven’t played the game enough to memorize all the different specific cards in each season, I can see where those that play the game enough can start to begin to use this to their advantage.

While I haven’t played The Speicherstadt, or its expansion Kaispeicher, I feel like I would probably prefer this Viking theme over that of Hamburg warehouse owner. Not that the game is entirely thematic, but building up a defensive front of Warriors and unloading goods off of Vikings ships versus hiring firemen to defend from fires and completing storehouse contracts just seem more interesting to me. I do appreciate that the publisher has decided to include the expansion within Jorvik as one full game, as I feel that it makes for a deeper, more compelling game. The reservation row of spaces 7-12 create a twist and add another element of decision making that players will need to focus on during the game. For those that enjoy auction-style games, Jorvik is one of the more unique and refreshing ones out there. It can be a bit ruthless and cutthroat, but for those that don’t mind that, or may even relish in it, it’s definitely worth a look.

 

 

If you’re near the Wilmington, NC area, feel free to check this game out and more at our community’s FLGS, Cape Fear Games.

 

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