Review: The North Sea Runesaga

In honor of the Kickstarter running right now for the expansions to Raiders of the North Sea, I’m looking at all three of the North Sea Trilogy of games this week. I’ll also be giving my thoughts on the overall semi-game the North Sea Runesaga as well. If you enjoy these games like I do, head over to the Kickstarter and check it out.

Capping off the entire North Sea trilogy of games that I’ve talked about of the the last three posts (Shipwrights, Raiders, and Explorers), is the North Sea Runesaga. This is a unique game add on. It’s a series of goals and objectives you can earn while playing all three of the North Sea games. Each game has six objectives you can earn called rune stones. These rune stones have an objective and then a benefit (the Explorers stones do not have a benefit). The objective is for the game you’re playing, and then the benefit is what you’ll get to use as a bonus in the next game. So for example, if I construct enough ships in Shipwrights to earn me 9 military, I can earn a rune stone that grants me the ability to buy extra armor in Raiders.

To prepare the Runesaga, you’ll take the three inscription rune stones and lay those out on the top board. Then separate the rune stones by game. Take the rune stones for Shipwrights and shuffle them, setting aside the rune stones for Raiders and Explorers for now. Lay out three of the Shipwrights rune stones on the bottom board face up and place the other three face down beside the board. The three face up rune stones are the objectives you’ll race to earn in game. Once the game is done, you’ll give two of the face down rune stones to the winner, and one to the player in second place. Then you’ll repeat the process for Raiders, and then once again for Explorers.

In addition to the rune stones you earn in game and for winning are the three inscription rune stones I mentioned above. These are earned for matching inscriptions on your earned rune stones. Each rune stone has one or two inscription symbols on it. If you can match three of the same symbol first, you’ll take the inscription rune stone that matches that symbol.

Once you’ve finished playing Explorers, you’ll count up your rune stones, and the player with the most wins the Runesaga. If there is a tie, whoever has the most face down rune stones from directly winning the games wins.

It’s a bit of an undertaking to play the trilogy all at once. It’s pretty close to a 4 hour experience. It took us a bit longer to do so because we hadn’t played Shipwrights or Explorers before playing the Runesaga. In our experience with two players, it wasn’t super great. It was neat to have objectives and goals in game that I might not have normally went for in order to gain a rune stone. But it felt like once one of us got ahead, it was hard for the other player to catch up. I ended up with eight rune stones to Rachael’s three. I don’t see this being as much of a problem with more players though, because the number of available rune stones remains the same as in a two player game, so there’s a lower chance that only one player could get them all. I’m eager to test this theory out, but haven’t had the chance to get three or four players to try the Runesaga yet.

You also have the option to play with the rune stones along side just one of the games. So if you want to play Raiders only, you can grab just three of the rune stones for that game and set them out as objectives. Each rune stone’s inscription is worth extra points at the end of the game depending on which of the three games you’re playing. We did this with two of the games, but found it to be kind of boring and not very exciting. Plus the number of points you get for inscriptions doesn’t seem to be as much of a bonus in Raiders or Explorers, though it could be just enough to make up some ground in Shipwrights since the scores are lower in that game.

Overall, I think it’s a neat game/expansion/add-on. I’m happy to have it, though I don’t know how often I’ll play through it. I’m estimating I could probably get a few people together a couple times a year to play the Runesaga, even though I see myself playing the individual games of the North Sea Trilogy a lot more than that. Do I think it’s necessary? Not really. But if you’re going to buy the three games, I’d recommend getting this to try it. It’s an interesting concept and it’s one I’d like to see more games attempt. I’m already thinking of how to make a version of this to play with Catan and it’s various expansions. Or maybe Ticket to Ride in a world wide kind of travel game.