Dale Yu: First Impressions of Tal der Wikinger (Valley of the Vikings)

Tal der Wikinger (Valley of the Vikings)

  • Designer: Wilfried and Marie Fort
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 6-99
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by HABA USA

Tal der Wikinger is the 2019 Kinderspiel des Jahres award winner.  For many people, this would be the end of the necessary part of the review 😊  For those of you who are unaware of the award, it is the award given to the Kids’ Game of the Year in Germany – as selected by a jury of boardgaming journalists.  In this dexterity game, the players are taking part in a barrel toppling contests, and they are trying to put their own Vikings in the right places on the dock to get the best rewards.  Sounds simple, right?

The board is constructed from some various pieces.  There is a bowling array that dominates the bulk of the board. Each player has a pier in one corner with a cutout for the bowling ball to rest.  There is a starburst pattern of holes in the center of the board where colored barrels can be placed. At the top of the board is the dock which has 8 spaces for flags – these are randomly placed there at the start of the game.  Each player has a Viking ship with a sail of their color in it. There is a counter for each player which starts to the left of the dock.

On a turn, the active player places the ball into his dock and then takes the bat (a cardboard cutout of a Viking holding an oar as if it were a Cricket bat).  The ball is pushed with the bat so that it travels to the center of the board and knocks over at least one barrel. For each barrel that is knocked over, the matching Viking token is moved forward to the next empty space on the dock.  If multiple barrels are knocked over, the active player can choose what order to move the Vikings in.

The flag markers above each space tell you what the rewards are when scoring occurs – and this happens any time a Viking is pushed off the right end of the dock.  Immediately, the rest of the dock is scored, going from the right end of the dock (furthest traveled) to the left. If there are gold coins depicted on the flag, you collect that many coins and place them in your boat.  If there is a Viking of matching color, that player can steal one gold coin (if possible) for each other player’s ship. If there is a Viking of another color, you are allowed to steal one coin from the Viking who is shows on the flag.

Now it is the next player’s turn.  The new player first must replace any knocked down barrels, and he may place them in any hole in the snowflake array.  If a Viking counter has been run off the end of the dock (and thus, scoring was triggered), it is moved back to the left side of the dock.  All of the other Vikings as well as any un-toppled barrels are left where they are.

The game continues until all of the coins in the game have been distributed into boats.  The game continues until the end of the current round, but only stealing is allowed – as there are no more coins to give out.  The player with the most coins wins the game. Ties go to the player whose Viking is closest to the left of the dock. In a game with fewer than 4 players, it is possible for all players to lose to game if one of the non-player colors has more coins in it than anyone else.

So far, this has proved to be a great game to play with young nephews, though it has admittedly not done as well with only adults.  For younger gamers, there is a nice mix here of the dexterity in the bowling – which is sure to create lots of laughs and hilarity with some the beginnings of strategy and forward planning with the Vikings on the dock. 

Sure, for the youngest of gamers, it will essentially be up to chance as to what happens in the scoring rounds, but with repetition, I can see where kids can learn how to plan ahead and move Vikings into places that benefit them best, and then later work on trying to knock over specific barrels in order to trigger Viking movements that benefit them best.  It is actually surprisingly hard for me to accurately bat the ball where I want it to go, and there is often collateral damage as multiple barrels are often knocked over. 

Though there are some “direct attacks” in that you can sometimes steal coins from specific players, it is not a true targeted attack as it is not due generally to player choice but rather due to the Viking token’s position on the dock.  It is what it is, and as the game continues to cycle onwards, it generally evens out over the long run.

As I mentioned earlier, there may not be enough here to hold the interest of adults, but this is definitely a game that is enjoyable for kids and one which can help them develop gaming skills for their future.  It is a worthy winner of the Kinderspiel des Jahres award, and one I would consider as a great gift for a young gamer (though I’d be happy to recommend any of the three finalists from this year: this game, Fabulantica and Go Gecko Go!)

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

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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