Champions of Midgard

“It’s Lords of Waterdeep With a Twist”

IMG_7238I’ve generally enjoyed playing worker placement style games. If you are new to the board gaming hobby, they are simply games where you assign a token, meeple, or even die to a certain part of a board and perform the actions as dictated. Not only do you perform the actions, but generally speaking, most games prevent others from taking the same action as well. It is this mechanic that requires players to strategically time when they are going to place their workers. Some of my favourite examples of worker-placement games include Agricola, Stone Age, Space Frontiers, and the increasingly popular Dungeons and Dragons spin off “Lords of Waterdeep”.

However, no matter what theme or story line you are working with, the mechanic remains the same, in that you are choosing spaces on the board to both gain the benefits of being on that space, and block other players from taking the action as well. There isn’t really a way to extend beyond this mechanic, and why would you. It’s been working for quite some time now that there’s no reason to ruin a good thing.

Then I heard about a game called “Champions of Midgard” and after playing it a couple times, I’m glad that there’s a designer that challenged and extended the worker-placement mechanic.

Champions of Midgard is a worker-placement game designed by Ole Steiness. The game is based on viking lore. Players place their meeples on the board to gather both resources and viking warriors, which are needed to battle vicious monsters from far away lands. The more monsters you defeat, the more glory you get, and the player with the most glory is given the title Jarl of Midgard.

The unique thing about this board game is that the Vikings that you hire for these missions are represented by dice, and there is a pretty good chance that these Vikings will be slaughtered by the monsters that you assign it to. Each die has either a symbol of a weapon, a shield, or nothing at all.  If you are able to successfully roll the number of weapons, such as axes and spears, equal to the defense of the monster, you defeat it, but you will also lose dice unless you have rolled enough shields. The game forces you to strategically assign dice to battle against the monsters. You can choose to put many dice on one creature to better the odds of keeping your team alive, but you can take a risk and place less dice on a variety of monsters in the hopes to get a whole lot of victory points in one go.

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The monster itself isn’t the only thing that your Viking troops have to deal with. Your  armies also have to combat a number of elements while searching for these monsters. Your armies may have to fight off hunger and starvation, or survive possible weather elements, or even battle a kraken lurking in the ocean. The goal is to preserve your troops as much as you can before you battle the monsters.

An interesting mechanic found in the game is the blame mechanic. In the game, there’s a troll that is always trying to get into Midgard.  One of the worker placement tasks is to send Viking warriors to fight the troll. If no player decides to fight the troll, then everybody receives a blame token, which exponentially hurts your point total. However, if

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you send your Vikings to the troll and defeat it, not only do you remove one of your blame tokens that you might have earned in a previous round, but you can hand a blame token to one of your opponents. This mechanic can cause major swings in the point totals and will be the cause of many of the cutthroat discussions at the table.

This game overall reminds you of Lords of Waterdeep with a chance element to it and as you may have seen in previous posts, I really like games that put that twist with probability. The game also has built in the favour ability, which allows players to reroll any number of dice so that players can achieve a favourable outcome. Players are also awarded with more points if they can hang on to their favours till the end of the game.

The board also changes constantly both during the game and between each new game. Certain shops are different for each game and the port changes the items obtained after each turn. You could also have a different starting player ability.  This means that strategies will change depending on what was given on the board. However, the gameplay doesn’t change drastically given these alterations.

One of the things I didn’t like about the game was the really ambiguous rule book and slightly confusing symbology. When you’ve played board games for a fair bit of time, you start to develop a general understanding of the symbols and language written for board games. But even after reading the rule book over and over again, there were still some elements that were so confusing, that I had to go to forums on BoardGameGeek, just so that someone could clear up and translate what was being said by the symbols. When I played the game for the first time with friends with the incorrect translation, the game was broken, and players could essentially win, without battling a monster. Eventually, the game started to make more sense, but this was after playing the game three or four times, rereading the rules constantly, and even seeking advice from the Internet.

For those players who have played Lords of Waterdeep and are wanting a refreshing change, Champions of Midgard is perfect for you. It has a similar mechanic, but the added chance elements give you that high roller stakes feel. With the board and roles changing every game, players have to constantly adapt their strategies to suit the environment.  And if you can get over the awful rule book, players will have an amazing time trying to obtain glory for their own clan.

Pros: 

  • Lords of Waterdeep feel, with nail biting chance elements.
  • Unique “blame” feature that causes cutthroat discussions and actions at the table.
  • Easy to teach and the board features a reminder for the events of the turn.
  • Really cool components; I’ve always been a fan of custom made dice.

Cons: 

  • Not much change between games, even when players change the shops and their own roles.
  • The rule book; it’s better to watch a video tutorial on Youtube than read the documents.
  • The cards are really flimsy. I had to put card protectors just to make them more stable.
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