Champions of Midgard is designed by Ole Steiness and published by Grey Fox Games. It is a 2-4 player worker placement game with a playtime of 60-90 minutes, advertised for ages 10 and up.
The game is set in a fantasy Viking world, where players take the role of a Viking leader (with their own unique abilities) who leads a small band of Viking warriors who seek to obtain the most glory for themselves in battle and through the protection of their village. Whoever has earned the most glory at the end of the game wins.
The basic mechanic of the game–worker placement–is quite simple. Each round, players will take turns placing their meeples on various locations on the board which allows the player to collect or buy certain resources, items, Viking warrior dice, or take special actions. Once a space has been taken, it may not be claimed by another player for the rest of the round. This makes prioritizing the placement of your workers the key to victory in this game. Make sure you know what you need most and take that location first, because it may not be available when it comes around to you again. Some of the spaces do not give you an immediate reward, but allow you to claim the opportunity to battle trolls or other monsters during the combat phase who, if defeated, will provide you with glory and other rewards.
After all players have placed their workers, they will then assign their Viking dice to the combat spaces they claimed, if any. If a player chose to sail off to the distant lands to battle great creatures of legend, they will have to load up their ship with sufficient supplies to survive the journey and sufficient dice to battle the monster they seek, without overloading their ship. Because the journey is long, players should be prepared to face storms, or perhaps even a mighty kraken, before they reach their destination. If they do not choose to sail across the seas, they’ll simply divide up their Viking warrior dice among the monsters they’ll face near their village.
Combat itself is very fast and simple. Each monster has a printed attack and defense value, where the defense is how many wounds the monster must take to be defeated, and the attack value is how many Viking warrior dice will be destroyed each combat roll. When players roll their dice, they count up the number of hits rolled, and if it meets or exceeds the monster’s defense, the monster is defeated. Unfortunately, the player will still have to discard a number of dice equal to the monster’s attack. However, there are three different kinds of Viking warrior dice (Swordsmen, spear-men, and ax men) differentiated by color and symbols. Some dice feature a shield symbol, allowing you reduce the number of dice destroyed by the number of shields rolled. If, after a combat roll, the monster is undefeated, and you still have Viking dice left, you immediately repeat the process until either your dice have all been destroyed, or the monster has been defeated and its glory and rewards are yours to claim!
It should be noted that one of the monsters, the troll, poses a particular threat to your local village. Only one player may battle the troll each round, but if the troll goes undefeated, each player will receive a blame token, which is worth negative points at the end of the game. But if a player does defeat the troll, not only may they discard one of their own blame tokens, but they can also give a blame token to another player. The worst part about this is that the more blame tokens you have, they become a greater and greater penalty at the end of the game.
Play will continue in this way, with players claiming spaces to collect more Viking warriors to replace those who have fallen in battle, collecting food for the long journeys they may face on the seas, and other resources that provide various benefits. They may even end up buying their own personal ship, which not only allows them sail more easily, but also provides them with additional glory for the end game scoring. After eight rounds, players count up all their glory, subtract any blame they may have received, and whoever has the most glory wins the game.
The components to this game are fantastic. Nice wooden pieces; solid custom dice; high quality cards; study cardboard tokens; and absolutely stunning artwork. The game even has a decent plastic insert and plenty of plastic baggies to store everything. The rules themselves are also short, simple, and easy to follow. One complaint I have is that the food and wood resources are simply red and brown cubes, and are sometimes difficult to distinguish, especially in poor lighting. They also just seem out of place in the midst of the rest of the beautiful, high quality pieces. However, this is a minor thing and resource upgrades are readily available, even by the publisher.
The other problem I have is that, while for the most part the game has good reminders and references printed on the board and individual player board, there is a bit to remember in regards to end-game scoring, and yet no reference card was provided or printed on the board. For instance, you score bonus points for collecting sets of certain monster types, gold can have an end game value, blame gets worse the more you have, and there are a couple of other things, as well. This information isn’t even printed on the back of the rule book in some kind of game-play summary. Instead, you have to flip open the rules and find the specific page where it is addressed. Again, not a huge deal, but this also seemed out of place for a game with such a great visual presentation. I plan to either make or print off my own easy reference to keep next to the board during game-play. Overall, however, the components and general presentation of the game are top-notch.
I really, really like this game. I’ve already mentioned the amazing artwork which really draws me into the game, but the game-play itself is just really fun. Turns are fast, but engaging, since what other players do makes a big difference on your turn, and it can be hard to decide how to prioritize. But the game-play is quite simple and easy to teach, making this a great game for those who have not played a lot of games before.
The combat is also really fast, and rolling all of those Viking dice and defeating those cool monsters is just fun. And the game itself doesn’t take too long, either. In fact, I often find myself wishing I had just a few more rounds so I could do even more cool things before the end of the game.
There also seems to be several strategies that could all work well, but none of them are particularly complicated. I think the overall strategy can be grasped the first time playing, but there’s also a lot of room for experimentation and trying different things.
This is one of the best games I’ve played. In regards to just gameplay, I don’t know that there’s anything I don’t like. If you like the idea of an easy to learn, fast-moving worker placement game with dice rolling and cool monsters, I absolutely recommend you check this out.
For the Parents:
Violence: Obviously, this is a game about Vikings going off and fighting monsters. In the game itself, this comes down to simply rolling dice and occasionally discarding some of them. When a monster card is defeated, you place it in your personal stack of similarly defeated monsters. The artwork itself is not particularly gory or gruesome. The cover of the game box is the most violent-looking part of the game.
Sex: There are two female Viking Leaders that you can choose to play as in the game, with both revealing very small amounts of cleavage, and one wearing a midriff.
Horror/Occult: Again, you are fighting various monsters and trolls. If you’re concerned about gruesome or scary artwork, look at the cover of the box. That’s about as bad as it gets in this game, and that’s only on the monster cards themselves. The board itself looks like a small, peaceful village. The game also contains light references to Norse mythology.