Asgard. Seat of the Gods. But now even there is not a lot of fun. According to all the signs, our reality is coming to an end. The final battle between good and evil will be here soon. And it will decide state of the New World. Everything changes, no stone will be left unturned and no gods can be at certainty. Brother against brother, father against son. Anything is possible. Welcome to the battle, where the blood will flow through our planet..
And same name as seat of the gods, has new board game Asgard from What’s Your Game? From Italy comes not only the company, but also author Pierluca Zizzi and illustrator Mariano Iannelli. The game was unveiled at the fair Spiel 2012 in Essen, but even now managed to fly under the radar. But there is no real reason for that. Together with you, we will look and say, if it deserves more attention, than it currently gets.
Story of this game is just coming up to already mentioned end of the world. Both sides of good/evil battle stand facing each other, and it is up to your discretion, which side will you join. Combat will be a long, exhausting, bloody and decided maybe only by small details. Just as it is in board games.
Asgard is hiding in a larger square box, that looks very attractive at first glance and contains nice thematic pattern. This picture differs from the new French edition published by IELLO for 2013, where crowd mob at heels of Asgard. The title image of the original English edition, which we have in the office, contains scene of the battle itself instead. Both, however, are hilarious illustrations and visually delight you with upcoming promise of what is inside.
And promises will come true, when you open the box and look at game board. In the middle, mythical tree Yggdrasil dominates everything. Its branches holds all people worlds. This is the area, where final battle will take place. On the sides, however, there are portraits of the Asgard gods, who are waiting for your sacrifice and loyalty. There is Odin, Thor or Loki, but also less known Hel, Fenrir or Freyja. There are ten gods in total waiting for you in game box. That is quite decent for a small box, is not it?
But the game board is obviously not alone inside. Another important component having a great impact on weight of the game are sheets of cardboard filled with a variety of different colors and various shapes of tokens. There is really a lot of different types. When you see it for the first time around, you get scared. When did you last see fifteen different stacks of tokens with vastly different usage in the game? There are enchanted stones, magical weapons, temples, seals, world tokens, but also some tokens belonging to particular gods.
Thus, we have still to finish listing of components. When all these tokens are punched out and separated into plastic bags (this time it is really a necessity, because the distribution before each game would be disincentive), you will see forty cards at the bottom – ten in each player’s color. These are first of player components. These include, of course, even some wood – round tokens plus some colored discs made of cardboard.
It remains only to mention figures of warriors (twelve white and twelve orange), and above them also ten black giants. Those pawns conclude component listing. At the end of it all, of course, there are rules of the game. If you go there, you will see a lot of different articles, bullets and boxes with text and quickly close it again. At least for now.
Asgard has howled teeth of many a beginners. This is not a game for any inexperienced board game player. The very understanding and learning rules can not easily be done simply by reading the rules. You must have the whole game distributed in front of you, so you have everything nice visually connected. Otherwise you will be quickly lost in the various events, losts of tokens and opportunities. Just as we did, when we tried to do something similar.
The mere preparation indicates, how difficult task is waiting for you in the early rounds, when you try to manage the game. The beginning is of course simple, because the players choose color. This will determine their ten cards and eleven wooden discs. At the beginning you use one of cardboard tokens type only to randomly determine the players order for the first round.
Now, players take their tokens, put one of them on the zero on victory points counter orbiting around the board. Another seven boxes must be placed on the influence spots in Asgard. Besides the god portraits, there is always a box and next to it a spot for seals of light and darkness (good and evil).
Seven gods gets split white and black seals according to rules, only last three gods are not available in the game from the start. They receive a pile of their square tokens instead on the seal space. Others get these pieces next to their portrait on a square box in the lower left corner.
Some gods have special abilities (Thor and Tyr). Tokens representing these are put beside portrait of these two characters on the board. Another six gods offer their supporters enchanted stones and you distinguish their stones easily by color. The last seven white stones are put beside the board.
At the bottom of the board is space for temples. You divide them depending on the back into four stacks, tokens of victory points are put in the center of the plan. Then you must follow instructions regarding the Yggdrasil tree, where different worlds are located. You put habitants tiles to every one of them. Shuffle them separately as light and dark pieces and randomly scatter all on the branches of Yggdrasil. In the game less players leave some empty worlds. Then prepare Asgard tokens and legendary weapons at the roots of Yggdrasil (divided between dark and light weapons).
But it is still not over. You have to divide military forces – players in turn may choose one unit from the menu. Some other will go straight to the gods power on their portrait (for example, Hel receives one giant), another are placed in Valhalla and surplus is put next to the board. Remaining pieces form piles next to the game board – mixed weapons and spells.
And now we can finally start playing. Asgard is basically a worker-placement game. But includes combination of several decision, which are part of sending workers action and gives the game a very unique feeling.
At the beginning of each round, players can choose gods from their hand of ten cards. They select the ones, who would they like to visit this turn. Maximum number of actions is determined by a number of influence tokens you possess. In the beginning, you have three of maximum eleven.
This planning all made secretly and you select the appropriate cards. Thus ends the first phase and immediately begins the second. Players will now rotate in the order, that is determined by the drawn order numbers. A player may, when his turn comes, reveal one of his selected cards and use it to send one token to influence a particular god. As a result, he would be able to use its ability or strengthen gods influence in the world.
Each of the gods has three boxes. Two for requests and one for the temple action. Fields can not be occupied by another player’s token and they are located in god’s frame at the edge towards the center of the board.
The player, however, has a second option. To use his influence to go to Asgard, which allows him to get primarily a new influence token usable for future rounds. These are seven round wooden tokens, that you put on the board during preparation.
Opponents alternate and gradually reveal their cards and use influence. If the field of a god is already occupied, they can always send their tokens to Asgard, or choose to do nothing. This ends the part, where players choose their actions. Now we move on to phase, where all of these selected options can be used.
Players then again, one by one, take one token from the board and can use specific action, depending on where the chip was located. First positions at each god are two locations for prayers, that you can use to gain the enchanted stone (the type, that is drawn from god). Or you can use his ability according to his symbol. These options comprise warrior gains, changing turn order, but also the opportunity to obtain special pieces, which can be used for example in the fight later in the game.
In a situation, when a player placed one of his influence tokens on the position of the temple, he expressed god his support and builds a temple for him. For construction is paid through enchanted stones and price marked on the decks of individual temples levels. You can choose any of the four available stacks. Victory points written on this card are provided each combat phase.
Each of gods also requires some fighters, which must be sacrificed from your own inventory. So you have to have some and put them directly on a portrait of god. In addition, you do not get your token back, but it is moved onto one of the aid fields. This is where it remains as an indication, that the player supports this god.
Temple construction has another important consequence. The building is lift up in one of the worlds on specific branch of Yggdrasil. You then can select any vacant position and replace the world token (its bonus can be later used) with one token of this particular god. The god is present in this world through his temple from now on.
If a player raises token the position in Asgard, then the seal token (acquired from the first visit of god) must be payed for reinforcements. The same currency is payed also for new round influence moving from Asgard to player’s property. Here, however, the cost is not given only by current value of the counter, but more. Price is increased for each empty box to the left by one.
Now is time for battle, but only in those worlds, where players during round put their chips in combat slots. This can be done, when purchasing from Asgard. Token also remains there, if you have lost battle in past rounds. Evaluation involves simply sum of the parameters on the game board. Depending on which side player is (darkness or light). If he succeeds, then he gets VP. Otherwise, he can try his luck in next round in any world with the same token.
After the fifth round Ragnarök occurs. Only now will stand up also all the soldiers, that you had previously brought as a sacrifice, to fight for their gods. Again, fight will take place in different worlds according to specific rules, where the value of powerful magic weapons, spells, and other things is added. Players then can gain more points. Once the last world is evaluated, game ends and the player with the highest point score wins.
Asgard is an interesting variation on worker-placement game. It provides tremendous opportunities, that gradually narrow and heads to the inevitable final battle. Not only partial victories are important, although you get victory points there. But there is also set final and most important stage of the game – Ragnarök.
Victory points can be earned from the construction of temples and of course by winning the battles. There is enough way to achieve victory in blood and it is up to the players, which one they choose. But here is not peaceful path. Don’t forget its the end of the world!
Great effect on the players‘ thinking has secret selecting cards at the beginning of turn. You must take into account fact, what gods may be chosen by others. But in addition, there is also important role of order, in which you play these cards. This can affect positioning of your token on the board, because if you decide to play card of god too late, there may not be any free place in his spot.
However, what we mentioned at the beginning still applies. In the first game, you are literally overwhelmed by various details, rules and connections. You will not know, what should you watch first. But in reality, everything is connected with everything, so once you learn to perceive the connection, the whole game starts giving perfect sense. And it usually happens after the first or second game.
Unfortunately, many players may be intimidated (and we have seen it for ourselves, when we gave Asgard to other players) by seemingly complex rules and especially number of different tokens. You maintaing impression of really difficult game for some time. But everything is hidden in a fact, that there is simply need for lot of different elements. Only this way could author achieve desired result.
Most complex in the entire game are battles and their evaluation, which seemingly do not work just on paper, but as you take a game in hand and spread it, you will understand the context better. Nevertheless, many elements influence battle outcome and you will initially be a little confused. And because they are the most important element of the game, you have to try very hard.
The constant juggling with tokens here and there, might some players perceive negatively. In the game of Asgard, there is always something to take from somewhere, move or exchange. In the coloured game board, there can be often some token lost visually and you have to know, where to find them and why they have / do not have to be there. All these minor flaws can be uncomfortable for your impression of game, if you are not determined enough.
But once you penetrate into Asgard, then you get a great experience of battle for fate of the world. You are trying to lean to the right side, which eventually comes out as a winner from Ragnarok and save your skin. Even so, although rescued, winner may be one, and only one.
Asgard is at first glance a complex and complicated game. Is such for the first few games, but because everything fits, it’s not nearly as challenging as the game looks like in the beginning. Yet this is a really thoughtful challenge full of hard decisions. Asgard is a game for advanced thoughtful games lovers, who do not mind, that the game can get a little stretchy. The answer to question from the introduction of our review is clear – Asgard definitely deserves more attention, than it currently receives.. Maybe even from you??
Asgard is a tactical game for advanced players. But they must not let the game intimidate them with lots of its components and difficult looking rules. In reality, Asgard is very well thought-out and intelligent game base on northern mythology. You will support gods, use their skills and join them in battle at the end of the world - Ragnarök. You will hope, that they appreciate your effort in return and let you live afterwards. Elegant mechanic for secretly selecting gods on start of each round, together with their gradual occupying guarantees tension for each round. You will be constantly shifting some token in the game, so if you mind this, look for another game. But if you want clever and demanding fun with lots of options, then Asgard might be game for you. Its been inconspicuous until now, but that does not mean, that its bad. On the contrary, you should look for seat of gods, its nice and comfy..