Designers: Matthew Dunstan & Brett J. Gilbert
Duration: 40 min.
Ah, the life of a Viking. Pillaging is hard work. You go around, year after year, fighting monsters, collecting runes, selling goods and nicely outfitting your longboat. But… what happens when another longship shows up in the same spot you are? Do you fight them until the bitter end, or do you just give up and move on? And what about the monsters… do you fight them or just try to pass by… but have to sacrifice one of your crew members?
Raids is a viking themed game that offers some similarities to another game called Tokaido… but with a lot more player interaction. The game takes place over 4 voyages around the world, where you go around the board on your long ship and fight monsters, collect and sell goods, runes, and possibly kick other players off their spot, or try to! Maybe they’ll just keep you off and you will be the one having to move on. Will you have the greatest longship and the most points, or will your vikings great sacrifice be for nothing?
What’s in the box?
Inside the box there is a world board, 4 longship (player) board, 4 longships markers for each player, 40 viking meeples, 20 metal coins, 64 voyage tiles (16 for each voyage) and 9 harbour tiles. And the components… I mean, I expect nothing but the best from Iello after games like Fairy Tile and Bunny Kingdom, and I think Raids might just have stepped it up even more. The metal coins are amazing and have great weight, possibly the best I’ve seen in any game. The viking meeples are so detailed and have this shaded look to them. The tiles are nice and thick, the wooden ships are great and there is an amazing insert that fits everything perfectly in the box AND allows you to set up and put away voyage tiles as you play, saving cleanup time. Huge bonus!
And I haven’t even gotten to the art yet… so colourful, vibrant, and the style looks just amazing, the perfect blend of seriousness mixed with vibrant art that doesn’t make it seem too dark. Also, while there isn’t any character art in the actual game, the box and instructions have 2 vikings on the side, and I really like how they depicted a male and a female viking, both looking so tough you don’t want to mess with either. The production is top notch and might be the best yet from Iello.
So how do you play?
To being, each player will choose a colour and take their longship board and player marker in that colour. Take the viking meeples and place them in the middle of the board, and then take all the voyage tiles, organized by number on their back (1-4) and shuffle each respective pile. The, take the pile with 1 on the back, and place them face up on the spots on the board. Take the starting harbour tile and place it on the harbour space, then shuffle the remaining harbour tiles and draw 3 and place them next to each voyage stack. Now, choose a starting player randomly, and then the starting player places their longship on the highest number based on the number of players in the harbour (so in a 3 player game, the starting player places their marker on the 3 space). Once all the players have placed their markers, then hand out vikings to each player based on their turn order (player 1 gets 1 vikings, players 2 & 3 get 2 and player 4 gets 3), and the vikings get placed on the shields on your longboat: each shield holds one viking. Lastly, place as many vikings in each village as there are players.
Vikings will be played over 4 voyages (or rounds), in where each voyage will take you around the world and back to the harbour. During your turn, you will take 2 actions. The first will be to take a voyage tile, and the 2nd will be to navigate. The first turn of each round will be different than the rest, and will actually start with the second action, so I will explain that first. It’s also very important to note, in Raids the player who is always farthest back is the player who’s turn it is, meaning that players will not usually go in the starting turn order from their original placement in the harbour.
- To navigate in the first round, you move to any tile without an arrow and place your marker in front of it. Now leave your marker there until it’s your turn again. After everyone has done this and left the harbour, any tiles between the farthest player and the next player will be discarded, meaning you can’t take multiples tiles as you catch up, you must always move to or where the next player is
- You can navigate to any free tile OR to a tile where another longship is located, but if you do you will initiate a fight with your opponent. when that occurs, the player who moved on the same marker must send one viking to combat. Then, the player who was originally there can either retaliate, sending 2 vikings into combat or flee, moving on to another tile in front of them. If they retaliate, the attacking player can retaliate with 3, and then the defending player can send 4 and so on. If the attacking player cannot continue combat, then they must flee and move forward to another space.
- It’s important to note that any tile with an arrow means pass: you don’t stop at this tile, but simply go by and collect something if its on the tile, or fight or pass a monster. And every time you pass a village, collect one viking from it and place it on a shield in your longship (provided you have one free)
So that’s navigation, and the other action you will take is taking a voyage tile. When you are the farthest player, you begin by taking the tile where your marker is located, and either place it on your ship if it’s a weapon, sail, mjollnir, penant or unsold good, taking one of the 5 spots on your ship. Or, they go beside your ship if its a rune, port or a monster. Let’s have a look at what all the diferent tiles do in the game, we will start with the tiles that go on your ship:
- Weapon tiles help fight monsters, reducing its strength by the number of axe heads.
- Sails give you vikings at the end of the voyage based on how many sails are on the tile or your ship.
- Mjollnir tiles give you points based on how many vikings you have on your ship at the end of the game
- Pennants are just points, and give you the indicated points at the end of the game
- Unsold goods go on your ship until they are sold at a port. They are not worth there point value until they are sold.
Those are the tiles that go on your ships, and if you have a tile you want to place but your ship is full, you can remove a tile on your ship and place the new one instead, but the removed tile must be discarded. Now let’s go over the tiles placed beside your ships:
- Runes are set collection, the more you have the more they are worth, up to 5. If you have more than 5, start a new set with the 6th tile.
- Port tiles are where you sell goods. You will also recuruit 1 viking at each port, and you can take a port tile without selling any goods and still take the viking and the tile. Take the good tile you have sold off your ship and place it next to your ship: it’s worth as many points as it’s printed on it.
- Monster tiles are pass tiles, you don’t actually stop at them. You have 2 options when passing: Fight the monster and discard as many vikings as its strength (minus any weapons) and take the monster, or pass it but you must sacrifice one viking from your ship anytime you pass (I can just imagine it… “Sorry Bjorn, you’re going overboard!)
There are also 2 pass tiles besides monsters, the visit where the first player to pass it will get 2 vikings and the second will get 1, and the pillage where the first player will get a 3 value coin and the 2nd will get a 1 value coin. Subsequent players who pass will get nothing from these tiles. And don’t forget to take the vikings as you pass by the villages on the board, provided you have room. If not the viking will be discarded.
At any time you can always go back to the harbour where you began your voyage, but that means you have no more turns that round. The voyage will end as soon as all players have arrived at the harbour, and then the harbour will score. The first round is always the same: first player there will get a 6 value coin, 2nd 3 value coin and 3rd 1 value coin and 4th nothing. Then each subsequent round the harbour scoring will be dependent on the symbol on the harbour, which could be most shields, most ports, most runes, etc. If there is a tie, then the first player to reach the harbour would be the 1st and so on.
After bonuses have been handed out, remember to take vikings for every sail and randomly lay out the tiles for the next round and refill the villages. Do this until you have completed your 4th voyage, then count up all your SOLD goods (goods on your ship are worthless), defeated monsters, runes, coins, mjollnirs, and pennants. Highest score wins!!!
It’s important to note, than when playing with 2 players you will use a 3rd “Ghost” player that will be moved around the board, and the rules on how to move it are written in the rulebook.
Is it any good?
I stated earlier that Raids reminded me of another game called Tokaido (mostly because of its movement mechanics). I played Tokaido a few times, and while I loved the art and mechanics, I actually found kinda boring… it just felt like you were moving around the board, but didn’t do much else. So when I heard about Raids, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But… Raids fixes the one biggest issue I had with the game, which was player interaction. The ability to take your opponents spot makes this game a lot more tense and dynamic, and when you land on a spot its never truly yours, because someone could try and take it, and you never get that tile because you don’t pick it up until you are the last ship. It’s a huge improvement and a welcome one, and it really makes this game stand apart.
As I said before, the production is amazing and makes this game really stand out. While the theme could have been anything, it really feels like the gameplay was designed with this in mind, and a lot of nice touches were implemented because of that. And that insert… its so nice you can just put the tiles back in the insert as they get discarded it makes setup and teardown so much easier as part of the game is already put away by the time you are finished playing. and everything has a proper place and stays in well.
This game also helps by having a variable setup each game, and sometimes the tiles don’t come out the way you want them to, but that usually means the same for everyone else. The movement is fluid, and there’s always a different harbour objective which makes what you’re collecting important. Also, the shields are a great idea, it keeps players from getting too overpowered. And taking goods may give you lots of points, but they remove valuable shields and who knows when you’ll reach a port? And with so many different things to do, even when you get kicked off there is always something to do, and those pass tiles are great because it might make you want to move farther so you can get those bonuses before everyone else. Lot’s of great choices!
The game does have a few shortcomings, one of them being its not that good with 2. I don’t like when games use a “dummy” player to fill spaces on the board, because you can tell this game was designed for more players but they had to do something to make it playable with 2, because it’s hard to sell a game with 3-4 player count on the box for some reason. I understand why designers do it, but in a game like this it really makes the 2 player game a shallow experience because you only truly have someone else to fight with, and that takes away some of the dynamic that makes this game oh so amazing.
And while I like the interactivity… this game can get mean. Its not a bad thing for me, but can be for a lot of people, especially if your spot keeps getting taken and you have no vikings. Granted… the rulebook actually clearly states that you shouldn’t get down to 1 or no vikings, but it happens. A few other minor things, like how the first harbour tile is great because it feels like a race to the harbour, but in subsequent voyages it doesn’t feel like a race especially when you can tell already another player is clearly going to win. That’s something small that could easily be fixed with an expansion.
Overall, Raids is a great game. It took the great mechanics of a game I felt was “meh” and improved on basically every other aspect, making it a highly interactive experience that keeps you on your toes for each voyage. It has great art and components, engaging gameplay and simple rules with a very well written rulebook. It can get mean, but if you know that going in hopefully you can be a little more aggressive yourself. Another great game from Iello, Raids should definitely have a place at your next game night!
- Top notch production and art, some of the best around. Those metal coins…
- The insert really speeds up setup and teardown making it a fluid experience.
- Really solid gameplay, lots of meaningful choices and interaction.
- A lot of variability in what to do, meaning if there are multiple people going for the same spots you have something else to go for.
- The player interaction really elevates it over other similar games, and that makes the game really stand out. But…
- …Gameplay can get really mean, especially if you don’t have enough vikings on your ship (but in fairness, the instructions do say this).
- The 2 player game is not as great as 3-4 players, and feels a little added on with the ghost ship. I understand why it was put in but doesn’t do the game justice.
*Thank you to Iello for supplying a copy of Raids for this review. You can find out more about them and their amazing games by clicking here *