In Valley of the Vikings, the Annual Bowling Competition is about to take place. Our Viking players will take turns batting a ball to knock down opponents’ barrels, push them off the dock and position themselves strategically to collect the most gold and win the game!
The game is set up by placing the Viking flags randomly face-up along the pier and all the player tokens on the dock regardless of how many actual players in the game. Each player then chooses a Viking color, her ship and one gold coin each. Ships that do not belong to any player are put to one side of the game board.
Then the four colored barrels are positioned randomly in the grass circled holes in the middle of the board.
Taking the bat and ball, players place the ball on the hole at the corner closest to the player. They then swat the ball to knock down the barrels and are allowed to keep trying until at least one of the four barrels are down. They then decide in what order to move the matching Viking ship tokens. Each matching token moves one space to the right, skipping over any occupied spaces. After resolving movement on the dock, players can choose any of the valley floor circles, to place the fallen barrels upright for the next player’s turn.
Scoring happens when a token needs to move but there are no empty spaces remaining on the dock. These players are “pushed” into the water! If they manage to stay on the dock, they are rewarded with gold coins which they keep in their ship. The game ends when the hoard of gold coins is empty. The player with the most coins wins the game and earns the title of Valley Viking Chief.
The components of the game are high quality and eco friendly as can be expected of HABA games. Valley of the Vikings comes with four punch board Viking ships to assemble, 24 gold coins, 4 colored wooden barrels, a batter and a ball. The game itself is played on a large, immersive jigsaw game board.
While it might be easy to categorize Valley of Vikings as a kids’ dexterity game, it also encourages strategy and risk-taking. After players have knocked over the barrels, they get to choose the order of Viking tokens to move along the dock. Players might consider where to place the tokens so that their own token skips over others, and lands on a space which would award them the most gold. Or positioning opponents’ tokens in such a way, such as right at the end of the dock, that would increase the likelihood of being pushed off at a later turn and triggering a round of scoring to their benefit.
On the other hand, they will also have to take the risk that on an opponent’s next turn, it might very well be their own token that gets skipped over and lands in the water. Players have agency to make it very easy or difficult to knock over certain colored barrels. So they might choose very carefully where to place the fallen barrels upright for their opponents’ round.
We don’t have many dexterity type games because I’ve found that adults are usually at an advantage and it is difficult to modify dexterity games to level out the playing field. This is something I hold dearly because I want games to be a level arena for all players at our game table. Batting with my left or right hand does not change the outcomes very much on my turn. Batting blind does not work either!
Given the rarity of such games in our home, our six and seven year olds have been drawn to the novelty of the physical aspect of Valley of the Vikings. On average they each knock over two barrels on a turn while I can manage three on mine. They both enjoy ganging up on me, by keeping the barrels as far away from my starting corner as possible and moving around the Viking tokens strategically to oust me off the dock. That is okay. It is a joy even. When they are winning, I’m winning.