Odin’s Ravens by Osprey Games is a fantastic two-player race game. It uses card drafting and hand management to enable players to guide their ravens across varied terrain and return to the start. It is simple, elegant and produced to a very high standard. Most games take about 15 minutes so it might be considered a filler game. However, some might prefer its simplicity and quality to be enjoyed by more. This game changers article suggests ways to increase player count using existing resources, offers a variety of race set ups to ensure that this game can stay fresh, and even proposes a solitaire way to enjoy Odin’s Ravens.
The “race track” of Odin’s Ravens comprises a series of domino-style cards, each containing a pair of landscapes. A player’s raven may only advance onto a specific terrain if that player discards a flight card of that type (two identical cards may be discarded to count as a wild card). The use of the Loki (trouble) cards can make the path more straightforward, or cause issues for the opposition. The route is fixed and has no branches or decisions to make.
One of the beauties of Odin’s Ravens is the flexibility of using cards to define the route. The standard set-up consists of 16 cards in a simple “there-and-back” race in a straight line. A troublesome Loki card could affect both the outgoing path and return leg too. In most games the ravens will need to cross 32 terrains. The linear arrangement means player have no choice in their route. Progress is dependent on the cards in the hand and those drawn. If the structure of the route was amended then an element of pathway choice could allow players to gamble that one route might be quicker for them. For a two-player game two possible designs are proposed using the existing cards; The Block and The Eye.
In this layout five landscape cards are laid in the standard fashion, followed by a block of cards, six long and two wide. This creates a central area of 24 terrain spaces (6x4) that will need to be negotiated. Players may choose to take the most direct route. Alternatively, depending on the flight cards in their hand, they might choose to go to the left or right to find a quicker pathway. Loki cards will still function. If a sliding Loki card is played, both cards in the block are moved. This might leave a gap at the edges of the block and allow for quicker progress. Similarly, sliding might allow alignment and matching of terrain to help progress.
Following traversing of the block each raven will pass over the five cards at the far end of the route before turning and returning.
The pathway arrangement for the eye gives players a choice of route in each branch. After the fourth terrain card, ravens must remain on that side of the track. Players can then choose to take the slightly longer “outer” route if their cards are favourable. The ravens reach the far end of the branch before returning, but this time via the other route of the cards. The Loki cards (for sliding or card removal) can still be used in every location with the exception at the junction of the pathways.
Increasing Player Count
Odin’s Ravens is a great game for two players. A recent Zatu Games blog even suggests it as a game for two on Valentine’s Day! With a minor alteration to the card drafting rules, and with a variation in card layouts, three or four players can enjoy this game. By increasing player counts additional markers will be needed.
The card drafting mechanism for a three and four player game is amended. The two flight decks of 50 cards are shuffled together. The 16 Loki cards are also shuffled and kept separate. To start, players may draw five cards. Up to two cards may be Loki cards and at least three will be flight cards. Each turn players draw and discard up to three cards in the standard fashion and when the draw pile is empty the discard pile is shuffled and reused. Loki cards may be re-dealt too. The maximum number of cards in the hand at the end of a turn is seven.
The shape of the card layout will be different; either a triangle or a star. Each player starts at one corner and may choose to travel in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. With this triangle card set-up there is a choice of two pathways between each corner.
An alternative arrangement is as a three-pointed star. The ravens start at the tip of each star, fly down the arm to the middle then out on the next arm and around the route. Players may choose to travel in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction, Loki cards may be used to swap or rearrange any cards on the arms. The three landscape cards at the “hub” may be reversed or swapped but not slid.
The card arrangements for four players are similar in style to that with three. The card drafting rules remain the same. Cards may be arranged in a square or as a four pointed star. Players start at a corner or at the tip respectively, completing the circuit before returning to home. Two additional player pieces will be needed.
With four players another variant is a game with teams of two players each. During the team game the flight and Loki cards remain separate and are also separated by team colour. The two ravens start at the beginning of route (in the standard fashion). Team members sit opposite each other. All players draw five cards in any combination of their respective team colour. In turn players use their cards to fly their team raven across the landscape. However, there can be no communication between team members as to their plans or the type of cards in the hand. This variant is suitable for any shape or arrangement of landscape cards.
Solitaire/ Solo play
Odin’s Ravens lends itself to a solo challenge. This will require all of the landscape cards (40 in total) and one set of player’s cards (25 flight cards and 8 Loki cards). Initially eight landscape cards are dealt and laid in a straight line. One raven is placed at the start of the route. The player draws five cards in any combination (flight and Loki) and is able to look at each card as it is drawn. This will help inform decisions as to what other cards might be needed.
Playing and discards cards from the hand and using Loki cards wisely will enable the player to move their raven along the route. When no further flight is possible eight more landscape cards are laid to extend the route. At the end of each turn up to more five cards are drawn from the decks (combination of flight and Loki) to develop a maximum hand of seven cards. This solo variant will extend the route over five turns. The aim is is to fly the raven to the end across all 40 landscape cards before finishing the player’s flight and Loki decks.
There are 40 landscapes cards to cross using just 33 player cards. Completion of this solitaire challenge will require careful use of the Loki cards some forward planning and a little luck in the draw.