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878 VIKINGS: THE EXPANSION from ACADEMY GAMES This comes hot on the heels of its parent game and those of you who Kickstarted the...





This comes hot on the heels of its parent game and those of you who Kickstarted the package will already possess it as part of the deal.  In all, the expansion provides nine possible additions to the basic game that can be added, in any combination desired.
A preliminary glimpse of all nine

These nine are:
   [1] War for Land and Gods
   [2] Kingdoms
   [3] Kings
   [4] Runes and Prayer
   [5] Relics and Holy Sites
   [6] Legends
   [7] Epic Battle Events
   [8] Viking Ships
   [9] Legendary Leaders
In physical terms, you get a new set of dice, more cards and counters and the rule book to explain their use.  Just reading the rule book, you will pick up a whole slew of information both historical and legendary.  In itself I enjoyed this simple pleasure, along with gazing at the familiar quality of the components.

As a package I'd view it mainly as a box of miniature delights to be dipped into as fancy and mood takes you.  Most provide extra thematic colour, while two, I would suggest, make significant changes to the focus of the game.  Mentioning colour also draws me to some of the pure delight in the artwork such as the Rule book's cover.
and this small insert of  a Viking.

However, delving into my "chocolate box" of gaming delights, I'm going to start with the last of the nine, Legendary Leaders, as this adds a coda to a brief comment I made in my initial review of the core game.  This was the fact that a single female character, Lagertha, was mentioned in the pen portraits of Leaders and, as I expected, here she appears as a potential variant.  From the little that I've been able to glean about the historical figure  I'm not even sure I'd dignify her with the title leader and her role in the game perhaps reflects this.  She does not appear independently, but can be chosen to accompany the arrival of one of the other leaders.  She appears with a meagre three units of her own, but can have as many of the accompanying leader's troops transferred to her cards you wish.

In essence, it allows you a two-pronged attack, but with a pair of weaker armies.  For me, it's an interesting added possibility with possibly its most powerful use coming in an end run where snatching an extra city may turn the tide.

The older, somewhat grimmer figure of Ragnar Lodbrok can be chosen as your first Viking leader to replace the original Card A "Halfdan's Great Heathen Host".  Ragnar comes with an equally mighty force and an additional Battle benefit.  Choose him and your start to the game should get off to an even more forceful opening - that is, of course, if you are playing the Vikings!

Expansion 8: Viking Ships might be considered almost as an item that should have been in the game from the very beginning, as a Ship maker is placed to mark the Shire where the invading Army lands each turn and allows movement of Viking armies between such sites.  As with the majority of these expansion elements, there is an appropriate corollary that benefits the English player.  If any English forces can occupy such a site with no Vikings present, the ship is burnt and the Viking player has to remove two of his units to the Fled Space on the map.  So, the Viking gets more manoeuvrability from the ships, but then has to decide can units be spared to guard them!  Nice touch - like this one a lot!

From a choice that I would simply add permanently to my game to the one I find least appealing: Expansion 3: Kings.  Another touch of flavour and a very simple addition.  Four Event cards named after four historic regional Kings - one randomly dealt to each faction and held as a bonus Event card that can be played once during the whole game.  This obviously is very easy to implement. Yet though the rationale that some English kings helped/appeased the Vikings while others stoutly resisted is certainly true, that they are randomly distributed means that the Viking player may get the benefit of a King who opposed them, while the English player may get the benefit of an appeaser!  For historical reasons not my favoured choice of expansion, but here the four are for your viewing.
Like the previous one, most of the others add, to a greater or lesser degree, elements of uncertainty which may or may not be to your personal persuasion: a factor I discussed in reviewing the main game.  Expansion 5: Relics and Holy Sites is even more colourful with two tiles of each type being randomly drawn for a game.  As some of the English tiles can be used if captured by the Vikings while none of Viking ones can be used by the English, this choice inevitably favours the Viking player. 
All the new tiles

Expansion 6: Legends introduces cards with goals that either help the Vikings to remove control markers from the VP track or the English player to add them.  Once more this tends to strengthen Viking play, as each Viking Leader draws a card on his arrival, while the English player can hold only one at a time.  This can easily be levelled up by allowing the English player to keep more than one at a time, but it seemed strange that an already strong Viking hand is further improved by this feature.

Expansion 7: Epic Battle Events is a more even handed deck with many of them affecting Battle dice rolls on both sides. As the Viking battle dice tend to be more powerful than the English, this in fact results on average in a very marginal benefit to the English. 
However, from these new cards, only  three are added to the main Fyrd Deck and as three more are added only if the Fyrd deck is completely run through, the reality is that a relatively small number will apply to any given game. 

Linked to the previous expansion is Expansion 4: Runes and Prayer as this too affects Battle.  Again I think this choice may divide opinion. The additional ability to influence battles will undoubtedly appeal to some players, while others may prefer the existing elegance of the existing core dice and system.  I confess that I currently veer towards the latter view, but will explore further plays using the prayer and rune dice. 
Above are the Prayer & Rune Dice and below the cards you can place them on to activate different Battle effects.

My penultimate exploration will be Expansion 2: Kingdoms.  This will surely appeal to those who wanted a little more geopolitical history in the way that the ruling of the country was divided.   Considering the colour-coding of the map, I think it's fairly clear too that at least this part of the expansion was a planned introduction from the very beginning.  It is an easy and enjoyable choice for inclusion.

I have deliberately left the first Expansion until last, as for me it is the most substantial and significant.  War for Land and Gods introduces an alternative goal for victory.  The key difference is that 14 Church tiles are placed on the map and the Vikings win by destroying all 14 churches.
The Church Tiles
Viking Forts & Settlements
I am not convinced that the explanation that England is converted to paganism is in any way a valid historical one, nor one that the Vikings themselves ever contemplated.  Nevertheless, I find it brings an attractive physical addition, especially in its conjunction with Viking Fort and Settlement tiles.  But for me, its main appeal lies in the need for the Viking player to destroy all 14 churches to win, while they lose if they have not achieved this by the time the Treaty of Wedmore is activated.  This makes the Viking task much more difficult and introduces considerable time pressure and is a must for those who think that the Vikings have a strong edge in the victory stakes or wish to balance the chances of a less experienced player against a stronger one.

All in all, a fascinating "pick and mix" selection to choose from.  I wouldn't recommend swallowing the whole bag full at one go, but then I'm sure if you venture on this expansion the temptation to do so will overcome you at least once.  Happy indigestion!!