Dice & Mystics Fringe Event 2020 cancelled

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Dear friends and fellow gamers,
you will have waited for news from the Dice & Mystics concerning the Fringe event 2020, and we had promised to find out what things may or may not be possible and to keep you updated.
Sadly, we are forced to stand up to this promise by announcing that there will be no Dice & Mystics Fringe this year.
Spiel Essen 2020 has – understandably under the circumstances – been cancelled, or as they preferred to put it in kinder and easier to digest terms: “postponed“ until October 2021.
As the name of our event clearly states, we are usually offering a place to come and play at the „fringe“ of the huge board game fair, Spiel Essen. We usually invite the many guests of the Spiel, exhibitioners, bloggers and vloggers and every other enthusiast to wind down after a bustling and exciting day, share the joys of gaming and often meet friends from previous years. But we now have to face a dire truth: No Spiel Essen, no Fringe event.
Even if we tried to whisk up something independently, we would still not have a location for it to take place in, no catering, and with all the necessary safety rules still in place, it would be a caricature of the happy meeting we were all hoping for.
These are tough times for gamers. If there is anything board games are not, that’s socially distanced, and we are happy and rightfully proud of the fact, too. We are heartbroken that a tiny little thing that is not even properly alive like a virus can force a longer wait upon us before we can all sit down togetherand happily game again. We missed you all since last October, and now we are missing you even more!
We hope you are all well and we are going to meet in 2021!
Take care, stay healthy – and keep on gaming to prepare for happier times to come!

The Dice & Mystics Fringe 2019 – A Company of Friends

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The 4th “Dice & Mystics Fringe “ is in the past, and believe it or not, we have started preparing for 2020… As small as the event is, our “TinyCon” has turned into a regular thing by now, something that our guests regard as a natural part of their Spiel Essen experience: A night spent in good company, among old and new friends. And oh my, do we miss everybody!

For the majority of our guests, it has been the 3rd or even the 4th time. They meet but once a year at the Fringe – and immediately sit down together, unbox a game and play like they see each other at game nights on a regular basis.  The rooms start filling up rapidly, but nobody wastes any time but gets down to some serious fun right away.

Tables starting to fill up

The guests of the Fringe have slowly turned into a real community where everybody looks out for everybody else. The new booking system worked just fine, and we have been told it made things a lot easier. We still handled the few cancellations manually, and we give our thanks to everybody who needed to cancel and was so kind to mail us so that others on the waiting list had their chance. As always, we do hope that only positive things have kept you away.  It would have been so much easier to simply not turn up – but not a single one of you would ever do that to anybody else, oh no. You care for each other. The Fringe is starting to feel like an international family gathering. Many people from different corners of the earth know each other, have long since become friends, and they warmly welcome everybody who is new to the event. We hear that again and again, from regulars and first-timers alike: “We feel at home here.” What more could we possibly hope for?

Inside the largest of 4 game rooms

People make appointments for games, bring each other presents, translate from one language to another and back, share, teach and learn new games, exchange Spiel experiences and insights, give each other lifts back to their hotels and apartments. And the special thing is, that such things are not just happening between “regular” gamers, but they include the publishers, designers, artists, reviewers and YouTubers, because apart from who else they may be, they are gamers like all others sitting at the same tables, having fun together.

Waiting for the night’s raffle to start

Good-will and friendship are the key to everything. The Fringe would not be possible without the Parish of St. Engelbert, who once again let us use the building free of any charge.  We humbly thank for their hospitality and hope we will continue to benefit from their kindness and be able to host the Fringe event for years to come.

There were so many people of the Dice & Mystics but especially the guests themselves who made this a special night. Last year we took photos of where the tables were standing after you had all left and used this to arrange them accordingly right from the start. The buffet in the lobby had a new feature: next to tea, coffee, biscuits and sweets, there was also plain tap water. Judging by the number of refills this had actually been a good idea, and it had sprung from observations made by everybody together. But you are the people who bring yourselves and your games to our tables and create this great sense of community.

A big part of this community are also those good people from the gaming industry who bring you gifts and want to share their passion and joy of board games:

  • Albe Pavo contributed some serious fun in the shape of “BEER & Vikings”:
BEER & Vikings
  • Breaking Games did not think twice but gave us one copy of everything they had with them: “The Stars Align”, “We’re Doomed”, “Trellis”, “Rise of Tribes” deluxe and “Expancity”.

The Stars Align
We’re Doomed
Trellis
The Rise of Tribes plus deluxe extras
Expancity
  • Chip Theory Games who were sad that due to their schedule they could not come this time insisted on donating a copy of their much admired “Cloudspire” for you to win.
Cloudspire
  • Again there were quite a number of € 10 vouchers from Fantasywelt.de, the large German online game retailer.
One of the many vouchers
  • GOTTA2 Games from Japan showcased their beautiful little social deduction game  “Who am I” where you are invited to the Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland, sitting around a miniature table set with miniature real china dishes (all actually in the box). Of course they donated it to be raffled off to a lucky winner:
Who am I?
  • The amazingand wonderful Julie Ahern of Greenbrier Games did not take long to decide and simply gave us a copy of – everything! This bonanza included such gems as “Champions of Hara”,  “Of Dreams & Shadows“ plus the expansion,  “Helios Expanse” and – a huge box containing a full kickstarter pledge of “Folklore”, with a cherry on top.
Of Dreams & Shadows plus expansion
Champions of Hara
A big box full of Folklore

  • InMyBox, the wonder workers who design incredible things crafted in wood, donated their prize item, an ingeniously constructed and most beautiful storage solution for “Scythe” (and did you now each and every “Big Bad Box” is individually numbered?):
Big Bad Box: Perfect storage solution for “Skythe”
  • Once again our friends King Racoon Games gave us two copies of their famous “Tsukuyumi Full Moon Down”, the comic and also the art book, signed by the brilliant Felix Mertikat himself, and also the novel (in German) that was written after the game.
Tsukuyumi…
… Full Moon Down
The comic
The art book
The novelization
  • Mythic Games againpresented our guests with their great success “Time of Legends: Joan of Arc”, and once again rounded off with a “little” big extra: The “Reliquiary” box containing kickstarter specials!
Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, kickstarter extras, and yet another a voucher from Fantasywelt.de on top
  • There were two copies of  the much anticipated “Last Bastion”, quite the hotness,  by REPOS Production:
SLast Bastion
  • Scribabs (you may know their “Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas: Malleus Maleficarum”) generously provided for those who enjoy running in packs and hunting in the night:  a copy of “Armata Strigoi”!
Run with the (Were-)Wolves: Armata Strigoi
  • There were some prizes by Spieleparadies Wagner, the local toy and games shop in Bochum, too, of course. And they wouldn’t be who they are if they had not thought of including some very special prizes catering for the refined and more tender taste…
Princess in distress, successfully rescued by noble knight
Hana Zuki & C0.
  • Tetrahedron Games gave away two editions of their fun and colourful game “Dodoesque” – “Cherry Blossom” and “Jungle Fever”- for the raffle.  (Check out their Viking game VALHAL, too!)
Dodoesque Cherry Blossom
Dodoesque Jungle Fever

And last but by no means least we once again had the great pleasure of having with us:

The Dice Tower, who brought happy moments with their cute dice panda. It will be loved and cherished in its new home.

Dice Panda…
… and his new best friend.

It is not hard to see that by accepting your prizes with a radiant smile you also made the donors happy.

Happy to give…
… and happy for each other.

I was told that for the people inside the booths at the fair, it always remains a two-sided contact between a salesperson and one or a few customers at a time, with pre-set roles and a real or a virtual sales counter separating them from one another. This is o.k., that’s what everybody goes to the fair for: showcase your games to the public, sell them, have games shown to you, and empty your pockets and purses to fill up the trolleys and car boots with hours and hours of gaming fun.

GOTTA2 Games at Spiel Essen

But at the Fringe, especially during the raffle, everybody is on “the same side”, and when a game is held aloft to be raffled off to a happy winner, the excited murmurs, the cheers and spontaneous branding applause from such large a crowd are a feedback publishers do not get anywhere else. From what we experienced, they really put their hearts into their games. Their audience’s love and appreciation for what they do and create means a lot to them.

Board game friends

The main thing, though, is the hobby itself and the people who share it. We hope you are enjoying your prizes, but in truth really everybody was winning, learning a new game, seeing many of the year’s new releases on the table and in action, meeting somebody maybe from a different part of the world and sharing that one legendary game with each other. Thank you to each and every one of you all!

You brought us plenty of great and tasty gifts as well, and we also say a big thank you for that!

Especially dear to us were also some wonderful people from Life of a Board Gamer (Danijel Ljubas) and from Meeple University (Stella Jahja)who work to keep us all informed about the board gaming hobby and the happenings around it and who also found kind words in their reports and v-logs about their first time at the Fringe. Maybe you would like to have a peek:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8faiaGSlBN-_fDSBajddMA

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbjMq6IaluF9cpfBp8pA3BQ

We do hope you all had a great time, felt warmly welcome and are thinking back with fond memories.

We do hope you all had a great time, felt warmly welcome and are thinking back with fond memories.

We are not an organisation or club, neither have nor accept any money, with the exception of the donations to the parish for charity and the upkeep of the house, for which we thank you very much. Everything else is freely given away to make others happy:

Good play – better day!

It is for you all that we are hosting this event, and we are ever more richly rewarded by a happy company playing all those great games together, and by having you all as our friends!


See you all in October 2020!

The Dice & Mystics Fringe 2019

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Coming to Essen and want to play games?

October 26th (from 4 p.m. until midnight)

It is actually the fourth time running that we are looking forward to play together will all you wonderful people from all over this planet at our “TinyCon”.

You would like to finish your day at the SPIEL Essen with a nice and comfortable game night? Then come to play with us on Saturday October 26th at our game location in Bochum, 15 Minutes by car from the SPIEL. You are very welcome at our Dice & Mystics Fringe

As usual, it is free of any charge and entirely non-commercial. We simply like to give our fellow board gamers a place to enjoy their new games, meet people, exchange their experiences of the fair and have fun. 

There is space and time to play on Saturday from 4.00 p.m. to midnight. However, the places are limited, so we do kindly ask you to make a reservation in advance. To make your booking faster and easier and save you from having to queue at the entrance, this year we are for the first time use an online booking service (see below); again free of any costs.

There are hotels and restaurants in the vicinity which may be about the same driving distance to the SPIEL as some in Essen.

There will again be the opportunity to order food and drinks on the premises; a delivery service will bring everything to the tables. And of course teas, coffees and biscuits are free, as always!

You would like to come? Make your reservation here.


You are going to receive an automatic confirmation as soon as you are booked, together with a detailed description on how to reach us (just 3 turns from the autobahn; also by public transport) and some important information.

Registration ends on: Saturday, 12.10.2019

No entry without e-ticket (on mobile device or print version).    

For any important questions you may contact us on contact@diceandmystics.de.

To keep updated check on this website, on BoardGameGeek (announcement in the Essen Forum) or on Facebook.

RiotMinds announces Trudvang Adventures, tabletop RPG for 5E

Fellow adventurers:

Please indulge me for a brief while when I tell you about my findings quite wondrous to behold. Yesternight I ventured deep into the woods longing to see the lights of the silver town again. Alas my searching gaze revealed only a deep pond, staring lidles up to the round pale eye in the sky. As soon as my soot black friend named shadow floated out into the silver to play with the waves a voice reckoned my humble me and spoke in the most finest words of wonders that are waiting for us in the near future. And here is what it spoke:

Swedish games publisher RiotMinds today announced the upcoming release of Trudvang Adventures, a full adaptation of the critically acclaimed award-winning RPG setting, for 5E. The game is based on the successful “Trudvang Chronicles” campaign world setting that was voted “The most anticipated game of the year” by the ENWorld community upon its release.

Trudvang Adventures 5E (TA5E) is anchored in a unique world setting of fused Celtic and Nordic myths and sagas. TA5E players are afforded the opportunity to explore the incredibly rich and visually stunning fantasy setting of Trudvang Chronicles while still remaining familiar and accessible for players of 5E. Both players and DMs will feel instantly at home and comfortable with the TA5E toolsets for their epic campaigns.

Trudvang Chronicles is licensed and translated for use in a number of countries and is also the basis for the new board game Trudvang Legends. The Trudvang Legends board game is scheduled for release later this year and is produced and published by renowned game design company CMON.

Trudvang Adventures will be launched as a Kickstarter campaign May 23rd 2020.

For more information about Trudvang Adventures 5E please visit: https://riotminds.se/TA5E/

For more information about Trudvang Chronicles please visit: https://riotminds.se/trudvang/

For more information about Trudvang Legends board game please visit:

https://cmon.com/product/trudvang-legends/trudvang-legends

Fourth Dice & Mystics Sentinal Shout Out

Dear fellow gamers hear me out!

You all are sitting next to me at the fire with sane minds, unscarred bodies nor ripped-off limbs.

It is clear to my old eyes that you do not know the wrath of dragon fire.

But out there in the land of Kickstarter are brave warriors, fighting and battling mighty dragons, demons and even the god of storm.

Their leader is named Leonidas by friends and cursed by foes. His most loyal retainer Az beats the war Drummond and keeps the troops in line. I have seen the battlefields on which they fought beasts of legends, and I collected many unattended corpses.

Are you thirsty for glory – thirthty to make yourself known to the people of the land of Kickstarter?

Do you want to bring boxes full of loot with you when you return to your home again or be known as one who fought and died on the bonefields of Legend?

Then follow this path to the KS and do not hesitate!

Pledge your soul to your god.

Offer your live to godfather death.

I will take care of your unattended corpse.

Come and follow me and let me tell you that the warriors of Mythic Games will gather at the Dice & Mystics Fringe Event with us. And they bring loot for our raffle: One copy of Time of Legends: Joan of Arc and one canvas print showing glorious art from the game!

Give them the proper support on KS and have big fun playing their games!

Third Dice & Mystics Fringe Event 2019 Sentinel Shout Out

Speaking of giant shadows – have you heard it?

The singing from over the waves, of course.

It is a sung sweet like a happy return and bitter like a last farewell.

The ship is calling upon us to gather round, to be ready, to be prepared.

You like civilisation building? It is there.

You like resource management? It is there.

You like epic fights like battling with giants against all odds? It is there.

You like detailed and unique miniatures? It is there.

Look out! See the ship named ARGO calling for us.

She want us to tend to her, to get cradled by her in the stormy nights and carried by her into the fight against Titans! She will tell us vast stories from the verge of time!

Come and see  AEON TRESPASS ODYSSEY: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1492106834/407946890?ref=9ov821&token=37592c16

And now my warriors and seafarers let me tell you. The genius mind behind the game will join us at the Dice & Mystics Fringe Event. To us he is known as Marcin and we are delighted to have him!

We wish great success to his campaign!

Exciting times my fellow gamers!

Second Dice & Mystics Fringe Event 2019 Sentinel Shout Out

I come to you with good tidings. In midsts a ocean of titles I have seen a light. 

It heads right towards us. But beware I see a huge shadow following it like a giant sea monster.

The light is fuelled by the creativity, passion and outstanding love to detail that is presented to us by Albe Pavo. They have shown all those qualities in the last KS for the second edition of Carnival Zombie.

I own the first edition and am always delighted to play it. But beware: the second edition comes with so much more detail, frolic, depth and new game mechanics without loosing the beauty and gripping immersion of the first edition. Have a look: CARNIVAL ZOMBIE – Second Edition

The wonderful talented people from Albe Pavo will join our Fringe Event. And if their presence wound not be enough to get us excited they donate one copy of their game „Beer & Vikings“.

We are delighted and honored to have them with us.

Mellekai  

First Dice & Mystics Fringe Event 2019 Sentinal Shout Out

With the first sightings  of the moloch named Spiel Essen on the horizon let me take up my duty as sentinal for the Dice & Mystics Event on the Fringe of that giant beast of a fair.

Firstly I sighted a new company that is burning  with passion to ease our need to organise game components in the boxes and to help us with setting up and storing away all those precious goodies that make up all those glorious games today.

I am talking about InMyBox. They are making inserts, overlays, dice towers, cardholders, t-shirts for board gamers, 3D led lamps, 3D printed parts for and other accessories for board games. You can have a good look at their products at their online shop: https://inmybox.euor their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/InMyBox.eu/

You will find these warriors on a crusade for better inserts at Spiel Essen in hall 5, booth 5K106. Make sure to visit them and give them a nice welcome and  their products a good look!

And those passionate guys will join our Dice & Mystics Fringe Event and donate one copy of their flag ship product for their big entry at Spiel Essen:  

The Scythe BigBadBox!

This is hot from the press. 🙂

That box will provide space for all possible game pieces and all expansions. In addition to that they will provide us with two inserts for other games to give away in our raffle!

And big THANK YOU to Ivan from InMyBox for those kind donations and we wish you and your team a wonderful and successful time at Spiel Essen 2019.

We all cannot wait to have you at our Dice & Mystics Fringe Event!

Addendum: They have opened up the possibility to pickup orders at Spiel Essen without delivery costs for you.

Dice & Mystics Fringe 2019 Booked Full

Hey everybody – I have news concerning the Dice & Mystics Fringe:

We are booked full.

We could not believe our eyes, but it’s true, and it’s only July…!

To everybody who successfully used our new booking system: We hope it was as convenient and easy for you as we intended it to be, and we thank you so much for joining our 2019 event.

For anybody who would still like to come but did not catch a ticket:

With the online booking system there is no waiting list. However, as soon as anybody has to cancel, we will manually remove their reservation and booking will re-open for those places, so keep your eyes peeled for any free spot that may pop up again. If there are any problems, you can reach out to us at: contact(at)diceandmystics.de

To anybody who has a ticket but cannot come:

Please do send an e-mail with your cancellation to contact(at)diceandmystics.de ! Please include your booking number.

There will be other people who would gladly like to take your spot, and for them to be able to do so we have to manually cancel the ticket so that there will be a free spot indicated in the booking system. For that, we must of course first know that there is a vacancy! Thank you very much in advance.

All that remains to say is: We are very much looking forward to meet you all in person in just over three months. Till then, have a wonderful time, lots of fun gaming, and a safe journey to Spiel Essen and our Dice & Mystics Fringe event in Bochum.

Good play – better day!

VALHAL – Joy and Sorrow in a Viking’s Life

Have you ever come around the next morning after a rollicking party with a headache, scrambling for orientation and finding your befuddled brain completely and totally blank? If you ever experienced such an extreme yourself, you might be able to feel with the stricken heroes in this historical civilisation builder board game. Everybody else will just have to employ their imagination.  The name of the game is a clue in itself: VALHAL is all about Vikings. Real ones. The theme of VALHAL is the life and day of the historic Vikings, and their religious beliefs play an important part. But Ragnarök can wait. For now, the most important thing is being a true Viking who, after a glorious death, will then proudly stride into Asgard, with his sword in hand, and claim his place amidst the mead drinking ranks of the heroes of Valhal. This is the sole and most noble purpose of every Viking’s very existence! It is just that a combination of too much mead, and a too deeply felt anticipation of the glorious afterlife, can lead to certain unforeseen complications…

On one fateful morning, the Vikings of Fjörnheim, a fictitious island in the North, wake up with a legendary headache. Still struggling with the aftereffect of mead still coursing through their veins and some major memory gaps concerning the finer details of the previous night, they are facing Rattatöskr, messenger of the gods, who brings it to their notice that in their drunken state they “accidentally” chopped up a holy tree to feed their little camp fire. The proprietors of the tree in question, the Gods of Asgard, are not amused. At all. Without further ado they withdraw the post-mortem access authorization to Asgard and Valhal from the hung-over Norsemen. Things cannot possibly get any worse for a Viking-!

The theme of the game:

This civilization builder board game takes place in the early Viking era, which is depicted with great historical accuracy down to the very details.  You assume the responsibility of one of the Fjörnheim Jarls under whose leadership the Norsemen strive to manage, improve and further their settlements and, most importantly, perform great deeds – i.e. go a-viking and bring home loot. This is done in order to gain Glory and win back the favour of the Gods and eventually be welcomed at the doors of Asgard and admitted into Valhal after their heroic demise.

Some basic data:

  • Published by  Tetrahedron-Games 2018 (Copyright 2017)
  • Designed by  Martin Otzmann and Mario Arthur
  • Artwork by  Nele Diel
  • Plays  2 – 4 players
  • Age  10+
  • Duration of Gameplay  90 – 120 minutes
  • Setup-Time  about 12 minutes
  • Box Size  square box (23,5 x 23,5 x 6,5 cm)

Lots of fun stuff in a box:

  • 1 Season Marker, which is the central game board in the middle of which the seasons get indicated (there is even a surplus of 3 additional Season Markers in the box that can be used as replacements)
  • 4 Favour of the Gods  displays (1 per player)
  • 4 Ravenhead Tokens in the player colours, used to record the progress on the Favour of the Gods display (1 per player)
  • 7 Achievenment Tokens (grant bonus points for being first to achieve certain objectives)
  • 8 Memory Aid Tokens (with the sides ”Spring & Disabled“ und “Summer & Winter“)
  • 16 Food Tokens
  • 16 Building Tokens:  8 Wood Tokens
      8 Iron Tokens
  • 80 Coins
  • 5 game boards:  4 Viking Settlements (the Viking settlement of the player where
    they can build, train their warriors and manage their ressources)
    The Mainland (one central game boardwhere the villages and towns to be raided are laid out)
  • 72 unit cards: 28 units Nordic Warriors
      20 units Nordic Veterans (elite warriors) and
      24 Longboats (the famous Viking dragon boats)
  • 16 Buildings Cards:  4 Warehouses (improve building of ships)   
      4 Blacksmith’s (help warriors to become “veterans”)
      4 Granaries (improve the food situation in winter)
       4 Sacrificial Altars (grant ”Benevolence of the gods” cards)
  • 24 Town Cards  (from small undefended villages to strong fortified towns plus relief troops) .
  • 24 Town Cards  (from small undefended villages to strong fortified towns plus relief troops)
  • 149 Playing Cards : 50 Event Cards
      30 Benevolence of (the) Gods Cards
      30 Wrath of the Gods Cards
      15 Lesser Loot Cards
      10 Large Loot Cards
      10 Greater Loot Cards
  • 4 Battletableaus
  • 20 Markers (little wooden cubes in 3 different colours)
  • 4 red D6 Dice
  • 20 white Custom Dice (faces showing 1 to 3, with each number appearing twice)

Sounds like a huge amount of content? It certainly is. It really baffles the mind how is it possible to put out such a lot of gaming fun for such a reasonable price. It is not the sheer number of single game parts alone that is impressive: The artwork is really excellent and the production quality of the components is good. Everything is straightforward, easy to handle, and well-made.  For such a modest price (or even higher prices) we have – on other occasions – seen flimsy products with just a fraction of components such as these. So it is truly amazing and also very gratifying to see how much of a game you are getting in a box of VALHAL by comparison.

The creators themselves, however, told us they are not entirely happy with the quality of the components, especially with some of the cards, although we and our fellow gamers had been satisfied with the present production and its components. So anyone who is planning to get themselves a copy of their own: You can look forward to the upcoming re-issue of the game (soon on  kickstarter) with components made by different production companies where everything is going to be even better than it is now!

What impressed us the most about this game is the care and thoroughness that went into the way the theme has been translated into the design and the game mechanics. There is not a single aspect that has not been researched and implemented correctly in terms of cultural history: There are no anachronisms anywhere, n horned helmets or any other such popular nonsense in evidence! The creators did not simply paste a popular theme onto a game mechanism, the mechanism organically grows from the very depths and realities of the theme itself. They do take the Nordic culture of that particular era very seriously indeed. This even applies to such detail as the colour scheme of the game and its components which moves within the scope of exclusively such pigments that would actually have been available at the time of the Vikigs. Wow! That’s what we call dedication! If you are expecting extravagant fantasy Vikings sprung from a comic strip, you won’t find any of those here. But you are not giong to miss them either. VALHAL is a novel and crisp gaming experience with a sound mixture of rules, strategies and luck – just like real life. If, however, you are genuinely into the historic Viking people, you will in fact experience some of their real life while enjoying a game of VALHAL If you have none such expectations and simply want to play an interesting board game, VALHAL is for you, too.

The settlements:

There are four identical settlements. This settlement is the actual playing board for each player, where the destiny of the villagers decides; the victory points generated here are counted on the Favour of the Gods display. In the centre of each settlement there is the Jarl’s longhouse; this is where you place your resources. You collect your (unspent) coins, food tokens and building tokens (wood, iron). The number of food tokens in limited to four: Prior to the invention of canned food and freezers, you just could not store an unlimited food supply to last you all year. So in real Viking life, resources did actually run scarce at times…

In your settlement you have a shipbuilder; in that spot you are able to construct your dragon boats. You have a training ground where you may train farmers to become brave seafarers and man your ships, and a rune stone where you may sacrifice gold or glory (victory points) to be granted a favour of the gods. But be warned – gods are not bound to any profane rules. The favours they will grant are not always beneficial to mortals…

Also, each settlement has building sites for additional buildings – a warehouse, a granary and a blacksmith – as well as an (already existing) armoury for the use of which, however, you need a blacksmith, because it requires a blacksmith to adequately equip simple sailors with the necessary means to become seasoned veteran warriors. That makes a lot of sense.

Your objective is to finish your building as soon as possible. In order to do this, you must first place a coin on the building site and provide food for the settlement. (Workers need to eat.) Using resources can enable you to start or speed up the building process even without any food tokens. When finished, buildings allow you to build ships faster and with fewer resources, to train up and equip warriors or also to have more food during the long winter (better storage conditions).

How to play:

Each game consists of several rounds which take place during the three (!) seasons (summer, winter and spring). At the start of the first round, each player owns one longboat, one unit Nordic warriors manning it, one unit food, two units iron (represented by the two tokens) and three coins.

It starts with a “Vikingfahrt“:

You can only go on a Vikingfahrt (Viking sea raid) in summer. Therefore, the game starts in summer, and you begin by placing some (unfortified) villages on the mainland; their number is determined following the number of players present. And off you go!

The villages you aim for are easy prey – or not: There are small unprotected hamlets, but also big, heavily fortified cities that put up some fierce resistance with the help of relief troops in a second wave of defense. You are facing the dilemma that the easy targets guarantee some booty and a safe return of ship and men, but the booty you bring home may be rather unimpressive. Those rich fortified cities, on the other hand, contain a heap of real riches to be gleaned, and often some noble offspring into the bargain that can earn you a handsome ransom, but all this comes at great risk.

One thing is for certain: If you opt for a risk-free life bullying some conveniently harmless farmers into giving up the little they have,  you and your settlement will yourself end up having little, no heroic ballads are sung in your praise and the gates of Valhal will forever stay shut. So when you are planning ahead where to risk a sea raid, you should think and re-think before you take action.

You pick out one of the places laid out on the mainland that you want to raid and pillage and chose the longboat and unit of warriors you want to employ for the task. The next step is the actual fight. A successfully pillaged village or city is removed from the mainland and you bag all the loot that is stated on its card: gold, resources like food, wood or iron, ransom for hostages…

That having been done, the next player starts the next raid on the respective target. This continues until all the places on the mainland have been raided. 

How you fight:

If a ship has more than one unit of warriors on board, you have to first determine which of them is going to attack first.  The attack bonuses do add up, but not the life points. All attack bonuses are used in battle, but only the unit in front takes the damage. If the attacking unit in front loses all life points and die, the remaining unit will be next to attack, but of course there are no more bonuses to add up. This gives you the impression you are dealing with real human beings who are acting together in small groups, though you do not experience them as different individuals. However, you do perceive them in a totally different way than you would if you played “unit“ as a mere abstract.

Cities have their life points, too, and they can either put up a weak or a very strong defence.  An attempted raid cannot only fail, it can actually end in disaster!  This is a somewhat sobering view of the raiding seafarers.  What they do is depicted with all the dangers and uncertainties, the risk of paying for some lousy loot with the death of crew members, or even never returning home but sleeping with the fishes forever.

The good news: If your unit of warriors „die“, i.e. lose all their life points, they are not dead yet, but wounded to such an extent that their number of life points will be considerably lower in the next fight. The bad news: The wounded warriors are, of course, also weaker now. If the unit lose all their life points a second time, they are then considered dead and are removed from game. If the ship is no longer manned because your first and also second unit of warriors are truly dead, it is removed from the game. (It is lost to you.) This system also adds a lot to the realism of the gameplay.

The clear and well-structured combat system is easy to grasp and plays smoothly. How successful you are is determined by your attacking strength and choosing your targets wisely, but the dice add a random element of luck. The result of this combination convincingly simulates the actual hazards of a “Vikingfahrt”: However well you prepare, in reality you simply cannot achieve a total control on events and circumstances! To influence the probabilities in your own favour and prevent the worst from happening, all you can do is to plan ahead as well as you can and think your decisions through.  The element of luck adds a lot of suspense to the gameplay, but it also helps you maintain the hope that next time fortune will smile at you again, even while you are failing.

And there is more good news: If at any point a Jarl finds himself without any ship or men, his settlement will immediately provide a new ship and unit of warriors! It rarely ever happens that your settlement has to throw you that lifeline, but it makes certain that all players can always continue to have fun together and game on. When all is said, this is what it’s all about, even in a most definitely non-cooperative game. We really like this simple solution because it excludes nobody and there is no interrution in the flow of the game.

This happens during winter and spring:

After your “Vikingfahrt“ you will – hopefully – have all the resources necessary to prepare for the coming summer and to further develop your settlement.

You place food tokens on the seasons on your settlement. Food tokens can be replaced by coins; you “buy” food you do not have. Next you need to hire more men, train up your already existing units to become veterans, and of course you have to build things. This is important because the buildings give you certain advantages once they are finished. It is essential to have a larger number of reliable ships, too, and also more warriors manning them, because all those villages that are easy prey will soon be gone (due to certain activities of certain seafarers from way up north). The cities you will be trying to raid next will not be overcome by a handful of men in a glorified rowing boat.  In fact, this is a very busy and fast-paced phase in VALHAL .

The zeal you invest in your own village is not unlke the joyous ecxitement you would feel when packing your bags for a world trip. Your setttlement must survive the long winter; the journeys of the summer ust be well prepared for so that the men and boats will return safely and laden with treasures – what could be more important? Nothing, absolutely nothing of what happens here will be without consequence. In fact, this is a very busy and fast-paced phase in VALHAL

How to win – or lose:

You win by collecting the most victory points and thus being the first to reach the open gates of Asgard on the Favor of the Gods display.

The gaming experience viewed from the inside:

We tested VALHAL several times at our Dice & Mystics game nights: People who come to us expect to spend a nice, relaxing and entertaining time with good board games. Such guests only sit down at the table when the new game looks attractive and promises a great, varied gaming experience.

VALHAL immediately passes the visual test: As soon as the box is opened, there is a lot of interest. The artwork is appealing to all, and especially to some outspoken fans of the Viking culture, who admire the great care taken in the game design. They visibly enjoy the fact that the bold seafarers of the North, who so fascinate them, are not just props and decoration. During the following game rounds we constantly hear comments and observations about the life of the real Norsemen, their characteristics and their daily lives; the game arouses interest and furthers understanding. 

There is no shortage of players. Setup takes a little time. Good things will take a while. Patiently and full of anticipation we endeavor to learn the rules for the impressive amout of components. What appeared a little complicated at first soon turns out to be quite easy to grasp. In the first round, the rules are still in the foreground, but everything works smoothly and effortlessly: We sit down, start playing, and have fun.

The first “Vikingfahrt“ is quite easily accomplished, although success is by no means guaranteed.  In our very first trial round, all men and ships return successfully. The Jarls are happy. The first building projects commence in winter, in spring one of the settlements is proud to have their own blacksmith.  When the second much more difficult  “Vikingfahrt“ is in progress,  the rules  are crystal clear and the combat system does not need to be explained anymore.

The following summer it gets obvious that the first raid with the small easy-to-pillage villages had actually been some kind of tutorial. This is neat. It feels more natural to go through the steep learning curve within the actual gameplay rather than having to complete a separate practise session before. (In later game rounds, for a new gamer to be able to join in, a quic briefing about the bare essentials proves sufficient, everything else can be learned “on the fly”. Learning by Doing actually worked just fine!)

As the game proceeds, it turns out that it is not so easy to complete your buildings quickly enough and take advantage of them, if you had previously chosen to follow the less profitable but safer path. Two things become very evident. First, VALHAL rewards taking risks, not choosing the safest way. Second, the smallest mistake in your planning is going to mercilessly lead to serious consequences. That does make sense: The living conditions in the Viking age allowed no mistakes. So you have to be pretty alert and quick-witted. If you miscalculate your sea raids or fail to provide for he long winter or bring home too much of the wrong loot, you will have serious problems at hand – and there go your chances to become the most successful and most renowned settlement in all Fjörnheim. Winners as well as losers – all our gamers are enjoying themselves and want to play again as soon as possible.

At the following game nights and with the same paricpants, the gameplay is even more balanced. Everybody knows how it goes (or rather how Rattatöskr scuttles). Nonody is careless enough to naively attack the most harmless hamlet; all building activities, resource management and storage projects are planned more carefully and with better foresight; more ships and crews go a-viking, the game becomes more eventful, faster and more fluent, and whoever is going to win this time ramains open until he game is finished.

In the end, everybody applauds the winner, but although there is no envy among the players, you can read it in their faces – resolutions are being made to do everything differently and better the next time, all in order to win the favor of the gods. That’s the way it is meant to be!

Final thoughts:

If it was not for this little horned guy,  we might have taken a little longer to catch our attention, but a glance round the corner and there he was, his little keen eyes blinking up at us from his place on the corner of the table – and we stood spellbound! We were captivated on the spot!

This little fellow is the messenger of the Gods (the Asen), who came scuttling down the trunk of the world ash Yggdrasil all the way down to our hung-over Vikings to deliver the dire message of the angry management. This unusually attractive figurine is not needed for the game itself, but renouncing him? No Viking way!

The messenger of the gods, a finely sculpted resin figure, and the attractive leather coasters with their beautiful ornaments are the extras that come with the special edition.  But even without them the game VALHAL is a visual treat.

VALHAL is more than playable eye candy, it also has substance. It combines original, “organic” game mechanics with a historically correct and realistic representation of a popular theme. You can see very clearly what a huge amount of true passion and great care has been invested in the creation of this game. There is so much to do and experience, and although it is played taking turns, there is no downtime that deserves the name. 

The Viking theme so convincingly portrayed by Nele Diehl is not an illustration, it becomes tangible and alive. That is what makes VALHAL so special. Even the steep learning curve at the beginning can be explained by the logical and convincing derivation of the rules from the topic itself.

The playing time given by the publisher is a realistic estimate, as demonstrated on several game nights. This makes VALHAL an interesting game not only for plays at home but also for a game club. Several games one after the other, even with partial change of players, are easily possible.

VALHAL appeals to different types of gamers, is entertaining, plays differently each time and offers excellent value for money for a good and unusual game with good production quality. Its moderate length makes it suitable for adults, but it is easy enough to learn to be accessible to older children.

To sum up:

VALHAL has convinced us:  It’s great funthroughout! What more can you possibly want? We are glad that we discovered this game which now enriches our collection. „You should bring it to the table more often“, we’re being told, und there are questions concerning the upcoming kickstarter…

(The Dice & Mystics thank the publisher Tetrahedon Games for the free copy of their game.)

By: Martina Frohme; Dice & Mystics

Unexpected encounters of the board game kind… (Part 2)

Apparently, this time and day board games are the hotness. They seem to be so big „a thing“, they can now easily be used to promote huge international brands and keep them rolling nicely. Sometimes quite literally.

I needed a new set of summer tyres for my car. While I made myself comfortable on a Ferrari red sofa with a nice cup of coffee for the wait, I casually glanced across to the “kid’s corner“. I had expected to see toy cars and wooden building bricks, picture books and the like. They were all there, of course, and even that inescapable dexterity “game“ where the child entertainee has to navigate some (theft-and-nonsense-proof) ring or other device along twisting wires and all kinds of challenges towards some goal within the construction. I find these contraptions ever so enticing and am very temped to give it a go, but when all is said I always end up not to because squatting down on one of those miniature chairs with my ears next to my knees would be too embarrassing…

But the dexterity game was clearly outshone this time buy a total of three boxes with different games all produced for promotional purposes. There was a “family game for up to 7 players“ titled “I love my Doblo“ designed after “Snakes and Ladders” meets “Game of Life“, having event spaces like “Mom is sick. Move back 5 spaces.“, “First soccer training. TraTransporting half the team. Advance 7 spaces.“ und “Puberty. 3 spackes backwards. Have an argument.“ (NOT joking here.)

The winner is whoever gets on the new Fiat Doblo in the centre of the board first. If you can also ”beat“ the other player’s pieces and send them back to “start“ like in other games was not explicit in the rules. I have an idea that if you would like that, a little “house ruling“ would be in order. Sadly, playing pieces and dice were missing.  (Which proves the point regarding the self-defending precautions with any mobile components of the dexterity game.)

It is not just theme as such which is promoting the brand here, there are also promotional statements inserted in the details. You are informed there is a navigation system on board, or you stop on an event like “Summer vacation. Taking the surf board along. Plenty of room. Advance 1 space“, pointing out the advantages of the particular vehicle that is meant to be made desirable to you . To be fair, there are actually just 5 (or maybe 6 if you want to be a little more nit-picky) in a total of 19 event spaces that have any reference to a car and its uses, and not every one of them is positive Positives; there is one that tells you the car boot is too large and loading up therefore takes forever, so you have to skip a  turn. (That is, of course, a fairly see-through tactics, but I would still say it is “pretty clever“ – if that was not also some form of promoting a saleable item.) The other events cover a wide range of landmarks in a young person’s life like taking your very first steps, chickenpox, good marks at school, the very first kiss and love sickness. You are, however, left with the impression that as soon as you reach adulthood – and according to the editors of the game –  purchasing a nice large famlily cars should be high on your list of priorities. This adds a whole new dimension to the “family friendly“ attribute of a board game.

The card based game “Qubino“, a game  “For young unconventional and lateral thinkers“. Basically following the rules of  “Domino“ while playing, the future customers are training themselves to acknowledge all those reasons for buying the product that are being suggested to them from the sales catalogue, at the same time bonding to the company’s logo.

Some form of unconventional thinking may be happening to transfer the rules of “Domino“ onto “Qubino“, but there is no way the game  teaches any independent lateral thinking to the young gamers. On the contrary, this happens the less the more the game actually achieves to be fun.

The two copies of a memory game were also next to complete. I simply had to get down to sorting the cards into their boxes! One of the games appeared complete by all standards, the other one was lacking two cards, but this would not have impaired the playability in a significant way if all you wanted was to pass some time while u wait. All it would take was to remove those cards that were lacking a double from the game. I am not going to lie to you: That design was ever so cool! So cool, I was seriously tempted to buy a copy if at all possible.  (I even asked but was told the game was not available for purchse. Why was that, I wondered. Such a pity.)

The slightly abstracted images in black white and red colours all shared the same theme; in a wider sense they all depicted automobiles, racing and lots of things related (will not start contemplating the broken hearts and  lipstick prints, though).  There were only two motifs showing the photographic images of the company logo and actual car models. It definitely had something there…

Good play – better day!