A Feast for Odin is the latest from Uwe Rosenberg of Agricola fame, a worker placement game in an age of Vikings, of farming, of exploration, of good old raiding, pillaging and plundering. You complete with other Viking tribes to gain the most victory points, earned through a variety of different channels like exploring new lands, whaling, or raising livestock. Most importantly, you discover and plunder new lands and build your treasure chest by completing a Tetris-y puzzle. Every turn takes you through a series of phases, ending with a Feast for Odin where you actually line up food items for consumption!
First time through so I can’t comment knowledgeably on it, but it didn’t seem as nasty as some games I’ve seen. Eclipse, as an example, has a lot more going on in terms of a setup.
The game has several interesting mechanics that all work together really well. The three most interesting are the multi-phase turn system, the Income Track and the Feast. The multi-phase turn system marches everyone through seven turns, all with 12 complete phases. All the players start with the same number of Vikings and build their tribes at the same one-Viking-per-turn rate. The Income Track is an interesting, interlocking Tetris-y puzzle that allows you a variety of ways to complete it, while balancing that with exploration tiles, which include more Tetris-y puzzles that draw from the same pool of puzzle pieces. The same puzzle pieces can be part of the Feast, which is part of every turn during one of the later phases. You will prepare a “meal” of salted meat, fish, beans, flax, mead and other items, and may have opportunities to gain bonuses based on cards you’ve played.
Theme & Components
The components for Feast of Odin are all really nice and functional, without being excessively nice and expensive. You use fairly plain, colorful wooden meeple as your Viking pieces, and colorful tiles made of sturdy cardboard for many of your other actions and activities, finished with hi-gloss for the art, think Agricola for an example. Overall, the components are as sturdy and beautiful as you could want from a game, the art on them is really thoughtful and beautiful and creates a feeling of a far north, seafaring Viking culture.
While exploring, raiding and pillaging are part of the game, it also deals with other aspects like farming and whaling, all of which really just fuel your economy so you can focus on exploring, raiding and pillaging. While you do get to do these things, the mechanics for doing them that leaves me feeling a bit wanting. Your Viking figures are fine as placement workers, but you never really get the feeling of taking anyone to battle. Exploring a territory gives you another Tetris-style block to fill out. The Tetris-y blocks are interesting but they don’t really fit a Viking theme, the way the wheel of time fits the theme of Tzolkin like a glove. Still, the game’s production is first-rate, and the art and components work well together.
Perhaps it’s because it was only my first game and I didn’t accomplish a whole lot, but this is where the game falls short for me. Sure you do things, you build up some economy, you build some boats, you explore some lands, but there’s nothing really accomplished by the end of the game. Your economy and exploration are represented by a Tetris-y assortment of blocks, which are kind of fun to fill up, but don’t really leave me with a sense of accomplishment. Compare to Rosenberg’s Agricola, by the end of the game, you have a farm, specializing in some combination of crops, animals, a house, a family, and several occupations and improvements. This game leaves you with a completed Tetris block. You do get to “prepare” some interesting meals with meat, vegetables, grains, drink and more, but that’s still a little thin for me in terms of building or doing something. There’s an aspect of exploring new lands, but it’s the same lands every game and everything is sort of set in stone for them, you’re not really “exploring” the way you do in some exploration games. The game is well done enough to want to try it again and see if there’s more to this section.
A single play hasn’t left me with a strong impression of how long it takes to play, but the impression I do get is that it’s not quick, and probably not a game I’d play more than once in a sitting. As far as playing it again, though, there are a lot of different options and paths to victory, different ways to specialize and different lands to explore. It will be several plays before I’ve done them all and I want to at least get that far.
There’s no question it’s a good, thoughtful game with many interesting mechanics that work together very well, many strategic directions one can take, and first-rate production and theme. At the same time, filling out a bunch of Tetris-y blocks isn’t really my idea of fun, like slaying opponents in combat or conquesting the galaxy. There is an exploration component to it and enough thematic feel that I’d definitely play it again, and I think it’s likely that it will be showing up in our group. Maybe I’ll get over the Tetris thing, but I don’t know, it just didn’t do it for me like building a farm in Rosenberg’s Agricola or exploring the galaxy in Eclipse. Furthermore, I like Vikings well enough but am not particularly enamored by them. I’d rather be slaying monsters, seeing Star Wars characters duel, or terraforming planets in our solar system. But it’s a better thought out game than most of those are going to be, with enough of a theme to keep you engaged. There will be more to come, I’m sure.