Family Games: Worker Placement Old & New

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Worker placement games are up there as one of my favorite types of games. It doesn’t matter what the theme is. I just love having a group of pretend people to send off to complete tasks for me and reap the rewards. There are many great worker placement games out there, but instead of telling you about all of them, I would like to tell you about two great ones. The first one is over a decade old, but re-released as a family version, and the second one is fairly new, but contains my favorite type of mythology (Norse). So without further ado, let’s talk games!

Agricola is a board game that has been around for over a decade and still stands the test of time. If you visit the Boardgamegeek website, you will see that it still ranks #11 out of tens of thousands of games. That says something about its longevity: despite all the hot new games released every year, it still stands the test of time. I looked into playing it one time, but when I saw the amount of expansions and decks of cards that you could add to it to make the game new/different/better, I shrank away and said, maybe this game is not for me. Luckily for me and other newer gamers out there, Mayfair Games has released a Family Edition of this classic that streamlines the game, making setup, game play, and scoring easier! Agricola: Family Edition is a game for 1 to 4 players, ages 8+. It takes approximately 45 minutes to play and retails for $45.

Learn more about how to set up and play the game.

Review

Agricola: Family Edition is a welcome and approachable edition to a classic. The board is modular, so that you can add a piece to it for each game size. The components are amazing quality, in that all the pieces are thick cardboard or wood, and it is a lot of wood! Wooden sheep, wooden cows, wood hay, wooden people,  wooden wood! These pieces feel great in your hand and make the game more appealing to a younger audience, because it makes the game more tangible. I also like that the rules, game play, and scoring are streamlined. This makes the game quick to learn, easy to teach, and an all around pleasant experience. The only negative with the game is replay value. There is not much variability with the game, because the same buildings/improvements come out at the same time every game. That’s a negative for experienced gamers, but a positive for kids, families, casual gamers, or people who don’t want to play the game more than once a month. If you are a more serious gamer, plan on playing Agricola more often, get the recently-released edition. If not, then stick with the Family Edition and you won’t be disappointed.

Vikings and Norse mythology are some of my favorite fiction to read. Their mythology is more interesting to me than Greek/Roman, because it just feels so fresh and new to me. These weren’t the myths we learned about in school, and that’s a shame. Due to my love for Vikings and Norse mythology, I tend to gravitate toward games that provide this theme, assuming it is done right and is not cheesy. Ole Steiness and Grey Fox Games produced just such a game – Champions of Midgard, is a worker placement game for 2 to 4 Vikings, ages 10+. It takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to play and retails for $60. In this game you are seeking to gain the most glory by defeating trolls, fighting draugr, and slaying mythical beasts. If you do, you will become the new Jarl.

Review

This game takes two things that I love in games, placing workers and rolling dice, and combines them in a way that gives you controlled chaos. A lot of people compare this game to Stone Age, and that’s fair. Both are worker placement games that use dice, but Stone Age is a game where experienced players can crush newer players. Champions of Midgard, though a bit more random in nature, feels like everyone (no matter their experience level) has a fighting chance at winning. So let me briefly summarize what I like, dislike, and what I’m of a mixed opinion on.

Positives

1. Strong theme – The theme in this game really comes through. I like all the references to Norse mythology in it, the proper Norse vocabulary, etc. It would have been really easy to just call the undead in this game zombies, but they call them Draugr. You also see cubs of Fenrir (the wolf child of Loki). Everything Norse in this game feels right and is really top-notch.

2. Gender equality – I play a lot of games and both my gaming groups have two women in them. It’s no fun for them when there is only one female character, or worse none. In this game, there are five Viking leader boards, and two of them are women.

3. Easy to learn – The game falls in the light- to medium-weight category, making it easy to teach to your family and new gamers.

Neutral

1. Variability – It can be considered both high and low. It is high in that there are many monsters to fight and many end game goals. However, there are only five different Viking leader boards.

2. Game components – The artwork on the board and cards is great. The meeples are unfortunately generic and the food and wood are just plain colored cubes. (Note: You can remedy the cube problem with an upgrade of actual meat and wood shaped pieces.)

3. Combat is unpredictable – The dice in this game have a lot of blank sides making your combat very luck dependent. I like the unpredictable nature of combat, because it’s very real to life. If we knew in advance who was going to win a battle, why would we even bother fighting?

Negative

1. It only plays four players. I have two game groups, one of four and one of five, so that means I can play this amazing game with one group, but never with another.

2. If you fail in combat one or two times, it’s near impossible to come back. You have to commit dice (and sometimes resources) to combat. If you spend a whole turn or two building up these resources, only to fail, then it’s hard to come back from that.

Expansions

As it is, Champions of Midgard is a very good game, whose positives outweigh the neutrals/negatives of the game. However, they currently are running a Kickstarter campaign with two expansions.

The first expansion is called The Dark Mountains and adds the following:

1. A fifth player is added to the game!

2. A new board to fight monsters known as Bergrisar (mountain giants).

3. Archer dice!

4. A new leader board – Jorunn

5. More trolls, draugr, runes, ships, etc.

The second expansion is called Valhalla and adds the following:

1. Valhalla board

2. A new leader board – Thyra

3. Leader board abilities

4. Epic monsters

5. Valkyrie blessings

6. New dice – Leaders, Berzerkers, and Shieldwarriors

7. Sacrfice tokens for all types of warriors

With the first expansion, you mainly get an increased player count, a new challenge, and more variability/replay value. With the second expansion, you get new mechanics and resources. Your fallen warriors also serve a purpose of gaining you honor now and not just causing frustration. With this Kickstarter campaign, you can buy either or both expansions, but if you love this game, why wouldn’t you buy both?!

Learn more about how to set up and play the game.

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See all the Favorite Games for Family Game Nights reviews here.

Copyright 2017 Stuart Dunn

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About Author

Stuart Dunn was born and raised in Mobile, AL and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Alabama. Stuart primarily does accounting and logistics at the Port of Mobile. He met his wife, Mary Katherine, in 2004 but didn’t start dating her until 2010. They were married in 2011 and welcomed their first child into the world in 2013. Stuart is a top 1000 Amazon reviewer and reviews all things Catholic including adult books, children’s books, Bible Study series, Catholic Courses, CDs, and DVDs at his blog Stuart’s Study at http://stuartsstudy.blogspot.com

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