Play Time: 60 minutes
Age Recommendation: 12+
Difficulty to Learn: 5/10
Mastery Curve: 6/10
Luck Variance: 4/10
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios & Garphill Games
Awards & Honors:
Mensa Select Winner (2018)
Nederlandse Spellenprijs Best Expert Game Winner (2019)
Gouden Ludo Best Family Game Winner (2019)
Theme and Overview
Raiders of the North Sea is a “take one pick one” worker placement game in which players assemble a team of marauding Vikings with a goal of raiding settlements for their supplies.
The colorful game board is divided into two parts. At the bottom of the board, just south of the river, is the Viking camp. Here, players take actions by placing a Worker on an empty space AND by picking up a Worker that’s already been assigned in another space. These actions provide resources needed to hire Crew members, feed Crew members during raids, convert resources, etc.
North of the river are 23 Settlements that are available to be raided. During the set up, these Settlements are each filled with a random assortment of Plunder determined by the number in the top left corner of that space. The south-most spaces represent the lower tier raids and provide fewer Victory Points but also have the lowest requirements to raid. At the top of the board, are three Fortresses which each require a larger raiding party, more supplies and gold, but pay out lots of points if you’re able to bring a strong enough Crew.
The Crew is represented by Townsfolk cards which indicate a cost to recruit, a strength value, and either a static or triggered ability. Additionally, there is an additional ability listed on each card that can be used as a discard effect. Rather than recruiting a Crew member from your hand, you can visit a space called the Town Hall in the Viking camp to discard that card to instead use this effect.
In Raiders of the North Sea, there are three different types of Worker pieces represented by three different colors (black, grey, and white). Certain spaces will require a specific type of Worker and others may provide different results based on the color of Worker that is placed there. Players begin the game with only Black Workers and will need to perform raids to claim access to White and Grey Workers.
Besides gaining victory points from the raids, the plunder that each provides can be converted to additional points when it is exchanged for offerings at the Long House space. There are a number of tiles that provide an end game point bonus for certain contributions of Plunder when Workers are placed in that space.
Additionally, the Valkyrie pieces (black skull-shaped pieces) mixed in with the Plunder throughout the raiding locations provide victory points in a bittersweet way. For each Valkyrie piece that is taken, a Crew member of your choice is discarded from your party (as if lost in battle to that Valkyrie). When this happens, you will advance your score marker one space up the Valkyrie track for each Valkyrie token taken. This can be worth a maximum of 15 points at the end of the game.
The end of the game is triggered when one of three conditions are met:
- All Valkyries are removed from the board
- All Offerings have been made
- Only one Fortress raid remains
When that happens, each player (including the current player) gets just one final turn and all points are calculated. The player with the highest point value is said to have “impressed the Chieftain” and is the victor.
Raiders of the North Sea contains 71 Townsfolk cards (53x86mm)
Corey: Raiders of the North Sea is not only fun to play from a strategy perspective, it’s also a blast conceptually. In terms of mechanics, it reminds me a bit of one my all time favorites (another worker placement game with a fantasy theme), Lords of Waterdeep. However, instead of the admittedly overplayed medieval adventuring theme (which I personally enjoy no matter often it appears in board games), in Raiders, players assemble a party of marauding Vikings to raid unsuspecting villages. It’s fun and refreshing.
Balance-wise, worker placement games always leave a lot of opportunity for a player’s decisions to impact their success rather than relying on luck. This is true in this game, but there is an added element of randomness present in the drawing of cards from a deck that represent potential Crew members. Though this variance is decently well balanced by the cost to recruit each of these party members (informed by their effectiveness in battle and usefulness of abilities), there are just three “Hero” cards in the deck that seem to give an unfair advantage to the player who is lucky enough to draw and recruit them. I find myself wondering if the inclusion of these Heros, while fun and exciting, are necessary to this game. That said, this is my only knock on an otherwise great game.
COREY POINTS: 8.5/10
Nikki: We had been looking for another worker placement game to add to our collection when we luckily came upon a secondhand copy of Raiders of the North Sea in near-perfect condition. I’m so happy we found it, because it has definitely made for some fun board game date nights. There is something really fun about putting together a crew of Vikings and going out to pillage and plunder nearby Settlements.
I really appreciate the fact that Raiders is a mid-weight game that uses straightforward mechanics and limited actions. This is great for anyone who struggles with decision paralysis or getting overwhelmed by having too much going on during a single turn.
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Corey: I find myself coming back to this one frequently. I’m always eager to teach it to new friends and family members as it’s got enough complexity to be interesting and engaging but isn’t overwhelming to players looking to hop into a new game without a grueling explanation session.
Beyond that, it feels like there are a few core strategic approaches to the game and you’ll have to decide where to focus based on the cards that you draw and the worker locations available to you based on the type of worker you have on each turn. In most games, your approach will be a hybrid of two or more types. Perhaps you’ll be focused on building out a raiding party to go on high level raids early on but will aim to score points on the Valkyrie track near the end of the game? Perhaps you’ll concentrate on raiding the more accessible Settlements and cashing in for points via Offering tiles at the Log House? There are lots of choices that always keep the experience feeling fresh.
COREY POINTS: 8.25/10
Nikki: Raiders of the North Sea offers a variety of gameplay strategies and ways to gain Victory points which results in nearly every game play being different (unless you are lucky and just keep drawing the same hero card – looking at you Corey). Players can opt to take a balanced approach by doing a little bit of everything: Putting together a good Crew, raiding a variety of Settlements, exchanging goods for Offering Tiles, and occasionally sacrificing one of their Crew members to a Valkyrie. Alternatively, players can take a more aggressive approach by solely focusing on one aspect of the game like collecting as much Plunder as possible for Offering Tiles, or ramping up their Crew’s Military Power to raid the high Victory Point value Fortress Settlements.
If you’re looking for even more replay value, Raiders of the North Sea has two expansions: Fields of Fame, and Hall of Heroes.
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Corey: I think this game knocks the immersion experience out of the park. It really feels like the experience of preparing a Crew to sail across the river to raid unsuspecting Settlements for their Plunder is deeply embedded in the mechanics of the game. This element was clearly a priority of the designers and it is most definitely a point of success.
COREY POINTS: 9/10
Nikki: Raiders of the North Sea does well by having the the raiding Viking theme present not only in the artwork but also throughout the mechanics of game play. At the start of the game players only have access to the Viking village where they can recruit new Crew members, earn Silver, and stockpile Provisions as they get ready to raid Settlements. Once players have Crew members and Provisions in place they can start raiding Settlements, but after each raid their Crew will most likely need to recruit new members, upgrade their armor, and stockpile more Provisions much like raiding Vikings would need to have done in real life. I applaud the game designer, Shem Phillips, for creating a themed game with mechanics that don’t seem out of place or silly.
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Quality of Components
Corey: Fantastic! As pictured above, the Silver coins are a made of a heavy stamped metal. All other pieces are either color-coded wood save for the Provisions which are made of cardboard. There is an awful lot of material here and the set up takes up a rather large amount of space at the table considering the modest size of the game box.
COREY POINTS: 9/10
Nikki: I am happy to report that I have found every single component to be of high quality. The Silver pieces are actually made of real metal, and the Provisions and Offering tiles are made of super thick cardboard that would be difficult to bend. Additionally there are a whopping 30 meeple Workers (7 black, 11 gray and 12 white), and 12 player Score Tokens, and 80 Plunder tokens (Gold, Iron, Livestock and Valkyries) that are all made out of wood.
NIKKI POINTS: 8.5/10
Corey: The art in Raiders has a unique quirkiness to it that makes me think that we’re only about two steps away from a Cartoon Network spinoff show. That said, it’s a lot of fun and it’s nice to see a game like this that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The game board is colorful and organized in a meaningful and accessible way. When everything is all set up, you’ll see Plunder tokens and available Workers everywhere but the way that things are laid out, it’s still easy enough to find, use, and manage.
COREY POINTS: 8/10
Nikki: Raiders of the North Sea features the colorful and detailed stylized art of Mihajlo Dimitrievski (You might also recognize his art in Artisans of the West, Paladins of the West and Viscounts of the West). The game board is bright and colorful and all the Townsfolk cards feature awesome illustrations of different Viking Raiders. I especially enjoy the artwork on the three Hero cards that give a player a powerful unique ability if they recruit them to their Crew.
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Our overall score based on the responses of both reviewers in five different categories (10 points possible for each).