Vikings did not stop before anything. In their time they fought bloody battles. But where they were ruthless rivals, they were also jolly kicks. Especially at the moment, when they could celebrate victory with a proper liquor.
Today, we will try the conquest in their skin for you. We got a preview version of Vikingjarl game, which is preparing to attack Kickstarter server in the coming days. It comes from Norway, home of not only the publishing company SB Games, but also its author, Richard Mikalsen.
This is a strategic game of medium size. On the lid of our demo copy, Viking ship attracted our attention and water also rules game board inside. You combat space will be Northern Europe and even Iceland or Svalbard. Nowhere is the winter strong enough to drive true Viking away. And the map (both land and sea) is divided into areas. Some cities will be marked with victory points tokens at the beginning (picture side down).
Each player gets one color under his control with all its corresponding characters, but also one warship. Both parts of the army and – soldiers and ship are printed also on player’s board, that offers space for storage of raw materials and also have their physical wooden representation. They will be starting in Kaupang location.
Players will have the chance to run auctions in each round, move their units on the map, and attack cities. The fight is clever – number of members of the army on both sides will determine how many dice player will have at his disposal. He rolls the whole set and then pair the dice sorted in descending order with results of his enemy. Each winner of mini-dice combat means one removed unit on the defeated side.
When someone occupies a city, he can place a token with his own coat of arms and get the corresponding settlement card. Since then, he will be able to place the units here. New troops and raw materials for creating settlements on green meadows can be obtained by trading in special green cities. In exchange, players will usually need silver coins.
Based on the conquered city, player marks his collected victory points. Those are finally getting him somewhere, towards victory. However, the course of the match will still be significantly disrupted by the Saga cards – player will draw one at the start of each turn. These cards can be played for special effects to reverse a variety of situations. The winner of the whole match is the player, who first collects agreed number of victory points.
We have simplified it a little, but it is still clear, that Vikingjarl is a strategic, but very simple game. The rules do not offer any trickery and provide best of the strategic warfare, but also move the game towards more accessible areas of gaming. There are also moments, when less experienced players get to play it.
We really like a solution of the battle. There is no true originality or tactics, but comparing the highest roll with the highest is the best way to take into account numerical superiority. But still, even the surrounded soldier still has a chance to win and no battle is clear ahead. Especially when you count on the possibility of playing a saga card. They allow you to steal assets from your opponents, change the results of the dice in a fight, or even push the enemy from the city! There are enough options to choose from, but you have to be lucky enough to get the cards you need.
Game is not extremely long. Normal game match lasts about one hour, but you can set it as you wish, because the target number of victory points is not specified in rulebook. Just recommended.
So, in the end, the only criticism is directed towards gameplay in two. Both players get two jarls and two families to control. And just as in other games, when you have to divide your attention between two tactics, there is a problem. That is, why Vikingjarl is better in higher numbers and duels are just for learning or when you really have noone else to play with.
Processing is already very solid in our demo copy. Graphics match the theme and work very well. The map is the best. But as this is primarily a strategy, the figures are made of wood. This probably will remain in the final version.
We like Vikingjarl very much from the first impression. We have not enough matches under our belt to conscientiously declare some final conclusions or evaluate the replayability, but from a fun point of view, the game definitely works. What is most interesting about it is ultimately the accessibility, because you do not have to be an experienced player with lots of strategic tracks to test your skills, colonize and conquer Vikingjarl. And that counts!