Dale Yu: First Impressions of Jorvik

 

Jorvik

  • Designer: Stefan Feld
  • Publisher: eggertspiele, distributed by Stronghold Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 45-90 mins
  • Times Played: 2, with review copy provided by eggertspiele

jorvik

Jorvik is a re-boot of a old game which I used to love, Die Speicherstadt – released in 2010, but never seemed to get much love from the gaming community.  Die Spiecherstadt was set in old Hamburg, the hometown of eggertspiele.  This new version is set in Jorvik, the old Viking game from what is now York, England.  In this new version, rather than being competing merchants trying to fill up warehouses, you are Viking Jarls who are placing their workers to improve their standing in the city as well as helping to protect the city from invasions.

Each player chooses a color and takes the 3 vikings in their color as well as 5 coins.  The game is played over four seasons, and a deck is created with Winter cards on top, then Spring, Summer and Autumn.  The bottom card of the deck is the Attack of the Picts.  If you are playing the base game (Karl), you’ll only use half of the board; if you play the Jarl game, you’ll use the entire board.  For the rest of this discussion, I’ll focus on the Karl game as that is what we have played most recently.  In any event, all of the Karl rules are used in the full game.

jorvik-board

Games are played in a number of rounds, each with 4 phases.

1) Supply Phase – Cards are revealed from the deck onto appropriate spaces on the gameboard – these are marked for the number of players in the game.  If a ship card comes up, you draw 3 goods cubes to place on that card.  If an Attack of the Picts card comes up, there is a special sub-phase which occurs.  All players adds up their defense points on their warrior cards.  The player with the most gets some bonus VPs, the player with the least defense points takes a malus.  If there is a tie for most or least, all tied players get the bonus or malus.  The Picts card is not placed onto the card space though, it is discarded and a new card from the deck is placed on the space on the board.

2) Demand Phase – In this phase, players now place their Vikings on the tracks underneath the cards.  In clockwise order, each player places a single Viking meeple on the uppermost available space in the demand column under the desired card.  This continues clockwise around the board until all players have placed all their Vikings.  There is a maximum of 8 Vikings in any particular column; once this limit is reached, no further Vikings can be placed there.  If, at the end of the phase, there are cards with no Vikings underneath them, those cards are discarded.

3) Buying Phase – now all cards with Vikings underneath them are sold in a version of an auction – from left to right on the board.  The topmost Viking has the first chance to buy the card in the column. To do so, he must pay a number of coins equal to the number of all Vikings in that column.  If he chooses to pay that amount, he takes the card and places it above his player board.  All other Vikings in that column are returned to their owners.  If he declines, he removes his Viking from the column and the new  topmost Viking gets to decide if he can afford the new price for the card.  If all Vikings pass on the card, it is simply discarded.  Once the leftmost card is purchased or discarded, you then move to the next column to the right until all cards have been auctioned off.

4) Loading phase – first, all players get some income.  All players get 1 coin, and if you have not purchased a card this round, you get an additional coin.  Then, all players move their non-ship cards to their personal area underneath their player board.  Finally, you must now allocate goods from your ship cards prior to moving those ship cards to your personal area.  Goods can be moved to a number of places:

  •       They can be placed on spaces on artisan cards.  These will score points if they are completely full of the desired goods at the end of the game.
  •       They can be sold to traders that want specific goods (the good is placed in the common goods area on the central board)
  •       They can be sold 2 goods for one coin – the goods are moved to the common goods area
  •       Any three goods cubes can be traded for any other cube in the common goods area
  •       You can store a single cube on your player board.
  •       Any other goods cubes which cannot be used in the above ways are discarded to the common goods area

Once all players have allocated their goods, the now empty ship cards are moved into the personal card area.  The starting player token moves around the board and a new round is played.  However, the game comes to an end when the final Attack of the Picts card is the only card left in the deck.  This card is flipped up and immediately dealt with, and then the game moves into final scoring.  All players now score their cards which have the endgame scoring symbol on it, and the player with the most points wins the game.

jorvik-art

My thoughts on the game

So, I liked the original version of the game, and the re-theme has really done nothing to change my opinion of the overall game.  From what I can tell, there really aren’t changes to the basic structure of the rules, though it does seem that there are a number of cards which have been slightly modified.  One of the users on BGG has tried to make a list of the changes.   https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23729827#23729827 . From my perspective, the changes don’t really make much difference to me as the overall game feels the same while playing it.   The change in theme also doesn’t make that much difference to me, but for many of the gamers which I showed Jorvik to, they seem to be more interested in Viking warriors and trading goods than storing spices and fighting fires.

The game revolves around the interesting auction mechanic – you would like to be in the early positions in a row in order to get first chance to buy cards, though the other players can place their workers in the same line to make the cards too expensive for you.  The trick here is to figure out how to get to the right spot in line where you can buy the cards you want at the cost you want to buy them.

As someone wiser than me once wrote: “This mechanical explanation fails to convey the tenseness evoked by this procedure. There are numerous factors and alternatives to consider, most of which must take into account the possible actions of one’s opponents. Players usually have a very limited number of coins to spend on the numerous cards they covet. Opponents will often place representatives on the same card, driving up the cost if a player desires to purchase it. If the player declines, they will then have the opportunity to make the purchase. Players must also constantly assess the financial situation of their opponents, as they can often increase the price of a card beyond what an opponent(s) can afford. Further, there are numerous categories of cards players would ideally like to acquire. Funds, however, are limited, and the keen competition for these cards will usually force players to concentrate on just a few types. All of these considerations and factors make this phase of the game shine.”

The game forces you to balance the need to get goods with the need to be able to defend yourself from the Picts – as the penalties for not defeating the Pict cards can be punishing indeed.

 

There are two versions of the game in the box, the Jarl version and the Karl version.  Yes, seriously. Jarl and Karl.  The Karl version is essentially the base game of Die Spiecherstadt while the more advanced Jarl version includes the ideas in the Kaispeicher expansion.  From my experience, the Kaispecher expansion was somewhat hard to get a hold of, and until the release of this game, the secondary market prices were pretty steep for the expansion, so this new version of the game allows gamers to get the full package in a single box.  (The rules make it pretty easy to shift between the two in setup…)

jorvik-rules

I think that Die Spiecherstadt never got the love that it deserved from the gaming community when it first came out.  This new release gives it a chance to get back to the table in its new form, and hopefully it will develop a new set of fans.  

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

 

Doug Garrett (2 plays): After a so-so experience with Speicherstadt when it first came out, I never sought out a chance to play the base game with the expansion (Kaispeicher). Coming back to the game at this point and ONLY trying it with the expansion, which is included in Jorvik’s box, bumped this up in my book.  The expansion (the Jarl version here) is MANDATORY in my opinion, making an OK game very good.  Worth checking out, even if you tried out the original.

 

Larry (about a dozen plays):  I haven’t played Jorvik, but I’ve played Die Speicherstadt many times.  As Dale says, there’s little difference between the two games, so these comments should be relevant.  I’m a big fan of the base game of Speicherstadt; I agree with Dale that it’s a sadly underrated design.  The auction mechanism is wonderfully simple, but so subtle and so evil.  It’s a joy to discover the many clever tricks you can discover within it, most of which screw with your opponents.   It’s Feld at his most elegant.  The cards are straightforward, but there’s enough variety and balls to juggle that playing the game well is a genuine challenge.  It plays quickly, but packs a very nice punch.  It’s a game I’m always happy to play.

 

I’ve only played the Kaispeicher expansion once, but was extremely disappointed by it.  It radically changed the game, with very powerful cards and actions that buried the subtle auctions under their collective weight.  I kept searching for the beauty and brilliance of the base game, but it was nowhere to be found.  Sometimes, smaller is better and I strongly feel that the base game of Speicherstadt (i.e., the Karl version of Jorvik) is tighter, tenser, and much better than the bloated expansion (i.e., the Jarl version).  Maybe a second play would change my mind a bit, but I like the base game so much (and it comes to the table so rarely), that I’m in no mood to experiment with what I know is a good thing.

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Doug G., Larry (Karl version)
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me… Larry (Jarl version)

 

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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3 Responses to Dale Yu: First Impressions of Jorvik

  1. mac72 says:

    I totally agree with Larry regarding the expansion…

    Die Speicherstadt aka Jorvik/Karl feels like Feld trying to design a Knizia game. Kaispeicher aka Jorvik/Jarl feels like Feld regretting his Knizia influences and just adding every mechanism he could think of.

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