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Review – Vikings Gone Wild

Review – Vikings Gone Wild

This is a review of Vikings Gone Wild designed by Julien Vergonjeanne. It plays 2 – 4 players. Realistcally, I’d estimate the playtime at about 30 minutes per player.

If I were to tell you, honestly and simply, what Vikings Gone Wild is…you’d probably stop reading. So let’s make a deal – if you read this review with an open mind, I promise I can show you how Vikings Gone Wild is a mobile video game rolled onto a deckbuilder that is actually pretty neat… Deal?

And look how cute these little barrels are!

If you know how a deckbuilder works, feel free to scoot right on over this paragraph, but for the less familiar – a deckbuilder is largely what it sounds like. Every player begins with the same small set of cards and, over the course the game, players will purchase cards from the common market to shuffle into their deck, thereby padding their strategy out. Vikings Gone Wild works in much the same way, but with a few clever twists to keep it interesting.

As with any run of the mill deckbuilder, there are resources with which to buy new cards (mugs of beer and bars of gold, in this case) and various ways to score victory points and declare a winner. Vikings Gone Wild, however, implements a bit of an engine building mechanic into the fray, whereby players don’t need to rely solely on their deck if they’ve purchased buildings that produce and store these staples. Simply put, you’ll use your beer to buy gold factories and use your gold to buy breweries. Then you’ll use your beer to buy units and your gold to buy defenses. Simple.

Now, here’s where things get interesting, though… Storing resources in your village makes you an excellent target for attack. Other Vikings (purchased with beer and sometimes gold) can march onto your doorstep and ransack your coffers unless you can surprise them by revealing defense cards (purchased with gold). This attack, defense, and even sometimes the mere bluff of defense, makes the player interaction tense and engaging in a fairly unique way. Especially because you get VPs for successful attacks, or the defender scores VPs for repealing you – each strategy is viable. Combat is dead simple – just a basic attack vs defense count.

So, let’s step back for a second and talk about how this all plays out. If you’re familiar with deckbuilders, it actually won’t be too surprising to you. On a turn, the cards played from your hand will largely be units, sent to attack other players, or currency used with the resources stored on your buildings to purchase from four main areas of the board.

This hammer token for the first player is pretty boss.

Buildings, which provide production, storage, and other benefits.

Units, which attack opponents buildings (generally).

Defense, which are deployed as a surprise when you are attacked.

And Odin’s Path, which is a flowing river of varied and powerful cards.

After your turn has finished, you hold any unplayed cards in your hand, and these will generally be surprise defense cards. Or not – you can certainly bluff their purpose and misdirect your opponents. In fact, you’ll find that “how many cards do you have left” is a common question for players who have already taken their turn.

Additionally, there are personal mission cards that each player can score VPs from, heroes and treasure cards they can roll into their deck, etc. Otherwise, this is really the core of the game. Produce, buy, attack, defend, repeat. Through this, though, Vikings Gone Wild felt fresh. As I said, if this were described to you as “a mobile game IP slapped on a deckbuilder” you’d likely not even give it the time of day. But Vikings Gone Wild was a lot of unexpected fun.

I was entirely unfamiliar with the video game when I picked up Vikings Gone Wild. I had never even heard of it. No matter though, because the game stands well on its own. Vikings are a fairly universal theme and this title has all the makings of a lighthearted game of Norsemen. There’s beer, pigs, warships, chickens, and a giant hammer token to mark the first player. Really, what’s not to love?

I tried to understand a bit more about the mobile game and from what I gather, this is a pretty faithful translation of the original. The idea of upgrading your town hall, constructing buildings, amassing strength, and striking down your foes all comes across in a fun and simple way. And I think this is crucial, really. Until you break into what makes Vikings Gone Wild tick, it sounds fairly commonplace. Without the right theme, a game like this might very well fade into obscurity, and while it may not blow your mind with novel concepts, there is absolutely a game worth checking out here.

Here’s a look at a couple buildings, artwork scooped directly from the mobile game.

Vikings Gone Wild sports silly, cartoony artwork. The buildings, units, and special cards all have amusing nuances and it’s sometimes a shame that they don’t stay in your hand long enough to really enjoy them. Personally, I was turned off by the black void of a board. Perhaps another color would have made things a bit too busy (and it looks plenty busy already), but there is a predominant darkness to this game that isn’t very appealing.

There are few icons to really wrap ones head around in Vikings Gone Wild, but the cards and board pull it off well. Each player is given a reference card with a VP breakdown for attacks on the back – I would’ve liked to see this breakdown just printed on the board, as you’ll find yourself flipping your card over every turn.

Now, here is where I have to strike Vikings Gone Wild down several notches. The pacing of this game was borderline excruciating, and that’s a shame because if it were half as long, it would improve drastically. There are almost too many viable strategies that switching gears felt, let’s say, inconsequential in the long-term.

In some ways, though, this is pleasantly forgiving to newcomers, but the ability to catch up so quickly does not reward players who are actually any good at Vikings Gone Wild. This is one of the ways in which Vikings Gone Wild feels geared towards newcomers, at least in this base box.

And let’s talk about downtime… The ability to defend yourself from attack is a saving grace here, but there is an overbearing impatience to waiting for your turn, especially in a full count, four player game. You can’t attack a player who has already been attacked this round, so if you’ve been hit already, go grab a sandwich or something until it’s your turn again.

A possible fix to this would be to include a higher power unit card in the opening decks. This would force players into conflict a bit earlier and make defense an important part of the game, as soon as the first turn.

Each player will receive a starting deck made up of beer and gold (your currency) and basic units for attack.

The second knock on Vikings Gone Wild will come here – much like playing a mobile game with microtransactions, there isn’t enough inside this base box to keep seasoned gamers stimulated for very long. You will see basically all the cards halfway through your first game and to further salt your wound, the instruction book advertises three (yes, three) expansions for the game…

With that in mind, Vikings Gone Wild feels, again, geared towards newer players. I appreciate how quickly and stably the foundation for a bigger game is laid here, as things are not complicated out of the gate, but experienced gamers will likely want to grab an expansion along with the base game.

That said, the price was fair for a solid base, but it stings a bit to feel like I want more game so soon.

I know I’ve harped on the similarities to other deckbuilders, but really that will carry most gamers through this game quickly. The fact that most of the market is available to you from the beginning (save for Odin’s Path, which is randomized) makes “connecting the dots” for new players very easy. Players start with beer, which can be used to buy gold factories and/or units. Once you have gold, buy defensive structures, Attack with your units until you win. Vikings Gone Wild can really be introduced that casually and that’s a strength, for sure.

Again, Vikings Gone Wild feels like it was intentionally geared towards newcomers to the hobby, or perhaps meant to entice fans of the video game to check out the board game. The concepts are tight and easy to teach, but seasoned gamers will want more of that expansion content and will want it fast.

My criticisms from the above “Value” section stand, here. There is simply not enough content in this core box to keep long-time gamers engaged for very long. I don’t say this to dissuade you from checking out what is actually quite a fun game, but if you find yourself thinking “should I buy an expansion with it?” the answer is “yeah, probably.” However, if you’re new to the world of hobby gaming, Vikings Gone Wild is a great place to start.

Final Thoughts
Vikings Gone Wild was surprising and unique and I suggest you check it out if you have the opportunity. The ease with which a small engine builds into the mix makes for interesting game play and the battles are simple and fun. Overall, the game is a solid foundation but you will find yourself wanting more content almost immediately.