Valhal is set in the times of Vikings and Gods. We came across this game on the almighty internet and loved the theme and idea of the game. In Valhal, you manage your own Viking settlement on the island Fjornheim. In order to please your settlement, you raid other villages for supplies. Your main quest is to be in favor of the Gods, meaning you will get trough each event and season that is thrown at you.
How to Play.
The setup for Valhal is quite easy. Each player takes a settlement and places three coins, three food, two iron and one sacrifice token in the middle square. Also take a longboat and a unit of Nordic warriors. Place the favour of the gods display above your village and place the glory marker on zero and the raven head on the most left space.
Then place mainland board in the middle of the table, place the season marker on summer and place the village cards according to the right player count around the middle tile. Shuffle the cards and place them on the table. Lastly place battle tableau and Yggdrasil (the tree) on the table. Place the matching tokens with the right player amount on the tree.
You will start off the game by gathering supplies, which means raiding villages. Every player rolls one of the red dices to determine who can choose a village first, and then attack it in that order. The top right number on the villages show how strong they are and what damage they can do. In order to defeat them, place your starting unit in your longboat and see what damage you can do. A standard Nordic warrior unit may roll one die and you may add + one to your die as damage. On of your neighbors will roll the die for the village and then you compare the result, for each difference either for your unit or the village, one damage will be taken. If the village has no hit points left, it is defeated and you can loot it. Take the card with the corresponding icon on the top left of the village to get your reward. Also claim your glory on the glory tracker to move closer to victory. Battling and looting is also very well explained in the rulebook with great examples and in more details. I strongly recommend to play along with the rulebook before playing.
You can choose and attack villages until there are none left. Then it’s time to return in your settlement. Here you can build extra longboats, create more Nordic warriors, sacrifice to the gods, or build buildings to upgrade your settlement. In order to do this, you will need food for your settlement. As the game starts in summer with a food token already supplied for this season, you don’t have to worry about getting food for this season. For the next seasons however, you will need to gather food by raiding other villages or towns. If you didn’t get any food by looting, you can still buy food by paying one coin. In the winter this means you will have to pay two coin because the winter is unforgiving and long, this takes two seasons. You need to supply your settlement with food in order to be able to build new ships, buildings or recruit new warriors.
You can build one warrior unit and one longboat at the time. If you want to build something, simply take the card or tile and place it up side down with the highest number on the top. With a longboat for example this is a three. That means it will cost you three coins and three seasons to build it. You can also make a sacrifice to the gods by placing a coin on the designated place in your settlement. If every player has decided what actions they want to take on this turn, the season will change. Every building or warrior you are recruiting, can be turned to the next lower number and the coin is placed back in the common supply. One less season left to build this building. For the sacrifice you have made, remove the coin to the common supply and take a benevolence of the Gods card and resolve it. A benevolence of the Gods card, can give you many different things that could help you in your battles for example. The buildings however, upgrade your settlement which can make producing warriors or longboats cheaper, stronger, and take less time to produce for example.
In order to win the game, you will need to collect the favor of the Gods. In order to gain this, you will need to upgrade your village, loot bigger villages/towns, and make sacrifices to the Gods. The first player who reaches the most right space on the favor of the Gods, wins the game. Before playing the game, I would recommend to still take a good look at the rulebook since it explains how to play Valhal really well, but also has excellent examples and a more detailed explanation.
Playthrough of the game.
In the middle of our game, with Tomasz ahead of gaining the favor of the Gods and having more warriors, well more of everything actually, we needed to roll the dice to see who could choose a village to raid first. This was it, my only chance this season to gain some glory and loot and there was only one village I wanted. We both rolled at the same time, and we both rolled five. Roll again. The tension was real. I rolled a four, decent enough, gave me a chance. But when I looked up and saw Tomasz his big smile, I knew my chances for this season were lost. Short after that, he gained enough favor of the Gods to win the game, leaving me defeated with my settlement.
Although we enjoyed Valhal, we do see some flaws in this game. We had a couple of games where one of us did everything right. Like upgrading our village, building our army, etc. We had a good chance of winning. But our opponent, because of pure luck with cards, won by doing almost nothing. The cards feel pretty unbalanced making it to easy to win and defeat your opponent. So if we are being honest, If we could choose between Valhal and Empires of the North for example, we would choose Empires of the North. That being said, the components are of good quality and there are many activities you need to do which makes the game different. What gives the most diversity are the events which will make you confront with choices or duals for example. Still, we would like to see the cards better balanced, more then four buildings and also more divers art for the warriors and longboats.
Valhal is a strategic adventure dice fighting game, where you can maintain and upgrade your settlement and raid other towns in order to get resources. The game has great components and there are many activities to do on each turn. But in our opinion the game is to unbalanced with the cards making it to easy to win and to much luck based. We definitely enjoyed Valhal, but if given the choice between Valhal and Empires of the North for example, we would go with Empires of the North.