Raiders of the North Sea, published by Renegade Game Studios and Garphill Games, is a worker placement game set in the middle period of the Viking Age. Players will be trying to impress the Chieftain by raiding unwary nearby settlements.
During the game you will need to amass a crew and gather provisions before crossing the sea to raid settlements that include harbours, outposts, monasteries and fortresses in the search for gold, iron and livestock. Some of your crew may perish at the hands of the Valkyries, but that’s okay because a glorious death will send a Viking to Valhalla (and will also score you points!)
The game, designed by Shem Phillips, uses a unique place-and-pickup worker mechanism in which on your turn you will take two actions by placing a worker and resolving its action, then picking up a different worker and resolving its action.
Before the game starts you will need to randomly draw plunder from the black bag and place the specified amount onto each raiding space, and also place an appropriately coloured worker next to each raiding space. Each player is given a single black coloured worker and two pieces of silver.
Before you can perform any raids you will need to assemble your crew and collect supplies – this is all done in the village at the bottom of the board. There are eight different buildings, with various actions such as gathering silver, provisions, Townsfolk cards or hiring crew. You must first place their worker in an available building before picking up a different worker from a different building.
When you have hired enough crew and collected enough provisions, you can choose to raid on your turn. To raid a settlement you need to meet three requirements. You must have a large enough crew, enough provisions (and gold if you intend to raid a monastery/fortresses), and the required worker colour - grey and white workers enter the game when they are taken after raiding. They are needed for performing certain village actions and to perform raids on stronger settlements.
The game ends when is only a single set of plunder left in one of the fortresses, the offering draw pile has been exhausted or there are no Valkyrie tokens left on the board. Points are scored based on the Valkyrie track (for dead crew), Armoury track (for military force accrued during the game), offerings to the Chieftain, hired crew (some of whom earn victory points) and collected plunder.
Raiders of the North Sea is the second game in the North Sea Trilogy – if you fancy playing all three back-to-back as a campaign you can get North Sea Runesaga, which links Raiders with Shipwrights of the North Sea and Explorers of the North Sea.
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 60-120 Minutes
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!!