Fjordar is an epic, historical wargame for up to six players set in the Norwegian civil war that raged from 1130 to 1240. At the start of the game, you take on the role of one of the Heirs of Sigurd Jorsalfare, vying for power in the torn kingdom. You add new generations of pretenders to your hand, as history unfolds quickly on the board in front of you. – Go To Pieces Games
Players: 2-4 Players
DISCLAIMER: I played the game on Tabletop Simulator for the purposes of this review. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, but rather to go through a general overview, how it plays and my reaction to it. If you’re interested in the game, be sure to sign up to be notified of their launch on Kickstarter happening in the first half of 2021.
How To Play Fjordar
The rules of Fjordar are currently located here.
Set up the board and terrain tiles as you wish.
Each turn, play a card with movement points and special abilities to move units and establish supply lines. Immediately resolve battles if you end up within enemy territory. At the end of each turn, units can perform various action-based locations on the board and collect victory points.
The end of game is triggered when one player reaches 50 victory points. At that time, everyone else also gets one additional turn. The player with the most victory points then wins.
Firstly, I can’t geek out about this 3D board enough; it was actually the main thing that drew me to Fjordar in the first place. The hex tiles that make up the board are stacked up piece by piece to create interesting terrain that require special movements to move through. For example, you can’t move up or down a Cliff without a special card. In another example, you can whip out a sled (with your handy dandy Christmas card) to slide down from the highest elevation to the lowest one all in one move. Brilliant.
Not only does the 3D board bring incredible table presence to Fjordar, but it also helps add a layer of strategy to your gameplay (those Hird and Leidang units situated on a higher terrain level increase your total strength in battle) and endless replayability (the board is modular, so can be rearranged in countless ways).
I only had the opportunity to play the game on TTS, but I’ve been informed that with the physical version of the board, the terrain setup is kind of a game within itself. In the physical version, players work to build up the most beneficial terrain for their hiers while also trying to eliminate as many advantages for others as possible.
Seriously, the board itself and the depth it adds to the gameplay through simple movement and clever unit actions is reason enough to get a copy of this game. However, obviously there is much more to love.
One of the things I also really appreciate about Fjordar is how closely it stays true to the theme. The character cards that are released as we progress through the game (and through the 100-year timeframe) build up to more effective powers in combat and movement, giving a nod to the advancement of humanity. The Hird and Leidang units also tear through forests to create longships, tax villages for gold, conquer enemy castles, and build and burn nearby churches – much like what history writes.
From the beginning, the starter cards in your hands are quite simple, but you get to be very strategic right from your first turn. It matters greatly where you end up moving to, which beacons you capture, which islands you conquer, where you move your longships and locations you situate your army. One of the mechanics at play is the quick movement through your supply line, indicated by the placement of the control cubes. A Hird or Leidang unit can move through any connected supply line (of your own color) with just one movement point even through numerous hexes and terrain levels. This allows for large swathes of your army to move quickly through various parts of the board, but also can leave you lacking in defences – constantly a fine balance to keep.
Although this game is themed around the Norwegian civil war, there’s actually not as much gruesome battling as I anticipated. And really, this is not a bad thing at all since battle and combat in games like this (and in 4X games) can be demoralizing for some who don’t have the right troops built up. Yes there are still a lot of opportunities to battle in this game as units move through the board, but many of the battle cards do not have “lose” conditions that force you to kill off some of your units at play.
The 3D board is to die for, but honestly I also had a tough time getting used to the different terrain levels on the board itself. It was especially rough the first time around as you’re trying to get used to the different terrain levels and how to move each of the units to and from while calculating how many movement points you need. I can say that I was not confident enough to use some of the special movement abilities, mostly because I couldn’t really correspond those abilities to the terrain levels. BUT – I would say, though, that I’m attributing this mostly to the game being on TTS. I’m almost 100% sure that having a physical game board in front of me with pieces forming three dimensional terrain levels would undoubtedly remove this minor qualm I had about the 3D board.
Since there is so much depth into the strategy that you can roll out with just the movement and special end-of-turn actions, it can take some time to get through the game. This is especially true if you play with those who like to map out every single possible move combination and their consequences (because there are MANY each round).
Since the game takes you through the Norwegian civil war, the art and illustrations are quite dark and gothic-y. This type of art is not my favorite for a game (very subjective, and if you like it, I’m glad!), but I can see why it was chosen to fit in well with the theme itself. The thing most notable now, though, are the components and level of detail which are included in them. Everything from the church to the village to the longships are beautifully made (at least from what I see on TTS and the images on the Go To Pieces Games website).
The board immediately attracted me to Fjordar and the gameplay did not disappoint. I am in love with the strategic nuances the board provides and the myriad of options each player has to engage with.
Learning and playing this for the first time reminded me of my introduction to Terraforming Mars – I was completely overwhelmed by the game and the level of strategy required, yet obsessed with how it plays and the choices I get to make each turn. Now Terraforming Mars is one of my favorite games, and I can see this one very quickly climbing the ranks.
Absolutely get this game if you love the table presence of the 3D board (because the functionality of it runs deeper than its beauty) or if you enjoy area control games with a bit of push-your-luck combat system.
Fjordar will be on Kickstarter in the first half of 2021. Make sure to click to be notified when they launch.