Friday F.O.M.O. 10/18/19 – Blood of the Northmen

Vikings! One of the staple characters that you can expect to show up in the board game world, but not one that I have personally played with often. That said, there are some vikings that have captured my attention amongst the busy noise and posturing that occurs during the fall at Kickstarter.

My Friday F.O.M.O. feature of the week will be taking a look at Carl Chudyk’s newest title, Blood of the Northmen, from Czacha Games.

Blood of the Northmen is a tile-laying game for 2-4 players (5 actually, since the campaign has unlocked that stretch goal), ages 12+, that you could expect to last 30-60 minutes. During the game, each player will have a hand of tiles to manage and each person will be laying these tiles on the table, forming a community map. On this map, each viking clan’s warriors will get placed –> battles will take place over time as each clan looks for control of the North. The goal in Blood of the Northmen is to gain victory points, which will occur through successes in battle and gaining control of strategic settlements.

The core concept that I believe will draw a player into this game is the multi-use nature of the hex tiles. The tiles in your hand can be used for a couple purposes –> your main action will be to play the tile onto the map (based on the rules requirements) and then perform the actions the tile allows. Those tiles can also be discarded during battle to help secure a victory and wipe out the enemy.

The tiles in this game look great and will feature a variety of map elements. The elements that are present (and their quantity) will dictate what actions you can perform on your turn:

  • For every forest edge on your tile, place a warrior on that same tile [I imagine that the forests are where your warriors find safety and then they emerge from the trees to start taking dominance of the land.]
  • For every lake edge on your tile, a band of warriors (3 max) can make a hex tile movement — mountains cannot be crossed, forests take two movements, and a lake takes only one movement (these are vikings –> they are awesome at nautical travel!)
  • If you place a tile with a road, you can move an army band that is currently on a road, any distance along that road — stopping if they run into an enemy clan.
  • For every mountain edge on your tile, you can initiate a battle where you have warriors on the same hex as an enemy.

Just as the actions you can perform are based on this creative system, battling utilizes an interesting method as well. When a battle takes place, each clan involved will be allowed to discard tiles from his/her hand (a known option) or from the draw pile (a blind draw). The number of tiles played this way is determined by the number of warriors you have on the hex where the battle is being waged. Then, the key statistic is the number of ‘mountain edges’ that are on these discarded tiles. Thus, you can see where having a greater number of warriors provides the advantage, but does not eliminate the chance for upsets.

Winning a battle will earn you a victory point (one of your warriors moves to the right side of your player board). He counts as a point (one of six you need to win) but also depletes your total warrior pool. Every Jarl gets 12 warriors, so at the moment when you have 5 victory points, you will only have 7 warriors left to work with on the map. If combat doesn’t seem to be working for you, another option to win the game is by founding the nation of Bjarmia. To do this, it will involve having warriors in all four types of towns that can appear during the game — note: this victory method will be partially dependent on how quickly all four towns get added to the map.

So, let me quickly highlight the aspects of Blood of the Northmen that stand out to me:

  • Multi-use tiles –> Personally, I am a board gamer who loves having a lot of strategic options available — it gives me the opportunity to be creative with my own blueprint to victory. Cards (or in this case…tiles) that have multiple uses are fun and supply the ability to think on the fly and update tactics — call an audible — when you see a proper opening.
  • Quick, race-like gameplay –> As I’ve researched Blood of the Northmen, some games that pop into my mind that I have played recently –> Innovation (another Chudyk game), Race to the Galaxy, and even Res Arcana (the latter two being Lehmann games). All of these games have a game-ending point that is known and you will find can rapidly approach. Because of that, games never take very long (usually an hour or less) and it starts the momentum-ball rolling very early in the game.
  • Dudes on a map –> I have played very little “dudes on a map” games [not quite sure how into those I would get…] but Blood of the Northmen looks like it would be the chance to play a ‘Dudes Lite’ game. That sounds cool.
  • Variable player powers –> This is a quick and easy way to increase my interest in a game. At the beginning of the game, every Jarl will receive a special ability hex to add to their player board — these are great because they can be ignored if you have a particular strategy to focus on…but provide an ability to your clan that could help define your pilfering program in a specialized direction. Through stretch goals, there are currently 7 total abilities available (allowing for good replayability) and I’m betting an 8th one will get unlocked via stretch goals before the end of the campaign.

So there you go –> in the midst of hundreds of games hitting Kickstarter every month and hundreds more hitting the market outside of crowdfunding, Blood of the Northmen is a game that looks like it finds a nice, unique spot within the crowd.

What are your thoughts on this new Viking-themed game? Any other titles you will be backing?

For more board game previews, reviews, and discussions please follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1 and YouTube

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