Saturday, December 26, 2015

Systems Saturday - Raiders of the North Sea (2015)

Our friend Wendy got a handful of games recently and brought Raiders of the North Sea (2015) last week for us to try.  We've played Shipwrights of the North Sea (2014) before, which she also has, but I enjoyed this one even more.  I am also looking forward to the third game in the trilogy, Explorers of the North Sea (2016).

The description on Board Game Geek is as follows:
Raiders of the North Sea is set in the central years of the Viking Age. As Viking warriors, players seek to impress the Chieftain by raiding unsuspecting settlements. Players will need to assemble a crew, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock. There is glory to be found in battle, even at the hands of the Valkyrie. So gather your warriors, it’s raiding season!
Aim of the Game
The aim of Raiders of the North Sea is to impress the Chieftain by having the most Victory Points (VP) at the game’s end. Victory Points are gained primarily by raiding Settlements, taking Plunder and making Offerings to the Chieftain. How players use their Plunder is also vital to their success. The game ends when either only 1 Fortress raid remains, all Valkyrie are removed, or all Offerings have been made.
Gameplay Overview
Proceeding clockwise from the starting player, each player takes his turn in full. On his turn, a player may choose to Work or Raid. Players continue to take turns until 1 of the 3 end-game conditions has been met. Regardless of choices, each turn follows the same pattern:
1. Place Worker and resolve its action 
2. Pick up a different Worker and resolve its action
Having a good Crew and enough provisions are vital to successful raiding. So before making any raids, players will need to do some work to prepare their Crew and collect supplies. This is all done in the Village, at the bottom of the board. There are 8 different buildings, with various actions. Players must first place their one and only Worker in an available building (where there is no Worker present), before picking up a different Worker from a different building (where there is a Worker present).
Once players have hired enough Crew and collected Provisions, they may choose to raid on their turn. To raid a Settlement (Harbour, Outpost, Monastery or Fortress), players need to meet 3 requirements. They must have:
1. A large enough Crew. 
2. Enough Provisions (and Gold for Monasteries/Fortresses). 
3. The required Worker colour. 
Raiding offers various ways of scoring (Military Strength, Plunder, Valkyrie, etc.). This is also how Grey and White Workers enter the game.
End of the Game
There are 3 ways the game can end:
1. There is only 1 set of Plunder left in the Fortresses (1 of the 6 Fortress raids remains). 
2. The Offering Draw Pile has been emptied. 
3. There are no Valkyrie left on the board.

The random placement of the plunder at the start of the game seems to be a big factor in determining your strategy.  Losing too many Viking Crew early on to Valkyrie or not getting out on multiple Raids often enough because of lost Crew can stall your progress despite the end game benefits of having collected some of those Valkyrie.  Spend some time while learning the game going over the various Crew types and what they do, it might help prevent the analysis paralysis some players can experience if they fill up their hands with cards hoping that the options in-hand will offset getting boxed out of ideal worker placement locations.  This is a deceptively complex game and potentially much more interactive depending on the group playing it.  However, you primarily effect only the player following you (except a bit more in the end game), so in three and four player games it seems difficult to do much to catch those you follow if they get out ahead or affect their strategy much during the game.  I'll need to play this more, and will if I get the chance!

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