Review: Raiders of the North Sea

Today’s review is of Raiders of the North Sea, the second game in the North Sea trilogy by Garphill Games. It plays 2-4 players, however there are two expansions on Kickstarter right now that will expand the game by one player for each expansions you use, up to a total of 6. Raiders is a worker placement game with a unique twist. All the workers exist in a shared pool on the board. Each turn you’ll place a worker on the board, and take a worker from the board. You’ll spend your turn placing a worker and taking the actiIf you took it off one of the locations in the Village, you’ll perform a second action. This way you always have one worker in your area at the end of the turn.

The board is divided into two areas, the village and raiding locations. The village is largely used to take actions that give you cards, let you play cards, and then get supplies like silver and provisions. The raiding locations are where you then take those supplies along with hired crew members to attack a location like the Harbour, Monastery, Outpost, and Fortress.

The game ends once one of three things occurs. Either the Offering stack is depleted, there are no Valyries on the board, or only one Fortress still has resources on it. Once that happens all players get one more round, and then the game is over and players count up their final points from the various point tracks and offerings they collected. Whoever has the most points wins.

This is my favorite of the North Sea games. It was the first one I played, and also the one with the most depth. When I heard there were two expansions coming out to Kickstarter it was a no brainer backing and I backed it in the middle of the night because it went up according to New Zealand time.

The place one take one aspect is a nice twist on worker placement games. Because some spaces are limited by the type of worker you have, the shuffling of workers means you need to plan well to make sure you have everything in place when it’s your turn to go. But it also means you sometimes don’t want to take certain actions with the workers you have. For example, the Silversmith gives you three coins when you use a black worker on it, and only two coins with a grey. But with a white you could take two coins or a gold. So in some ways the grey workers is the worst worker to use there, and you probably want to use a black one. But you usually shed the black workers early on in order to get the more powerful grey and white workers. This leads you to end up keeping one black worker around for a long time in order to use it’s abilities on some spaces, but then you sometimes get stuck with that worker and it can’t use as many spaces as the other two. So you have this back and forth of when to get upgrade and when to hold that leads to interesting decisions.

The random layout of the plunder on the table does have an effect on the game, sometimes ending it quickly and other times dragging it out. All depending on where it gets distributed means what spaces are more valuable change with each game. I have yet to find one direct strategy that works exactly the same each game. I’ve seen players do very well by blitzing to the highest spaces on the board for the most raiding points and some players do very well by taking the easy low point raiding spots but turning their plunder into points through offerings. The expansions appear to add a whole other variety of options to choose from which I’m excited to try.

Overall, this is my favorite of the North Sea games. It was the first one I played and I think it is the best. Anyone I’ve played it with has automatically enjoyed it and it is one I’ll always play. It has earned a permanent spot in my top 10 games.