Climb Every Mountain Fjord Every Stream
Fjords Is a beautiful looking, mid-weight game where chunky, wooden, pitchfork-wielding Norsemen claim their territories in the majestic Norwegian landscape. Designed by Franz-Benno Delonge with stunning artwork by renowned artist Beth Sobel for Grail games, Fjords brings to table a very pleasant tile-laying and worker placement game that can be enjoyed in under an hour.
Fjords is played in two halves. In the first half of the game, the Exploration Phase, the, from 2 to 4, players take it in turn to lay the 64 hexagonal tiles, spreading out from the 3 starting tiles. They choose one tile from a choice of four laid out and match it to the existing tableau. They must follow a few simple rules when doing this. First the tile must be placed so that it touches two or more tiles that are already in play. Secondly all of the terrain types on the new tile must match the terrain on the tiles it is laying against on the edges. There are just three types of terrain: Mountains, Plains and Oceans (the eponymous Fjords) so this is not too difficult. Finally you are not allowed to create a second landmass divided by water from the mainland.
Your other action, on your turn, after laying a tile you may place one of your four Longhouses on it. These Longhouses are vital for the subsequent Settlement phase as the springboard for your Viking meeple placement. The Longhouses can not be moved once placed. In the Exploration phase it is a good idea to build long narrow valleys of Plains flanked by the Mountains and Ocean as these will be easier to close off and claim for yourself in the Settlement Phase.
The Hills Are Alive
Once no more tiles can be legally placed, the second phase, the Settlement phase, now begins. Thus, each player takes it in turn to place one of their 20 Viking meeples. These plucky pioneers are placed either adjacent to one of their Longhouses or next to another of their kin. Once placed it can not be moved or removed. You try to block entrance to territory you regard as yours by strategically placing your settlers to block off narrow passes between Mountains and other blocking terrain (hence the attempt to create narrow valleys in the first phase).
When you have reached a point where you can not legally place another of your Vikings your turn is skipped until all players can not go. Then the number of territories you own with your meeples are added up to determine a winner.
Born To Rune
There is one further development to this simple but elegant game in the form of the Seven Rune stones. Each of these counters contains an ancient Norse Rune named for a Viking god. At the start of the game the players will agree which of the Runes, if any, will be in play. Each player gets one copy of each Rune that is being played and they can play that, according to given rules, during the course of their turn.
These Runes will either give extra scoring opportunities at game end or will allow additional placement options for Vikings in the Settlement phase.
Fjords is a very pleasing little game to play. It is quick to learn, set-up and play and yet there are some good, tricky decisions to be made in both phases. Visually attractive with well-made components it is had to fault it.
This blog was written by Pete Bartlam