The first prototype of what became In the Name of Odin was given to us almost exactly a year ago. I was the person to eyeball it, then listen to a short explanation, and then say that it is something we’ll take a look.
I met Krzysztof Zięba personally at zjAva, a gaming convention in Warsaw in 2015. It was the first time we shook hands, but it was not the first time we interacted. Years before we had traded games via BGG, and sometime later, it turned out that my good friend was working with Krzysztof – and was looking for help in buying him a birthday gift.
Back to 2015, and to me pulling out the game during an NSKN gaming meeting. The prototype looked really good (in fact, you’ll see it in most of the early review videos), the rules explanation went quite fast, and within a few minutes, we were playing the game.
Before I go any further, you need to know one thing: everyone at NSKN Games is more or less a Viking fan. Agnieszka and Andrei got hooked on the TV series, as did my wife. I have been interested in Viking lore and culture since college – medieval history was always a partial focus of my major, and I got fascinated with Norsemen a long time ago.
Still, when it comes to selecting games to publish, we are not easily swayed. We are gamers, and we like a lot of games (some of which I even mention on this blog), but simply having fun with the theme would not cut it. Luckily, theme was not the only thing that made In the Name of Odin cool. The truth is, it was mostly something else.
Odin is in essence a set collection and hand management game, that makes you race against other players. The actions you perform during your turn are determined by what Action Cards you’re able to play. Each Action Card comes with two symbols, and expending those symbols allows you to recruit, build, or go on raids. But to be able to perform really big things, you need to either prepare your hand, or make use of a great opportunity.
All that instantly made In the Name of Odin a game after my own heart. I love games where you make painful deals between what you want to do, and what the cards allow you to do. Games in which you have to bend (like Progress), or games where you need relentlessly work your deck for the desired result (which is incidentally why I made Mistfall what it is). In the Name of Odin offered a lot of that, but it also offered more.
The first thing we all noticed was the fluidity of the game. Although you have quite a sizeable menu of options every turn, the cards in your hand will instantly make some choices much more attractive. It’s a great technique in game design, used successfully in roundel games (such as Navegador or Antike), to limit the number of choices, but still make the decisions each turn tense and important.
The fact that In the Name of Odin clearly points to some of the actions you are allowed to take makes the game move at a very brisk pace. You draw your hand at the end of your turn; you have some downtime to think about the best move for you, and when it’s you playing again, you can act immediately.
The second great thing about Odin is the tableau building. You get your own board, your village to fill with buildings that will give you action symbols and special abilities – and that will make you instantly more effective at one of the aspects of the game, suddenly making it easier to recruit or construct a ship that will take you on a raid. And that brings me to the final aspect, the one that made us decide to bring Odin on board.
In the Name of Odin is what I like to call a focussed game. Much like Exodus, you are in fact forging a tool (a weapon in the case of our classic space empire builder) concentrated on one thing: annihilation in Exodus, and raiding in Odin. While buildings, ships and an impressive band of followers may allow you to score multiple points, the raids will be what will truly elevate you to the position of a Jarl – and whatever you do, that’s the thing you’ll need to plan around.
After we decided to pull the trigger on In the Name of Odin, I called Krzystof from my balcony. It was cold and rainy, and I could hear the seagulls squawking over Vistula. They made me think of the sea, of longships and of the game we will be making together. An awesome game you will now be able to experience for yourselves.
So, do you have what it takes to become a Jarl and rule In the Name of Odin… while playing a really neat game?
Do you want to know more? Visit the In the Name of Odin website, and read the rules of the game. Also, the Kickstarter campaign for In the Name of Odin is approaching fast: we start on Ferburary 16th. If you don’t want to miss out on its beginning, you can go to Odin’s Prefundia page and sign up for a notification.