After seeing the Expansions for Explorers of The North Sea on Kickstarter I tried hunting down a copy of the base game to review as it looked like a game I would enjoy. Worker placement and Vikings are very much an over done thing lately but luckily for me I enjoy that.
Shipwrights is set in the early years of the Viking Age. As Viking shipbuilders you race to build a fleet and score the most points. You must collect oak, wool and iron, as well as drafting craftsmen cards to enable you to build the ships. Gold is a resource that is spent to enable a ship to be built.
The first thing you notice about this game is the art. It's done by The Mico and is very colourful and vibrant. The art is done in a style that fits the theme. Upon opening the box and reading the instructions I must say it left me a little bit disappointed.
There is nothing wrong with the quality and I have seen games with worse quality components but there was something that just didn't feel right (something that only surfaced after a few play-throughs). The cards are however of good quality as are all the other pieces.
Set-Up & Play-Through
There was a little confusion when we first played this game as the rule book doesn’t tell you how many goods or workers to start with. Instead it shows you a picture with no indication in the text saying so. Once this was sorted we carried on with the set up;
- Shuffle all 128 cards in to one deck.
- Place all goods in an easy to reach place to form the supply.
- Set up each player board with 3 workers 2 goods of your choice and a gold ship tracker.
- Choose starting player.
As you can see, the set-up in Shipwrights of the North Sea is very quick!
At the start of your turn you start the draw phase, where player one picks three sets of cards equal to the number of players plus one. You then select one card and pass that on to the next player and do the same for the other three sets until all players have three cards.
Once you have all your starting cards you then start by taking your actions. In this phase players must always play or discard all three cards. There is no limit on the amount of actions you can take and the available actions are:
- Buy goods - The cost is two gold and two workers and what you get is determined by the back of the top card on the draw pile.
- Buy a Tool - If you have a tool card (yellow) you can purchase this for the cost in the bottom corner.
- Hire a Craftsman - Place red craftsmen cards by your player board these are required for ship building.
- Call on townsfolk - If you have a grey townsfolk card you can play or discard it. They have various actions that are at the bottom of the card.
- Begin building a Ship - When you get a ship card the firs must be placed in workshop A and the second in workshop B.
- Finalise a Ship - When you have the required goods, gold and craftsmen you can finish building a ship and this will give you points at the end of the game.
- Construct a building - If you have a building card in your hand you can purchase it for the required amount of gold and workers. These are bonus cards and award points for meeting certain conditions.
How Our Game Went & Final Thoughts
We played as a group of five and after the initial confusion of sorting out the starting goods and workers, we all set off choosing cards and buying goods. The game flowed nicely and there was always something to do on your turn.
After a few rounds we started getting cards that would allow you to take cards or goods off other players. This prolonged the game and made it drag on somewhat. One minute you would be a good or two away from building your ship and then someone would take it away from you and you would have to start all over again. Out of the five that played, three of us enjoyed the game.
The take that element was something the others did not like and I agree that it will not be for everyone. My initial comment about something feeling off about this game was discussed after play had ended and we all agreed that at no point did we ever feel in touch with the theme.
Not one of us felt like a ship builder or a Viking and after the first 20 minutes or so and it just became a game of drawing, buying and discarding cards. The expansion supplied (Townsfolk) does try and combat this by adding another board and five shields. The idea is that it gives you another set of actions and gives you two new workers each turn.
This board gives actions that mitigates the take that element slightly and does make for a quicker and less confrontational game. This game will get played again and its not a bad game and with the expansion its actually quite fun.
This blog was originally published on March 29th, 2017. Updated on April 27th, 2022 to improve the information available.