Raiders of the North Sea

Why we think you really need this game in your life

2-4 players
60-80 minutes
Garphill Games

Raiders of the North Sea is one of those games you see an awful lot of on Instagram. It looks great in photos and certainly seemed popular among those posting about it. It came out in 2015 but we only added it to our collection in April 2020 as one of our lockdown purchases (to make us feel better while we were cooped up inside). Since then it has become one of our most played games of the year, and we now own all three North Sea games, as well as Architects of the West Kingdom. If you’re reading this in 2021, we’ll probably have finished off that series by then too!

If you’re new to Raiders, the object of the game is to score the most points with your Viking warriors, primarily by raiding and pillaging nearby outposts, monasteries and fortresses.

There are two parts to the board, separated by the sea. The bottom half is the town, where you visit the various locations to stock up on silver (to help pay for Vikings to join your crew), provisions (to feed your crew while they raid!), armour and crucially to add crew members to fight for your cause. What I especially love about this game is the worker placement mechanic, which is so simple to teach to inexperienced gamers. On your turn you put your worker down on an empty location and perform its action. Then you pick up a worker from a location and perform its action. Simple and yet so effective!

So you’ve got your provisions, your armour and a crew and you’re ready to set sail! Each place that you raid offers a number of victory points depending on your total strength. This is the sum of all your crew members’ strength, plus your armour, plus the result of two dice. You add the victory points and take the loot from the raid, but watch out for valkyries!

My valkyries are already scoring 10 points…

Each valkyrie you kill also takes one of your crew members down with them, removing from the game. You do at least get to choose which Viking to lose and crucially you move up the valkyrie track. At the end of the game you’ll score bonus points depending on how far up the valkyrie track you are (top tip – the difference in killing 6 vs 7 valkyries is a whopping 5 points, so if you decide to go for these points, make sure you get to 7!).

The loot you get from raids can be invaluable in scoring extra points. Iron can be converted to armour (which in itself will give you victory points at the end – up to 6 VP if you have max armour), whilst gold and cattle can be converted to VP by offering them to the chieftain. There will be three offering tiles available at a time, if you visit the Long House and can meet any of their requirements, pay the necessary loot and take the offering tile.

The game ends when either the offerings pile is empty, all the valkyries are dead or there is only one fortress remaining. Your final score will be any VP you earned from raids, your points from the valkyrie and armour tracks, your offerings tiles, leftover loot and even some crew members give you end game points!

Where to begin on how much I love this game?

  • It looks fantastic. The artwork on the board and on the cards is stunning (as with all the games in this series), and the metal coins are delightful.
  • It’s so easy to learn. It’s one of those games you read the rulebook and instantly you’re like “yeah, I get this”. Not much referring back to the rules during even the first play which is a massive bonus.
  • It’s so easy to teach. We play games with ‘hardcore’ gamers like us, and also occasional gamers (my in-laws for example). This game is easy to teach to anyone, simple mechanics and very logical.
  • Gameplay is so fast. What I mean is that there isn’t much downtime between turns because people generally have planned a few moves ahead. Sure, if the location you wanted to send your worker is taken, you might have to reconsider, but there aren’t so many options that it’ll take a while.
  • We love worker placement games! Above all, we love this type of game, and the way this game employs worker placement is fantastically simple.

So if you don’t already own this game, do yourself a favour and get a copy. It comes at a fairly hefty price tag but there’s a lot of game in a fairly compact box. We have also heard good things about the expansion, Hall of Heroes, but we don’t own that one (yet!)

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