27 August 2017

Champions of Midgaard review

Caroline and I found this game a couple of weeks ago in the gamestore - I looked at it and was not really sold. It was not until we watched some video reviews of it that convinced me to fork over some cash for it. Cash well spent!

This game is a very nice worker placement/resource management game with a heavy Viking theme. Someone jokingly wrote that this is what Lords of Waterdeep would be if Lords of Waterdeep had a theme. That may be stretching it (LoWD is a fantastic game), as in Champions of Midgaard a lot of focus is put on managing your little warband and their fighting of trolls, draugr and epic monsters to earn glory.

Each player takes on the role of a Viking leader, and receives a character board with special rules for your specific character and 8 slots to place warrior dice on. Your warband can never exceed 8 warriors, and you can always replenish casualties during the game, even if your warband is completely wiped out in a epic fight.

During each turn players take turns in placing their "workers" on various spaces in the Viking village, in order to hire warriors, gather supplies, hire boats to take you to faraway lands, hunt for meat in the forest, visit various traders and also set up expeditions to the nearby hills where you slay trolls and draugr that threaten the existence of the village. For killing monsters your warband earn glory and gold, at the end of the game the player with most glory wins. Glory is earned not only from killing monsters, but from collecting monster cards. Collecting sets of a specific monster card in all colors (for instance draugr: red/yellow/blue) earn you extra glory. You also get glory from additional objective cards that you can pick up in the Viking village - objectives that put gold, Viking warriors, meat and wood into play to earn you more glory as well.

Most of the game revolves around warrior dice, that represent 3 types of fighters that you can recruit for your warband, swordsmen, spearmen and berserkers (in the expansion there are archers). Each warrior type has its own "hit" and "shield" results, the swordsmen are the weakest but they are usually the easiest warrior to get. Spearmen are better at hitting and also defending, while berserkers are pure damage and no defense. 

During your turn you have to reserve a spot on the board with a worker in order to put together an expedition to slay a troll, draugr or epic monster. Trolls are special in that they appear each turn and have to be killed. The player killing the troll earns only glory and a piece of wood, but the remaining players get "blame tokens" which deduct glory points at the end of game. The blame tokens stack into devastating penalties depending on their number, and you can only get rid of a blame token by killing trolls. Each time you become the troll slayer during a turn you are allowed to discard a blame token.

Draugr give a bit of glory but also become the main source of gold rewards. Then you have the epic monsters which require you to hire/or buy a ship, load it up with food and warriors and sail off to faraway lands to fight. During these ship expeditions a random event occurs, which can inflict casualties by storm or loss of additional food. You will lose warrior dice if you cannot feed all your warriors before they arrive at their destination, and a weakened warband may have a difficult time to fight the epic monsters. Considering that ship expeditions yield the most glory points but also require the most preparation it is not a failure you will take easily.

To make things more interesting, many monsters are immune to specific warrior dice. A troll may be immune to berserkers for instance, which means you will not be able to fight it with berserker dice, and all berserker dice allocated to that fight become casualties at the beginning of the battle! This is not something that randomly occurs, the immunity is printed on the monster card - but it happens that one forgets and sends a mixed warband only to see some of the warriors be removed instantly when fighting begins.

The fighting with monsters is quite interesting in all its simplicity. Monsters have a wound and attack value printed on them. This means that to kill a monster you must score a number of hits equal to the wounds. Then you must, ideally, counter the monster attacks by rolling shield symbols during your attack action. Shields block one point of damage. All unblocked damage results in killed warriors. This is also why the super effective berserkers, often die, if not supported... Fighting continues until either the monster or the player wins the fight or when both sides end up dead.

Fortunately you will still earn glory and get rewards even if all your warriors happen to die during the encounter, I guess you worker/villager reports the success to the village elders.

The game is very easy to learn, fun to play and very fast paced. So far I've only played 2-3 player games, the game supports 4 players at the most.

Caroline and I both rate the game as a solid 8/10.

I've been looking at the expansions, and they look quite interesting. I may have to get them in the near future.


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