For Glory: A Champions of Midgard Review

By: Mrs. Saint

Trondheim is a port town in Norway, led by their beloved Jarl. His strength and fierceness protect the town and surrounding villages and his shrewd mind helps grow a thriving merchant trade business, but then he dies. His death is felt in every house in Trondheim and in every neighboring village. Suddenly, there is no leader. There is a power vacuum. Trondheim is vulnerable. The scent of fear and disarray bring trolls and draugrs all too happy to take advantage of the lack of leadership and terrorize Trondheim. Merchant ships in port become fewer and the ones who reach the shore tell tales of mythical monsters besieging their voyages and making the journey more difficult. There must be a new leader. Rise up Viking Leaders, bring glory to your clan and claim the title of Jarl!

This is the story of Champions of Midgard by Grey Fox Games, a worker placement game where players choose a Viking Leader and compete to earn the most glory and the title of Jarl. For Mr. Saint and me, the theme of the game is one of the key selling points. In 2018, we attended Pax Unplugged. Going into the convention, we weren’t sure we were going to be spending too much money, after all we had just found out a few months prior that we were going to be parents. We sat down at the Grey Fox Games table to demo the base game with two other convention attendees. I was not sure what to expect. Mr. Saint had his eye on the game because at this point in time, we did not have any worker placement games in our collection. We enjoyed the demo but the biggest surprise was for my husband when we walked up to the counter and I told him "buy it, buy them all (expansions), buy that mat we just played on, and buy the upgrades to all the pieces."

This review will talk about the base game from a 2 person play perspective. Note: when you see the images we use in this review, you will see the upgraded component pieces we purchased, not the ones that come with the game.

One aspect I really like about this as a competitive game is how balanced it feels. Regardless of which of the Viking Leaders you pick and whether or not you’re the first player to go each round, I really feel you have an equal chance of winning against your opponent.

Let’s talk about the Viking Leaders. The base game comes with five leaders. Each Viking Leader has a special ability. For example if you choose to be Gylfir the Seaworthy then you do not pay when taking goods from the Merchant Ship (a placement spot that, just as its name suggests, is a ship which brings goods to Trondheim, with the goods/ship changing each round). The special abilities are different enough for each leader and give each of them their own unique feeling to play. These abilities can help you on your quest for the most glory, but at the same time, you do not have to rely on the special ability as part of your strategy to win because of all the options for scoring glory. Adding to the balance of the game, each Viking Leader has the same number of warriors (dice) slots available so no matter if you play with Asmundr the Pious or Svanhildr the Swordmaiden, you’re still going to have the same number of warriors to throw at hunting, killing a troll, fighting the draugrs, or even venturing across the sea to battle a mythical monster. 

The mythical monsters are often one of the most sought after spots for placement. After each turn, any monster that was not defeated has a coin token put on them, so between the glory awarded for defeating one and the coins that the monster is hoarding, the placement spots are always a solid strategy for winning -not to mention most of the mythic monsters also award a Favor of the God token (a token used for rerolling dice during a combat encounter or used for end game scoring) . But in keeping with the immersive feel of the game’s theme, you cannot simply jump on a boat and go fight these mythical beasts. First you need to collect warriors and enough food for the number of warriors you’re going to send. The good news about food gathering is the placement spot for hunting is able to have multiple players on it per round so there is no need to worry about being the first to place a worker on the spot. After you have gathered food and warriors, you will need a boat. You have the option to have the shipwright build you your own private boat or you can rent or use one of the public ships. The venture across the ocean to fight the monsters is not without risk, each trip requires drawing a journey card and resolving its effect. There are many different journey cards and they range from things like whirlpools, to becoming lost, or even to encountering the Kraken. If you take a chance and don’t have extra food or warriors you can always cross your fingers and hope for a smooth journey with an All Quiet card.

In the base game, there are three types of warrior dice. Swordsmen (white dice), Spearmen (red dice), and Axemen (black dice). Each player starts the game with one Swordsmen and there are always five opportunities on the board each round to gain warriors, sometimes six depending on what the Merchant Ship has to offer that round. There are also strengths and weaknesses to each type of warrior. The Swordsmen are the easiest dice to get but they are strictly the worst since they have three blank sides instead of two like the Spearmen and Axemen. The Axemen are best for attack, and Spearmen are the balance between both defense and offense when attacking. Also, since some of the trolls/draugr/monsters all have certain dice that will not work against them, you’re not necessarily handicapped if the other player takes all the black dice that turn because there may be a space where black dice will not work so you’re better equipped with your red or white dice.

Combat is pretty simple in this game. If you pick a slot requiring combat/hunting, you allocate a set number of your dice for that fight/hunt. You may not reuse dice multiple times during a single round. For example: if you have six dice going into the allocation phase and you have a worker on the troll space and one on a draugr space, you could select two for the troll and four for the draugr but once you’ve decided which warrior dice go with which fight, you’re locked in so even if both the warriors survive the troll, they cannot be used for the draugr fight. Each monster has their Enemy Attack Value (health/warriors you lose per attack) and Enemy Defense Value (amount of hits you need to kill the enemy) stats listed on the front of their card, so you know what you’re up against when you’re allocating your dice. As with any dice related combat system, you are at the mercy of lady luck on your rolls but if she decides not to favor your, you can use a Favor of the Gods token to reroll your dice. Damage taken in this game results in the death of one of your warrior dice. Combat continues in rounds until either the monster is dead or all of your warrior dice have been defeated.

In addition to combat placement spots, the base map offers plenty of other options to place your workers, which opens up a lot of different strategies for gaining glory. Each player starts the game with 3 workers to place and you take turns with each placement. You have the option as one of your placements to buy one more worker at the Worker Huts to bring your total available workers to 4 (note if you do this, it gives your opponent the option to buy their extra worker for less on a subsequent turn). You can choose between gathering resources,recruiting warriors,building a boat, exchanging money for Favor of the God tokens, visiting the Sage House and drawing a Destiny Card which let you select one of the Journey Cards to take a sneak peak at, or picking up a Rune Card which has a single use that helps you on your quest to gain the most glory. When playing with only two people, you’re guaranteed to get at least your second pick for placement so you don’t necessarily have to give up one of your worker placements to get the first player token and its accompanying Swordsmen die. The amount of options means there’s not one strategy to gain glory and even if you start out with a plan of how you want to win, if that is thwarted by your opponent, you will be able to quickly come up with a second path to victory.

To build upon the gaining of glory, there is a really rich point scoring system providing plenty of ways to gain glory and even a way to lose points known as blame (we will come back to blame). Glory during the game is achieved through battling monsters. Glory during scoring is achieved through completed Destiny Cards, amount of money, number of Favor of the God tokens, Runes Cards, for collecting color sets of monsters, and for your private longship.

As previously mentioned, blame is a way to lose Glory. Blame happens when one player beats the troll threatening the village and gives blame to the other player(s) because they were ‘blamed’ for not helping defend the village. Or, if no one fights the troll, all players are bad leaders and the village blames them all for failing to defend them. At first, blame may not seem like a big deal. How bad can it get? But the blame can really add up for negative points during scoring so it’s important to make sure you balance the amount of blame you’re getting if you want to be the new Jarl.

Final Thoughts:

Was the investment worth it? That’s always the question after you’ve spent a decent amount of money on any purchase. The answer in this case is: most definitely yes. In fact, Mr. Saint and I have enjoyed the game so much that even though the play mat was not available at Pax Unplugged, we kept it on our watch list and purchased it after the fact. We even purchased a special container just to keep the mat in great condition because I know this is a game we will be playing for many years to come.

I’m incredibly competitive and hate to lose, so it speaks volumes to how fun this game is that I don’t mind when Mr. Saint walks away from the table as the reigning Jarl.

The game setup does not take a long time, and since there are only eight turns, Champions of Midgard is a great game for weeknights after our little one is asleep.

For some, the rich scoring system may be a negative because there is a lot to keep track of so it can be difficult to gauge where your opponent will net out in glory at the end of the game. In a two player game, we have found the amount of options for scoring to mean most of our games are close so the winner typically does not win by more than a few points.

We definitely recommend Champions of Midgard for anyone wanting to give worker placement games a try. Because the game play and mechanisms are not difficult to understand, it’s also a great entry game to introduce your friends and family to hobby board gaming. 

If you enjoyed this review, please check out the full review with all featured images on our website: www.gamingwiththesaints.com and be sure to follow us on Twitter to get updates on when new content is released @Saint_Gamers. 




Please log in or make an account to post a comment.

27 days ago

Always nice when you find a game that just clicks for you and whoever is playing with you. Have you made any other impulse purchases over the years?

I do enjoy Champions of Midgard, it has been a while since I played it, but certainly remember the wonderful tension the first time you send a ship-load of vikings over the ocean with the bare minimum of supplies in the hope you don't hit a storm.

27 days ago

In general, we heavily research a game before we buy to try and maintain some semblance of restraint.  We recently bought Isle of Cats based on the graphic design and are having a great time with it so far!

27 days ago

And what is the thing you tend to look for when you are researching? What aspects of a game tend to be most important to you both?

27 days ago

And have you found the gameplay lives up to the artwork?

26 days ago

For Isle of Cats - So far, we're really enjoying it.  card drafting meets polyomino placement, with a really tight resource economy and varied scoring opportunities.  Definitely excited for more plays!

In general, I think the thing that first attracts us to a game initially is its theme.  We're both suckers for an interesting theme.  After that, good production, gameplay, and mechanics are all things we look for.  It definitely helps if a game is solid at 2p right now as well, since almost all our gaming time is at that player count right now.

Funny you should ask, Mr. Saint recently just wrote a blog post about this very topic!  https://gamingwiththesaints.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/what-kind-of-gamer-are-you/ if you're interested.

26 days ago

I have found myself being more and more drawn to games where the them feels integrated into the mechanics, where it doesn't make sense for me to make this move because it will bring me close to victory but also makes sense in terms of the narrative the game has taken so far. I think this stems from my love of games that emphasise deal-making and negotiation with the other players (#Archipelago or #No Honor Among Thieves) as then often your decisions feel much more grounded as they are based on the relationships you have created throughout the game.

What have been the games that you have enjoyed most at 2P? My partner and I have been in a pretty similar position (as I imagine the whole world is)

I will give the article a read!

25 days ago

We've been playing a lot of Exceed, by Level 99 Games.  We've also been really loving Spirit Island and Terraforming Mars, which feel great at two players.  One of our favorites is Eldritch Horror, though that one is kind of a cheat, since we play 2 investigators each (the equivalent of a 4 player game).

What have you and your partner been playing?

25 days ago

Not come across Exceed before, will give it a look. I adore Eldritch Horror, we do exactly the same with 2 players; 4 investigators. Have you played any of the expansions and if so are there any you would recommend?

We have been playing #The Fox in the Forest Duet a bunch, which we both really enjoy and plays nice and quickly. Also #Flamme Rouge which is a new game for us, we really enjoy it, and the theme is so on point with artwork and mechanics: poor tired little French cyclists (we have a exclusively french playlist we have as background music) we are working up to playing a campaign which I think will be great.

25 days ago

For Eldritch Horror expansions, we own them all so you have come to the right place for advice!  If you haven't already picked it up, you absolutely have to start with Forsaken Lore.  It basically doubles the replayability of the base game by adding 1 new Ancient One and 2 new mysteries for each of the core box's Ancient Ones.

From there, the small boxes are probably better value for money.  Cities in Ruin is a particular favorite of ours.  The Strange Remnants small box adds the Focus action to the game, which is a great addition (the big box expansion Mountains of Madness also has this mechanic if that's more your jam).  

For the big box expansions, the best overall is probably Under the Pyramids.  Dreamlands is also really good but adds a bit of extra complexity to the game with the way the dream portals work.  Masks of Nyarlothotep feels like a capstone expansion, so I'd probably buy that one last.

Hope it helps!

25 days ago

That helps a great deal, thank you so much. I only have Signs of Carcosa which we enjoyed. Will keep an eye open for Forsaken Law for sure then, as we love the base game so much. Would love to get/create a legacy style aspect for it. Although I guess they have #Arkham Horror: The Card Game for that.

24 days ago

It does bear noting that the Masks of Nyarlothotep expansion does have a campaign mode if that is what you're interested in.  However, it kind of expects you to have all the previously released content to make use of it, which is why I said it was a "capstone expansion".

23 days ago

Exciting times, will have to work up towards that one then

27 days ago

Very nice! Great review. I love this game perhaps a little too much haha My wife and I love it as a 2-player as well, and the ending score is usually super close. It's great at all player counts, and I love the expansions (especially Valhalla). Glad you're enjoying it :) 

27 days ago

Valhalla is awesome!  It's the perfect expansion to refresh things when the base game starts feeling a little stale.

25 days ago

And it makes my reckless attacks that result in countless dead less tragic. :) 

25 days ago

I always quite enjoyed the fact that failure had very significant consequences and made the risk of attacking a monster with 'just enough' to kill it more real. I haven't played the expansion but do you think by getting something even when it goes wrong takes some of the tension out of it?

25 days ago

Yeah, I'd say it does take out a bit of the tension. Generally, though, I'd still prefer my warriors to live. But, I understand your point, and it's true. As much as I enjoy the Valhalla expansion, I think I'd like it if the rewards for failure weren't so good. Some of them aren't that great overall, but there are some killer rewards (excuse the pun) you can get for sending warriors to their deaths that seem, perhaps, egregiously good. Still, I still really like the expansion how it is and am happy playing with or without it. 

25 days ago

Oh absolutely, I have heard very good things about it, and I imagine while maybe removing tension it presumably makes the game less luck controlled and prevents an unlucky roll early in the game sinking your hopes

Linked Games
Champions of Midgard