Add new comment | Casual Game Revolution

Add new comment

Valley of the Vikings

Knock down barrels and strategically move opponents down the lengthy dock in this 2019 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner from HABA.

Gameplay

Valley of the Vikings is a 2 to 4 player game in which players will be taking turns knocking down barrels with a plastic bowling ball to then moving along the dock toward riches or a dive into the cold depths of the ocean. 

A game begins with each player taking a viking ship of their chosen color, one gold coin to place in their ship, and the appropriate colored chit with their character. Barrels, each colored to match the available player colors, are set near the center of the board along with a larger brown bowling ball and a sizeable viking kicker that players will use. Eight flag-shaped chits, featuring different coin amounts and each character, are shuffled face down and then placed randomly onto the dock. 

Players will take turns setting up the bowling ball in one of the available starting points and trying to knock down the colored barrels in the middle of the board. Depending on which colored barrels are knocked down, players will then be advanced along the dock accordingly. Each spot on the dock will represent a different action, such as collecting coins or stealing coins from other players. Players move using a leapfrog system, allowing them to jump ahead of others.

Action will continue around the board, with players knocking down barrels and advancing character chits, until a character is knocked off the dock and into the water. At this point, the characters remaining on the dock will complete the action designated by their dock position and the fallen character will return to the beginning of the dock. Play resumes with the same progression until all the coins from the pool are gone. The player with the most coins wins!

Valley of the Vikings

Review

Valley of the Vikings is an energetic game that combines dexterity, take that, and press your luck elements. The game is quick to set up and immediately understand the premise. The physical element of bowling a ball to knock down barrels will immediately appeal to gamers who like to manipulate and exert control over pieces. 

But do not let that be misleading: Valley of the Vikings has plenty of strategy at hand. The placement of barrels when bowling matters. Players will be trying to position themselves along the dock to reap the biggest benefits while also trying to move their biggest competition off the dock and into the water at the most advantageous times. There will be times when stealing a coin from another player is the better option than gaining coins. At first, what appears like a light-hearted game can quickly become a conniving and calculated affair where players guard their coins like misers. 

Yet, somehow the game never gets overly aggressive precisely due to the dexterity of bowling. Barrel positioning seems powerful, but just like a real game of bowling, the ball will have a mind of its own. Barrels that were aimed for are completely missed, as barrels meant to be out of the way will be knocked down and all the strategic plotting goes out the window due to bad aim or a barrel that goes far enough to knock down another barrel. 

It’s likely some are going to look at the yellow box and the HABA brand and dismiss this as the award-winning family game that it is, but they would be missing out on a game that deftly combines the chance of dexterity with the focus of abstract strategy games. Sure, it’s all fun and games and people are more likely to hoop and holler at whiffs and careening barrels, and that’s the point. Yes, Valley of the Vikings is part of HABA’s traditional family game line, but it feels at home as part of their grown up Game Night line or in the realm of newer games that combine Euro-style strategizing with some dexterity tests of peril that cause players to make changes on the fly. With a few more actions added to the dock, Valley of the Vikings would be a great game no matter its weight, but as it stands it’s already a great game that is more than just a kid’s game. 

Pros: Combines dexterity and strategy into a compact and easy-to-learn game, fun game that families and gamers of all stripes will enjoy

Cons: Not enough variability with dock action tiles