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878 Vikings: Invasions of England is as a descriptive game title as you could ever wish for.  However, it is not until you play the game tha...

878 Vikings: Invasions of England by Academy Games 878 Vikings: Invasions of England by Academy Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Area Control


878 Vikings: Invasions of England is as a descriptive game title as you could ever wish for.  However, it is not until you play the game that you appreciate the weight that those ‘s’s are lifting.  Yes, there are lots of Vikings, and yes they’ll be lots of Invasions, on most turns as it turns out. 


Incongruously the rule book states that it is the year 865 however there aren’t many people who could split such small hairs or understand the nuance between the years 865 and 878.  I am not one of them despite regularly falling asleep to the British History Podcast (BHP) which covered this period for me about 3 months ago.  (I’ve got quite a backlog).



However let’s get back to the game, which is a team-based game for 2 to 4 players.  One side takes on the two factions of the Angles (thank you BHP): the Housecarls and the Thegn. The other team takes over the Viking Norsemen and Viking Berserkers.  The game plays out over at most 7 rounds or until the conditions are overwhelmingly in favour of one team.


Gameplay


This game reminds me of a simple COIN game; there are asymmetric faction powers and the play order changes each turn and it is a (wait for it) … card-driven game.  Feel free to disagree with me. One of the simplest aspects of this game is how the turn order is decided – by drafting faction-coloured cubes out of a bag.  Unlike most variable turn order games, this is not predetermined completely at the start of the turn but revealed as the first phase of the next players turn.  This is such a simple design choice but adds a delicious amount of tension (and involvement) from the very beginning and it only ramps up throughout the game. If the ‘English’ defenders go first then their opportunity to react to the Viking invasion is stymied.  If the Vikings go first they can deny the English important reinforcements later on. A double whammy of both team factions going before their opponents can be an opportunity for either side.


On their turn each faction will receive Reinforcements, activate their Leaders (this is mostly for the Vikings as the English don’t get a Leader until the 5th Round), Move their armies, Fight in regions where there are both enemy and friendly troops and then draws cards back up to 3 cards. Each player completes that sequence until either the end of the 7th Round, Treaty cards or overwhelming force end the game.  Both treaty and overwhelming force require a certain amount of control markers to determine if the English or Viking team won.


The first Viking Reinforcement phase lands the Great Heathen Army (i.e. the Vikings) into Englaland. And you might be forgiven for thinking that there would be no way the defending factions (normally one or two defenders in a region), could deal with the invading horde of 17 Norsemen and 8 Berserkers during the first turn.  However, it always seemed to be quite finely balanced by the end of each round despite the Vikings having a seemingly overwhelming force.  The wise Viking player will not spread themselves too thin; there is a strong desire to rampage and pillage with their superior forces but they are quickly whittled down.  A good Viking player should prepare and plan for significant reinforcements in later turns.



The core of the gameplay is driven by the cards played by the active faction, which will either be an event card or a movement card.  The movement cards dictate how many armies and how far they can move.  Movement is a simple affair, there is no unit drop off or pick up, and armies must stop when in a region with the enemy.


The battle phase is streamlined and quick to grasp and another area where this game shines with its design choices.  Each faction is colour coded and has its own battle dice.  The controlling player will roll as many dice as they have units available in the battle.  The berserkers are the strongest faction but also the most fragile.  The Norsemen and Housecarl are equivalent and the Thegn are a bit battle shy.  Any time a battle occurs in a region containing a city then the Fyrd are raised which are basically cannon fodder and play an important role in protecting the stronger Housecarl and Thegn from absorbing too many hits early on.



The use of colour to differentiate the battle dice and different factions really help to streamline the battle phase and it can be taught and grasped in a few minutes.  The simple and quick playing battles present a real ebb and flow that you can see across the board as the Vikings invade and are pushed back, a little less, each turn. The event cards may add a little wrinkle here and there to the overall flow of the game but all their game-changing rules are clearly presented on the cards themselves.  


The active faction player is allowed to ‘command’ the pieces of their teammate and move them and battle with them freely.  However, any decisions where to apply the hits and, I would argue where to move them, should be freely discussed and agreed upon within your team.  It is this discussion space with your other team member that allows this fast-paced game to breathe and enhances the overall experience. I have played it with 2 players (with my son) and with 4.  Despite my son enjoying the game and asking to play it again, I am a bit disappointed that he has not experienced it with 4 players yet.  When lockdown eases hopefully I can remedy that situation.

Components

This review was written with the recently published second edition of the game.  The artwork across the cards and throughout the game is lovely.  I am also a sucker for maps, especially ones of England, and this one is beautifully uncluttered and functional. 



The rules are excellently written, and there is an abundance of examples and colours that at first glance looks confusing, but which are extremely useful when you’re reading to learn the game for the first time.  Because of its relative simplicity and presentation of the rules, I imagine returning to the game after a few months or more will be a very quick affair.


The leaders in the game come with Standees that tower above the army units.  They really serve to focus your attention, particularly for the English factions where there is a concentration of force, if it is not abundantly clear by the sea of black and red plastic surround them



My favourite part of the components has to be the Historical Overview at the back of the rulebook. I love Academy Games (and any other publisher that does) for allowing designers the space to add some context to the game they’ve designed.  There is also a line or two of flavour text on the cards themselves which is interesting to read. 

Criticisms

Academy Games have provided tiny miniatures in 15mm scale on little round bases.  Keeping these upright (and in line with my OCD tendencies) is more trouble than it’s worth.  At 15mm you can tell that they’re soldiers carrying axes and spears but beyond that, the detail is a bit lost.  The size isn’t the issue, any bigger and the map would drown in plastic, but I would have preferred simple cubes which can be easily formed into a good looking shield wall, but this is a minor complaint.



Another minor complaint is around the card art – I’ve already said that the art is lovely but I would have liked to see more unique examples of it.  Event cards with the same function and title have the same art.  Again, this is a very minor criticism and arguably it may be a design choice to keep consistency across cards that have the same effects. 


The most significant criticism I have is that the game feels quite different with just two players.  This is a shame because that is the only version my son has played. There is an added level of ‘je ne sais quoi’ with the full complement of four players.

Conclusion

I have read this game described as Risk+ but I think I would prefer the term COIN-lite. I understand the Risk+ comment but this is so much more than Risk.  If someone can handle the rules-complexity of Risk and enjoys the direct conflict in that ‘game’ then 878: Vikings can provide a much more rewarding experience in a much shorter time with marginally more rules.  I think that non-gamers suggesting a game of risk is pretty much apocryphal these days, but if you ever find yourselves in that situation, say no, go out and buy this (or any of Academy Games’ Birth of America series – 1812, 1775 or 1754) and insist that they try this instead.  However 878: Vikings is probably easier to get hold of due to the recent reprinting.


Although the rules are simple there is enough in here, especially with 4 players, to keep even the most experienced of Grognards entertained.  Even if they consider it as a simple 60-minute filler – my game of this went closer to 90 minutes plus a bit., I guarantee that they will enjoy it.  As will anyone else who has experienced any type of modern hobby games, or dare I say it again, Risk… 


With the almost constant Viking invasion forces, each turn really does feel like a battering against a meagre force of defenders that somehow seem to keep things on a knife’s edge throughout the entire game.  The game is finely balanced and seems to always come down to very small deciding factors that decide the entire game.  Being on the right side of that decision is where the best player (with wit and a small amount of luck) will find themselves.


I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. You can use this link https://www.asmodee.co.uk/contentpage/find-your-game-store to find your Friendly Local Game Store; which need all the help they can get at the moment.


Designers: Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, Jeph Stahl
Bgg page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/204516/878-vikings-invasions-england
Playtime: 60 mins - 2 hours
Players: 2 - 4



‘Welcome to Centreville’ is an unusual title to be published by GMT Games. My view of their games is mid-to-heavy weight wargames using ...

Welcome to Centerville Welcome to Centerville

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Area Control

‘Welcome to Centreville’ is an unusual title to be published by GMT Games. My view of their games is mid-to-heavy weight wargames using lots of different game systems. What often sets GMT’s games apart from other publishers for me most is their production quality. In my opinion, many wargame publishers skimp on production quality whereas GMT consistently knocks it out of the park. This game is a departure from the normal wargame I expect from GMT but nothing has been lost from the production quality in this new game from Chad Jensen.

If I had any criticism about component quality, and I am nit-picking here, the ‘cloth’ bag from which you draw new vocation tiles is very light-weight, almost paper-like; but it works and gets the job done. You do have to apply 12 stickers to the wooden pieces before your first play. The board and wooden pieces are all excellent in terms of quality, as are most new hobby games released these days. The theme and the artwork are appealing to the non-wargaming audience. In fact, my wife expressed an interest in playing this game just based on the box art. (disclaimer: my wife doesn’t share my gaming obsession…yet.  Fifteen years in and I still haven’t given up. To play a GMT game with my wife was/is on my bucket-list, so thank-you for making such an accessible game GMT. I just need to get her to step up to Here I Stand next…(spoiler: it's not going to happen!))

I don't know what this material is called but it's not cloth.
Welcome to Centreville, as the title and box-art would suggest, is no wargame. It is a Yahtzee-style dice chucker to compete for the most lucrative buildings, positions and jobs in the titular Centreville. Each player is attempting to increase their Prestige and Wealth above those of the other players to win the game. These two metrics are scored separately on the same track and the lower of these scores is your final score. If you have 67 Prestige but only 20 Wealth your final score is 20.

On your turn, after you’ve rolled the extra-chunky six dice, up to 3 times, you can use the rolled icons to occupy spaces on the board. In general, the most rewarding, or more powerful spaces of the board are available when you roll 3 or more of the required icons. There are 10 different icons that you can roll and each icon can be used individually, or in sets, to place one of your tokens onto the board, or to take a counter that provides a turn-changing ability from the board. Alongside the icons, each die has a different colour which affects which areas of the board those icons can be applied to. Using my basic (and probably wrong) maths there are 36 different icon/colour combinations that you could roll (4 icons are colour agnostic).
Hunky, chunky dice!
As you can see, there are a plethora of options available to players and it proved bewildering to new players on the initial rules run through. However, each player is provided with an excellent player aid, which after half a dozen turns or so makes it abundantly clear what you can do with the icons you’ve rolled. I found, after the briefest explanations of how you win the game, and the basics of what you do on your turn, the game and it’s many options are best explained by playing/explaining the first few turns rather than painstakingly going through each possible outcome.

I am not disposed to like the randomness of Yahtzee-style dice chucking games. In this game however, the number of options and their combinations with the turn-changing abilities mitigates that randomness somewhat and after half-a-dozen plays, it has become my favourite Yahtzee-mechanic game. You’re still limited to the dice you’ve rolled after the third roll (or even four rolls with the Urban Planners or Media tile's special ability) however, there are two special icons on the dice that behave differently from the other symbols which allow and require you to roll tactically to be more effective.

The first 'special symbol' is a question mark icon which duplicates any other icon. If you roll one tree icon and 3 question marks you effectively have 4 trees and can occupy the most expensive property in town.
Icons...icons everywhere. There are 13 distinct board areas on display in this corner of the board.
The second special symbol on the dice is the hourglass symbol which effectively locks that dice in that it cannot be rolled again on your turn. Each hourglass will move the time marker on a space, (potentially triggering a scoring round or adding a disaster tile to the cloth bag) and they provide a small bonus to either Wealth or Prestige for the rolling player.

The number of symbols on each dice is different but you can attempt to control the roll through ‘Master Tiles’ and the question mark symbol. For example, the blue Master Tile allows you to set the Blue die, there are Master Tiles that allow you to set 4 of the 6 dice. The black die has 2 hourglass symbols on it, more than any other die. Rolling and re-rolling the black die has a greater risk and there is no equivalent Master Tile to control it with.

Initial Setup for a four player game
The board itself is a pleasantly compact board that contains a multitude of icons and areas. In general, the ‘town’ is divided into areas which provide Wealth, and areas which provide Prestige. There are other areas which allow players to add new abilities to their standard turn. These new abilities, gained through Vote icons or Education icons allow further control of the dice or the game turn. The standard turn is simple and even in the late game where each player may have 3 or 4 turn-changing abilities a turn can be completed in short order.

However, players that suffer Analysis Paralysis could be catatonic here. Trying to min-max this game I think is best left to Alpha-zero. If your group suffer with any AP players then don’t buy this game, or just refuse to play with them. In this game there is nothing to do between your turns; you can’t start planning until you see the first roll on your turn. I timed (discretely of course) 12 and a half minutes in between one of my turns playing a four-player game with 2 AP players. Playing quickly it could come back around to you in under 5 minutes.

This is an easy game to introduce casual gamers to. It’s a step above the likes of Catan or Dominion and is just as appealing. It may not be as accessible as those games, just because of the number of things you can do with the icons you’ve rolled, but after that initial rules-hurdle has been crossed this is a good game and surprisingly quick game that new or experienced gamers would enjoy; especially if they’re looking for something a bit meatier after their umpty-teenth play of King of Tokyo. I imagine that if you’re reading this, you are the serious-gamer in your group; this may be the ideal game to introduce your 'less-serious' friends to GMT Games. Next stop Fire in the Lake …
After the first scoring phase.
I did try, unsuccessfully, to introduce this to non-gamers. Specifically, my in-laws; it's not something I can recommend trying. It's either a next step game or a mid-weight euro, I can't decide but it's not a game to convert people into gamers. In terms of complexity, it feels about the same as 7 Wonders. There are many more choices in this game and it plays in approximately the same time. In fact, the playtime along with the number of decisions you have to make is the biggest appeal of this game to me. I can't think of many other short(ish) games that provide so many decisions in such a short time.

The adage ‘do what the other players aren’t doing to win a Euro’ doesn’t really apply here. You need to focus equally on your own Prestige and Wealth to be successful. There isn’t much player-interaction aside from the usual worker-placement DOS (Denial of Spaces) attacks and through the voting mechanism. Votes enable you to take the ability provided by a Public Office from another player by rolling more votes, in a particular colour, than they did to win it initially (each public office corresponds to a different coloured die).
After second scoring phase
There are three phases, to this game which each end with a scoring round. The phases end after the time marker has moved a number of spaces which is determined by the number of players there are. If none of you are rolling hourglasses (unlikely), the phase is going to be long. However, after the first scoring round and the first disaster has occurred there will probably be very few rules questions as the iconography on the board and the summary player aid do an excellent job to answer most questions.

Scoring follows the principle of if you have the most or share the most of something with a player you both receive a set number of points. Second most owning player(s) receive significantly less.  This is applied over the board in all its different spaces, and in that, this is the epitome of a point-salad game - everything scores some points. Scoring only stops play for about 5 minutes and it allows you to strategize for the next phase i.e. do you need to concentrate on Wealth or Prestige for the next phase.
Endgame scoring: Yellow wins with 75 points, Brown has 61 points, White has 54 points and Grey just 47 points. (Grey hadn't played before, and Yellow (me) had played and taught it at least 4 times by this point)

Each player also starts with a secret Legacy Tile, in effect, this is a secret mission, revealed at the end of the game, and is only scored in the third and final scoring round. There are 7 Legacy tiles in the game so each game will have a subtly different scoring regime in the final round. In one of my games, the Legacy Tile changed the winner of the game. This was one of those stand-and-shout gaming moments. I love it when games provide sufficient balance and tension throughout the game that the winner is still undecided up until the final reveal of the game. In my experience, there is skill involved in this game, and for equally skilled players there were rarely run-away leaders.

The game claims 2-4 players. Unfortunately, at two players, the rules introduce a third-player bot, which to me, indicate that it’s really a 3-4 player game. I have played with the bot and it is well designed and its actions can be resolved fairly quickly (there are no bot-action flowcharts here. Lookin' at you COIN!) but it was never really a competitive player. The bot's main purpose is to disrupt and deny spaces from the other two players. The concept and implementation of a bot for the intended audience of this game may be a step too far and I don’t really like a bot that isn’t competitive. I know earlier prototypes of this game there were rules to limit board spaces with two players but they’re not in the published rules. I have a feeling the proto-type 2 player rules would be more interesting to me.
Setup from here takes about 5 minutes

The game does play well at both 3 and 4 players, assuming you’re not playing with AP-prone players, but it is a better game with 4 players. It has a small foot-print and plays in just over an hour. It provides enough choices to satisfy any crowd of gamers and is now my go-to take-along-a-game-to-a-game-group game. I am pretty confident that very few gamers will have tried it or even heard of it. I hope that GMT Games' foray into more Euro-style games continues and proves successful for them. I notice Chad Jensen also has Golden Gate Park up on their P500 list, needing some love.

I would like to thank GMT Games for providing this review copy. GMT Games have started shipping this out so you can still get it from their website for $59 or from a few online websites offering a pre-order price here in the UK. I don't think this game will be very common and I think it will be difficult to track down if you don't act soon, but I guarantee it is worth it.

Marlon Brando in all his glory I have the pleasure of reviewing The Godfather: Corleone's Empire which, at the time of writing is ...

The Godfather: Corleone's Empire The Godfather: Corleone's Empire

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Area Control

Marlon Brando in all his glory
I have the pleasure of reviewing The Godfather: Corleone's Empire which, at the time of writing is Cool Mini or Not's latest 'hotness'. Unusually for a miniatures game, this title wasn't a Kickstarter and compared to CMON's other Kickstarter titles it shows. You're not getting hundreds of superfluous miniatures or any add-ons with this game. Instead, you get a game that has been designed to within an inch of its life and that is a good thing.

I suppose we should expect nothing less than a fantastic design when Eric Lang is at the wheel and he has delivered in spades. The top-notch design extends beyond the game play and components to include the box and the vac trays. When I was opening the box it felt like unwrapping a new electronic device whose boxes are notoriously designed to exude luxury and functionality. Godfather's vac trays are among the best I've ever seen in a game. Usually, I will ditch the vac tray and create a custom insert to hold game components, not this time.

The miniatures vac tray, note the horses head first player counter
Godfather's components also include a metal 'suitcase' for each player. I don't know why, but this addition tipped me over from curious to excited to play this game. You'll notice the base of the miniatures is either a square or circle; there are corresponding shapes on the game board which indicates the legal moves for each character. This aid helps to teach and play the game, there are other similar aids on the board to help the different setups at different player counts.

In the game, you control a family and thugs vying for supremacy of New York. The Godfather himself is a rather abstracted figure that only controls the game turns and some aspects of your hand management. Each family aside from the sculpts and names plays exactly the same. The miniatures themselves are, as you would expect from CMON, very well sculpted. But don't be disappointed by the lack of detail on them when compared to a typical fantasy figure; not many mobsters ran around New York bedecked in fur cloaks, leather pouches and scabbards!
A selection of the family figures
When I taught this game to not-my-normal group of players, none of whom would I describe as gamers, it took less than 15 minutes to explain and set-up all the components. (I had packed the game away to make sure setup would be quick but I can't see setup needing more than 10 minutes at the most)

As you can see the box art is sumptuous and evocative of the early 20th-century gangster theme. This immersive art design extends to both the board and the rule book. The rule book is a work of art in more ways than one. Let's be clear here, this is a simple game; if not a gateway game then a very solid next-step game. The rules could have been crammed onto 4 sides of paper. However here you get a lavishly illustrated rule book which introduces the game and explains concepts so clearly, it could be used as an example in rule-book writing.


Revenge is a dish best served cold - said the green player
On my first playthrough of the game, to make sure I knew the rules, I played with my 8-year-old son. For his benefit, I renamed the resource cards from narcotics, liquor, blood-money and weapons to a more palatable medicine, drink, money and guns. I think this may have sanitised my first play-through, a feeling which I haven't shaken on all subsequent plays. I would have liked the actions to feel a little more 'gangster' or brutal.

One of the most enjoyable actions involves taking-out other players figures. When this happens you get to put the proverbial 'concrete shoes' on them and 'give them an offer they can't refuse' and literally toss their miniatures in the Hudson River. The other core actions are spending your resources to complete jobs or shaking down businesses.

In order to maximise your turns, you need to manage your family. With no figures left you're not able to complete any of the ancillary actions open to you. This is a similar mechanic to managing your rage in Eric's previous Viking-themed game Blood Rage.

There are four turns to every game with five phases per turn. It scales well from 2 to 5 players. At 2 and 3 players, however, the board did feel quite barren until the 4th turn where you receive your full complement of miniatures. With 5 players the final turn felt inordinately longer than the preceding ones.

The final act of a 3 player game
Ultimately this is a worker placement game, with a side of card-drafting in an attempt to control Manhattan and Brooklyn. Where you place your pieces doesn't induce the same level of angst in the other players as do the likes of Caylus or Agricola. It felt like there was nearly always an okay, if not a good option left to take. However, for its audience, I think this is a design feature; very few players will find themselves alienated or picked on at any stage.

When I played the game with my slightly-more experienced group, they all agreed that it had become one of their favourite games and would look forward to playing it again. We rarely get the same games to the table but I think the Godfather will be a regular and welcome visitor to my gaming table now. This game feels a little light for my tastes but I still thoroughly enjoyed it and it was definitely a hit with my core gaming group. 

I would like to thank 365games for the copy of Godfather: Corleone's Empire they've provided for this review. RRP for this game is £79.99.


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