Find a game with a Viking theme and you generally have my interest.
Find one with some historic validity, and you pique that interest even more.
So the 2009-release Vikings from the duo of Svavar Björgvinsson and Sölvi Sturluson Snæfeld certainly caught my attention.
Co-creator Svavar Björgvinsson was good enough to explain a bit about the games development in an email.
"The idea came first when Sölvi Sturluson came to me and told me that he had an idea that he wanted to tell me about," he said. "We have been friends for some time and during that time we have been brainstorming some ideas that we might make some projects from. This idea was that he was wondering about if we could make a game about the struggles between the main Viking families during a critical era in our history; Sturlungaöld – the Age of Sturlungar. During that time you can say that a civil war was in Iceland and the main families where battling over regions.
"I have been playing board games for 30-years and own about 50-70 games myself I began to think how we could do this. The use of historical accuracy would be very difficult because the strategic area was shifting and mainly took place on the western part of Iceland. So we soon decided to make this a more simple game so we combined known tactics from a few battle games and the outcome was Vikings. We wanted to make the game a little bit retro so we bought a user license for an old Icelandic map, dated since 1590 as the main game board."
Using the old map as a major game element is an excellent decision. The map gives the board a feel of 'realism' which enhances the game mechanics.
It was interesting too to have Björgvinsson explain a bit about how a game such as Vikings is produced.
"This was much work and took many hours to do but nevertheless all this process from Sölvi telling me about the idea to the game coming from the printers toke less than three-months," he said. "We did all of the work ourselves; creating the game, drawing it and putting together the artworks, hand packing all the plastic pieces into bags, assembling the box and deliver them to the shops. The game was distributed to about 50 stores around the country and was nominated as game of the year from some newspapers and magazines. This was really fun and you can say that we put our love and soul into this game, but I don´t think that we will ever do this again the same way. Way too much work, with no profits. Now, when I look back, we made many mistakes and we could have done things much better and differently. But we had fun doing this and that is the main part."
Vikings is a strategy game for two to four players, meaning while luck is required, players also need to plan a strategy and successfully implement it to win.
At the start of the game players draw objective cards and you must be the first player to reach your objective to win the game.
The overall goal is to become the Chieftain of Iceland, something you achieve by occupy counties, harbours or fighting for the opponents' manors with your forces.
Players receive taxes from the counties to buy new Viking units, so money resource management is a factor too.
While battling with your neighbours to achieve your predetermined goals are the basis for the game, the game offers some interesting randomness too, from finding magical runes, to meeting roving monsters, which can impact the best laid plans.
The game is a solid play and available through www.vikings.is
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 25, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada