Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why I Like - Fire & Axe, A Viking's Saga


Well at least it seemed that about a year ago there was a strong influx of games themed around the maraudering exploits of sea going Scandinavians who were out there pillaging and plundering cities. The Vikings had arrived in gaming full force and the games were appearing to be aplenty. I assumed that trend would continue and the popularity of the pirate theme would wane. Though as it turns out the tide of these games ebbed and the pirate theme remained strong and popular amongst the gamer community. So perhaps I should rethink my battle cry above.


...and that's how we like it anyway! Leave those other pansy, Johnny Depp wanna-be's to their silly stumbling about's and let's get to the business of violence! Though as it turns out a lot of these games tend to (as so many games do) not have a lot of the violent tendencies that we know and love (cause it's human to romanticize the curelty once some centuries have passed) of these violent peoples. (Not to mention I'm a huge pirate game fan count me in those numbers I just ridiculed as well.)

Which brings me squarely to my favorite Viking game Fire and Axe!

So I know this a remake of an older game that I never got to play (though it was one that I had in my wants list for a long long time) and I'm good with that. I'm a real fan of Asmodee and was happy to see they of all game companies, had picked it up. Although I was highly curious about the game I have to admit I did have some reservations too. So I was hoping to play it before buying it but just seemed like no one I knew was willing to take the chance on it either. I finally found a gently used and in immaculate condition used copy at a gaming convention and the owner said he'd be more than willing to throw it down and teach me the game right then and there...SOLD! I should say it's never been even a small inkling of regret having purchased this game.

I like this game for several reason but the first and foremost is I see this as a game that marries the American and Euro games so very nicely. I've wanted a hybrid game for a long time and this game does just that. It's got the rip roaring theme and beautiful plastic ships and crewman of a American game. Then you start to teach the game. What's this? We are vying for victory points and attempting to complete the current saga cards that are on the table and there is no such thing as ship to ship combat? How Euro like is that? Wait a second our success however is based on dice rolling and saga's can come out that are already completed so they get that feels very American. Yet someone can look like they are a strong contender for victory until the end game scoring comes along and snatches it away (Settlements do feel like farm scoring to me in Carcassonne) very Euro indeed. BUT there is no score track it's just the piles of treasure you amassed that wins you the game AMERICAN! Damn I love this game. It is if you ask me the perfect blend I've been looking for. I think perhaps that is why some people are so strongly against it though. They wanted either a stronger American game or a more precise Eruo focus and it didn't work for those types of gamers.

I love the detail put into the look of this game. The ships are beautiful resting on the waves of the oceans. The axe held in the crewman's hands is not raised but held at their waist readied for whatever may come. The board looks like a torn and tattered map unfolded onto the table. The rune cards depictions are all fantastic.

I like the core mechanics of the game. Simple to explain to new players and very quickly picked up. I love the ability to let someone work on a saga card for a turn or two and then sneak in behind them and finish it for them taking full credit with the nation for yourself. Granted they still get the points for the work they did but they card goes to you and that can be big...or not just depends on the particulars of the game at that time.

I actually like the run time on this one. Even with new players it doesn't drag as after a turn or two most players are able to know exactly what they want to accomplish on their turn and will take their actions quickly.

I love the rune cards. I'm a big action card fan in games and these cards are superbly developed for this game. Shakes things up and is well rounded...don't be fooled you must take rune cards even though it costs you actions. At the same time with the hand maximum of 3 no one can be so overly powerful to unbalance things.

Fire and Axe is simply put a great game. It's an honor to have it in my collection.

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