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, its 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 games 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.
I really like worker placement games. Typically you are given an amount of workers that you place out into spots on a board to perform the actions associated with those spots. Sometimes you block these spots for the rest of the round, other times your worker can be 'bumped' back to you or various other mechanics. Raiders of the North Sea mixes things up again by only giving you one worker, and on your turn you place it and take and action, then remove another worker from the game to take a second action.
Does this work?
Raiders of the North Sea
The short answer is yes, but the slow start this creates may not be for everyone. Workers come in three colours, black, grey and white. Certain spots on the board give more or less resources, or are totally locked depending on the colour of worker you place or remove. To get workers of different colours you need to perform a raid. However, before you can raid you need some crew member, some provisions and possibly some Gold.
On your turn you can either place your worker in the village or on a raid. The village is where you gain your resources, draw cards and play them as actions or crew members. Crew members remain in front of you and help you on raids, often having powers that effect raids. When you raid your worker stays there for the rest of the game and you choose a new worker and you plunder from one of the available spaces.
Most of the plunder has other uses, but Valkyrie sacrifices one of your crew to move up on the Valkyrie track, which will award you points if you can get high enough on it. Raids also award points if you have enough might to defeat them. Might comes from the armour track, crew and dice rolls.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
If this sounds simple it's because it is relatively straightforward, even though initially the board and options can look overwhelming. You quickly realise that you can't just go on raids willy nilly, you have to prepare for it by gathering the right supplies and crew.
There are various strategies you can employ; jump into raids early spending your resources as soon as you get them, or build up for the bigger scoring raids. The game starts off at a steady pace while everyone tries to gather what they need, waiting for someone else to introduce a new coloured worker into the mix or throwing caution to the wind and making the play themselves.
There is a push and pull to the gameplay as placing a worker on a spot means that the next player can take that worker and get that action on their turn.
Raiders plays smoothly and is surprisingly deep considering you are literally putting a worker out and reaping the rewards or a raid of village spot. Yet because you are only doing one or two actions you can make your plans before your turn so, unlike TalkTalk's broadband, the game never hangs.
North Sea innit?
I can recommend Raiders of the North Sea to anyone who enjoys worker placement games but wants a thoughtful twist on the usual conventions of the genre. The game packs a lot in to its reasonably sized box and has wonderful components, including metal coins and shaped wooden resources. There is now two highly-regarded expansions out too, known as Fields of Fame and Hall of Heroes, but I've not played them... yet!!