13th Aug2018

‘A Feast For Odin’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

FOF-box

Certain things in popular culture – wether movies, games, records or even board games – come with an aura of expectation around them that can be a little unfair. In the board gaming world, products that fall into this category are often the massive Kickstarters from CMON or Restoration Games. For some board gamers (perhaps the more serious kind) new Uwe Rosenberg games are far more exciting than any game featuring a bucketload of miniatures. When A Feast For Odin was announced, it was seen as his magnum opus, which only added to the hype.

And, jumping straight to conclusions, it’s well deserved. A Feast For Odin comes in one of the largest and most densely packed boxes that I’ve ever encountered, with literally hundreds of components to punch, bag and stack. There are three thick and well produced booklets, including one which is simply an almanac of Viking culture. There are four player boards and four sets of coloured viking meeples and then there are several main boards that make up the game. These include a central worker board, a shipyard, a treasures board, four island boards and many smaller boards for mountain exploration and city building.

As for resources and other pieces, there is a staggering amount in there. A Feast For Odin features two trays of food, trading, hunting, livestock and crafting pieces that are organized into separate compartments. The game provides a handy guide for setting these pieces up that follows their in game trading/upgrade paths, so setup and tear down never actually suffers despite the huge scale of the game. There are also wooden ore, stone and lumber tokens, as well as lots of other bits and pieces like ships, as well as decks of cards for weapons and player occupation.

The scale of A Feast For Odin is initially staggering and the first time you lay it out, you’ll be terrified. The purpose of the game is very straightforward – players simply send their Vikings to work on placement spaces, then at the end of s fixed number of rounds, the player with the highest number of points wins. Each player board is printed with a grid that has a number of -1 spaces on it, as do the island and city tiles. Players actually begin the game with a significant points deficit and will use the resource tiles that their Vikings hunt, raid and trade for m to cover the negative points whilst surrounding bonus spaces to improve their harvest in subsequent turns. Filling complete boards awards points, whilst so too do certain individual pieces like livestock and treasure.

The actions that Vikings can take are all shown on a central board that initially looks convoluted, but becomes simple once you understand how the game works. There are numerous phases to each round in the game but most of them merely act as reminders for things like harvesting, taking income, breeding livestock and so on, all of which take just a few seconds per player. The bulk of the game takes place during the action round, in which players simply take it in turns to place one viking and take the associated action.

On the action board that I keep referring to, there are about sixty things to do, each of which has different prerequisites and outcomes as depicted on the space. The board is laid out logically in columns and rows. The first column features actions that require one Viking, whilst each subsequent column tends to demand that players wishing to take actions there will need to use two, three or four Vikings. Rewards (or the certainty of a good outcome) tends to improve as the investment in Vikings increases. Each row of actions is described on the left, so it’s relatively quick to home in on hunting, whaling, raiding or trading, for example.

Even though players receive an additional viking every turn, there’s absolutely no way that they’ll have enough turns to sample even half of the possible actions in a single game. As a result, the first few games of A Feast For Odin for any new player tend to be focussed on learning what drives the best outcome in terms of scoring. As this is a worker placement game, most spaces are locked out once a viking is in them, so it’s quite common for each player to fall into her own rhythm simply because there are enough spaces to go around, albeit not often of the same kind. You may have read about games like A Feast For Odin being referred to as multiplayer solitaire and that’s certainly a fair comment here. Players won’t interact much, though I still felt that the game created a pleasant, communal atmosphere around the table.

There are a number of things to consider throughout the course of the game, each of which contribute to the way in which you’ll develop your viking community. Firstly, there’s the negative points on each board to contend with and the rules that govern how you can cover them up. Players can place blue or grey tokens directly besides each other, but green tokens cannot be adjacent. Red or orange tokens can’t be used at all, but you can use those to contribute to the feast, which increases in size as each new Viking is added to the clan. Tokens come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and each has a fixed upgrade path, so it can be efficient to upgrade to larger pieces and cover a wide area, for example. Coins can be used to fill small spaces on player boards and at the feast, but small trade goods can also be very useful in such circumstances.

What makes A Feast For Odin such an interesting proposition is that it introduces a few separate concepts, each of which is incredibly simple but very rewarding. The central mechanic of placing tiles on to one or more boards is fun and more of a brain burner than you might think thanks to how the boards are laid out. The worker placement part of the game is no more complex than even the most basic example of the genre, so it’s very quick to explain to new players. Other decisions that sit between these areas include the various interlinking upgrade paths – investing in livestock, producing milk, trading it up a few levels to create chests for example. Or alternatively you might focus on whaling – buying ships, investing in weapons cards and targeting the risky whale related items that are both large and valuable.

A Feast For Odin is a very satisfying game when played either solo (it’s one of the most organic single player experiences that I’ve had) or with friends who have learned how to play it over several introductory games. It’s relatively quick to setup and very easy to learn and teach. It can take at least two hours to play even at two players, which is a slight drawback, but it also feels like time well spent. It’s a beautiful looking game with a hugely impressive board presence, but what really makes it is all of the superb micro transactions it contains – from the tile placement puzzle to the most efficient way of scoring additional points. If you’re a serious euro game or worker placement fan then I think this is a must buy, whilst even if you’re interest in such games is fleeting, there are few better examples than Feast For Odin.

**** 4/5

A Feast For Odin is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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