If you had asked me in 2016 which game I thought really needed an expansion, the last one that would have come to mind was A Feast For Odin. It’s a massive game, jam packed with options to choose from and critical decisions to be made. Where could you go when the game is pretty much already perfect? Well, as it turns out, Uwe Rosenberg wasn’t done just yet. Working together with one of his original play testers and the author of the almanac included with the base game, Gernot Köpke, the Norwegians expansion was born.
This expansion introduces several new elements, replaces a few old ones, addresses some balancing issues, and even paves the way for future expansion material.
Among other things, the Norwegians introduces two new animal types: the pig and the horse. Like the cattle and sheep in the base game, horses only spawn new offspring every other round once they’ve begun breeding. Unlike the base game, pigs will spawn new pigs every single round once they’ve begun breeding. Because of this, the pigs aren’t worth very many points, but what they lack in point value, they make up for in utility because of their unique shape. Some areas that used to take 3 or 4 different tiles to enclose now only take 1 or 2 because of this. Very handy indeed!
Also brand new to the game are the artisan sheds. These are double-sided buildings which are randomly dealt out to the players during setup. Now, instead of constructing one of the sheds that are available to all players, a player can opt to construct either side of their artisan shed instead. Each of these sheds require different criteria in order to fill as well as providing different bonuses and even some extra income. Aside from the island boards, they are the only way to increase your income outside of your main player board.
This expansion introduces a new kind of boat for use with the “emigration” action. In the base game, once you purchased a fishing boat, you were stuck with it for the entirety of the game. That is no longer the case. Now you have the ability to “emigrate” this boat, adding it to the feast section of your board where it will not only decrease your food cost, but will also be worth more points at the end of the game.
There are even several new treasures as well as a new board to place them on. This new board corresponds to a new action on the new and improved action board (which we’ll get to in a moment).
The New Actions Board
The actions board in the base game consists of a single board and uses all of the same actions regardless of player count. In the Norwegians, the new actions board has been divided into 3 distinct double-sided boards. The number of people playing will determine which sides of which boards get used. In many cases, several of the available actions from the base game have been combined into a single “either/or” action. This has the net result of making the board tighter at different player counts.
To better illustrate this, take a look at the top section of the action board from the base game:
Now compare it to the top section of the first board from the Norwegians expansion which contains the building, hunting, and livestock market actions.
As you can see, the second and third column actions have been combined together and the costs for performing several of the actions has been altered as well. If you are particularly astute, you may also notice that there is now a fifth column. Actions in this column will cost you 1 or 2 Vikings (your choice), but using them will immediately bring your turn to an end regardless of how many unused Vikings you may have left over. If you use 2 Vikings to perform this action, you can immediately play an Occupation card from your hand or discard it for victory points (another new feature added with this expansion).
The second board contains the weekly market, products, crafting, and mountains and trade actions. Of particular notice is the 5th column action in the crafting section. This new action allows a player to spend 1 ore to pick up any of the forge-able treasures that have a value of 9 or less.
The third and final board includes the sailing and emigration and occupation actions. There are a few significant changes here as well. Along with the inclusion of the aforementioned fishing boat emigration action, the island exploration actions have been reworked. In the base game, each of the different islands was listed by name along with an indication of which boat types a player must have in order to explore them. This is no longer the case. Now there’s just a generic image of an island showing the boats needed.
A similar notation now appears at the top right of each of the island boards (of which there are four new ones). The islands from the base game have been reprinted for this expansion and now include the new notation as well. The notation depicts which boats are required as well as which column of the action board is associated with the island in question.
As I was reading the new rules sheet for the Norwegians expansion, I started to feel a bit dismayed. From the way it looked on paper, it seemed like this was going to be one of the expansions that requires a constant shuffling and replacing of different bits and pieces whenever I want to play with it. However, this expansion is nothing like that at all. After replacing the old stuff with the new components, I found that this expansion was very easy to incorporate. If there weren’t a new components tray included with the expansion, I would probably be singing a different tune. However, this new tray keeps all of the new bits and pieces nicely organized.
There was so much extra room in that tray that I was able to fill the empty compartments with other pieces from the base game that had previously been stored in plastic bags. Doing this enabled me, with a bit of finagling, to fit both the base game and the expansion content into the base game box with the lid almost flush. I just keep the old components in the expansion box. With a game collection as large as mine, shelf space is at a premium, so this is a huge plus for me. I like everything to be as compact as possible.
I think that my favorite thing about this expansion are the double-sided action boards. One of the biggest issues that I had with the base game (particularly at lower player counts) was that even if I took a good action off of the board, there was often another similar action still available to my opponent even if it weren’t as good as the one I had deprived them of. By combining certain actions into “either/or” situations, that kind of thing is not only eliminated, but the choice of which action to perform becomes even more crucial. If you consider the topmost second column actions from the base game, for example, I could potentially build a stone house and then come back in a later turn and build a knarr. At the 1 – 3 player count in this expansion, though, that is no longer an option. By selecting the new second column action which combines the two, I am not only depriving my opponent from using the action, but I am also depriving myself of an action as well. And that’s part of the magic that only Uwe Rosenberg can bring to the table. By removing a choice, he’s actually added a much more interesting one. I love it!
The addition of the new islands, new treasures, and animal types is fun, but they don’t feel like they’re really needed. While they do have the effect of adding some extra choices, they don’t feel like very interesting choices. That being said, they’re so integral to the new action board, that there’s no way to avoid using them (although you can mix and match the base game islands any way that you wish – even going so far as to use all 8 of them). And speaking of islands, I think that it was a stroke of genius to use iconography for these as opposed to printed text. This allows for the easy addition and removal of any existing or future island tiles. There’s already one mini-expansion out there that features different islands and now there’s the potential for even more.
Also noteworthy is the new rule that allows you to discard cards for victory points. There are several 4 point tokens, slightly more 3 point tokens, and even more 2 point tokens now included in the game. Instead of playing an Occupation card, you can discard it and take the highest value token which scores you the printed number of points at the end of the game. There were many, many times in the base game where I would find myself holding a handful of useless cards. The ability to convert these cards into something useful is game changing. I’m pretty sure there’s a strong strategy to be pursued here, but I haven’t gotten brave enough to try it yet. One day!
My only real regret about the Norwegians expansion is the omission of an almanac. If you read my review of the base game, you’ll recall that the almanac was a huge deal for me. I loved reading the history behind the different elements that I was seeing in the game. I mean, what’s the difference between the Vikings from the base game and the Norwegians from this expansion? Is there even a difference? Are they one and the same? I honestly couldn’t tell you, but I’ll bet that I could if there had been an almanac.
Aside from that one negligible complaint, I have nothing but love for this expansion. I’ve really enjoyed my experiences with it. It doesn’t add a lot of complexity to the game, it’s very easy to incorporate, and it had the added benefit of being able to reside in the base game box. For those reasons, I can’t ever see myself NOT playing with the Norwegians expansion going into the future. Is it an absolute must-have expansion? Probably not. But you won’t regret it if you do wind up buying it. It’s a sound addition to an already amazing game.