In the Name of Odin – Designer Musings

The Kickstarter for In the Name of Odin completed successfully around a month shy of half a year ago. Since then, I kept my ear to the ground, looked at every Kickstarter update and asked NSKN directly about how things are going a few times. I expected to sweat every detail, but in fact it was a pretty quiet five months. And then, just two weeks ago, it happened. The boxes reached Europe and started reaching the US, they went out, and soon the backers started receiving them. That included me.

I wasn’t overly excited, if you can believe it. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t jump with joy, or cry tears of laughter. Mostly, I felt mildly surprised. It’s here. It’s done. My first board game, published after several years of development, some disheartening bumps, and many nervous months. And there it was, in my hands. Huh. „How does one react to something like this?” I wondered. Being a more introvert, inward-looking kind of person, I just found it amusing, and I felt at ease about this game for the first time since it sprouted in my head.

Hogni, Knut and Sven by David Nash
Hogni, Knut and Sven by David Nash

For me, personally, In the Name of Odin is an achievement in more ways than one. What you have to know about me as a creator is that I’m terribly insecure about my work. I have a hunch that what I’m doing is good or enjoyable or well-thought-out etc. but you won’t find me praising my own game. The furthest extent I go to is saying „Yeah, I am pretty happy with that mechanic” or „I’m really proud of this game.”. I’m of the mind that the author is the worst possible person to rate his work, adhering to the latin proverb In propria causa nemo debet esse iudex („No one should be the judge in his own trial.”).

The first confirmation that the game was fun, was that NSKN even considered it, let alone took it in with open arms. But now that its in the hands of players, comes the ultimate test – and it’s performing well! I’m reading people’s thoughts on the game, I saw the reviews around the Kickstarter and now new ones will likely pop-up, and it seems like you’re liking In the Name of Odin – and that’s really the best thing I could hope for!

I am very happy with how the game worked out, in terms of production. I like the quality of the material for the figurines, I love the art, and I think the board looks gorgeous. One thing which I really liked was that we mostly managed to keep the style of the art on the side of history, and less on the side of fantasy. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a sucker for epic Viking illustrations, and fantasy renditions of bearded warriors with axes in their hands. But I also think the aesthetic of the Norse and of the Dark Ages is attractive enough that it doesn’t need embelishment. As such, I like that that final art in In the Name of Odin strikes a balance between what modern culture imagines Vikings should look like, and a bit more conservative, true-to-history approach.

What I also really liked in NSKN’s approach was that when we hammered out the final kinks in the rules, their solution to some of the issues correlated with what I was thinking. Often they would say something to the effect of „We suggest tweaking this and that because it makes more sense that way.” and I would do a facepalm and respond „Yes, of course it’s better the way you propose, why have I kept to that previous version?”. An easy example of this was that I insisted that the card offer should be replenished only after a player has completed a turn, instead of right away – when in fact it would prolong the game by making the subsequent player spend more time figuring out his moves when his turn comes along. There’s no doubt in my mind that In the Name of Odin is a better game for having been published with NSKN than it was before they decided to release it.

Gudrun, Brynhildr and Freydis by Victor Perez Corbella
Gudrun, Brynhildr and Freydis by Victor Perez Corbella

Is there stuff that I’m less happy about? Sure. There’s a few very minor things that I would’ve probably done differently in terms of presentation, but there wasn’t time to revamp them endlessly if NSKN was to deliver you the game on time. I opted for a different naming scheme for the Raids, more abstract categories than specific places, but that was another thematic detail which most players wouldn’t even register.

I apologise if this note ended up being a bit chaotic, but I’m really only just growing to understand that this is a huge thing that happened – and a very important thing to boot. I hope In the Name of Odin will end up not just a well-remembered, well-liked game, but also a stepping stone. Like all creatives, I have many other projects in various stages of completion – from stuff I consider ready-to-publish, through games which clearly need some reworking, to just bare-bones prototypes, or games which went through one-off tests and are now are tucked away in boxes, waiting to be salvaged. And that list doesn’t even cover the ideas written down in a notebook, with a few sentences of „rules” jotted down on each of them.

Hakon, Ragnar and Halfdan by Quico Vicens
Hakon, Ragnar and Halfdan by Quico Vicens

So what’s next? Hard to say, but hopefully the answer is „More published games.”

Krzysztof Zięba

Designer of In the Name of Odin

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