Alessandro Zucchini

AMIGO 2006




As the title might suggest, the new boardgame Walhalla from AMIGO has chosen the historic Viking Raids as a background theme, but although this theme is not totally new, the game catches a player's eye by its unusual gameboard and the way how the playing area evolves anew during each round of play. Thus, let me now take you to review a game where its design holds the promise that some interesting rules might follow...

As indicated the gameboard of Walhalla is somewhat exceptional, and this is due to the fact that the main part of the board is just a small rectangle with a track for Victory Points and an area where slain Vikings are placed ("Walhalla"). From that board emanate three tongues of land, each of which is constructed by six landscape tiles and two scoring headlands, all of which were randomly assigned at the beginning of the game. Thus, our playing area looks like a huge fork, with three long tines constructed of the landscape tiles and the scoring headlands at the end of each tine. Between the tongues of land and on the outside are bays of sea, and it will be these bays into which the players will send their Dragon Boats ("Dragons") full of Vikings to plunder the adjacent landscape tiles. To finish preparations, each player receives a number of Vikings which he puts at his home stockpile ("Midgard") and one randomly drawn action card, whereas all additional Vikings of the players go into a common stockpile ("Asgard"). Finally, a stockpile of 12 Dragons is randomly shuffled and placed face down at the middle of the table.

In his turn, a player must turn over the top Dragon from the stockpile, and he then is allowed to man this Dragon with up to two Vikings from his own stock at Midgard. Each Dragon still has a colour-coded capacity for a third Viking. This space usually is not manned by a Viking from the active player, but instead the player who plays the corresponding colour may decide whether he wants to join the raiding party by sending one of his own Vikings to the empty space on the Dragon. In some cases, the third space on a Dragon shows the colour of the currently active player, and in this case the active player actually may decide to man the third space with one of his Vikings as well.


Once the involved players have decided whether they want to board the Dragon, the Dragon leaves for a raiding tour regardless of the number of Vikings aboard. Thus, the active player moves the Dragon with one of its ends straight into one of the four bays, and he moves it forwards until it touches either the land-mass at the end of the bay (the "main board") or the last Dragon which has been moved into the bay. Once the Dragon has arrived, each of the Vikings on board will have to leave the Dragon for one of the landscape tiles, and here certain rules have to be observed.

Each landscape tile actually consists of two different areas of land, and each Viking on a Dragon only may disembark onto a land area directly adjacent to his place on the Dragon. Thus, the player of a Viking only may chose an area into which he wants to disembark his Viking if the Dragon was moved into one of the two center bays where there are landscape tiles on both sides of the bay. If the Dragon was moved into one of the outer bays, there is only one adjacent landscape tile, so that the player may not even chose to which side he wants to disembark.

Upon disembarking, a Viking may find the chosen land area either empty or occupied by another Viking. If it is empty, the Viking occupies the area and the player may receive either an instant bonus of Victory Points or action cards (in case the land area is a Sacred Place or Woods), or a scoring benefit which will count at the end of the round (in case of a Village or Fields). However, if the chosen land area already is occupied by a Viking belonging to another player, then a battle occurs in which the defending player decides whether he wants to win or lose! Yes, this is correct, the outcome of the battle is up to the defender's decision. If he chooses to loose, he may move his proud Viking to the Hall of Heroes at Walhalla and the attacker will be allowed to occupy the area and use its ability. If the defender wants to be victorious, it will be the attacker who moves his Viking to Walhalla, but in addition the defender will have to remove one of his Vikings from Walhalla and place him at Asgard, so that in effect a defender may only decide to win a battle as long as he still has at least one Viking left at Walhalla.

Once all 12 Dragons have been used, the round comes to its end and an evaluation takes place. Each of the three tongues of land is evaluated separately, and for the evaluation of a tongue each player adds up the number of his Vikings which still occupy land areas of the tongue. Players who were able to occupy a Village now may add Bonus-Vikings, and it will be the player with most Vikings who will receive Victory Points as shown on the final scoring headland of the evaluated tongue of land. The player with second-most Vikings also does not go empty, but instead receives some Victory Points as well, corresponding to the lower headland tile of the tongue. Also, some further victory points are awarded to players who succeeded to occupy a Fields spaces.

After the evaluation of the tongues of land, the next round of play is prepared by taking the Vikings from all tongues (with the exception of Vikings on Fields spaces) and transferring them to Asgard. Also, all 12 Dragons are removed and shuffled into a new deck of ships, so that the next round of plundering may start with a refreshed stockpile of Dragons. Before proceeding with the next round of play, the players now also will receive some reinforcements, and for this they will have to look at the slain Vikings at Walhalla. The player with most Vikings at Walhalla will receive the highest number of reinforcements which he may transfer from Asgard to Midgard, and in turn the other players also will receive (less) reinforments depending on their number of slain Vikings. As a final step in the interlude, there will be the ceremonious Return of the Heroes, and now some of the Vikings will leave Walhalla to return to Asgard, and here the number of returning Vikings of each player depends on the lowest number of Vikings one of the playes has at Walhalla.

The game now continues with a new round, and in total it is played over three rounds and will be won by the player with the highest amount of Victory Points. However, a factor which I have not explained so far are the action cards, and these cards also have a considerable influence how many Victory Points a player will score. Thus, some of the cards show landscape areas, and a player who uses such a card during the evaluation phase will score additional Victory Points for each corresponding landscape he succeeded to occupy. Likewise, some other cards will influence the majority on a tongue of land, and this might lead to a change in the question which player may claim the Victory Points for the most numerous occupation force of a tongue. Even other cards may be used during a player's turn, and these cards may influence the outcome of a battle or offer additional Victory Points directly upon the occupation of a land area.

Although some elements which can be found in Walhalla (like the dwindling stockpile of Vikings at Midgard which needs constant refreshing) are known from other games as well, Alessandro Zucchini actually succeeded in teaming up these elements with some rather imaginative twists which give the game a high innovation factor. Most interesting, I cannot remember that I might have seen a game where the outcome of a combat is actually decided by the defending player, and this rule alone opens a whole new dimension of calculation for the players since they now have to decide whether it might be really worthwhile to win a defense or whether it might be wiser to loose and thus receive a Viking at Walhalla which might be used in a later, possibly more important, defense. The three different positions of Vikings at Midgard, Asgard and Walhalla also contribute to keep the game balanced despite its seemingly short playing duration of three rounds, since the players need to be aware of the constant need to have Vikings available not only at Midgard or Walhalla but instead at all crucial positions in the game. Thus, it is nearly impossible for a player to get a considerable lead early in the game, since this usually goes together with a high effort of Vikings which the player will feel detrimentally in the following rounds. Still, there is ample room for strategy, and especially inexperienced players may be taken by surprise by a player hoarding the right cards or by a Dragon moving into an unexpected position. Thus, I can especially recommend the game to fans of strategy games, since once the rules have been understood by all players it will be the different options available to the players and their clever use from which game greatly profits.

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany