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Gaming for a living

When one designs and published board games for a living, one tends to rant a lot about it. This is where we do that, the folks involved with NSKN Games and our special friends and supporters. We'll post here our ideas about gaming, about life, about gaming more often than not, about the specific challenges of making a business out of a hobby and... did we mention games?

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Heart of the Mists: The Duskbearer

B. G. Kubacki
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The next chapter of Mistfall introduces new threats and new enemies. The world is more dangerous and more unstable than ever before, which calls for new and unexpected alliances. And with that, let me introduce Melekai, a priest of the Nightfather, and a new hero of Heart of the Mists.



The Duskbearers

Just as Dawn has her priestly orders, so does Dusk, albeit smaller in number and much less known. Since the time the Nightfather decided to withdraw from the world, revoking the power he would bestow upon his beastly creations, many thought that his grasp on the world was reduced to nothing. However, there were still some, who would retain the link to their god.

While the old legends tell mainly of those, who would invoke the name of Dusk hoping only to grow in power, there has always been some that were not scared of the shadows, and ready to walk a road less travelled. This order, known as the Duskbearers, while very far from the selfless ideals of Dawn’s priestly orders, would nonetheless often oppose the Mists, knowing that corruption and perversion of all creation was not what their god had intended.

More flexible and more adapted to the world today, Duskbearers seem to possess the skill to manipulate the Mists themselves. Tapping into their corrupting reservoir of eldritch power, they remain immune to madness and mutation, at least on the surface. And now, in a time of a great tide of darkness, they decided to step out of the shadows and aid those who oppose the Mists, knowing full well that if they don’t, soon there might not be anything to fight for even for them.

Melekai the Duskbearer

Reputedly born in Blackwood, eldest son of a bringand lord of great stature, Melekai speaks little of his past, but his sharp mind and the ruthless way he often deals with his enemies speak volumes of where he is coming from. Still, nobody seems to know much of him beyond this – and few seem to care.

Walking into a skirmish about to turn ugly for four Misthunters, Melekai managed to help them win the day, instantly securing the trust of those he saved. Some later said that this trust went a little too far, but none of those who would fight by his side have ever doubted him again, trying to ignore the fact that the powers he wields can alter or outright bend the will of others.



Nonetheless, after making the acquaintance, Melekai decided to accompany Elatha from Naar to Valskyrr, and then back again, to join the informal brotherhood of Hammerhome, sworn to rid the wounded lands of the Mists’ influence. Whatever his real motives are, he has not given anyone reasons to doubt him since, and in a time as dire as this, picking allies is a luxury none can really afford.

Melekai as a Player Character

In essence, Melekai is a priest, and that means that he is able to wield a mace and aid his allies by healing them and removing conditions. However, unlike Arani, he is quite limited in his healing abilities, being much more focused on something else entirely.

Able to turn attacks away from himself, or at least make Enemies suffer the same damage he suffers, Melekai may be a bit tricky to play. His power often depends on the power of his foes, so he also possesses a certain degree of control over positioning of Enemies in different areas. To be able to eliminate them, he also has a few effects that do direct damage, not to mention the fact that most of his cards have to Combat keyword, very much needed when taking up a weapon against an enemy in melee.

The Kicker once again!

Just like with Elatha, a Hero you can play now, a playtest Print and Play version of Melekai will become available for download next week. So, if you want to try out some of what is coming up for Heart of the Mists, you can sharpen your scissors now… and tell us what you think of the newest addition to the roster of the Heroes of Mistfall.
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Thu Apr 28, 2016 3:16 pm
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Heart of the Mists: The Misthuntress

B. G. Kubacki
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The world of Mistfall has changed. New machinations of the nefarious Mists have transformed the lands and their inhabitants, new threats emerged, and new heroes are rising up to the challenge. Continuing the tradition started before Mistfall made its debut on Kickstarter, I present to you the story of the first of the new heroes featured in the upcoming Heart of the Mists expansion: Elatha the Misthuntress.



The Misthunters

Known as versatile warriors and trackers, the Misthunters can be found around the known world, always ready to find and eliminate monstrous threats spawned by the Mists. Not as specialized as archers of the Arcaneweave, not as heavily armoured as the Shieldbearers, the Misthunters are still able to often succeed where none other could, making up for the lack of arcane abilities with the skill to adapt and work effectively in varied environments and conditions.

Unlike the Shieldbearers of Frostvalley Keep, Misthunters are not as much a formal military organization with a single seat of power, as they are a fellowship with a network of companions spread around the known world. This made adapting to the world changed by the Mists easier for the Misthunters than for anyone else.

Elatha the Misthuntress

Although born on the southern border of Valskyrr, Elatha would never stay in one place for longer than a few weeks. Being the eldest daughter of merchant-explorer parents, she’d seen more of the world before she was eight, than most people see within a lifetime. Always self-reliant and headstrong, always taking care of her younger siblings, Elatha nonetheless could not see herself following in her parents’ footsteps; especially that she was drawn more to the sword, than to the map and coin.



With a family background such as this, and a natural skill for the bow and blade, becoming who Elatha is today seemed like almost a formality. After being apprenticed by an elderly Misthunter by the name of Sandrel for merely a few months, she was ready to face the enemies of mankind on her own, and merely a few months more made her name recognizable both in Naar and Valskyrr.

After the cataclysmic events that followed the Battle of Ravencrag, Elatha suddenly found herself far from where she had initially started one of her hunts. The Mists took her from the edges of a frozen forest right back to Red Sands. However, as it turned out quickly, the same happened to her prey: a young Kerathi noblewoman, and a suspected ringleader of a wyrm-worshipping cult Elatha is determined to take down. Now, having met some allies, she is more than ready to continue her pursuit.

Elatha as a Player Character

The Misthuntress is a curious mix of different skills, giving her the options to effectively (albeit not spectacularly) deal with opponents both at close range, and from afar. Her deck introduces two centre mechanisms: Traps and Marks; the former punishing Enemies for entering her Hero Area, and the latter making it easier for her (and sometimes for other Heroes) to rapidly convert damage into mortal Wounds.

Quite self-sufficient and well rounded, Elatha is a great Hero to play solitaire, but the range of her combat Feats, as well as Traps, make her a great choice when pairing her up with other Heroes. Not as specialized at deadly shots as the Arcaneweave Archer, she is nonetheless versatile enough to also work well as the Hero to take on your first adventure into the burning sands of Naar, or the cold wastes of Vaskyrr.

And here’s the Kicker…

Would you like to take this Hero for a trial run with your copy of Mistfall? If you’re interested, Monday the 25th is the date to wait for, as Elatha will become available for download. So, if you want to try out some of what is coming with the Heart of the Mists expansion, you can start here – and tell us what you think!
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Thu Apr 21, 2016 4:23 pm
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Parting the Mists

B. G. Kubacki
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Since last time I wrote about Mistfall, I received some questions about the expansion, both as comments, and as (quite a big bunch) of emails and personal messages. And since I have a few pieces of art I’d like to show you, I will take this opportunity to expand on what Heart of the Mists will (or will not) be.



Will this be just a reskin of Mistfall?

Simply put: no. Heart of the Mists continues the story of the world of Mistfall, introducing new charcters, monsters, and a new region together with a set of new places to visit. Mechanically, it will give you four new Heroes to play with, three new decks of Regular Enemies, new Quests, new Gear, and more.

I don’t own Mistfall, will Heart of the Mists work for me?

Yes. Heart of the Mists is a standalone expansion, so all you need to play will come with the upcoming set. Complexity level wise it will probably clock in a bit higher than the base game, but not by much. And you will get an online “Learn to Play” guide for your first solitaire game, similar to the one already available for the Mistfall base game.

I own Mistfall, how much stuff will I be re-buying with this set?

Very little. Heart of the Mists will come with new Heroes, Enemies and Quests, none of which will be copied from the base game. As for elements like the Quest Charter they will not be simply ported from the base game. Some new mechanisms require incorporating them on the basic game elements, so I decided to make them different, to serve as a new challenge or an alternative to what you already own. Regrettably, you will still receive cubes identical to the base game. We will try to give you a different colour, though



So, can I just mix whatever I want?

Yes. You can combine Enemies and Locations, use any Heroes in any Quests (old and new). Only some of the elements will require a bit more caution – like Gear, which gets a new set of rules in terms of Heroes receiving new loot – but generally, you’ll be able to use any elements you wish in any single game.

I didn’t like the rulebook, will I get a better one this time?

Yes. The rules are being completely re-written, and we will make them available online before the campaign starts in different draft forms, so that everyone can send us their feedback. Many people offered me insight during the last year, and I intend to make full use of anyone who wishes to help with creating a rule set for Mistfall.

Some first printing Mistfall cards had errors; will I get corrected card in print?

Yes, the Heart of the Mists expansion will include them. We are also working on making them available outside of the expansion, but I am not able to say anything definite yet. For now you can download them here.

What about cool loot? Am I getting more of it?

Yes. One of the systems that are going to change is rewarding Heroes for successfully completing Encounters. Heart of the Mists will not only introduce a satisfying number of new items to add to your deck, but also a more decision-based process of acquiring rewards, so that you will decide if and when your Hero receives one of their personal reward items.



The Mistfall rules and cards mentioned Allies. Am I getting Allies?

You most certainly are. This new mechanism will allow players to make use of new abilities and go on Quests with not only other Heroes, but also helpers and protectors offering their aid in a time of need. Mechanically, Allies will work a little bit like Enemies (some of them may even be converted Enemies), but controlled by players, and able to help in overcoming different types of threats.

Am I getting a campaign system similar to Valskyrr?

Not this time. A much more robust campaign is in the works as a possible separate (and big) expansion for the future. Much still depends on how everything pans out with Heart of the Mists, but I am working on tying both sets together (or just playing with one) into a massive storyline, during which both Heroes and Enemies will grow in power, and all Quests form a large, narrative story to play through. This, however, is something for a more distant future.



Okay, so what happened to the Mistfall world since the base game?

This is a story to be told in a separate post. For now, I can say that the Mists are far from being beaten, and are working with renewed strength. As their power grows, the world changes more than ever, bringing together places that had never shared a border before, unveiling new threats and leading to unlikely alliances. But, this is something for another time.
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Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:01 pm
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Mistfall: a Learn to Play Guide is here!

B. G. Kubacki
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Mistfall: Heart of the Mists is slowly closing in, but before we start delving into the second chapter of this dark fantasy adventure, we have something for all of you who are already fans of the original Mistfall – and for those who are only planning to become fans themselves.



There is no doubt about Mistfal being a complex game, with many different mechanisms working at the same time. Learning and remembering everything Mistfall has to offer may seem like a daunting task, so I decided to make the first step a little easier.

Here you will find a document called Mistfall: Learn to Play (you can also find it on the NSKN Games website here). All you need to do is sit down to a solo game of Mistfall and take the guide with you, either as a printout or on your handheld device – and start on page one. The text will guide you through the setup and two full turns of a solitaire game, and tell you what you need to do afterwards, to be able to play the whole game.

As I have already said, the Heart of the Mists expansion is coming with completely new rules, and although it will fully integrate with the base game, it can also be played standalone.

So, whether you’re an owner of Mistfall who has never had the chance to play the game, or you want to jump in with the “expandalone” (and read through an example turn or two, to know exactly how the game works), looking over the Learn to Play Guide might be worthwile.
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Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:42 pm
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Mistfall: A Nominated Effort

B. G. Kubacki
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It’s been a little over a year since the first day of the MistfallcKickstarter campaign – a moment which turned ou to be pivotal in my life as a designer and developer, and an important date for NSKN Games. So, it’s only fitting to give you some info on Mistfall’s future – and some news I’ve personally found incredibly satisfying.



Let me start with an announcement then. Mistfall found its way into the five finalists duking it out for the Best Immersionist Game of 2015 of the Cardboard Republic. And although it did not take the prize, just seeing my game with the nominee ribbon makes me quite proud, and for two reasons.

The first one is the category itself. Mistfall is a game of strategy and skill, but also a game that is deeply rooted in the world I started building a few years ago. It has its own stories, its own lore people found engaging a year ago, even as the game was still on Kickstarter. Making the game both strategically sound and thematic was one of the most important goals I’ve set out to achieve, and this nomination makes me feel that maybe, just maybe, I can tick this on my personal list.

The second reason is the company Mistfall keeps. Fallen, Bomb Squad, T.I.M.E. Stories, and the big winner Pandemic Legacy – are worthy opponents, and proof that even a small company that thinks big and is not afraid to reach far, can stand among the biggest and the mightiest. And on the off-chance the designers, developers or publishers of the other four are reading this: great job. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to stand among you.

Now, with the above still making me smile, here’s what some of you have been waiting for: some info on Heart of the Mists, otherwise known as the Big Mistfall Expansion. But before we start, if you haven't seen the cover draft, just take a look:



Firstly, it’s going to be a standalone box, so you will get all you need to play if it’s your first step into the world of Mistfall. And if it’s not, you will get content you can fully integrate with the base game, and with minimal overlap – so you will be rebuying next to no cards or tiles from the base game (with elements like the Quest Charter being alternatives, and not copies).

Secondly, you’ll be getting all cards from the errata and a completely new rulebook that will have everything you need to play – and more. And with what we’re doing with the In the Name of Odin rulebook now turning out to work great (opening for comments from fans and backers – you can find more details here), we will be doing this again for Heart of the Mists.

Lastly, you will get some of the elements of the expansion as Print and Play – to test, to add to your copy of Mistfall, and to receive in the printed format in Heart of the Mists – or to keep if you decide not to go further into the world of Mistfall.

There are more things lined up: more Heroes, more Villains, more lore, a timeline update for the world – and you will get more information within the coming weeks. A new chapter is beginning for Mistfall, and I hope you are excited to delve into it. I know I am.
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Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:57 pm
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Odin needs you!

B. G. Kubacki
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Our work on In the Name of Odin is proceeding at a steady pace, and we’ve reached a point at which we would want to involve you – our fans and backers – in the process of creating the rulebook. So, if you want to leave your personal mark on our newest game, take a look at what you can do below.



We’ve just made In the Name of Odin Draft Rules 0.4 available for download – and we’d like to know what you think. Any feedback would be great! You can simply give us a piece of your mind in an email (going directly to me: blazej.kubacki@nskn.net), or you can send a commented PDF as an attachment. Please note, however, that we will need to proceed with preparations rather swiftly, so – if possible – try to send in your comments not later than on Friday, March 18th.

One last thing: the file you’re about to download (or have downloaded already), is still missing a few images, including (but not limited to) a final player board and a general components overview. As the final player board is still in development, we will be adding it to the rules within a few days. This is why the draft rules still use the prototype player board as a placeholder. Also, please note that positioning of all elements is not final, as we will still have to move stuff around to fit in a few more images.
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Tue Mar 15, 2016 2:17 pm
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Odin's Finest: Egil

Krzysztof Zięba
Poland
Kraków
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Though some would like to see age as an obstacle and time as thief of all that makes a Viking what he is, there’s still much to be said for the truly cutting edge of experience. And if there ever was anyone who could prove this with their skill and mettle, it’s none other than Egil.



Egil

Egil is a shrewd sailor. While others may become starry-eyed and idealistic about sailing, he knows the sea for what it is – a ruthless force eager to crush a man’s dreams along with him. And in his long life he’s seen that happen on more than one occasion. Therefore he is known to visit taverns to hear rumours from lands close and far, and he pays good coin to be prepared before a journey.

Those who sailed with him say that Egil spends much time planning out each raid, trying to find the best way to reach his destination. His weather-watching skills allow him to avoid storms and his longship always returns to port in such good repair, that it seems it never left it in the first place.


Egil by Victor Perez Corbella


Ability

Egil is one of the most powerful Heroes of In the Name of Odin, as his ablity allows him to not only avoid any damage to his longship, but also to switch positions of two Raid cards on the main board. And while the former ability seems more straightforward and always useful, the second one may turn out almost pivotal.

As the ability can be used either before or after choosing the Raid card, a player can either level any shortcomings of their ship (like having shorter range, or having range reduced by damage), use long range to its full potential (and score more points) or make a late change to the board situation, denying their opponents the option to reach a given Raid easily. Either way, Egil is a character more than worthy of your attention.
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Thu Feb 25, 2016 3:12 pm
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Odin's Finest: Bard

Krzysztof Zięba
Poland
Kraków
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It’s time to introduce another Viking Hero from the In the Name of Odin line up. This time we take a look at Bard – another character known for his skills on the sea, a skilful captain, and a reputed child of the Aesir.



Bard

It is said that Bard was conceived on a longship during a storm and born on a remote island, but nobody in his family ever confirmed it. While some call him Aegirsonn for that reason, after the master of the seas – Aegir, those who sail with him know Bard to be of the same flesh and blood as his clansmen.

He is an exceptional captain, and the rumours surrounding his parentage make him a popular choice with sailors young and old. After all, supernatural or not, Bard’s skills have proven to be more than a match for the sea’s fury many times in the past.


Bard by Victor Perez Corbella

Ability

Similarly to Halfdan, Bard also grants the owning player a set of symbols that can be used during a Raid, allowing the player to either remedy a lack of specific cards in their hand, or save up on those symbols that will allow them to repair damage, bring the ship to port – or build a new vessel.

Although Bard’s ability may not seem as powerful as some other ones allowing for immediate repairs or ship returns, there a degree of flexibility to Aegirsonn that – when used with some skill and a little bit of luck – may give the player exactly what they need to make an impressive use of their turn.
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Fri Feb 19, 2016 1:12 pm
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Odin's Finest: Halfdan

Krzysztof Zięba
Poland
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During your struggle for fame and glory, you will need allies – notable characters ready to help you both on land, and at sea. Here’s the story of Halfdan: first of the Viking Heroes unlocked as a Stretch Goal during the In the Name of Odin Kickstarter campaign.

Halfdan

A warrior, sadly, cannot live on battle, sailing and fame alone. Halfdan understands this well, and those that join him on raids are always very well compensated. As a ring-giver, he is as gracious and open-handed as a leader of men can be – but he is also stern and demanding. Halfdan will reward you well for your services, people say, but you will have to work like an ox to earn it.


Halfdan by Quico Vicens


Still, there is no shortage of karls, well-to-do warriors and landowners, who flock to Halfdan's mead-hall by the sea, and who are more than eager to join him on his travels. Those, who do, return with many a new arm-ring and exotic goods from far-away lands.

Hero Ability

Halfdan makes it much easier for a player to score high for a Raid, as he provides three symbols – one Craftsmanship and two Recruitment – that can be used to cancel some of the unforeseen difficulties on the way.

That alone makes this Viking Hero more than useful, if you’re planning a turn that only starts with a Raid, and continues into recruiting and building, as Halfdan will allow you to keep those precious symbols in your hand.
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Wed Feb 17, 2016 11:24 pm
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Why we will pubish In the Name of Odin

B. G. Kubacki
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The first prototype of what became In the Name of Odin was given to us almost exactly a year ago. I was the person to eyeball it, then listen to a short explanation, and then say that it is something we’ll take a look.



I met Krzysztof Zięba personally at zjAva, a gaming convention in Warsaw in 2015. It was the first time we shook hands, but it was not the first time we interacted. Years before we had traded games via BGG, and sometime later, it turned out that my good friend was working with Krzysztof – and was looking for help in buying him a birthday gift.

Back to 2015, and to me pulling out the game during an NSKN gaming meeting. The prototype looked really good (in fact, you’ll see it in most of the early review videos), the rules explanation went quite fast, and within a few minutes, we were playing the game.

Before I go any further, you need to know one thing: everyone at NSKN Games is more or less a Viking fan. Agnieszka and Andrei got hooked on the TV series, as did my wife. I have been interested in Viking lore and culture since college – medieval history was always a partial focus of my major, and I got fascinated with Norsemen a long time ago.

Still, when it comes to selecting games to publish, we are not easily swayed. We are gamers, and we like a lot of games (some of which I even mention on this blog), but simply having fun with the theme would not cut it. Luckily, theme was not the only thing that made In the Name of Odin cool. The truth is, it was mostly something else.

Odin is in essence a set collection and hand management game, that makes you race against other players. The actions you perform during your turn are determined by what Action Cards you’re able to play. Each Action Card comes with two symbols, and expending those symbols allows you to recruit, build, or go on raids. But to be able to perform really big things, you need to either prepare your hand, or make use of a great opportunity.


Aslaug by Shen Fei


All that instantly made In the Name of Odin a game after my own heart. I love games where you make painful deals between what you want to do, and what the cards allow you to do. Games in which you have to bend (like Progress), or games where you need relentlessly work your deck for the desired result (which is incidentally why I made Mistfall what it is). In the Name of Odin offered a lot of that, but it also offered more.

The first thing we all noticed was the fluidity of the game. Although you have quite a sizeable menu of options every turn, the cards in your hand will instantly make some choices much more attractive. It’s a great technique in game design, used successfully in roundel games (such as Navegador or Antike), to limit the number of choices, but still make the decisions each turn tense and important.

The fact that In the Name of Odin clearly points to some of the actions you are allowed to take makes the game move at a very brisk pace. You draw your hand at the end of your turn; you have some downtime to think about the best move for you, and when it’s you playing again, you can act immediately.

The second great thing about Odin is the tableau building. You get your own board, your village to fill with buildings that will give you action symbols and special abilities – and that will make you instantly more effective at one of the aspects of the game, suddenly making it easier to recruit or construct a ship that will take you on a raid. And that brings me to the final aspect, the one that made us decide to bring Odin on board.

In the Name of Odin is what I like to call a focussed game. Much like Exodus, you are in fact forging a tool (a weapon in the case of our classic space empire builder) concentrated on one thing: annihilation in Exodus, and raiding in Odin. While buildings, ships and an impressive band of followers may allow you to score multiple points, the raids will be what will truly elevate you to the position of a Jarl – and whatever you do, that’s the thing you’ll need to plan around.

After we decided to pull the trigger on In the Name of Odin, I called Krzysztof from my balcony. It was cold and rainy, and I could hear the seagulls squawking over Vistula. They made me think of the sea, of longships and of the game we will be making together. An awesome game you will now be able to experience for yourselves.

So, do you have what it takes to become a Jarl and rule In the Name of Odin... while playing a really neat game?
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Thu Feb 11, 2016 4:21 pm
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