Open Seat Gaming: Ramble Review – Champions of Midgard Expansions!
Oh my goodness, I love Champions of Midgard. If you look back at Marti’s Favorites (from when we started the blog in March), you will find that I consider it one of my favorite games, alongside Lords of Waterdeep.
So, of course, when they announced that they were doing a Kickstarter for not one, but two expansions, I was all over it. I got the package with the two expansions, got the promos for the game, and was ready to go with it! We got it about 2 weeks or so ago now, and have gotten to play Midgard with the expansions a couple of times – by the way, for simplicity, we are reviewing both expansions together.
Games: Champions of Midgard: Valhalla and Champions of Midgard: The Dark Mountains
Publisher: Grey Fox Games
Designer: Ole Steiness
Artists: Víctor Pérez Corbella, Andre Garcia
Main Game Mechanisms: Worker Placement, Set Collection, Roll to Resolve
Number of Players: 2 to 5 (The Dark Mountains expansion adds the 5th player)
Game Time: 90 to 120 minutes
Game Play Overview: So you don’t get stuck with a huge gameplay overview that lasts forever, you can remind yourself of how the base game of Midgard works from this video from Tom over at The Dice Tower. Otherwise, I’m assuming you already know how to play base CoM and that’s why you’re looking at a review of the expansions.
The Dark Mountains: The Dark Mountains is what I like to call a “more of the same” expansion, but don’t assume that means it’s not worth it. It adds a fifth player. It adds a bunch of extra journey cards, trolls, draugr, monsters, runes, market tiles, and more. Because of this, it is more replayable and there is always more to do! They also add another class of warrior – the archer – which is represented by green dice. These dice have a bow and arrow symbol on almost every side, and two sides have a deer head on them, symbolizing that you get extra meat when you take archers to the hunting grounds.
The biggest difference is that there is another little board, which is The Dark Mountains. Here, you can fight the Bergrisar, who are holding archers captive. But, like when you take the ships down to the monsters, you have to go through specialized land journey cards on your way to the Bergrisar. You do not have to take food to feed them, however. Get through the journey card safely, beat the Bergrisar, get some points and one or two archer dice to add to your army!
Valhalla: First off, you can never go wrong when you have more dice. They added the Shieldwarriors (yellow) and the Berserkers (pink) that you can choose from as well. The Shieldwarriors have a couple of sides that give you attack + defense; the Berserkers have several double hits and are always the first to die in battle. These are powerful and help you to do better when you go to fight the different sorts of monsters that are in the game.
Another addition is the leader die, which is a blue die has some attack and a side that has a viking helmet on it. When rolled, the viking helmet gives you a secondary special ability, which is unique to the character board that you choose at the beginning of the game (you get another board that holds the leader die and tells you what the leader ability is). You can use the leader in any one of the fights that you are involved in during the battle phase of each round.
This is where the game really steps up, and that’s because they took the Viking theme and ran with it. When your dice die, you get what are called “sacrifice tokens,” which you collect on a new tile. Then, with the new side board that is added to the game, you get some cool options that you can trade certain combinations of those tokens in for. After each battle phase (troll, draugr, bergrisar, monster), you can either get Valkyrie blessings or defeat an epic monster, both of which can give you amazing boosts in scoring, building your army, and more.
Pros: As you can tell, I really like what the expansions do for the game. Why? Here are some of the main things that I love.
- Something Good Finally Happens When Your Vikings (Dice) Die. One of the things that always had me choosing Waterdeep over Midgard was that I felt like some of your worker turns were wasted because you were getting Vikings that died that same round and then poof! Nothing for your troubles. Valhalla came out and changed that up entirely. Now, you can use your defeated warriors in order to get game-changing abilities, and that really changes up the game. Now, you are choosing not to defend against blows because you really need that axeman sacrifice token to get that awesome blessing. And that brings a whole new level of thinking to the whole thing.
- Art and Components. As with the base game, the art is out of this world. It makes you feel like you’re in that era and that you’re involved in the adventures of these Vikings. Even the smaller journey cards have amazing art – they didn’t have to put that sort of detail into it, but they did, and I appreciate the result. The components are high quality, as always. I got the cool VikingMeeples as part of the Kickstarter campaign, but the regular meeples are solid and work really well, too.
- More of a Good Thing is Always a Good Thing. As I mentioned above, The Dark Mountains is a “more of the same” expansion, and it really is. If you are someone that loves Midgard and you want to add to everything so that you have even more choices to make and things to do, then The Dark Mountain provides that to us as players.
- Choices. Above all else, the choices that are available in this game are out of this world. There are so many choices to be made and, while that may end up being a problem for people who may be prone to analysis paralysis (AP), it will stop doing so after awhile. There are a lot of paths to victory and, because of that, you will find that you’re playing Champions of Midgard very differently every single time that you crack it out.
Cons: I do not believe that there is ever a perfect game. Because of that, I always make sure to point out things – but in this case, they are minor quibbles and, in my opinion, don’t take away from the rest of the game.
- Table Space. Holy cow, is this a table hog or what? It eats up our little card table and uses almost every possible bit of space that is available. I have heard that, even with the player mat (add-on with the Kickstarter), it still takes up a ton of room. [Solitary Meeple comment: Yep, the player mat (which I have) is HUGE!]
- Set up and Upkeep phases. This is a problem I have with a lot of worker placement games, but it still needs to be said. The time that it takes to set up the game and for you to get everything back in order between rounds can feel long and tedious. My brother, who doesn’t get to play games a ton, said that was his big “meh” about the game. That down time is good when you want to strategize, but when you’re still getting used to the whole thing, it can be really slow to get everything back in order. That being said, I feel like this will improve based on more plays and getting used to everything that needs to be taken care of in between rounds.
Value: We purchased the Kickstarter version, which has the box you can fit everything in and some promos that were Kickstarter exclusives. We also got the promo pack, and all of it cost around $55 including shipping. The MSRP of the expansions (combined) is $55 (no promos or exclusives). You can get it for cheaper at places like Cool Stuff, of course, and together they are $42 to $45 (combined).
With that, I actually say that this is well worth the money. For the amount of game that you get, the high quality of the components, the chunky custom dice, and everything else that is in those boxes, you are really going to be able to push up the quality of an already amazing game.
Try, Buy, Deny: If you enjoy base Champions of Midgard, these expansions are a must buy for you. It really takes the game up a notch, makes it more “gamerly” and makes you feel more excited when your dice warriors die in glorious battle. It actually helps to make that Viking theme more exciting and immersive.
That being said, if you are someone that enjoys Lords of Waterdeep, you love the complexity of Scoundrels of Skullport, and you have been considering Midgard, you will likely be just fine jumping right in and buying the base game plus both expansions. If you want to ease yourself in, add in The Dark Mountains first, then play with Valhalla when you feel comfortable with that. But, you will want to play with the expansions once you get into it.
If you like worker placement and you have never tried Midgard before; or you are someone that is just getting into the worker placement genre, these are a try. You want to make sure that you try the base game first and see if you like it. The sheer depth of decisions and such that you will be making can be intimidating at first, and adding it all in at once can be a little bit overwhelming for you.
All in all, I really love these expansions and what they bring to the table. I’m really glad we added them, and we aren’t going to be playing without the expansions any time soon. Have you gotten to try them yet? What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments or on social media (@FluffyMeeple on Twitter, or our Open Seat Facebook or Twitter pages).
See you on Tuesday for an unboxing!