“Fear not death for the hour of your doom is set and none may escape it.” Fight like a Norseman with Academy Games’ “878 Vikings” Game Review
878 Vikings – Invasions of England Board Game Review. Publisher: Academy Games Game Designer: David Kimmel Price $70.00
Passed Inspection: Concise elegant rules, beautiful components, visually pleasing, easy to learn and play, approachable even by non-war gamers, excellent value for the price
Failed Basic: Flavor text on cards a little too small for “mature” gamers. Viking Reinforcement rules were a little confusing on first read and play through.
878 Vikings – The Invasions of England (hereinafter “Vikings”) is the first game in Academy Games’ Birth of Europe series and it’s fantastic!
Like its brethren in the Birth of America series, Vikings shares a common core game design and is based on die rolls, cards and counters. This time the board shows the shires of Britain as they were in the 800s. The main regions are Wessex, Susea, Essex, Kent, Middle Anglia, Mercia, etc. and each region is broken down in to shires listing either cities or fortified cities. Certain regions allow reinforcements to be marshaled at the cities.
The main opponents in this game are Housecarl and Thegn for the British and Viking Norsemen and Berserkers for the Vikings. Housecarl and Thegn can work together most of the time but certain event cards can have the two British defenders at each other’s throats.
The box is sturdy and features stunning artwork by Stephen Paschal who has also provided artwork for all of Academy’s other games. The game features a sturdy game board which measures in at 19” x 26” (480 x 660 mm), 130 miniature warriors, 12 battle dice, 100 cards, 7 leaders with both cards and stand-ups, turn cubes, a turn draw bag, control markers and a beautiful and functionally elegant rule book complete with a history of the events covered in the game.
The game can be played by up to 4 players and a typical game can last for an hour and a half or longer. Vikings is a great introductory level board game but don’t let that fool you sea weathered grognard warriors – there are enough strategic options to make it enjoyable no matter what your board gaming skill level is. By the use of drawing cards for moving the armies on the board, you can even play the game solo although it certainly works better with “real” human players.
Each faction is represented by Leader Cards as well as miniature soldiers of a given color. Initiative is determined by drawing colored cubes which match the color of the faction from a cloth bag. Each turn initiative can differ randomly adding a great deal of uncertainty to the strategic planning that each side must work out.
Each of the four factions have cards which provide random events (with wonderful flavor text that create learning moments while playing the game) as well as providing information on how many armies can move and how far they can move if the card is played. My only complaint, and this has been a complaint with many of entries in this series, is that the flavor text on the cards is a little too small to easily read for “mature” gamers.
The game is broken down in to turns with each player taking their actions during the phases. Although the scale for each turn is not listed in the rules, it can be assumed that each one is several months long. Each turn is made up of the following phases – the reinforcement phase, the leader phase, the movement phase, the battle phase and the card draw phase.
During the reinforcement phase, the active faction can muster troops at their cites. In addition, fled units are reconstituted at friendly territories. Vikings may also be able to land new leaders with fresh troops.
During the move phase, the active side uses their event and move cards. Each player has cards that represent their faction and may play one move card or any number of event cards per round. The normal hand size is 3 cards for each player. When a card is used, it is normally discarded.
Any group of units in a shire can be moved as one army. A move card tells the player how many armies may move and how far they can move.
Once two armies meet in a shire, they can battle. Combat is efficient and quickly determined by the use of Combat Dice. Each side has their own Combat Dice. The dice are different depending on the side. The Viking Berserkers, for example, have fewer fleeing die results and more die results which kill enemy troops. The results that each die gives range from a “hit” which removes one enemy unit, a “flee” which results in one of the attackers units fleeing and being removed from the board and being placed in the fled units area on the map and a side known as the “command side” which means that one of the rollers units can conduct a strategic withdraw to an adjacent, friendly territory.
After fighting, the players can either withdraw or keep fighting until one side controls the shire. Event Cards can be played to help one side or the other.
Each side has one Treaty of Wedmore Card which can be played as a movement card. The Treaty Card is then put on the Treaty Tracker instead of being set aside. When one faction (the British or the Vikings) or both factions have played Treaty Cards, the Treaty comes in to affect which ends the Viking invasion. Each side then counts up their controlled shires, if the Vikings control 9 or more cities, they win.
As an alternative, if the Vikings control all 14 cities, they win by conquest or if the English clear the board of all Viking control, the British win by conquest.
One of the big challenges for the Viking player is that you have to leave a unit in a city to retain control of it. If you withdraw your forces, the city reverts back to the control of the British. This can stretch your forces as you attempt to gain control of one city after another. The British player is not hampered by this restriction which is realistic.
This game is simply fantastic. The design captures the ebb and flow of the warfare during this time period. The event cards add randomness which keeps replay value high. The components are all top notch and beautifully designed.
If you have any interest in this fascinating time period and want a game that the whole family can enjoy, get this game, you won’t be disappointed!
There is already an expansion out which adds more depth and complexity to the game. Look for a review on this site soon.
Armchair General Rating: 98 %
Solitaire Rating: 3 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!