The North Sea Saga from Garphill Games provides three viking-themed games covering three distinct ages. Build ships, raid nearby lands, and discover new ones in Shipwrights, Raiders, and Explorers of the North Sea. Alone, each game offers very different experiences and interesting and compelling experiences. However, with The North Sea Runesaga expansion, they can be played as a kind of campaign that makes in-game achievements arguably more important than individual victories.
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The North Sea Runesaga
The North Sea Runesaga is a unique kind of expansion for Shipwrights of the North Sea, Raiders of the North Sea, and Explorers of the North Sea that combines the games into a three-chapter overarching competition for players to become chieftain.
The components of Runesaga are runestone tiles that contain objectives and sometimes rewards for future games. Three runestones are always set up and are available throughout all three games until claimed. In addition, each individual game has six runestones, three of which are randomly selected at the start of that game. Once claimed, a player will keep a stone until the end of the three games. The winner of a game claims two of the unselected runestones, which remain face down and provide no abilities. A close second-place finish can earn a player the third unselected tile.
At the end of the three games, the player to have collected the most runestones becomes chieftain and the victor of The North Sea Runesaga. In addition to the runestone component of the expansion, Runesaga includes new cards for Shipwrights of the North Sea and Raiders of the North Sea.
Shipwrights of the North Sea
In Shipwrights of the North Sea, players compete to build the most victory points’ worth of ships and buildings in order to be the most accomplished craftsman at the end of the game. Each round begins with players performing a modified draft until each player has three cards in hand. Each of these cards will either be played or wasted during the round, so no players will carry over cards from one round to the next.
Then, during the round, players can buy goods, finish a previously played ship, and play new cards from their hands. The cards can be tools, craftsman, townsfolk, ships, or buildings. Tools, craftsman, and buildings must be paid for, townsfolk have special abilities when played, and ship cards are played into one of the player’s two workshop spaces.
Buying resources has a set cost of two workers and two gold, and how many resources a player can gain will vary from round to round based on the back of the card currently on top of the main draw pile. A player can choose wood, wool, or iron, and the number of resources gained is based on how many of the chosen resource are pictured on the card back.
Completing a ship in a workshop requires the expenditure of gold, workers, and resources as pictured on that ship card. Craftsman and tools can help reduce these cost and are discarded afterward. Completed ships are the primary source of victory points. In addition, at the end of the game, players count the values of the red banners on their ships—whoever has the most will receive an additional three points. Building cards can provide special abilities and are also worth points, including counting certain ship attributes for extra points.
At the end of each round, players will discard unused cards and then receive income and discard excess resources. Players will receive one gold for each worker in that player’s village and an additional gold for each ship that provides any. Each player will receive a minimum of one worker but may receive more depending on ship icons. Players must discard resources in excess of what their mills can hold, and ship icons can modify that value. Each player’s maximum village capacity is eight workers at the end of the round.
Once a player has built four or more ships, the current round will be the final one. The player with the most victory points wins!
Raiders of the North Sea
Raiders of the North Sea takes the traditional worker-placement game mechanism and adds a couple unique twists. As with most worker-placement games, players will take turns placing a single worker at a time and performing the action of the space where the worker was placed. The main divergence for Raiders, however, is that afterward, the active player will then remove a worker from a different one of the spaces on the board and perform the action of that space as well. In this way, a player will both begin and end each turn with a single worker in hand.
The spaces of the board grant a number of resources, offering tiles, and cards. In addition, spaces will have various restrictions on the colors of workers that can be used there. These colors are black, gray, and white. The workers will be changing hands between players and the board throughout the course of the game.
Spaces on the board will do things such as allow players to draw townsfolk cards for special abilities, hire crew by drawing crew cards, complete offering tiles, and gain iron, gold, provisions, silver, livestock, and armor. One offering tile is always available at the longhouse, and a player may use that action to pay the plunder pictured on the tile to gain it for endgame points.
Many of the spaces on the board are locations for plundering. A player can use an appropirately colored worker, spend the required goods, and bring the required number of crew to claim some of the plunder at a location while also potentially gaining victory points. Two dice will add to a player’s military strength, which is the sum of those dice, the crew strength, bonuses from crew actions, and armor. If the player reached a required threshold of strength, the player will gain victory points in addition to the plunder.
Some plunder stacks will include valkyries. Each valkyrie will kill off one of the raiding player’s crew members but will also allow the player to advance on the valkyrie track, which is worth points. When the sets of plunder reach a certain low point, when the offering tiles are exhausted, or when there are no valkyries remaining among plunder sets, there is one final round before the game ends. The player with the most points wins!
Explorers of the North Sea
Explorers of the North Sea concludes the trilogy with the latter years of the Viking Age. In this game, players will be heading out from the mainland and discovering new islands rife with foreign ships and settlements as well as livestock.
Each player will receive a captain card with a bonus scoring ability, seven vikings, five outposts, and a longship that can carry vikings and livestock. In addition, each player will start with three tiles.
On a player’s turn, that player can place one tile from hand, expanding out from the mainland board. Tiles must be placed such that all water and land connects properly with adjacent tiles. Tiles must be placed adjacent to at least one other tile but can’t connect back to the mainland.
Once the tile is placed, the player will perform four actions in any combination of loading a longship, unloading a longship and potentially delivering livestock, moving a longship and potentially destroying an enemy ship tile, moving vikings on land and potentially raiding a settlement, transporting livestock, and constructing an outpost.
Loading and unloading longships involves moving vikings and livestock between longships and adjacent land masses on the same tile. When dealing with livestock, it’s important to remember they can’t move on their own—at least one viking must be present to move with them or to “push” them. Longships have three spaces for vikings and/or livestock.
Longships can move across tiles through water. It must have at least two vikings present to enter a space with an enemy ship tile, but when it does, it will defeat that tile and reveal whether any vikings died in the conflict. Dead vikings are sent to that player’s captain card and are worth points at the end of the game.
Vikings can move around on land in order to gather livestock and also to be available to build outposts and raid settlements. Settlement tokens are worth varying numbers of points, and when at least the same number of vikings are present from a given player, that player claims the token. A player can build an outpost with two action points when at least two of that player’s vikings are on tiles adjacent to a three-tile vertex. Outposts can’t be placed on a vertex of any tile that has any other outposts on any of its vertices.
The player to the right of the starting player will take the final turn once the last tile has been placed. Players score based on sets of livestock delivered back to the mainland, outposts constructed, numbers of enemy ships destroyed, raided settlements, number of vikings killed, sizes of controlled islands, and captain scoring abilities. The player with the most points wins!