Updated: Dec 26, 2019
Vikings are the new Zombies; barely a week goes by without the appearance of a new Viking-themed game. That said, it’s a theme where game designers are still able to surprise us by coming up with something new. That’s certainly the case with Raids, the new game by Brett J Gilbert and Matthew Dunstan, published by Iello and distributed in the UK by Coiledspring Games.
The first thing that strikes you about Raids is the appealing artwork (by Biboun) and the high production quality of the game. In addition to the usual cardboard components, Raids comes with customised wooden Viking meeples and even metal coins! Set this game up on the table and you won’t be short of people wanting to play it.
In Raids, players move around the map board recruiting Vikings and collecting tiles that equip and improve their longboat. In effect, this is a rondel game, played over four circuits of the board, where players have to progress forward but they decide for themselves each turn just how far to voyage. They may choose to stop often in order to amass more tiles or they may dash ahead to try to claim the bonus for being first back to harbour.
There are monsters to beat by sacrificing Viking meeples and a player can stop at the same location as another to compete for a tile. This is most likely to occur on the rune tiles needed for an end-game scoring set collection bonus. ‘Combat’ is resolved through escalation: the second player to land at a location (attacker) competes by sacrificing one Viking meeple, the defending player sacrifices two, the attacker three and so on. This is an interesting mechanic because the number of Viking meeples each player has at their disposal is open information so players know at the start who would win if both players hold their ground and go all in. It also means that a player down to their last Viking meeple is easy pickings as they are never able to defend. In any combat situation, however, players always have the option to flee (move on to another tile).
As tiles are collected, most are placed on the player’s longship in a manner reminiscent of Rudi Hoffman’s classic Pelikan game Ogallala. Tiles representing goods can be ‘sold’ at market tiles. This banks the player’s score for the goods they were carrying and frees up a space on their longship.
Raids is easy to learn and can be readily played and enjoyed by both adults and children. The game works best with 3 or 4 players but the rules incorporate a two-player option utilising a ‘ghost ship’ automata third player. Expect a game to last around 30 minutes. But Raids is a game to enjoy so also expect players to demand an immediate rematch!