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Subject: Midgard - my first BGG review! rss

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Ron Blessing
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This is my first BGG review and my second ever written review. Feedback is appreciated!

From the rulebook:
"The world of men, called Midgard, is in its final days, and the battle at the end of the world, called Ragnarok, has begun. Those warriors brave enough to fight to the end will have a hallowed place in the halls of Valhalla when the battle is over, but only one clan will hold the seat of highest honor. Will it be yours?"

Overview:
Midgard is a Viking-themed, direct confrontation, card driven, area control game. At first glance, the box art (a striking image of a Viking amid a burning field, riddled with arrows and swords) may seem a bit misleading. But players will quickly find that the image is completely appropriate to the feel of the game.

Inside the box:
The game’s components would best be described as “satisfactory.” On a whole, the components didn’t hurt the game for me, but they came a little close.

The game board is certainly sturdy enough, though the obviously digital art, while giving the board a clean look, seems to detract from the theme of the game. It isn’t unattractive; simply out of place. The map has three kingdoms, which are each broken into three or four provinces. In each province, there are a number of villages. Part of the map, but unattached are the heavens (Asgard and Vanaheim) and Valhalla. In addition to the map, there are five longships that are used to hold your starting Vikings and a quick reference to remind you of scoring and actions per round.

The cards are small in size and a little on the thin side. They share the same digital art as the board, but due to the size, it’s not as jarring. Their linen finish promises to insure the cards will stand the test of time.

The wooden pieces that are used to mark score and show areas of influence are only OK. Some of the pieces’ “heads” came misshapen and a couple pieces have tiny nubs on the bottom that cause them to wobble during play. One player remarked that plastic Viking helmets would have been better than the wooden bowling pin-shaped pawns, and I agree, but I assume this would’ve been cost prohibitive.

The cardboard tokens used to mark which kingdoms you’ve been to, and to mark which provinces are doomed are simply marked. The die cuts are fine, though certainly not great. Nothing tore when I punched them, but I had to be pretty careful.

The rulebook is well laid out with sidebars that hold rules summaries and many examples. Toward the back there are more detailed descriptions of the cards, and the back page is a summary of the flow of play.

Gameplay:
The object of the game is to score the most points by gaining a majority rule in provinces on the map and collecting sets of Kingdom Tokens.

There are three decks of cards (gold, silver, and bronze) that are used throughout the game. These are each shuffled and placed beside the board. Each player takes a set of wooden pieces with their chosen color. The round disk is a scoring marker and is placed at the beginning of the scoring track that surrounds the board. The large pawn (your Viking leader) and five of the smaller pawns (your warriors) are placed in the ship with the sail matching your color. The remaining six pawns are placed offboard in front of you.

The game is played in three rounds broken into five phases each.

I. Doom Phase
There are ten doom tokens (representing the ten provinces in the game) that are shuffled. Choose five of these randomly and place them in their respective province. Vikings that are in these provinces at the end of a round are sent to Valhalla (after dying gloriously, of course).

II. Draft Phase
All the players draw six cards: three bronze, two silver, and one gold. At this point a draft is performed. Each player chooses any one of the six cards and passes the rest to the player on their right. This continues until all the cards have been distributed. It’s important enough to note again: players can draft any kind of card, so the color mix you start out with will likely change.

[The cards drive the game, so I will describe them with a little detail here:

Bronze cards are the least confrontational in the game. There are two types: Invasion and New Warrior.

Invasion cards allow you to move two Vikings from your ship (most advantageous, generally) or anywhere else on the board (except Valhalla) to any unoccupied village in a given province (Villages can only hold one Viking each) or to one of the heavens.

New Warrior cards allow you to add a warrior from offboard to your ship, then move a viking to any unoccupied village or a heaven.

The confrontation level swells quickly with the Silver cards. There are also two types here: Attack and Viking Horde.

Attack cards let you move one Viking to an occupied village in a given province or to a heaven, displacing an enemy warrior (not leaders) there to Valhalla. Vikings sent to Valhalla cannot be moved for the rest of the round.

Viking Horde cards allow you to move up to three Vikings from anywhere on the board (except Valhalla) to unoccupied villages in one province or one of the heavens.

The Gold cards are arguably the most powerful in the game (and often come with a hefty price, as I’ll discuss below).There are five types of Gold cards: Score Kingdom, Take Province Token, Draw, Destroy Kingdom, and New Warriors in Kingdom.

When played, the Score Kingdom cards allow all players to collect score for a given kingdom. These cards also allow all players to collect kingdom tokens in that kingdom as well. It should be noted that no Ragnarok effects take place here.

Take Province Token cards allow you to take the indicated number of Kingdom Tokens from a given kingdom.

Draw cards allow you to draw two cards of a given color and immediately take another action.

Destroy Kingdom cards are the most devastating in the game, causing all the Vikings (including the person’s who played the card) in any province within a defined kingdom to be sent to Valhalla. It’s worth noting that this is the only card that can negatively affect a Viking leader.

New Warriors in Kingdom cards allow you to move two Vikings directly from your offboard supply to any unoccupied villages in a given kingdom.]

The rulebook recommends that groups with new players skip the actual drafting in the first round, presumably so they can get used to the cards. I wholeheartedly agree with this notion. It’s also worth noting that while powerful, gold cards determine who begins play in each round. Going first is not recommended when it can be avoided. So avoid it when possible, only taking high-point gold cards when necessary for strategy. I have more on this below. At the end of a round, you will have cards left over. These are usable in future rounds, but they are kept out of additional drafts.

III. Actions Phase
Everyone reveals their gold cards. At the bottom of each is a number. The player with the highest number goes first that round. Play then proceeds clockwise.

Players then take turns playing cards. Each round has a different number of cards being played. Round one is four cards, round two is five cards, and round three is six cards.

IV. Score Phase
After everyone has taken their actions, all the players score. It is very important this is done in the order recommended to avoid confusion. All area-control scores are determined by majority rule. If there is no majority, no points are scored. Viking leaders break ties, as they are worth one and a half when counting for majority.

>3 points for 1 province in a kingdom
>7 points for 2 provinces in a kingdom
>12 points for 3 provinces in a kingdom
>20 points for 4 provinces in a kingdom
>5 points for most Vikings in Asgard

In addition to points, players collect Kingdom Tokens.

>1 token for each province containing at least one Viking
>2 tokens for most Vikings in Vanaheim

V. Ragnarok Phase
Essentially this is another scoring phase, but it is kept separate to avoid confusion. This is best done with the following steps, in order:

>Score 2 points for each doomed Viking
>Move Vikings in doomed provinces to Valhalla
>Score 1 point for each Viking in Valhalla
>Move Vikings from Valhalla to ships
>Remove all doom tokens from the board

End of Game:
After the third round, players reveal their Kingdom Tokens. For each set of one each, you receive 5 points. The player who ends with the highest point total wins. Ties are broken by total number of Kingdom Tokens. Remaining ties are considered a draw.

Conclusions and Opinions:
One player griped about how tough it is to be the first player, especially when you are playing with five people. It is worth mentioning that this player was seduced into keeping high-value gold cards twice in the game and got stuck going first both those rounds. My counter argument is simple: the cards are designed so that using a powerful gold ability comes with a cost. Use them sparingly. I was stuck going first once, but I still managed to tie for first in that game. Going first twice is pretty much suicide for the player that wants to win.

I picked this game up because of the Viking theme, as I have a sort of affinity with Norse mythology. I am very happy with the game overall. Any issues I had with components were pretty much erased after just one playthrough. I heartily recommend Midgard if you are comfortable with direct-confrontation games.

I alluded to the art being more appropriate for the game than first glance would make one assume. The reason is simple: this game transcends its genre. While you might be able to place it along side games like Through the Desert or Domaine for its mechanics, the level of confrontation can be so high and so stark that it almost feels like you are playing a wargame (this, for the record, is not a negative thing, in my opinion). The box art of Through the Desert conveys the message: “Let’s go find some water.” Whereas Midgard’s box art conveys the message: “I will burn your world!”
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Pat H
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Nice review. Thanks, because I've had my eye on Midguard.

A couple questions -

Based on your review, do you think Midguard adds something new compared with other area influence games, e.g. Samurai, China?

How is gameplay impacted by the number of players? How do you think it would play with 3?
 
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Ron Blessing
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Thanks for the compliment!

Unfortunately, I can't answer your first question, as I haven't played China or Samurai. I will tell you the most unique thing about the game I found is the card draft. I love this mechanic. It decreases the effects of randomness and gives you a peek at "what's out there" each round.

As for your second question, the game plays well throughout its player range. With three players, there is slightly less need for direct confrontation, but the need to "visit" all areas of the board for better scoring opportunity serves to keep things tense enough for my taste.

Hope this helps.
 
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Jim Cote
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Nice review. I agree that the graphics and components are disappointing, but I would prefer better quality wooden bits (eg Antike) over anything plastic. I've been on the fence with Midgard ever since the rules came out, and I think the quality will keep me from buying it.
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Alexander B.
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I enjoyed this game quite a bit.

Yes, the card passing is really cool, and every choice is very tough.

I'm not 100% sure I'll buy it, but it is tempting
 
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Ron Blessing
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Thanks! I would almost always agree about the preference for wooden pieces, but if done right, plastic could be cool. Of course little wooden helmets would be cool, too. laugh

As far as not picking this up: I strongly urge you to play the game before making a decision. It really is a cool experience.
 
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Pat H
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I'm on the fence also, but in part due to this review, I'm leaning towards getting Midgard now. I have a few influence games, but the thing that was lacking from these for our group was more capacity for direct confrontation. It seems like Midgard would provide this.
 
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Houserule Jay
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Good job on the review. I played this at Essen and also liked it.

Like I mentioned in my rating comments I was really hoping they were going to come out with better card stock than what I played with there but I went through a new copy last night at my FLGS and they are the same thin card stock. I thought the other components were good and this card stock problem is certainly not unique to this game sadly, a shame publishers don't charge an extra dollar or two for better cards because most of us would gladly pay.

On the plus side I do think the game is different enough from other games in the area control and war genre so it is worth playing to see if you like it for anyone on the fence about buying, cards can always be laminated. J
 
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Seth Jaffee
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I played this game at BGG.con, and I liked it pretty well. the thing I liked least was probably the card draft. I'm not sure why. My sort of review of it can be found in my BGG.con report geeklist, here...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/17630
 
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Kurt Rompot
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I played with Seth at BGG.CON. I enjoyed the game and would have enjoyed it even more had we not had a few rules issues due to learning the game. Think of it as an area control game with card drafting and more direct confrontation. I thought it was good and has enough uniqueness to stand alongside the other games in my collection without being redundant.
 
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Mike Holyoak
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Nice review.
I love drafting (it's the only thing that keeps me playing Magic). And I like Fairy Tale, but it feels too light. This seems to have a little more meat, and your review has helped seal the deal.

Thanks.

P.S. Great podcast too. Keep up the great work.
 
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michael crow
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I justpicked this up, and read through it. I gave it a look when I otherwise would not have because Eric Lang designed it. On first glance I'm impressed with the rules and the game play sounds fun. I don't think the production values and sturdiness of the components are nearly as bad as everyone here makes them out to be.

I hope to give this a run on saturday with my game club and write a review of it sometime this week.
 
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