On Saturday night Sally had sadly succumbed to the bug I'd had all week, so she retired to bed early - before the boys did, even. Unable to entice the Thursday night crew over at short notice, I decided to take the plunge and try out A Feast for Odin.
This is the Rosenberg of Rosenberg games: like Agricola and co, you send out your workers (Vikings in this instance) to chop wood and so on, but whereas those options were plentiful in Agricola and substantial in Caverna, they are positively multitudinous here. If you're the starting player you have over 60 options to choose from, and it's more than a mite bewildering.
What did vikings do? They harvested. They domesticated animals. They made milk, and sheared wool. They turned wool into fetching garb. They hunted and foraged, chopped down trees and hewed stone, with which to build ships and sheds. They went fishing. Or whaling. They went on raids. They plundered and pillaged. They discovered new lands. They forged weapons and set snares. They upgraded, and arranged their bounty geometrically on a personal player board in order to avoid penalty points. They did a whole plethora of things, and on a first play it felt to me like our friend Uwe had perhaps tried to put too many of them into one game...
The game moves through a number of phases (twelve) many of which are the essence of brevity. The longest phase - I forget which number - and the meat of the game, is viking placement. Go out and get stuff, with the caveat that the more rewarding spots will ask more vikings of you: there are four columns of getting stuff, and from left to right you need 1,2,3 or 4 vikings to take that spot. Occasionally one viking may return to you, if your hunt was rubbish or you failed to whale. I guess they're bringing you the bad news. You do have a lot of vikings though - a dozen by the end of the game - so sometimes it makes sense to grab these expensive spots.
I played as two players, myself and Dirk. Initially my plan was to simply try out all the available options; but two things stopped me. One was that some of the options aren't free, but demand some kind of payment or at least a nautical condition (ie: have a boat) in place. The other was that I got concerned by the sight of mine and Dirk's playerboards lying near-empty, accruing no income, and inviting a whopping negative penalty for not filling 'em up before the end of the final round.
my board, earlyish
Dirk's board, empty. But with a sheep.
I moved to remedy this and found - with one exception - that I had some reasonable success at sea, being a bastard with some lucky die rolls (die rolls! It's like Uwe is disobeying his mum).
This allowed me to gather blue stuff (the best kind of board-filling stuff, even better than green!) whilst keeping enough orange and red stuff to feed the hungry vikings at my table, come the end of each round. Dirk was at the mercy of my more scattergun decisions, but I did allow him to purchase two sheep and - eventually - cattle as well. He also emigrated: losing a boat, but gaining points and making his 'feast' easier to feed, as it had less vikings knocking around.
The currency of the game - as well as silver - is the aforementioned stuff, which you are using to fill up your playerboard, representing your, vikingness, I guess. It might be food, or mead, or clothing, but they are all thematically vikingy. For all the theme in the options, this placement part is a bit abstract/mad. But it's also what makes the game - to me, anyway - intriguing, in the same way Patchwork and Cottage Garden (also by Uwe, who knows how to milk a cow) are intriguing. They just happen to be much, much simpler.
my board at game end
With Dirks cows producing milk and his sheep wool, the last couple of rounds saw him suddenly holding a veritable basket of blue and green stuff which brought him back into contention on the boards. His emigrated ship - now unable to do anything for him at sea - began to look like a good decision too, garnering him 18 points to my 13 (for two ships!). Points come from a variety of sources, but are impacted upon by uncovered space on your player board. We scored diabolically, both of us finishing in the red:
And I realised despite my thirst for adventure - placement-wise - neither of us had gone off to explore new lands (Greenland, Baffin Island, etc) despite hearing that silver was incongruously accruing there, as though falling out of a tern's arse. We were both in fear of having more space we needed to fill to avoid negative points, which was the same reason neither of us explored, or built a shed. Nor did we garner any of the treasures. I couldn't envisage taking on another objective beyond the one I'd started with.
And I must admit, I packed it away shaking my head, not sure how much of the underwhelm I felt was down to the tail end of that shitty bug I'd had all week, and how much of it was down to the game. But... in the few days since, I have kept on thinking about this Feast and wanting to revisit it, even if it's just Dirk and I again... In fact, it might be wise if it was just Dirk and I for now, as I'm not sure I could explain it all yet!
So - the jury is out, for now, as to whether this is Uwe's magnum opus or an exercise in option-based shark-jumping. I need to go back to find out.