GAME REVIEW: Champions of Midgard

What happens when you take two our our perennial favourites – Stone Age and Lords of Waterdeep – combine them, and add Vikings?

You get awesomeness. In particular, you get Champions of Midgard.

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What is Champions of Midgard?

Champions of Midgard is a worker-placement, resource-management game in the vein of the aforementioned Stone Age and Lords of Waterdeep.

From publisher Grey Fox Games and designed by Ole Steiness, this is a Viking- and Norse mythology-themed game of recruiting warriors, gaining divine favour, going on quests and fighting monsters. The thing that immediately jumps out at you his the sheer choice of strategy – there are no less than 21 unique actions you can choose on your turn for your workers in a 2-player game (22 in 3-player, 24 in 4-player).

What’s in the Box?

Befitting a game that looks like an 80’s heavy metal album cover, this is a heavy box! It contains a ton of physical content – 121 cards and 231 meeples, markers and tokens. Plus the game board and individual player boards… and the rulebook. It would be really hard to use without that one.

The art style definitely lends itself to the popular image of Vikings and Norse mythology, rather than the historical one (fun fact – horned helmets weren’t a “thing”). What it is, though, is gorgeous. The town that forms the backdrop for the game board is lovingly detailed, and each type of card has a unique but cohesive design – back and front.

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Some of the many choices – also check out the great little details of the backdrop.

Everything is high quality and feels like it’ll last a lot of play-throughs.

Packaging is tidy, without the immaculate fit you see in some of our favourites. There are separate sub-divided compartments, but owners/players are still left to divide different tokens and cards between the generous number of zip-lock bags included – definitely the industry go-to.

Playing Champions of Midgard

Players start by choosing a unique character – aside from a unique Viking-metal-album-tastic player tile, each character has a unique ability that benefits certain dice rolls or actions.

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How do you pronounce “Ullr” anyway? Is his name just a war-cry? UUULLLUURRRRR!!!

Each turn, players take turns placing one of their worker meeples on one of the action spaces on the board. The biggest commitments of resources, and potential for earning points, are fighting the Trolls and Drauger besieging the town, or setting out across the waters to fight mythical monsters.

To support these very metal activities, you’ll spend most of your actions on less metal, but still valuable tasks – recruiting fighters to your cause; drawing Destiny and Rune cards from the appropriate decks; trading resources (gold, food and wood) or purchasing them from visiting merchants; paying tribute for divine Favour (more on that later), or even having the local shipwright build you your own long ship.

With the exception of foraging for food, these actions tend to be limited to a single player per zone. So play order is important, and unsurprisingly there is a square allowing players to seize the first-player marker for themselves.

Players take turn placing workers, but resolve all their actions at once, in player order. After 8 turns, the end-game scoring takes place.

The Trolls, Drauger, and merchant ships are discarded and refreshed each turn. Others – the monsters and warrior-recruitment squares – remain and gain either gold pieces or more warrior dice, so it becomes increasingly enticing to go after those squares with each passing turn. Since you need to build up resources to go questing for monsters (you need to have a ship handy and also enough food for the voyage), the extra rewards can be enticing.

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Hunting monsters across the sea is not without peril.

Warrior dice, you ask? Combat is resolved by rolling dice for each of your warriors (swordsmen, spearmen or berzerkers) and comparing the results to your chosen foes’ attack and defense scores. Each dice has a chance to do nothing, score one hit, two hits, or block one enemy attack (berzerkers have a higher chance to deal two hits instead); you can keep fighting till you win, or run out of fighters. You can also re-roll the dice of your choice by using Favour tokens – at the cost of not earning points for those tokens in end-game scoring.

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Fortunately, you only have to face one at a time…

Scoring is a mixture of immediate points – earned mainly by defeating enemies, and on occasion by cashing in Rune cards – and end-game scoring. As with many of the best games, Champions of Midgard keeps you guessing right till the final cards are revealed. Players earn extra points for defeating matched sets of Drauger and/or monsters, which come with red, blue and yellow card borders. Players start with one Destiny (“have the most remaining warrior dice” or “have defeated the most blue enemies”), worth a healthy shot of points for being the sole winner, or a few for a tie. And you lose points for each Shame token you have – received earlier in the game if no one defeated the Troll that turn.

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Some of the various Destinies and Runes – Runes have the double benefit of scoring points, and a one-time powerful bonus. Drawing Destinies also lets you look at one of the Journey cards you draw when going after a monster, to see if it’ll be clear sailing or not.

There’s actually several other mechanics and scoring opportunities that I’m passing over – suffice to say there is a lot of nuance and depth to Champions of Midgard!

Strategy Tips

  • His: Don’t be afraid to change up your strategy if cards aren’t favourable or other players are blocking the choices you want. You can always draw more Destiny cards if you’re worried about losing out on the bonus points!
  • Hers: Don’t get caught up trying to do too much at once. Look at the cards you have and try to come up with a solid strategy within the first couple rounds.

Our Assessment

After just one game, Champions of Midgard jumped straight to our favourites. The wide variety of strategies and tactics, and the randomization of both monsters, journeys, and market tiles available in town give huge replay potential.

Between that diversity, replay value, overall quality and the combination of a complex, enjoyable game with overall approachability for new players, we give this a solid 9.5/10.

Basics

  • 2-4 Players
  • 60-90 Minutes; 40-60 for 2-Player
  • Ages 10+
  • $55-60 Canadian

 

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