A Feast for Odin.

Well, boardgamers, I think that with A Feast for Odin we have finally achieved Peak Uwe.

Uwe Rosenberg is one of the most acclaimed designers in this golden era of cardboard, the man behind Caverna (ranked #10 on BGG’s global rankings, which skew towards longer and more complex games), Agricola (#14), Le Havre (#30), Patchwork (#45), Fields of Arle (#53), and Ora et Labora (#77). A Feast for Odin, itself ranked #38 on that list, is his latest title of long, intricate engine-building games that take the general feel of Agricola and make it fussier and more involved. Agricola grew on me with repeated plays, thanks in part to the incredible app version of the game, but at heart the rules of that game are pretty simple; you have a lot of choices to make and several factors to manage, but what you’re asked to do isn’t that difficult. Le Havre and Caverna increased the complexity in different ways, but A Feast for Odin is over the top, turning a boardgame into real work, both in managing the accounting and in figuring out what you want to do.

As the name implies, we’re talking vikings now, and apparently vikings were big-time farmers. A Feast for Odin has, I believe, 36 different resource types, four of which are used like currencies with the remainder used as crops or food or for scoring. Each player starts with a player board that is covered with tiny squares, some of which are blank, some are worth -1 (yes, negative) point if uncovered at game-end, some of which can award you a bonus resource, and some of which, those on the x=y diagonal, represent potential income for you in each round. You take green and blue resources and place them on your board to cover as many squares as you can; there are eight different shapes, so you’re playing a little light Tetris (or Patchwork) and trying to cover the board as efficiently as you can. If you cover everything below and to the left of a specific income square, then that’s your new income, from 0 coins to +18 coins, with the potential for even more if you expand to other islands … but we’re going to just set that aside for the moment. There are also a handful of higher-value, unusually-shaped special items that cover lots of squares but which you can only get via a couple of actions you’ll reach later in the game, if at all.

A Feast for Odin. This is way over the top.

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You also have to feed the multitudes at the end of each round, and while it’s not as difficult as in Agricola or Le Havre, you still have to pay attention to it. There’s a “banquet” track on your board, and you have to have orange and red food tokens to fill the track, but can’t have two tokens of the same color touching each other – there are a lot of placement rules like that, one of the game’s worst features – and can use silver coins instead of food if you don’t have enough.

AFfO takes place over seven rounds, and in every round, each player uses his/her viking meeples to claim action spaces on the shared action board – which has, no shit, 61 different options for players on each turn. The action board has four columns, and each column as you move to the right requires more meeples to use it, so it’s one meeple in the first column and four in the fourth one. You can use actions to upgrade resources, to ‘harvest’, to buy and sell, to collect wood/stone/ore/silver from the mountains, to buy boats, to go raiding, to go pillaging, to hunt game, to go whaling, to plunder (whom, they don’t say), to add occupation cards that give you more benefits, to add islands, to build sheds or additional houses, and so on.

Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of AFfO – it’s the fussier Le Havre, if that’s even possible, with more rules and more things to track, and a whole lot of “why can’t I do X?” or “how can I get this resource I need?” I’m sure it’s balanced, because Uwe is certainly a smart and careful designer and his games always ‘work’ in that sense. But I also don’t know who the target audience is for this game, which retails for $90+, weighs 7 pounds, and will probably take 90-120 minutes for 3-4 experienced players. (It plays with two and there’s a solo mode, but I haven’t tried either.) If you love Uwe’s games, and the whole idea of games that require obsession to detail with long-term planning and short-term demands, sure, this is probably right up your alley. I think it’s beyond the pale.

Comments

  1. My wife and I game with my nephew and his wife every couple months and he, being an Uwe fan, broke this one out not too long ago. I found it extremely frustrating and have no idea how would you go about trying to introduce new players to it and have it be enjoyable. It would take multiple playings just to get a sense of what your options are, never mind trying to figure out potential winning strategies. We enjoy heavy games but this was just too much.

  2. Tell me when the app is out, I got addicted to the Agricola app but same thing, just hard to get a game going with my kids – too much setup, scoring, etc.

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