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Review – Raiders of the North Sea

Review – Raiders of the North Sea

This is a review of Raiders of the North Sea designed by Shem Phillips. It plays 2 – 4 players. Realistcally, I’d estimate the playtime at 60 – 90 minutes.

Raiders of the North Sea is largely a worker placement game, but there’s a minor twist that actually has a big impact. On a turn, you place one worker, then pick another one up, taking both of those actions. Some spaces will only accept a certain type of worker and some spaces have different effects depending on what type is placed (or removed), which is a simple addition that goes a long way in blocking your opponents, timing your moves, and forgiving mistakes. The difference is subtle, but it’s enough to set this game apart from other worker placement games.

The crew management is also fun, as you have an option to either hire a raider (which grants your raiding party a bonus) or play the card for an action. This provides some interesting variety and also prevents you from getting stuck with cards you don’t want to or can’t use.

The plunder received in raids can be applied to offerings for the Chieftan or invested back into future raids by improving your armor, gathering provisions, etc. Offerings appear to be the lesser strategy, granted you can keep your opponents from stealing your plunder with card effects.

The theme here is that you are a Viking commander amassing a crew, improving your power, and traveling across the sea on raids of far off lands. The theme is fun and the whimsical art allows it to not be taken too seriously, but it is a eurogame at heart and the theme could be just about anything.

This is fine, though, and not unexpected. We maybe just sort of accept that eurogames are low theme, but it really is more of a mechanics driven, strategy game. The theme (or lack of) doesn’t detract from the game, in my opinion.

I love the art in this game! The “cartoon” Vikings are whimsical without being silly or ridiculous. The colors are vibrant and the game is not meant to highlight the violence or brutality of Viking raids.

The iconography on this game could not be better. The rules are more or less explained in succinct icons on every space and we rarely needed to check the rulebook for clarification. It just makes sense.

This game moves along quickly. A turn could take as little as 10 seconds. Even more complicated turns, such as raids or playing cards, move right along.

The pacing of this game, overall, was excellent. The game doesn’t drag too long, nor feel too tense and tight. Even with how forgiving the game can be, there is very little downtime.

I want to say I paid in the $40 range for this game. I was on a long drive, needed a break, and found a game store to stretch my legs in. That said, the value is spot on for this – nothing wasted in terms of box space, or components. The game even comes with heavy, silver coins that clank around.

This is a light to mid-weight game but I found it incredibly easy to pick up and also to teach to the newcomer at our table. The game starts at a very low end of the learning curve, as your opening game options are fairly limited. As you progress, options open up and this was a very clever way to introduce new players to the game, but move play along quickly for more experienced players.

I would rank this among one of the best games to teach new players a worker placement style eurogame.

There isn’t too much variety in this game, however. Even some of the divergent strategies we attempted didn’t seem to pan out as effectively as the “just keep raiding” tactic. The best course of action really does seem to be to get strong and stay strong – keep your momentum up. But, that can be challenging in and of itself, so don’t write this game off as too simplistic, either.

The learning curve to this game is low, but I would count it as an advantage over multiple plays. You can be assured that all players are on the same level with things.

Final Thoughts
I can absolutely see why this game was nominated for Kennerspiel – it’s familiar, but unique enough. Clever and elegant, I liked this game quite a bit.