Ted C: Review of MAESHOWE – an Orkney Saga

MAESHOWE – an Orkney Saga


  • By – Dragon Dawn Productions
  • Designer – Lee Broderick
  • Artwork – Lars Munck
  • Players – 1-2 
  • Time – 15 to 20 minutes
  • Review by Ted Cheatham (review copy provided)

maeshowe box


This game is based on the Orkneyinga Saga where a group entered a tomb to seek shelter during a snowstorm. Treasure was found and some madness ensued with some of the party.  In this game you are playing Jarls Harold and Rognvald who have been trapped by a violent snowstorm and break through the roof of a house falling 20 feet only to realize they will never get out the way they came in. Now, they must dig their way clawing with hands and swords to find the way out and survive.

Components:  I don’t usually comment on components, but felt I should point some things here.  First, the components are top notch.  Nice wooden bits and great cards with silk finish.  Second, and the real reason for the discussion, is the artwork. The art work is really nice and very unique. It gives a dark Norse feeling of ambience.  It could be interpreted as very dark by some people.  I remember many years ago people got concerned about art work in Gloom saying it was very dark and off putting.  I think some people may find this art very dark or disturbing.  It does fit the theme and with what is on TV today, no one should be offended.


The game comes with a base game of 36 cards and six, three card expansions to add variability. 


maeshowe bits

Solo game play: Start with three or four health and one food (depends on the scenarios and options) and set up 3 – 7 passages.  These are the tunnels you need to clear to get out.  Shuffle the cards and deal yourself a hand of five cards. 


Play one card from you hand to the tableau and discard one card to the discard pile in any order. Resolve their effects and then fill back to five cards.


Each card, with its unique art work, has an effect if you play it to your tableau and it may also have an effect if you discard it.  The tableau is a running set of cards or story line for the game.  Each card you add will go to the right of the previous card played which is very important for excavating passages as you will see later. For example, some positive effects for playing to the tableau are excavate passages, find food, and get health.  There are also some cards with bad effects if you play them to the tableau such as lose health or food. And, each expansion adds some twists to the game.  There are also effects on many cards if you discard them such as losing health.

maeshowe cards

The way to win this game is to excavate tunnels to remove the number of passages set up at the beginning of the game, based on the difficulty you have chosen, before the deck runs out or you lose all of your health.  But, to remove a passage, you must have played four excavation cards in a row (no interruptions) into your tableau, story line.  This will allow you to remove one or two passages.  Each card has either a red or a blue rune symbol on it.  If you can manage to get all four excavation cards in a row with the same color rune symbol, you may remove two passages instead of one. 


Speaking of colored runes, if you ever fill you hand and it has only one color of symbols in it, you will go mad. You immediately lose a permanent health and discard your hand and reshuffle the deck and discard pile. As bad as this sounds, it does allow you to extend the game with the reshuffle at the expense of a health and it can get rid of a very bad hand of cards without having to use their bad effects.


Two player COOP: This version of the game is very similar to the solitaire version.  There is a shared food track and players play to the single, shared tableau, story line.  However, each player has their own health and discard pile. Players alternate turns playing to the tableau, story line and discarding to their individual discard piles.  The designer has added a really nice touch with a “Jarl” token.  If you have the “Jarl” token, you may pass your turn and pass the token to the other player.  This effectively lets a player play twice in a row and can be very helpful (that is assuming the “jarl” token is in the right place!)

maeshowe bits

Final thoughts: This is a very nice 15 minute solitaire card game with a 2 player option for COOP.  The expansions add just enough new ideas to give you something different to manage each game.  Like most solitaire card games, if the cards come out great, it is super easy.  And, if the cards come out bad, there is little chance to win.  But, most of the time, you have a nice little puzzle here on when to start excavation, when to start resting and getting food, and how to manage your discards with bad things on them.  There is nothing worse than starting to excavate and getting three cards in a row and not getting a fourth card to play to remove the passage.  You will just have to regroup and start over.  And, if you hold out to long keeping the excavation cards in your hand, you may be forced to discard bad things.  All the while, you must manage your health and food supply.  Overall, a very nice way to pass some solitaire time that requires some thought and a little luck.  It is not a game that plays itself.


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • Love it:
  • Like it: Ted C.
  • Neutral:
  • Not for me:


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