TABLETOP TWOSDAY – Tales of the Northlands: Sagas of Noggin The Nog – Review – A-Muse-Ment

Noggin the Nog cover

If you give it the time, Tales of the Northlands: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, will reward you with a rich, deep, and enjoyable game.

If you're already a fan of Noggin the Nog, your enjoyment of this game will surely double!

Drew Vogel

MeepleGamers

8.5/10
Game Board

Theme and What is it?

9/10

In the lands of the North, where the Black Rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long the Men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale…

So began each of the Sagas of Noggin the Nog, in which the crown of Noggin, Prince of the Nogs is sought by his wicked uncle Nogbad the Bad who devises evil plots to threaten the safety of the kingdom, in order to force Noggin to give up his crown. In this game, players are the noble Lords of the north, looking to assist Noggin however they can in his adventures with resources and wise council.

Players use their influence to take actions on the board which as a backdrop is Peter Firmin’s classic hand-drawn map of the Northlands. The time taken on each action is plotted on a roundel which acts as the game clock, changes the turn order, and progresses the seasons. However Nogbad is never far away from the source of the Kingdom’s troubles and Noggin must use his cleverness, intuition, and resourcefulness to thwart Nogbad and confirm his position as King of the Nogs. The game ends when Noggin secures the crown or if Nogbad manages to get there first.

In Tales of the Northlands: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, players must work together to successfully complete the adventures revealed by the saga cards. By offering much-needed resources and making key decisions that affect the progress of the adventures, players will, if successful add to Noggin’s popularity. Should their decision be unwise or they take too long the popular vote might sway toward Nogbad.

The game includes all of the characters from the TV series, Noggin, his Queen Nooka, Knut their son, Thor Nogson the grumpy Captain of the Royal Guard, Graculus the Great Green Bird, Olaf the Lofty, the Court inventor, and Romf, the little man from the Hot Water Valley.

These adventures are all based upon the books and stories developed by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. The game is fully licensed has access to all artwork previously released in books and film and includes over fifty new pieces of new artwork commissioned from Peter Firmin specifically for the game. The game has three levels: solo, a family game with a simplified ruleset, and a gamer’s version with deeper strategy options.

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Tales of the Northlands: Sagas of Noggin the Nog (abbreviated here as Sagas), is a massive euro-style game with tremendous artwork.

The players are racing Nogbad the Bad to be the first to reach the crown space on the Popularity Track. If the players get there first, they count up their points and see who is elected to the Council of Elders (and win the game!).

If Nogbad gains the crown, all players have failed and are banished with Noggin (and lose the game). The scores are still totaled and the player with the highest score is the Leader in Exile – but with little to be proud of.

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When I received this game for review, I was completely unaware of the long history of Noggin the Nog. Originally a TV show on British television from 1959-1965 and 1979-1980 and a series of illustrated books. There are several episodes of the TV cartoon available on YouTube, so I’ve been increasing my familiarity.

The game is very enjoyable even if you’re not familiar with the theme, and I would imagine that familiarity with the theme would only ratchet up the enjoyment.

Gameplay Mechanics

9/10

The game occurs in rounds with each player taking a turn. During their turn, the players do the following steps:

  1. Place Nog(s) on an action space.
  2. Take the action.
  3. Move along the Time Step track a number of steps equal to the step value of the action you took.
  4. If you are in the last place on the roundel, you must take another turn. If you are in neither first nor last place on the roundel, you may take another turn. If you are in the first place, you must end your turn.
  5. Move the Runestone {timer} to be equal with the player’s token in the last place. It is now that player’s turn.

At the end of the round (when the Runestone makes a full lap around the roundel), a sweep up (clean up) phase occurs and various pieces are reset around the board, timers advance, the season changes, and your adversary (Nogbad the Bad) may obstruct some actions in the next round.

During the worker placement portion of the game, each placement target costs a number of actions (called “time steps”) when any of the player’s Nogs (meeples) are placed there. The player who is furthest back on the roundel gets to take a number of actions that either puts them first or not-last on the roundel. Once the Nogs have been placed, the action is taken. There are a wide variety of actions available through the Season of the game and other variables may make some actions unavailable for a time.

Unlike some other worker placement games, it is possible to place more than one of your Nogs in an action space. For most action spaces, you need to pay the number of your Nogs already in the space to take that action again (1 Nog for the first time you take the action, 2 Nogs for the second, and so on). Only the Market allows activation with just one Nog each time.

Being a worker placement game at heart, the 7 action spaces on the board hold a lot of interest and variety for this game.

  • Miner: Dig out stones and sometimes gold, discover new parts of the mine and travel through mine tunnels.
  • Fisherman: Catch some fish in the fjord but watch out that you don’t catch an old boot!
  • Woodcutter: Chop down trees to gather wood, either on the main board or the player’s board.
  • Farmer: Sow or harvest crops or pick apples, depending on the season.
  • Builder: Improve your cart, wagon, or fishing boat and construct other useful buildings.
  • Restock: Replant trees and manage fish stocks aided by Arup, King of the Walruses.
  • Market Day: It’s a place to go to make deals and to meet interesting Nogs. It is structured differently to other actions — it only ever needs one Nog to take this action. From the Market Day action space, players can do several different sub-actions:
    • Activate character’s special skills: There are 7 characters who start in Nog’s castle and each provides a special benefit (discard Supply cards, make a resource wild, swap building tiles, and more). Players can pay one food to activate the special skill of one of the characters at the castle.
    • Evict Nogbad: Nogbad loves to block your progress. Evict him from an action space by sending Thor Nogson (who costs 1 food) from the castle to evict Nogbad and make the space available again.
    • Auction a Card: Starting with the active player, each player can bid for Counting House cards by paying Steps. Counting House cards offer benefits in-game and end-game points.
    • Satisfy needs on a Saga: The Saga cards need a number of characters and resources to be fulfilled. Completing Saga cards is one way to end the game.
    • Satisfy an Invention card: Inventions award in-game benefits, end-game benefits, or both.
    • Trade at the Nog Market: Players may exchange 2 resources to receive 1 resource in return.
Each action space has its own rules so expect a fair amount of rule book consultation when learning the game. Soon enough, though, the icons begin to make sense and things will flow smoothly.
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Initial Impressions

9/10

The game box is massive, measuring 15″ x 11.5″ x3″. It does not fit standing vertically in a Kallax bookshelf, which is a shame because the box is beautifully designed to look like a leather-bound tome.

The copy on the back of the box and the 8+ age range suggestion do not give an adequate indication of the weight and complexity of the “gamer’s” game version within.

The Standard game (the gamer’s version) is a weighty (3.68/5.00 on BGG) euro-style game with lots of different ways to accumulate points.

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Game Build Quality

8/10

The quality of the components is good. The card stock is solid, and there are many wooden tokens in the game. Some of the wooden tokens have to have stickers applied before use, which I find annoying. A minor quibble is that the backing on the two-layer player boards feels thinner than I’d prefer, though still serviceable.

This is a game has a large physical footprint, requiring a lot of table space. It will most certainly not fit on a standard card table. Cards go around the large central board (sometimes cards in two rows), and player boards consume even more room.

 

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Artistic Direction

10/10

Simply stated, the game is beautiful and lovingly crafted with amazing artwork from the TV show and books, featuring more than 50 new pieces of art from the original artist Peter Firmin. Sadly, Mr. Firmin died before the final game was produced.

Fans of the TV show or books will feel immediately at home in this familiar & comfortable universe.

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Fun Factor

8.5/10

If you enjoy crunchy, thinky, euro games, you’ll find the Standard game to be very enjoyable. This game is a commitment — not just in setup (which has 26 steps!) but also in learning and playing. You’re going to spend a fair amount of time in this world.

The Family version of the game reduces the complexity and play-time and keeps the essential gameplay intact.

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There is nothing in this game that is objectionable —  it is all family-friendly and appropriate. The art is approachable and not threatening for kids.

The game box advertises “8+” as the age range. I doubt that a group of 8-year-olds would be able to grasp this game by themselves, but with adult assistance (and maybe a little adult guidance), I believe they would be able to enjoy this game.

BGG recommends “10+” as a minimum age range, and that sounds better to me.

The weight of the game is 3.68/5.00 on BGG. This is for the Standard version of the game. This is a euro game through-and-through, so expect some brain-melting strategic moments.

The Family version of the game (included in the box in its own rule book) is quicker to learn, faster to play, and a good first step before attempting the Standard rules.

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Conclusions

9/10

I approached this game completely unfamiliar with the rich history of Noggin the Nog, so I considered it initially only on its merits as a game. It stands very well as a fairly-heavy euro game. Lots of moving pieces, lots of ways to score points, and the feeling that you may not have enough time to accomplish your goals even if nasty old Nogbad isn’t in your way. All of these factors contribute to an enjoyable centerpiece game.

The 120-150 minute playtime does not include the teaching of the rules nor the inevitable references to the rule book that will happen during your first games. Expect the first full games to take 3 hours or so.

If you give it the time, Tales of the Northlands: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, will reward you with a rich, deep, and enjoyable game.

If you’re already a fan of Noggin the Nog, your enjoyment of this game will surely double!

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TABLETOP TWOSDAY - Tales of the Northlands: Sagas of Noggin The Nog - Review - A-Muse-Ment
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Editor's Rating:
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