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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!

Vikings


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



  God's Viking Harold Hardrada by Nic Fields  For an author to write about Haraldr Sigurðarson, normally called Harald Hardrada which me...

God's Viking Harald Hardrada the Last Great Viking by Nic Fields God's Viking Harald Hardrada the Last Great Viking by Nic Fields

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

Vikings





 God's Viking


Harold Hardrada


by


Nic Fields





 For an author to write about Haraldr Sigurðarson, normally called Harald Hardrada which means hard-counsel or hard-ruler, is a difficult task. Mostly what we know about him comes from Norse sagas. Therefore, it is hard to tell the truth from hyperbole. Dr. Nic Fields has given himself a very hard task to present us with the historical Harold. From the battle of Stiklestad in 1030, where Harald was only fifteen, to the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, Harald blazed like a comet across the early Middle Ages sky. The chronicler Adam of Bremen called him the "Thunderbolt of the North". Let us take a look at what the author has given us.


 First, it is a large book, coming in at 366 pages. It is, however, not just a straight biography of Harald. His life is shown us throughout the pages, but the book brings a trove of many other things. The book is filled with the history of the Viking Age from the half-mythical Ragnar, to the death of the last real Viking Harald. The book also is packed with with facts about other parts of the age. It starts with a chapter named 'War', which shows exactly how Vikings fought, etc. The last chapter of the book, called 'He, her, hero, heroine' goes into the details of how Viking women shaped the age. The book is filled with various Norse kings and chieftains. It mentions Eiríkr Blóðøx (Eric Bloodaxe, a happy little sobriquet). The author describes him thus: "Norsemen were all warlike, but Eric Bloodaxe was a special case; he enjoyed homicide as a family activity". 


 The author also dispels some fallacies that we now take as gospel about events and people in the Viking Age. He shows that the 'Blood-Eagle' was just a literary license from the later writers of the sagas. Ivar the Boneless is also a victim of what the author calls "English literalism". In actual fact, the epithet 'boneless' is still used in Norway to describe a crafty, sly character, as in 'No bones, you can't hear him coming'. The Norse were well known for their tongue in cheek nicknames. They would use names like 'fatso' to describe a skinny person, and vice versa. 


 The book does not neglect Harald's life though. We see him as a fifteen year old warrior fighting beside his half-brother. Then we see his long journey through 'Rus' (modern Russia), all the way to the court of the Byzantine Emperor. He becomes a general and head of the Emperor's Varangian Guard. Varangian was the Byzantine word for the Northmen. We follow his return to Norway and the throne, to his twenty-year war to conquer Denmark. He finally falls at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the first and sometimes overlooked  invasion of England in 1066.


 The book goes into incredible depth about Harald and the age before and during his life. I can easily recommend it to anyone who wants to really find out about the history of the Viking Age. Thank you Casemate Publishers for letting me review this needed and timely book.


Robert

Book: God's Viking:  Harald Hardrada the Life and Times of the Last Great Viking

Author: Nic Fields

Publisher: Pen & Sword

Distributor: Casemate Publishers




Wartile, developed by Playwood Project and recently released into Early Access on Steam, is a game not quite like anything I have...

Wartile Preview Wartile Preview

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

Vikings




Wartile, developed by Playwood Project and recently released into Early Access on Steam, is a game not quite like anything I have played before. The fresh take on tactical RPG combat has you moving detailed figurines of various Viking warriors around a static, yet beautiful diorama battlefield. The deliberate effect is to give the feel of playing a board game, with all the advantages of being a digital game. 


Combat takes place in real time, but each figure can only be moved once every three seconds or so. Standard attacks are made automatically once an enemy is in range, while special abilities can be activated by dragging the relevant card from the player's "hand" onto the target. This design creates a sort of controlled frenzy, where the player only needs to take a couple of simple actions every few seconds, but must be constantly thinking ahead. Positioning of units makes all the difference, with relative height, flanking attacks, and leveraging the terrain in your favor all factoring in to making sure your fighters prevail.


Each fighter under your control belongs to a particular class. There are damage dealers, shield bearing tanks, spearmen who can attack from two spaces away, and more to come. Putting each figure in the appropriate place is critical to keeping them alive, as you are often outnumbered. A tactic I exploited early on was holding a narrow pass with my shielded warriors, while my spearman attacked freely from range. Whenever there is room you will want to keep your men moving, getting behind enemies to get a flanking bonus to each attack. Enemy figures will keep moving as well, adding tension to the melee. 


As mentioned before, you have a hand of cards, independent of the individual characters' abilities, that let you activate special powers at any time. This deck of cards can be customized before starting a scenario, and is then dealt out randomly, two in hand at a time. Using these abilities depletes a limited supply of points, which must be recharged over the course of the battle. Early cards include healing, boosts to damage, and a trap which can placed on the map. As you complete scenarios, more cards are unlocked and can be mixed into your deck. Playing these cards at the right time, and only when needed, is another factor the player must keep in mind as a battle unfolds. 


Between scenarios the player can spend gold to purchase new figures and other things, as well as customize the figures he has. Armor and weapons can be equipped, as well as small bonuses to stats that can be swapped around as you like. Like any RPG, the further you get into the campaign, the more variety of options you have for customizing each character. You can make your figures into glass cannons, tanks, or balanced fighters. As characters level up you can add more stat bonuses, and they can be reset at any time, so you are free to try new strategies as you go.


It is certainly worth mentioning again how lovely this game looks. While the environments lack any animation, this actually works wonderfully. The whole thing has a very hand crafted feel to it, channeling those detailed battlefield dioramas you see in museums. I especially liked the crashing waves frozen in time and other cool details spread across each stage.

One thing I hope to see changed is freeing up the camera a bit more. There may have been an option I was missing, but I constantly found myself wishing I could tilt the camera more, so that I could take in beautiful landscapes from more angles.



The game also has a multiplayer mode, which I haven't tried yet, but expect will certainly force you to adopt more imaginative tactics. While the AI will give you a good challenge, it won't throw too many curveballs your way in its current state. Most of the surprises come in the form of sudden events which add new enemy figures to the board, usually in prime position to outflank your warriors.


Despite being in early access, I did not encounter any bugs or glitches during my first few hours of playing Wartile. I was happy to see that, despite the impressive visuals, the game runs perfectly smooth and loads almost instantly on my machine. There are a lot of positive things happening here, and I look forward to seeing more content added to the game over time. It's always good to see someone take a new approach to game design and aesthetic. This could have been a bog standard turn-based combat game, but instead it steps out, through visual design and game mechanics, into uncharted territory and that makes it a welcome breath of fresh air.


Official Site: http://www.wartile.com/
Available Now on Steam Early Access

- Joe Beard

Vikings At War By Kim Hjardar  and Vegard Vike  What a cast Viking history has: Ragnar, Ivar the Boneless, Cnut, Harold...

Vikings At War by Kim Hjardar and Vegard Vike Vikings At War by Kim Hjardar and Vegard Vike

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

Vikings


By

Kim Hjardar  and Vegard Vike




 What a cast Viking history has: Ragnar, Ivar the Boneless, Cnut, Harold Hardrada, Eric the Red, and his son Leif, Olav Tryggvason. Let us also not forget Snorri Sturluson without whom we would know next to nothing of the Norseman history and culture.

 This book is easily the best  book on Viking history I have ever read. To qualify that, just look at my last name, and the fact that my father tried to name me Olaf. It purports to be a book about Vikings at war, but it is really so much more than that. It is really a book of this, and of Viking history. It is a history of not only the Vikings in northern Europe, but of everywhere the Vikings went, and it also goes deeply into  the actual facts of Viking warfare. It has lists of all all of the Viking rulers and kings from Ireland to Russia. The book itself is a large 'coffee table' book that has on almost every page an illustration, map, or inset on some important person or weapon etc. This book escapes the deficit that most books on Vikings have about only talking about the Vikings in Britain, Ireland, and France. 

 This book shows the history of the Vikings in the following: Spain, Ireland, Britain, Russia, and the Mediterranean. Most people would be surprised that the actual word Russia comes from a Viking ruler called Rus. The Vikings even had the temerity to attack right up to the gates of Constantinople, one of the largest and most fortified cities on the globe. Their ferocity in battle gained them a place of honor in the Byzantine emperors' Varangian (a word for Viking) guard. Harold Hardrada, the king of Norway, who led one of the Viking invasions of Britain in 1066 was a member of the guard in his youth.

 Don't think that the book's primary focus has been short changed. It is also a compendium of Viking weapons, strategy, and tactics. Separate chapters go into axes, spears, swords, and armor.

 Viking seafaring has not been left out either. The authors explain how the Vikings actually got to the far flung lands they visited. Their different ship types and how they were sailed are also delved into.

The Oseberg longship


 The authors should be proud. The book brings to life the Viking age, but also brings to life some of its main characters. Maybe with this book we can finally put to rest all of the silliness of horned helmets. Wearing one while wielding an axe or sword would be near impossible. 

 The tale of Harold Sigurdsson, nicknamed Hardrada (hard counsel), is one of my favorites. His escape from Norway as a child, to his battles as part of the Byzantine army, and then his return to Norway to become king til his death at Stamford bridge is the stuff of legends.

 Their bravery on land is not to be questioned. However, it was their bravery at sea that is still more astounding. To take to the North Sea in their longships would have seemed to many others as pure madness. At a time when ships hugged the coast and put in every night for safety, the Vikings were sailing right in the middle of some of the roughest seas known to man.


Robert


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