It’s not everyday that I feel I know everything there is to know about a game in the time it takes for the pizza to arrive at my table, but that is the case for Reiner Knizia’s Viking See-Saw. Even less common is believing a game has revealed all of its secrets in fifteen minutes and still being wholly pleased with it.
Viking See-Saw is a dexterity stacking game that takes place on a miniature, purple dry-docked boat with a play-convenient fulcrum right at the center. A lone flag extends to the sky from the center to get in everyone’s way. On each side of the flag, three small rectangular cubes—crates—rest in their recessed space, while one additional crate sits on the low side.
Players receive a hair-tie to corral a collection of metal cubes (brass and aluminum), ball bearings (plastic and steel), a meeple, and an awkward plastic gem. As a turn, players must add one object to the high side of the ship without tipping the boat or dislodging previously placed items.
Tipping the boat means taking a chest from the center, which serves as the game’s timer. Objects knocked to the table are taken by the offender as a penalty, since the way to win is to place more of your pieces on the boat. Emptying your stock is the second endgame trigger and the most satisfying instant victory. If objects pop loose but never hit the “water,” they must be replaced as part of the turn. In essence, get in, engage Physics, get out.
That’s about it. And yet, Viking See-Saw is the sort of game folks could keep in their pack in case they find themselves with a partner or two, a table, and five minutes to spare. It is that sort of game because the box is smaller than a robust pencil case—tiny. If it wasn’t so small it might not be as intriguing. It showed up again a few days after the pizza shop and felt exactly the same. If I saw it next week, I would feel the same.
The see-saw effect taps into our innate sense of physics. The brass cubes are heavier than the aluminum, the steel heavier than the plastic. The crates might be the lightest and best stackers, but they are large and occasionally unwieldy. The meeple and the gem are awkward enough to get everyone at the table excited for a moment with anticipation. This exercise in gravitational chicken excites and challenges—briefly—our understanding of how the earth is put together. We think we have it all figured out and that we’ll get away scot free. That’s when we get into trouble. That’s when we laugh.
The Funbrick series from Itten Kickstarted Viking See-Saw and four sibling titles in 2022, each with a manageable retail cost and an incredibly convenient package—the sort of titles that you’ll play a lot, put away for awhile, rediscover and do it all over again. Viking See-Saw takes up no space, costs little, and exercises those smiling muscles for a few minutes. What’s not to like?