Good Wednesday to you all! I was able to get some games in this past week, how about you? You know, something that I haven’t really stressed much, is reader interaction! I know that I don’t have very many readers yet, but writers, designers, basically anyone that creates something for someone else, really love to get feedback from their audience. Sure, I can look at my statistics and see how many people look at the site, but I don’t know that they actually read the posts unless they provide feedback. So, good or bad, please feel free to leave me some feedback (just try to be civil and if you have a negative response try to be constructive about your criticism)! Now, on to the games for the week!
I was able to attend game night this week, and I wanted to take Champions of Midgard to play. To make sure that I could teach it, I pulled the game out and set it up, and read through the rule book and to make sure I had everything down. Jan saw me doing this and asked “what’s that?” I told her and she decided that she would like to give it a try. As a great opportunity to practice teaching the game for the night ahead, I jumped at the chance!
Chamipions of Midgard is a worker placement game from designer Ole Steiness and Grey Fox Games. It plays two to four players, and runs sixty to ninety minutes. Each player represents the leader of a viking clan attempting to protect a harbor town against the numerous monsters that threaten it. The goal of the game is to achieve the most glory (victory points) which are gained through the defeat of various monsters, achieving secret goals, earning the favor of the gods, and even building up your viking fleet!
For those unfamiliar, a worker placement game is one in which there are a limited number of spaces (or actions) available. Players take turns placing a worker and claiming an action. Generally players have multiple workers to place throughout each turn, and by the end of the turn the choices that each player has have dwindled down to just a few options.
Champions of Midgard is different than most worker placement games in that you must gather warriors (represented by various dice – swordsmen, axemen, and spearmen) and send them to battle against the creatures on the board. The troll must be defeated each turn or blame (negative points) is placed on all players, but if it is defeated the player who kills it not only loses a blame but gives blame to another player! The Draugers are fierce monsters who provide glory and gold to those who defeat them, but the real danger lies across the sea. The player must endure a harrowing journey in a viking longship to reach their prey, but if a monster is defeated it brings the honor of the gods as well as more glory than either the trolls or the Draugers! Players spend their turns gathering warriors and resources and sending those warriors to battle against the monsters. After eight rounds the viking who has the most glory is the winner!
I enjoy Champions of Midgard. It is a fun worker placement game which adds its own twist to the genre by including combat and the variance of dice rolling, and if you know me, you know I love dice! The viking theme of the game is well implemented and fits the mechanics nicely. I’ve played the game a few times now, and one thing that nags at me a little bit is the effort that it takes to engage the monsters across the sea. In games with smaller numbers of players, it seems that we tend to focus on the Draugers and trolls and you only really go after the monsters across the sea if you really need that one color to complete a set. In the last game I played it took me three attempts to kill a monster with only one defensive point! The resource and warrior toll just seems to be too great to risk not getting any benefit from it. I think with a full board of four players, these become more important, but otherwise they are underutilized. One thing that I particularly enjoy about Champions is that there is a lot of variation built in. Each player has secret goals which are different each game (and which you can get more of throughout the game), there are several variable buildings which are chosen at the beginning of the game, and there is even one space which changes each turn of the game. My issues with these variable board spaces are that there aren’t really enough of them. For example, there are only eight merchant ship cards, so you go through all of them in the course of one game.
Champions of Midgard was constantly compared to Lords of Waterdeep before it was released. It was to do what Lords did not, bring a well incorporated theme to the genre. I almost passed on the game because I certainly wasn’t looking to replace Lords of Waterdeep… I love that game! In the end I used my last morning at GenCon to get in on the hype and picked up my copy of Champions. While it certainly shares the worker placement mechanic of Lords, the added variance of the dice make it something completely different. It doesn’t feel like a euro-game like Lords does. As a result it stands on its own in the genre and in my opinion deserves its own space on the game shelf… assuming that you like worker placement games that have a high variance of course.
Later that evening Karen and I packed up and headed to game night. I had Champions in tow, but the group rules and we didn’t play it. Speaking of worker placement games, our first game of the night was Lords of Waterdeep!
Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game from designers Peter Lee and Rodney Thompson and is published by Wizards of the Coast. It plays two to five players and runs one to two hours. It is set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, and each player takes the role of a Lord in the town of Waterdeep. Each lord sends their agents out to various locations throughout the town to gather resources in the form of adventurers; fighters, rogues, clerics, and mages. Those adventurers are used to complete quests which earn victory points for the player. The quests further enhance the points as they are broken into various categories, and each lord has a pair of categories that they are trying to complete. Each completed quest in one of the two categories earns the lord bonus points at the end of the game.
Lords of Waterdeep has been my favorite worker placement game since I first played it at my friend Emily’s house on Halloween a couple of years ago. The second we returned home I ordered the game, the expansion, and even the custom meeples to replace the wooden cubes in the game. Since then I’ve also ordered metal coins (but haven’t received them yet), and the Broken Token insert! It is my most “pimped out” game to date. Many people complain that the theme of the game is pasted on, and I have to agree… with the fact that the theme is pasted on, not the complaining part. The mechanics, while they fit the theme, could really apply to just about any theme. It doesn’t bother me however. When playing I try to enhance the theme of the game by calling the adventurers by their names, rather than simply by their color, and this definitely helps in how the game feels. Reading out the titles of the quests that you complete also helps in this regard. “I’ll go to the Plinth and collect a Cleric. With that cleric and these other adventurers I will “Domesticate Owlbears” and collect eight points, a fighter, and two gold” sounds much better than “I’ll go here to get a white, and use that with two purples to complete this quest which gives me eight points, an orange, and two gold”. Dungeons and Dragons is a role playing game. If you keep that in mind while playing Lords of Waterdeep then it feels much more flavorful.
Regardless of the flavor, Lords of Waterdeep is a well balanced worker placement game which I always enjoy playing. For this game night we just played the base game with none of the expansions. Personally I prefer adding in one or both of the expansions. I did win the game this time around, so that is always fun!
After Lords of Waterdeep we waited for a couple of other games to finish up. Karen went off to play Gloom, and when some other players were done with their game of Burgle Bros. and some others were done with their game of Dead of Winter, we decided to get in a couple of rounds of Codenames.
Codenames is a deduction game from Vlaada Chvatil and Czech Games Edition. The game is played with teams. One player is the spymaster and has a map which of the twenty five cards on the table belongs to his team, which belong to the opponent’s team, which are neutral, and which one is the assassin! Each of the cards has a word on it and the spymaster’s goal is to get his team to guess which of the cards are his team’s spys. Each turn the spymaster gives a single word clue, followed by a number. The number is how many cards the clue applies to. For example, if there were the cards “gold”, “cacao”, and “cash” on the table, and they were all on the same team the spymaster might say “currency – three”. Cash and gold might be easy, but it would take the keen player to know that cacao beans were used as currency by the Aztecs. As each card is guessed the spymaster places a card matching the color of the guessed card over the word. If a wrong guess is made, play passes to the next player. If the guesses are all correct the team may decide to try and guess another word, but they have to be careful to not hit the assassin! The goal is to reveal all of your spies first. If you do, then your team wins! Sadly, if your team picks the assassin, then your team loses!
Codenames is both exciting and full of tension. You want to be able to give your team the best chance at winning, but it can be very difficult to make connections between some of the words, so you are stuck with giving clues for two or even one word if you just can’t come up with a connection for more. I think that the more the game gets played, the easier it will get to form connections between more varied words.
Codenames is a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed it every time that we’ve played and I hope to pick it up for my own collection some day. I’m going to make a rough copy to try with my wife and see if she enjoys it, as she tends not to like the deduction games so much. I hope that she does.
Friday evening Karen, Jan, and I played another game of Champions of Midgard. Jan won by a pretty big landslide. I’m still working on trying to figure out a strategy to approach the game with. Sadly (for me) Jan picks up on the base strategies of games much quicker than I do, and tends to beat me most of the time.
That’s all the games for this week. Until next week, don’t forget to get your game on!