Review: Norderwind – sailors from Norden voyage into the unknown
For many years, I did not set foot on dry land. My home is my ship. Whenever my men hit the mainland and run to chase skirts, I close up in my cabin and study maps. Every good captain should know the ocean to the last inch. Just one stone, one unexpected wave and everything, what I have worked so hard for, may be gone. Tomorrow again, I am about to sail into uncharted waters and I, as always, I can not help not to be nervous. Could this be our last cruise?
Certainly not, because we can set sail again and again in board game Nordenwird (North Wind). Author Klaus Teuber published it under Kosmos Verlag with illustrations by Franz Vohwinkel. It all happened in 2014. But in 2015, Z-Man Games will be responsible for publishing it in English.
Box shows us nice illustration of a sailor in pursuing another nearby ship with his telescope. You might also have noticed a large inscription „3D ships“ on the lid. This means, that you should be surprised by amount of cardboard components, that are inside. Eight sheets of cardboard offer a lot of components to allow composition of four ships. Players create them according to instructions on the front page of rulebook, so there is deck board attached to the hull, then mast is added (so players can recognize their ship color), sail and even observational basket. One sheet contains a big scoring table.
Compared with ships, significantly less space is taken up by coins, sea tiles (two dozens of bigger tiles), cannon tokens and business letter. Traveling the seas with players will be also two six-sided dice and a bag of wood components representing resources – salt, grain, wine, wood, fish, but also eight captains and twice as many ordinary crew members. For individual players are also prepared small cubes.
Players choose boats. Fortunately, its sail is not the only distinguishing mark. Each ship has its own name and even the hull is colored. Based on these colors, each player gets ten small cubes, five gold, one letter, four seamen (without captain) and four black cannons. Ships also need to be prepared for a cruise – players must set sail on the mast to the bottom notch and insert one cannon into prepared position.
Equally important, however, is preparation of sea. Players place scoring table to the top and on it, three ports (in the bottom) will meander three possible routes of navigation. Players split tiles into equal piles, mix them with one port and accordingly spread these piles (each containing eight pieces). In addition, gamers prepare resource supplies and game can begin.
On his turn, player can navigate forwards up to speed of his ship (announced by height of the sail). For every one point, he can reveal one tile from selected port. But it is not so simple, because each of the tiles carries some action, that a player can select and perform, if he wants to. Sailor always encounters some options, but he can also run into mist, from which pirate ship can emerge (player roll the white dice, when fog comes). For each cannon, which is the player´s ship is equipped, can player defend by rolling one black dice. Exploration ends, when player loses. On the other hand, victory means capturing captain of enemy ship and player can put him into prison on his ship.
We must pause for a moment here. Ships are not only gratuitous ornaments, but they also have a lot of holes in them. In the bow, there are two openings serving as prison, amid are six sites for storage of cargo in the holds and aft has space for four crew in cabins.
Pirate captain goes to jail and we can return to the possibilities of other tiles. Their action is always indicated by symbols directly on them. They usually have a gain in gold or allow to exchange materials. One exception is the harbor with shipbuilders, which will allow players to improve their precious (buy guns with coins , improve boat speed or hire new crew members). It is not so simple with new sailors. The place, where player inserts new wooden seaman token matters, because it determines his specialty. They accordingly add various advantages to their owner.
During the game, players try to collect supplies and bring them to individual ports. In the event, that players founds port tile during exploration, he may try to supply it. Actual requirements of ports are printed on the scoring board and must be fulfiled from the bottom to the top gradually. For supplying goods, player can place a cube of his color on the lowest free spot. Only, when someone meets this requirement, another one opens up for new visitors.
Interesting is possibility of using action together with rivals. And right in that player´s turn. All it takes it, that player selects action, that allows such activities (indicated with underscored letter A). Anyone, who wants to visit harbor or trader in other player´s turn should simply hand over a business letter and he can use the whole action as if it was his own. But he never can do action, which took acting player.
Once a player has used his maximum movement of ship or performed another action (activated second tile), his turn ends. If the exploration was cautious and he used only one action, business letter will be his reward. Then all discovered tiles are taken back, shuffled together with remaining ones and put back on the box for the port.
Turn of the next player in line can now start. Game continues until one player has placed target number of cubes on common board. They are not placed only for mentioned tasks, but also for completing crew, successful supplying all three ports or having most blocks in a single column. Player, who uses the specified number of cubes, becomes immediately winner.
Norderwind would perhaps like to be measured with Settlers of Catan, but it´s a completely different game. Its entirely tactical and fun, but certainly should not be mistaken for its older brother from the same author (Czech name references it). Entire cruise and trading works completely different.
Trading is the important part. Exchange of raw materials for money allows players to be ready for anything. Different requirements of ports ensures, that players will really turn and visit all of them. Game also has a memory element, because it is necessary to have an overview, which tiles are available where. At the beginning, you know only few of them, but as the game progresses, control of the game becomes better.
There are enough opportunities for all in this game. Points can be acquired in different ways and in different ports. Luck does not play crucial role here. In the first phase, your action choices may be reduced by chance, which together with limited capacity of cargo space may be seen as a small flaw.
Acquiring points is the only thing, where game is similar to Catan. This is of course distinct style of the author, who focuses on target number of points. This time, players do not have tiles for the longest journey, but instead are trying to assemble a crew or specialize in delivery to one port.
Norderwind in terms of gameplay is interesting mostly in a maximum of four opponents. It gets pretty tight on scoring board, which certainly can not be said about a duel. But in two, players are more dragging for every point and option (and target is ten points). The only drawback in four is lengthening waiting for another turn. Whole battle takes up thirty to forty-five minutes of your time, depending on number of participants.
Game has really pretty processing. Ship models are great and inspire absolutely everyone. But mostly children, who constantly want to play. And surprisingly, even the game itself is fun, it is not difficult, and can be taught without any problems. The quality is not lost even when it comes to wooden tokens of raw materials. Only rules are not entirely well structured, but fortunately the game is so simple, that it makes sense after one turn has passed.
Norderwind is really a nice family game, which is adorned with beautiful ship models, but they are matched by actual gameplay. Memory element enriches interesting exploration mechanism, that makes it a little different for each cruise. Players can affect their chances in the game and have at least partial control over everything. Norderwind certainly will not disappoint on any beginner´s table.
Review: Norderwind – sailors from Norden voyage into the unknown
Norderwind is a game well done and we are very happy about it, mainly because this game is a perfect choice for families or beginners, who want to start with board games. This is a great entry point. And it is able to not only entertain by its gameplay, but also to bewitch due to looks, which are perhaps even more important for rookies. The whole thing works also in terms of gameplay, where some parts are dependent on luck, but with a solid degree of control over them. Players explore the ever-changing sea and looking for opportunities to businesses and a way to gradually supply ports. Norderwind is a great family game and as such, we will evaluate it.