On March 1, 2017 Shem Phillips launched a Kickstarter for two expansions for his hit game Raiders of the North Sea: Hall of Heroes and Fields of Fame. Each of these two expansions adds unique elements to the game that simultaneously address some of the base game’s flaws as well as adding an extra level of excitement to the experience.
In this review, I am going to assume that you have already read our review of Raiders of the North Sea or already have a good idea of how to play. If you aren’t familiar with it, then I encourage you to go familiarize yourself with it now before you continue.
Hall of Heroes
Hall of Heroes adds new components to the game in the form of a Mead Hall board which sits flush alongside the bottom of the main game board, some new Townsfolk cards, Mead tokens, Quest tiles, and Reputation tiles. There are also six player boards included. During setup the Townsfolk cards get shuffled in along with the cards from the base game. That deck is set off to the side and three cards are turned face up into the marked locations on the Mead board.
This is the first big change to the game. In addition to being able to blind draw cards from the Gate House, Hall of Heroes gives you an additional avenue for recruitment, a place where you know what you’ll be getting. Each time one of these Townsfolk are selected (by placing or removing a worker from the Mead Hall’s lone action location) and added to a player’s hand, the remaining cards slide to the right and a new card is drawn and placed into the leftmost position.
Now, you might be asking yourself: what if all three of the displayed cards are garbage? Well, Hall of Heroes gives you an impetus to take cards that may not be the greatest in the form of Mead. Mead provides a method for a player to artificially inflate the overall strength of their crew during a raid. For each Mead assigned to a crew member, that crew member gains an extra strength. The Mead is then discarded at the end of the raid.
In the base game, one of the chief complaints was that if your opponents kept getting lucky with their card draws, then they could gather up the strength necessary to raid the higher point value locations much faster than their opponents. Mead provides the players an alternate route to overcome this shortfall. And it’s deliciously thematic to boot!
The last thing that Hall of Heroes adds to the game is the concept of Quests. During setup, the Quest tiles are shuffled and placed into a face down pile. Now, each time a raid is performed, a Quest is drawn from the pile and placed face up into the just vacated location. Each Quest tile features an icon that dictates how much strength the player needs to discard from their hand in order to complete the quest, as well as an image which describes the Quest’s type. If a player is able to discard cards from their hand with a combined strength equal to or exceeding the strength printed on the Quest (using the Mead Hall action location), then they will take the Quest tile and place it above their player board in the marked space. Completing Quests provides a varying number of victory points at the end of the game based on how many you’ve completed. The more you complete, the higher that value will be.
Quests also add a set collection element to the game. Each Quest has a specific type which is shown in the illustration on the tile. During setup, four Reputation tiles will have been randomly selected and placed onto the board in the marked locations. Reputation tiles are awarded to the first four players that are able to complete three Quests of the same type (regardless of which type it is) and will award the player with whatever is depicted on the tile. These awards come in the form of free resources (gold, provisions, cards, etc.) or the ability to perform an action at a discount. Once collected, the Reputation tiles are also placed above the player board.
Thoughts of Hall of Heroes
In the world of board games, you’ve got two primary types of game expansions: those that fix problems that were present in the base game and those that add extra content and/or change the game in some significant way (oftentimes making the game seem like an entirely different game). Hall of Heroes is more of the former and less of the latter. And I am perfectly fine with that. Unlike Shipwrights of the North Sea which almost requires its expansion in order to be playable, Raiders of the North Sea stands on its own two sea legs just fine without the need of an expansion to prop it up. Its issues weren’t so great as to create an unenjoyable experience, so Hall of Heroes just serves to tweak a few minor things that were perfectly serviceable in order to make them even better.
More importantly, though, Hall of Heroes introduces new paths to victory. No longer do you have to be the greatest raider in order to foster realistic hopes of winning. The Quest tiles give players a way to sort of piggyback on other players’ successes. I really dig this aspect of this expansion and I’m a big fan of the set collection element that’s been integrated into it.
Questing is, hands down, the strongest part of this expansion, but the addition of Mead is pretty nifty, too. That ability to stimulate your crew strength is undeniably powerful. It also has the net effect of hastening the end of the game which is nice in a game like Raiders of the North Sea which can sometimes start to feel a little long.
Overall, I am a fan of Hall of Heroes. So much so, in fact, that I never play Raiders of the North Sea without it.
Fields of Fame
The Fields of Fame expansion adds a Township board that sits flush alongside the right side of the game board, thirty Townsfolk cards that are shuffled into the Townsfolk deck during setup, fifteen Jarl cards, Wound tokens, Jarl tokens which are added to the Plunder bag, scoring markers for each player, and six Encounter boards. During setup the Jarl cards are shuffled and placed into a face down pile at the bottom of the Township board. This board also features a separate Fame scoring track (where each player will place one of their scoring markers) as well as three new raiding spots. These are set up just like all of the other raiding spots in the base game. Each player also receives an Encounter board.
Fields of Fame is one of those other types of expansions – the ones that add entirely new stuff to the game. In Fields of Fame, as the players raid the various raid spots around the board, they may find themselves facing off across the battlefield against one or more Jarls. When this happens, for every Jarl plunder taken, the player will flip over an equal number of Jarl cards and then they must decide how to handle them and in which order they’d like to encounter them.
A player has three options: kill, subdue, or flee.
Killing a Jarl
The player must take on Wound tokens equal to the Jarl’s strength +1. These tokens are placed on the player’s crew members and each is equal to -1 strength. If a crew member ever reaches zero strength in this manner, they cannot take any more wounds. They’re not dead, however. They’re just effectively a zero strength crew member for all intents and purposes. Luckily, wounds are not permanent. There are a few Townsfolk cards that may be able to help.
If the player is able to successfully absorb all of the wounds, the Jarl is killed and the player receives the reward shown at the bottom right of the Jarl card. That card is then discarded face up to the empty space directly above the Jarl card draw pile. Then the player places the Jarl token into the “kill” area of their Encounter board. As a reward for killing the Jarl, their Fame scoring marker moves two spaces up the Fame track. The higher up this track the player can get, the more victory points they’ll receive at the end of the game.
Subduing a Jarl
The player must take on Wound tokens equal to the Jarl’s strength -1. Once they have absorbed the wounds, the player then pays an amount of coins equal to the number printed on the Jarl card to the general supply. Then the Jarl joins the player’s crew where it lends not only its strength but its special ability in the lower left corner of the card. The Jarl token is placed into the “subdue” area of their Encounter board.
Fleeing From a Jarl
When fleeing from a Jarl, that card is then discarded face up to the empty space directly above the Jarl card draw pile. The player does not receive any wounds. However, they must lose either one victory point or one fame.
Your people are not impressed by you being a coward.
Killing Jarls isn’t the only way to achieve fame and notoriety. Whenever a player raids a location that rewards victory points for meeting or exceeding certain strength thresholds, players can also earn fame based on how well they exceed those thresholds. Exceeding the threshold by 4/8/12 rewards 1/2/3 fame, respectively.
Your people are impressed by your military prowess and shows of strength.
Thoughts on Fields of Fame
Before I get into what I think of Fields of Fame, I’d like to talk to you about Catan. More specifically, I’d like to talk about Catan’s very first expansion: Cities and Knights.
When I first fell into this hobby, Catan was the game that got me interested. For a very long time I was obsessed with the game, playing it almost every single night multiple times in a row. But it didn’t take me long to realize that Catan, as good as it was, had some pretty glaring weaknesses – chief among them is the way that luck plays into the game with no way of mitigating it.
Enter The Cities and Knights expansion. That expansion changed everything. It offered me the agency that I was looking for and it added a nice thematic twist to the game as well. It took an experience that was already fun and turned it up a few notches. Cities and Knights is an expansion that is so tantamount to my enjoyment of Catan that I will never play without it. Playing Catan without Cities and Knights now just reminds me of what I am missing and the experience suffers for it.
After having played Raiders of the North Sea with the Fields of Fame expansion, this is precisely the same feeling that I get. While Fields of Fame isn’t necessary in the same way that the Hall of Heroes expansion is (in that it doesn’t fix anything that desperately needs fixing), it still manages to feel just as critical. I could play the base game without Hall of Heroes and probably not feel like I am missing anything, but that just isn’t so with Fields of Fame. It just changes the game in such a positive way that it would be hard to go back to a time without it. I like it that much.
The Jarls add a nice thematic touch and an interesting scoring dynamic, not to mention an impetus to go hard on raiding locations containing Valkyries. Losing crew members in the base game really stung, but losing a crew member who’s at 0 strength stings a lot less. Better yet is when you’re taking on a raiding location that contains both Jarls and Valkyries. One just feeds the other and, combined, they’re worth a ton of points. In most of the games that I have played with this expansion, the players are falling over each other in their efforts to fight the Jarls. Gone are the days where raiding a location was just about getting the plunder and maybe a few victory points. Fields of Fame injects a welcome amount of fun into the process.