GTM #200 - Vikings On Board
Reviewed by Rebecca Kaufeld

Ach, Vikings! Burly, terror-inducing men and women, dedicated to raiding villages, plundering small towns, stealing supplies, and generally harassing the next-door neighbors. History rarely remembers Vikings as crafty and cunning, but they weren’t always so vicious. After all, there’s a lot of trouble to get into in the fjords: switching around control of the ships, collecting bet money, influencing the market - there’s plenty to keep a young Viking busy right here at home!

~ Master the Ships ~

Ah, the pride of the seas. Those Viking ships saw many wars, faced countless enemies, and only sank a few times under pressure. In Vikings On Board, ship construction becomes an art form as players swap out individual pieces and customize ships to their own advantage. However, keeping them customized is harder than one would think...

The ships arrive pre-built and ready to sail. Instead of being one unit, they’re split into three kinds of pieces: the bow, body, and stern. By arranging the pieces together in the fjord (the water closest to the harbor), players build all kinds of seaworthy vessels -- tiny boats, enormous ships, and everything in-between. The trick is making sure that the target vessel has the most of a player’s color.

All of the bows and stern pieces are identical (because how else would people recognize a Viking ship?). The bodies each have a number of shields identified by a player’s color. Each player has a set of six mid-sections to build with: (2) with one shield, (2) with two, and (2) with three shields. By using their turns wisely, players work to rebuild the ships and attempt to sneak more of their own shields on board before sailing.

It would be a lot easier if every other player wasn’t doing the same thing.

~ Win Some Riches ~

However, fighting over ships isn’t the only way to win points. Players can also use betting chips to vote on who will control a ship when it leaves. The chips are valued 1-4, represented by four individual chips in a player’s color. Only by winning the bet can a player take the extra points.

For example: Green is strongly represented on one of the vessels. Red bets that Green will win, and places their ‘2’ chip in front of the boat. None of the other players can bet on Green’s success, and if the ship sails with a majority of green shields, Red’s ‘2’ chip becomes a part of her final score. However, if the tide turns, and Yellow guides the ship when it sails, Red’s betting marker can be moved to another ship, and the betting process starts all over again.

~ Don’t Forget Supplies ~

The final actions available each turn control the Marketplace, and all supplies found therein: grain, metal, and extra hides. While the majority of activity revolves around rearranging mid-sections and taking control of ships, players can earn bonus points by scoring loaded goods on their vessels. To the winners go the spoils, and it’s no different with Vikings.

When a ship sails, several things happen. First, players identify who controls the vessel based on the number of shields of each color. Then, each controlling clan (that is, the player who has colors represented on the ship) takes a turn choosing a supply token. While there is no benefit to collecting metal vs grain, there is an action that boosts the price of a particular good. This may encourage players to collect a particular kind of supplies, as they will score the highest price at the end of the game.

~ Get on Board ~

So although Vikings carry a villainous reputation of treachery and violence, they actually spent a majority of time causing trouble at home. Swapping shields on ships, garnering goods, and betting a boatload of money can take up a majority of time in anyone’s homestead. With Vikings On Board, players experience the life of a Viking at home, and can try their hand at the sneakiness necessary to rule the seas. Do you have what it takes to join the clan?

Fast Facts:

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Plays: 2-4 players
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
When a whirlwind of whimsical words beckoned from worlds away, Rebecca knew she had to follow. She fell into a rabbit hole of metaphors and cliches, mixed with more similes than water drops in a storm. Somewhere along the way, she picked up a love of games that would use her words to create beautiful reviews, and that's where she is today.