01st Oct2018

‘Raids’ Board Game Review (Iello Games)

by Matthew Smail

raids-box

Raids is a fairly lightweight, straightforward new game from IELLO, which seeks to offer the players an insight into the Viking life of trading, pillaging, battling terrible monsters whilst travelling the shoreline in their longboat. Like all IELLO games, it is very visually impressive and uses absolutely top notch components to deliver an exciting, fast paced experience with a good level of variability and replay value, as well as a well balanced scoring mechanism that means you’re likely to be guessing at what the final positions are going to be, right up until the end.

A game of Raids usually last about thirty to forty five minutes, depending on player count and experience. In any situation, Raids will almost never reach the hour mark simply because of its straightforward structure and fixed number of rounds. The game takes place over four voyages (rounds) and at the beginning of each voyage, the players will randomly lay out tiles on each of the spaces on the board so that no one is sure how the tiles will be laid out until they see them. There’s also a variable harbour tile for each voyage, most of which will reward the player who has the most of something (sails, vikings, runes for example) when they return to base.

The game unfolds based on what I guess some players call a roundel system, wherein the next player to act will always be whoever is furthest back on the board. The most famous example I can think of where a similar approach is used is probably in Tokaido, although there are some big differences in how Raids treats the player in last position and enables players to fight for spaces, but I’ll explain all that in a bit. Being a roundel type of game, there’s never a need to count movement points or roll dice – you simply move your longship as far forward as many spaces as you like.

The locations on the board in Raids all do different things, but ultimately you’ll want to prioritise some over others because they align to your preferred method of scoring. Collecting runes, for example, offers an ever-increasing bonus the more of them that you have. Goods cards (like pigs, for example) provide straight up victory points, but only at the point where you can sell them at a port – you can’t trade them in at your home harbour. Cards like sails, axes and mjolnir symbols become permanent fixtures on your boat, offering bonuses in combat, extra Vikings when you set out on the next voyage or victory points the more Vikings you have at the end of the game.

One of the more interesting things about Raids is how the player boards work, given that each one has five slots for upgrades and goods. When a good or upgrade tile is taken, it is added to a longship slot of the players choice, but if they don’t have room for it, another tile must be discarded. Each of these tiles has zero, one or two shields printed on it and the maximum number of Vikings that can be on any ships is equal to how many shields it has. Essentially, whilst you might sometimes want goods or an upgrade card, putting it into your boat might reduce the number of Vikings you can take with you – which can be bad.

Why, might you ask, do I need Vikings? Well that’s back to the fighting mechanic. You see in Raids, players begin their turn by picking up the tile that they share a space with and then they move. This means that if someone else lands on the same space as you, then they will be able to fight you for that tile. Fighting in Raids is costly and it begins with the attacker spending one Viking meeple. The defender must then spend two to defend themselves. If the attacker wants to continue fighting then she must spend three and so it continues until someone stops, or can’t continue. Vikings are also used to either appease monsters (in which case one is sacrificed as you sale past) or to defeat them, in which case the number of vikings shown on the monster card are sacrificed (but you can claim the monster tile and score points.)

The fact that tiles are collected at the beginning of a turn is very interesting, especially if you are among the first one or two players to reach it and there are others still to take their turn. There’s always a need in Raids to ensure you can defend yourself, which means that filling your boat with valuable upgrades that weaken you is a limited strategy. Tiles like the runes that don’t take up space can therefore become highly sought after, which of course leads to frequent combat. There are also spaces such as villages or pillage tiles that reward players for arriving first, as will the main harbour bonus if two players tie for the value of the main objective (for example most ports visited) so whilst there’s a temptation to hang back, it can often pay to be decisive.

In Tokaido, if someone skips forward several spaces then there’s a tendency for the last player to hang back and hoover up all the bonuses in between her and the next player. I also mentioned earlier that Raids handles the last player differently with what it calls the catch up mechanic. In Raids, the last player must always discard any un-visited tiles between her and the next to last player, before she then proceeds as normal. I actually like this a lot in two player games of Raids (and I think it could improve Tokaido too) but in a four player game it feels a bit unnecessarily. That said, it certainly speeds the game up.

Now, one of the most striking things about Raids (aside from its speed and simplicity) is how gorgeous and well produced it is. IELLO has been producing incredible games lately, which always seem to come bundled with practical box inserts that I’m a big fan of. Raids is no exception and as you can see from the image, there is a slot for each set of voyage tiles, there’s one for the harbour tiles and another for each of the individual bags of components. It’s just a delight to open up and play because again, the setup takes about thirty seconds. The component quality in Raids is also incredible high – there are three kind of coins all made from metal and the Viking meeples are carved wood with a lot of detail. All card stock is thick and well made and the imagery from popular artist Biboun is thematic and beautiful.

I like Raids a lot, especially when I’m looking for a less heavy game and I want something quick and easy to setup. I find myself increasingly keen to shy away from the traditional gateway games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride simply because I am bored of them, and Raids presents itself as a very attractive alternative. It’s hard to argue with its speed of setup, ease of teaching and play and with the fact that it is always at least somewhat variable. I kind of wish that there were perhaps two or three excess tiles per journey so that things were really spiced up, but in the interest of balance I can’t complain about the fact that they always appear, albeit in different places. All in all, Raids is a very good game if you’re looking for something fast, light and thematic.

**** 4/5

A copy of Raids was provided for review by Iello Games.

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