There are now two expansions for the streamlined 4X game, Northgard: Uncharted Lands, Wilderness and Warchiefs. In this review, I’ll be looking at the Wilderness expansion. (Click here for my review of the Warchiefs expansion.)
In Northgard: Uncharted Lands, (shortened to Northgard for this review) players will add tiles to explore the landscape, add warriors to their clan, move into new territories, and battle rival clans to conquer lands and claim resources for their own. If you’re new to Northgard, I suggest reading my review of the original game, as I won’t be going over the base came components or gameplay in this expansion review.
The Wilderness expansion adds eight new Creatures and eleven new tiles—tiles that might spawn specific (very nasty) Creatures. If you play Northgard with the Creatures, this may be the expansion for you.
To reiterate one thing I mentioned in my review of the base game, playing without the Creatures turns Northgard into a race to be the first to build three large buildings in enclosed territories. While this type of race game may appeal to some people, for me, it only increases the luck of the draw with players adding tile after tile to the board in search of large building locations. Playing with the Creatures means each time you explore with a new tile, there’s a risk of introducing a threat to your territories, units, and resources. It forces players to build settlements closer together (increasing the chance of invasions) to hopefully mitigate the danger Creatures pose.
For the most part, the new Creatures all have higher strength values (7-9) than those in the base game (4-7). This means they are harder to defeat in battle and are more likely to cause problems for a longer time. For instance, when Draugr Jotunn enters a territory, you must either bribe him with two resources or he attacks; each time Hvedrung moves into a new territory he causes a second Creature to spawn in the same territory.
Of the eight new Creatures, only five have their accompanying cards shuffled into the standard Creature deck to possibly be drawn any time an explore action reveals a tile with a Creature den. The remaining three will appear only when their own special tiles are drawn. The two Spectral Warriors are raised from Ancestral Graveyard tiles and will negate the effects of any building in the territories they move into; the Wyvern spawns from its den and automatically removes one warrior before any combat. Killing the Wyvern anywhere other than its den simply sends it back to its lair to begin moving again at the end of the next year. The only way to truly kill it is to defeat it in its lair.
The other new tiles add some interesting touches. There are two High Peaks with an impassable diagonal line across the tile. Three tiles have a common area at their centers, one good (the Great Lake provides two food for the player with the largest number of units), one not so good (you can pass through the Swamp, but you’ll lose a unit) and one very not good (the Poisonous Swamp is not only impassable, but it kills off a unit in any adjacent territory).
As with Warchiefs, this is a fairly small expansion for the money. However, I think there’s a distinct difference between the two. Warchiefs adds components that could be improvised on your own with a little effort. However, the added tiles and Creatures in the Wilderness expansion do exactly what a good expansion should do: compliment the elements of the base game while adding some interesting twists. It’s a well-thought out addition to Northgard.
Although I wouldn’t call this an essential expansion, I do recommend Wilderness if you play Northgard with the Creatures. I’m so impressed with the new tiles and Creatures that I consider Wilderness to now be part of the base Northgard and won’t play without it.