This article is a little different from the usual, being two ‘mini reviews’ of the Raiders of the North Sea expansions Fields of Fame, and Hall of Heroes. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading The Boardgame Detective’s Raiders of the North Sea Review before digging into this article, it will give you some context.
Hall of Heroes
A new mead hall has been constructed in town, thus injecting a healthy amount of alcohol into the Raiders of the North Sea economy. This Hall of Heroes is a place to go and drink, be merry, and tell tales of one’s conquests. You might also meet some interesting adventurers there, or get some tips on exciting new quests to partake in!
Hall of Heroes makes several additions to the Raiders of the North Sea world. First off, the Mead Hall board provides a new action space where players can gather potential crew from a market style display. The Mead Hall also allows players to go on quests, trading in crew cards from hand for points and resources. The expansion also includes a generous number of new crew cards, boards for players to keep their crew and resources organised on, and pieces to allow for a 5th player.
The Good Stuff
- The Mead Hall’s crew market can help somewhat mitigate the randomness of drawing cards. If you are looking for something specific you might find it there rather than drawing for it. Or you may just prefer to take something you know rather than blind drawing.
- The mead tokens themselves (which you can get from taking actions at the Mead Hall) are a useful mechanic. When used, they add +1 temporary strength to a raid, so collecting a few through the game and spending them at crucial moments can be very useful for pushing up into the next points bracket on a raid.
- Quests offer a alternate avenue to getting points, with resources collected and the quests themselves adding up to a decent amount of points at the endgame.
- Allowing players to spend crew cards from their hands on quests adds more incentive to ‘churn’ through cards which in turn promotes drawing and playing more crew cards.
The Bad Stuff
- The Mead Hall crew market can easily stagnate as it’s only three cards. When this happens there is still some incentive to take crew from here if a player wants to do quests but it can lock up the usefulness of the crew market if they are all undesirable.
- It’s a bit hard to remember to deal out new quests after raids. We started losing track of where quests were supposed to go.
- Mead almost seems like a bonus ‘nice to have’ thing than a core mechanic. Some crew members allow you to focus a strategy around it but with so many crew cards in a base + expansions deck, it’s hard to get good synergies.
- The new orange player colour is very similar to the red from the base game. With indoor lighting it is quite hard to tell the two colours apart.
Fields of Fame
The settlements up north are starting to get sick of the constant ‘visits’ from us, it looks like they’ve got some of their own Jarls to step up and look after them! On the Fields of Fame we will do battle like never before, either taking prisoners or fighting to the death! There’s also a new Township discovered to the north, and it’s quite well defended. See if you can convince its defending Jarls to join your cause.
Fields of Fame adds Jarls as a new major mechanic, and also includes a new track which records a player’s ‘fame’. A new board adds on a township area with 3 more raid spaces, along with a spot for the Jarl deck. Jarl tokens are added to the plunder bag, and when raiding a spot with a Jarl, a random card is drawn from the Jarl deck which the player will need to dispatch by taking wounds of varying amounts depending on what they want to do. The expansion also includes a large number of new crew cards, a bunch of wound tokens, and pieces for a 5th/6th player.
The Good Stuff
- Jarls present a very attractive option but it’s a difficult decision to make. In order to acquire or kill one you need to take a lot of wounds on your crew, which will then either need to be healed or ‘dismissed’ (via death). It’s a simple addition that offers a variety of new gameplay options.
- The fame track offers yet another area to rack up some points, and makes the lower level raids more attractive to players as late game options. It offers some bonus points for exceeding the raid strength maximum.
- There are lots of interesting new town hall actions on the crew cards – I found myself using many more town hall actions versus the base game.
The Bad Stuff
- If you don’t plan ahead for after a Jarl raid you could get yourself into a poor position that would take a long time to recover from because of the wounds a Jarl fight will deal to your crew.
- With the Fields of Fame expansion (and the other together) there are so many crew cards in the deck it can take a while to get things you would like or find synergies. The variety is good and bad.
- Jarls sort of don’t feel as powerful as they look once you’ve gotten them. They have big strength and some small end game bonuses, but they come at a pretty big cost. It seems like winning them to your side should be more powerful than killing them.
Overall, What Do I Think?
I haven’t actually played either expansion separately, only both together. They don’t really interact with each other so it’s not out of scope for me to say that either on their own are good additions to Raiders of the North Sea. I like the new mechanics that each adds on to the game. They are just an extra minute each to explain during setup, but offer a massive amount of diversity in gameplay. After adding Hall of Heroes and Fields of Fame to the game, there are so many potential avenues to follow to victory, and a large amount of variability with lots cards and options available. I haven’t taken advantage of the extra players yet but I think this is a great feature, especially with the additional spaces for actions the expansions provide. I think that with these two expansions, Raiders of the North Sea moves from a light-mid level game to a much richer mid weight experience, and feels like a game I will be happy to play over and over again many more times in the future.