Theme and What is it?
Academy Games has in this hobby a long history of putting out games that are tied to history, and give the possibility of an alternate history. The theme of 878 Vikings is you take on Norse Gods with Excalibur, with the ability to call upon purple dragons, from the underworld, mirrored universe.
That is completely not true, not even slightly.
In 878, you are the invading Viking horde, pagan knights, barbarian berserkers, heck bent on either pillaging England, or maybe even settling it. Ultimately the game plays as if the Vikings have waves of commanders attacking England on whim, and giving the English no escape from attack. The English also have a few tricks up their sleeves, including calling upon the Fyrds (plebians), to ask as cannon fodder for your military regulars, the low trained Thegns, and the more highly trained Housecarl. This allows the English to roll up to 7 dice on defense, and to have a higher chance of reducing the Viking Horde.
The Vikings however, also have a trick up their sleeve, Berserkers. These mountainous men do not run. They do not walk quietly into the night. They scream and hack and slash, and remind the Fyrds, why they do not want to be in the military in the first place. Beserkers have the highest chance of a hit for the Vikings, and regularly even the odds.
A dice chucker at heart, this game is about war, and pillaging, and area control. It has elements of play that are not unlike other strategy games that are a bit RISK-y. However, with the orders cards, ability to retreat, and reinforcements powered by a randomness generator, and well thought out victory conditions, this game fixes so many of the issues other games in this genre don't take into consideration.
Dice games, are not for everyone. Those that do like them seemingly have one thing in common. They know war is messy, and random, and in any given day, a farmer can kill a general with a pitchfork. The dice mechanic therefore, in my opinion is not a question of "luck" as so many detractors say, it is a question of strategically deciding when to press the initiative. If you press too hard, like in Vegas, you will crap out.
The game is divided into nine chapters. 5 of these chapters are compulsory, 4 are "maybe" chapters. Ultimately, the game when we played was neck and neck the entire game. This generally tells me, the mechanics are well thought out, and the tighter a game plays, the more likely I will enjoy it as a war game. There is nothing worse than knowing you are going to get walked over the next 5 rounds, the give and take, were so tight, we never knew for sure who would win, until they won. I lost by the way, and still thoroughly enjoyed it.
At a glance, the game looks clean and pretty. The artwork is crisp, and enjoyable to look at.
A game that allows you to enjoy the art, while also being historically accurate, is just a joy.
The cards are fantastically detailed, the commander minis are great looking, and the army minis are fun to move, as they feel like you really are moving a lot of little men into war.
Quality of Components and Insert
The minis are clean, made in a mold, and therefore, all identical.
The instructions are a tough read, the game is not overly complex, but I had a hard time following it. I think this game is ripe for a playthrough tutorial, that is just play, no grand explanation, no overly complex what-ifs. I think the game is fantastic, I hope not too many people get bogged down in the rule set. We can always try to do a MGlapse of the game if there is call for it. (Let us know in the comment section)
The inserts are perfect for this game, and are the same type that academy games uses on many of their games.
It has space for each army, each card, all dice, and separates each army. Ideally, more publishers would put more thought into the inside of the box.
Academy games is putting out a Grade-A games, with Grade-A parts.
The artistic tag team of Jarek Nocoń & Steve Paschal have made the game art feel gritty like the life of a Viking. If ever anyone could see into the life of someone else, and see it through their eyes, it's this tag team duo.
If you can feel the emotion and movement of the main box image, you are on the same page as me.
If it hasn't been apparent, I like this game, and it's art.
What I cannot state enough is that this game is fun. It makes me feel like I never knew who was going to win, and ultimately, as I said, I lost a quite compelling defeat at the hand of Charles the English. Yet, I still want to play again, and again. You'll want to lose also, because losing is almost as good as winning in this game. That is fun.
Difficulty and age range suggestion
The game is a wargame, and the strategy requires an adult intellect.
Though, with help, someone younger may enjoy it, with the help of their favorite adult. I always caution parents to talk about the history of war games, and wargaming as a means to understand that history. Learning about real war and death should be done with context, especially when "playing" at it.
Thankfully, Academy games includes fantastic history lessons that belong on your table, almost as much as a classroom.
Pre-Order 878 Vikings!
I'm guessing that the initial print might be in short supply. It just plays that good.
Did I mention that you should pre-order this? Have you pre-ordered it yet? What are you waiting for?
I'll wait for you to place your pre-order.......
Whew... I'm glad you got that done!
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