Calvin’s Commentaries: In the Name of Odin

There is something to be said for savvy marketing, and in the world of board games, great box top graphics go a long way toward attracting a player’s attention.

That is the first thing you notice with In the Name of Odin. The box art is rather stunning, and thankfully once you are lured by the art you find a very solid game inside the box.

In the Name of Odin is from designer Krzysztof Zięba and NSKN Games, who have combined to put together a very aesthetically pleasing game, where production has actually gone beyond what someone might expect. A case in point is the little plastic Norsemen. They could just as easily have been little wooden cubes, in some respects cubes might actually be more convenient, but the little ‘toy soldier-like’ Vikings do up the look of the game.

The gameplay here isn’t anything startlingly new, but the overall game experience is still about average, aided by the fact you are playing Vikings, which is always a cool thing to do.

Players have a hand of action cards which on their turn they use to construct new buildings in their village, gather companions (those little Viking sculpts), recruit famous Vikings and build longships that will carry them to fame and glory.

The hand of cards will never be large enough to do everything you might desire to do on a turn, but such is the reality of resource management games in general. The good news with Odin is that almost every card can be used to some advantage every turn. It might not be the most desired option, but it will help build toward some in-game goal over the longer term. You are rarely stuck with dead and useless cards clogging your hand.

So as the game’s webpage, (, denotes; “you are all brave warriors, shrewd traders, and bold explorers, but only one of you will become the new Jarl to rule in the name of Odin.”

While there are other things you must do to prepare in-game, ultimately you want to send out your longships filled with your Viking hordes to raid bringing back ‘victory points’ in the process.

“In essence, In the Name of Odin is an optimization race. As ambitious Northmen, you are trying to prove yourself as cunning leaders and bold raiders to gain the most Fame before the game’s inevitable end. To do that you will go on raids.

“Each Raid is a card that (depending on its position on the board) requires a longship of a certain range to reach, a combination of three types of Vikings under your banner, and a famous persona to lead the expedition. It means you will have to gather or build all these elements and turn them in to claim the Raid card and score its Fame value.”

The resources to make the raids possible come via the action cards.

“Each turn you will perform actions by expending action cards from your hand. Each of those cards carries two symbols: one with a Viking group (warrior, trader or sailor), and one with an action type. At the end of each round you will draw cards to refill your hand so that you’re able to think of your next moves while other players act,” explains the website.

“Expending an action card means discarding it and choosing a Viking or action symbol. Viking symbols allow you to recruit shield-brothers – and the more of a single type you expend, the more Vikings will join you. The action icons allow you to build new structures or ships and to make a powerful ally – a Viking hero who will join you on a raid, or lend their special ability during time spend on land.”

While this game is generally a tight one; the rules work, the cards are useful, the choices each turn varied, there is one rule that annoyed me a lot.

After a raid, players have the option to play cards to try to impact the fame a player gains. He can opt to play a card and the raider has to match the symbol. If players chose not to play a card three random ones are used. Since cards are limited, the raider is hard pressed to respond, especially to all three, so generally, the raid fame is always reduced.

The players who do play a card do so with impunity since they draw a new card immediately.

It’s all a drawn-out process that seems to have only one good reason to exist, a way for players to gamble in tossing a card they don’t want to draw what they hope is better, but since all cards can almost always be used that is a thin reason for a rather clunky, uninteresting, and most certainly not needed, game mechanic.

“Each building you put in your village unlocks its unique ability and grants you an action symbol you can use once during your turn. Each ship allows you to reach certain raids and offers you its own special ability. Through a combination of cards in your hand, and a growing tableau of abilities and icons you will be able to resolve your actions more effectively – or with more of an impact on the game.

Also, anything you build during the game will score you fame – and although Raids are the key to victory, you’ll also be able to build much of your final score and what you’ve achieved as a leader and a shipwright. And as combinations of different abilities are limitless, you will play a different game every time you sit down to In the Name of Odin.”

There are a number of Viking-themed games in our collection, and while Odin might not be the best of those, it is a game still to be highly recommended as being one with lots of choices, and generally above average gameplay.

Thanks to fellow gamers Jeff Chasse, Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running throughout this game for review.

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