Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review -- ODIN'S RAVEN


If you are a fan of Norse mythology, and aren't we all, you are no doubt aware of Odin, the top dog in the Norse pantheon. Well, the story has it that Odin had a pair of ravens, and that is where we arrive at this week's game; Odin's Ravens.
While the Odin theme is pasted on, you could do the same game with Hekyll and Jekyll if you chose too, it does help grab attention.
The game uses decks of custom cards which are laid out to create the 'board', or more accurately in this case a raceway.
The premise of the game is that Odin's ravens; Hugin and Mugin, are racing across the land, the cards depicting various landscapes; mountains, forests etc.
The two ravens are represented by nice raven-shaped wooden game pieces, and that is one of the most charming aspects of the game and its components.
The game is a race between the two ravens, with each players taking owner of the birds. The course is laid out using the cards, and off you go.
Of course it's not quite that simple, since players have other cards which can alter the course, shortening it at times, lengthening it at other junctures, or speeding your raven along the course, or impeding the opponent's progress. Since most of the cards have two game play options, there is a certain amount of strategy involved regarding which option to use, and when a card is best played.
Arguably the most powerful tool in the game is the Odin marker which when placed in front of one of the ravens on the course, stops that player's progress until they can draw a card to remove the marker. Sadly this piece, while wooden, is simply a tiny disk which lacks the aesthetic charm of the raven pieces.
There are also six magic way cards in the game, with one being laid out each game. Players can lay cards to the magic way in an attempt to gain points by an alternate scoring method, which again adds to the depth of play.
With each race you accumulate points based on the margin of victory in the race, and through playing magic way cards. The first player to record 12 points over a series of hands is the winner.
The cards here are narrower than a standard card deck, so they feel a little awkward as you shuffle. It would have been better to go with a standard card size here in terms of how one looks at the overall package of the game.
Game play with Odin's Ravens is rather quick. You should certainly race through a game in under the 30-minutes which is what the suggested play time.
As a two-player card/race game Odin's Ravens has enough play options each turn that players do get to offset the usual randomness of a card game with skillful play, although luck still contributes to the outcome too.
This is a game that is best played as a light filler. There isn't quite the depth to play it real seriously, and it really doesn't have that little something to make it truly addictive, but it is worth trying out if you like solid two-player games.
Odin's Ravens was designed by Thorsten Gimmler and is published by Rio Grande Games.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 8, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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