Even though Valhalla might sound like a new name for western audiences, this game actually has a pretty long history. This nordic themed card game is a result of over 1000 days of work of Lukasz Wozniak, better known as “Wookie”, and his faithful team of artists and designers.
The game was the first title funded on zagramw.to, a local Polish platform specializing in crowdfunding board games. Valhalla’s success was immense. Game managed to collect a huge sum in pledges, and got most of Poland’s board game community hyped to no end.
The next step felt pretty obvious for Wookie and his team. If the game is so well liked here, why not let the rest of the world see it?
Lukasz is one of the top tabletop gaming youtubers in Poland. He has designed over 10 different board games, works as a publisher, has his own online store and a crowdfunding platform. Valhalla is going to be his Kickstarter debut.
Wookie’s channel is devoted mostly to reviewing and previewing board games. Back in March, during our interview, he said that his reviewer experience is a huge help when creating new games. This ideology is clearly visible in Valhalla’s design. The game takes some great concepts like dice placement and mixes them with completely new ideas.
Clans, Jarls and Heaps of Axes
Ragnarok, the ultimate battle of norse mythology is about to begin. Mighty clans, each led by a separate Jarl, go to a final fight against each other. It’s their last chance to make their names big and become legends.
All warriors come equipped head to toe with axes, swords, shields and bows. Their bodies bear tattoos and markings signifying which clan they belong to. And they’re not alone. Along them, ice giants and other monstrosities march. The final battle to end it all is about to unfold.
Overpowering enemies is important but so is dying with honor. Those who bring glory to their clan’s name will bask in the light of Valhalla. All their heroic deeds will be carved into the annals of history and sang about forever.
Warm-up Before the Great Battle
The game takes the story described above, and translates it into dice and card based mechanics. Dead warriors, instead of moving to the graveyard pile, go to Valhalla and grant points at the end of the game. The more heroic were your actions, the higher will the score be. The winner, who amassed the most points, becomes The Last Kings of Vikings.
Valhalla was made with 2-6 players in mind, and a session usually takes up to 60 minutes. Each clan: Bear, Boar, Deer and Wolf has different leaders with different abilities that influence their approaches to battle. There are 25 Jarls available, so sessions hardly ever feel the same. Valhalla also sports a solo mode, where you fight against mighty creatures of norse mythology.
After picking Jarls, players recruit their first viking warrior. To do this: draw a number of cards from the main deck equaling the number of players plus one, and put these face up on the table. Next, everyone chooses one warrior (and the last one remaining gets shuffled back to the deck).
Finally: each player draws 7 cards and discards 2. With this, the setup phase is over, and the battle is ready to unfold.
The Bloodshed Begins
Each player’s turn consists of two things:
- Performing an action.
- Drawing 2 cards and choosing 1 of them to keep (while discarding the other).
Action can for example mean playing new champions from your hand and adding them to your warband. You can also try attacking other players instead or settle for drawing more cards.
Combat consists of two phases. First: the attacking player rolls six “weapon dice” with different types of weapons printed on each side. It’s possible to reroll some of them by removing one die from entire combat phase.
Next the battle tactic cards are used, and then the attacker equips his warriors with weapons. This is done by putting previously rolled dice on symbols, visible on warrior cards. If a combatant gets all of his icons covered by corresponding rolled dice, he’s ready to battle.
Defender’s phase goes down similarly. After both phases are sorted out, it’s time to compare the warriors. Whover has the highest attack value ends up victorious, and takes one of the shields belonging to the opponent. Warriors who win, go to Valhalla, and get victory points for their achievements. Losers don’t get anything.
The game is played until one of the players loses all shields, or when the deck is out of cards. In the final turn The Ragnarok takes place, and everyone gets one last chance to activate warriors and score points. This time however: without attacking.
The Kickstarter campaign is planned for October. All stretch goals achieved on the Polish crowdfunding platform will be added to the core version. These include plenty of free expansions that can be shuffled to the main game in any way you wish. This not only makes each session more customizable but also insanely boosts Valhalla’s replayability.
Free expansions include: Thor’s Support expansion (boosting a player with the smallest team), Dwarves of Svartalfheim (40 card expansion about a small but valiant race), King of the Hill expansion (2 cards that dramatically alter the game), Brothers in Arms expansion (set of cards that allow team play), Loki’s Deception expansion (increases chances of the losing side), 40 card Valkyries expansion, sturdier boards and more.
According to the creator: some completely new expansions are also planned as Kickstarter stretch goals. He’s also planning on adding optional add-ons like the board mat.
All in all, Valhalla offers a refreshing and unique take on good old dice placement mechanics. All of that, mixed with top notch art and tons of thematic expansions, makes the game almost too good to be released only in a single country.
Good luck to the creators and let’s wait for October!