Explorers Of The North Sea!
I have been completely captivated by the Garphill Games trilogies ever since I found out about them. I really enjoyed Architects of the West Kingdom as it had a few twists on the worker placement genre, as you could capture other people’s workers, exploit the black market and support morally questionable institutions. After that, I was hooked and I wanted to explore all the worlds. I love the character artwork and the symbols that act as a common thread through the games.
The North Sea trilogy came out first and brought Garphill Games into the limelight. A lot of the mechanisms in later games were introduced in this trilogy. I love how the trilogies play with different game mechanics and designs. Explorers of the North Sea is a tile and worker placement game. It’s probably one of the simplest games of these trilogies, so a good starting point for those getting into games if you want to try something with a fun take on historical themes. So let’s see how Explorers of the North Sea holds up as a solo experience.
In the initial set up, you’re told to remove the Queen and Scout player boards as they have competitive goals. In the solo game, you’re playing for a high score.
To set up you select two character boards which will give you your goals Explorers Of The North Sea. Here I have the Archer and Cartographer. At the end of the game you only score one of them. So depending on the tiles you draw, you decide which of these end game goals would be best. The character boards are a good way to switch up the way you play and the goals you’re trying to reach.
You place your vikings and longship at the starting island. I do love the little boat, it’s adorable. Each turn you’ll flip over three tiles and place two of them, with the game ending when you’ve gone through all the tiles. As it goes with tile placement games, it has to be a legal placement, water to water and land to land. If you reveal a tile with an enemy ship, animals or a settlement you place a ship token (face down), an animal meeple or settlement marker (face down) on the map.
Like in the multiplayer games you have a variety of actions (of which you take four per turn):
● Board/get out of your longship
● Move your longship
● Load animals
● Fight enemy ships
● Overtake settlements
● Construct outposts (which counts as two actions)
And all of these actions allow you to score points, from unique sets of animals to vikings killed in battle to overpowering settlements. So it’s a point salad for scoring this game. But all this info is handily on the character boards.
Throughout the game, it’s lovely to see your map grow and getting that perfect piece to complete your island or sail to that distant land. Obviously transporting the animal meeples back to the home base is very satisfying too. It probably goes without saying that a viking has to sail the ship with an animal (they can’t make it themselves).
As you have limited actions, when you get to the crunch point of the game you have tougher decisions to make about whether you plunder a settlement or make an outpost as more and more options open up on the map. Since your timer is the ticking down of tiles, you know you can’t do everything.
Docking Your Longship
So by the end of the game you’ll have used all the tiles, got a variety of victory points for defeating enemies, dead vikings (which is a little morbid), overtaken settlements and collections of little animals. If you don’t like point salads, this won’t be for you.
Naturally with this publisher, the components are lovely. The tiles have a nice finish and all the meeples are great. While the character boards are on the thinner side, it’s not a big deal. All around a very tactile game, that’s easy to set up and tear down.
Naturally the competitive element in a multiplayer game can’t be there, so you’ll need to get some people together to fight over the islands with your vikings and outposts. Since this is a significant part of the multiplayer game, the solo experience is pretty different. It’s still fun, you just play in a different way. As it usually goes with solo games, it’s a great way to learn the game and discover different ways to play. The character cards add a different dimension to each game, and it’s just great art. If you want to try another tile laying game, this is a very satisfying one to play solo.