Today we’re going to take a look at A Feast for Odin, one of Uwe Rosenberg’s latest worker placement classics. While upon first glance this may appear to be a game about Vikings, I’m here to posit an alternative ‘fan theory’. In A Feast for Odin, you’re not playing the role of a Nordic jarl – you’re actually stepping into the shoes of a hoarder with delusions of grandeur. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Look at This Stuff – Isn’t it Neat?
The goal of A Feast for Odin, plainly stated, is to collect all manner of goods and trinkets and store it wherever you can. Beans, cattle, whale bones, peculiar rocks — you want it all. If it’s shiny or big or oddly shaped, oh you REALLY want that.
There are plenty of different ways to collect goods. Foraging, crafting, hunting, raiding, trading – the list goes on. So many unique and interesting strategies to pursue, and they all lead to the same end goal.
Where to put all these treasures though? Well, for one, there’s plenty of space in your yard. If you need additional room, then you could build a shed or warehouse, or go out in search of more land. I hear that Greenland has plenty of extra storage space.
Careful though, you need a system for organizing your trinkets! Green things can’t touch other green things directly, just the corners. Unless you put it in a shed or warehouse, then it’s fine. And you can’t put red or orange things outdoors – they’ve got to be stored inside. But you DEFINITELY can’t touch red to red or orange to orange, ever! Blue things are the best treasures, so you can put those wherever you want. You can also store money anywhere, and iron pretty much anywhere. As long as the iron is outdoors! As long as you stick to the system, it’s easy to remember exactly where everything is in case you ever need it. And surely you’ll need all of it at some point.
I almost forgot to mention – when placing stuff outside, you generally have to go from the bottom left to the top right… What’s that, no need to explain the placement rules any further? Okay, I knew you’d understand – it’s intuitive really.
Are you ready to learn the secret to winning the game? You can earn more stuff simply by storing the things you already own! That just goes to show all those people who call your treasures ‘clutter’ or ‘junk’.
Being endowed with so much wealth, you do have an obligation to share with your friends. It’s your duty to host an annual feast for everyone in town. This is the time when you can share the bounty of all your best food and drink. The presentation is very important too. Always alternate meats and vegetables. If you don’t have enough, you can put money on the table to fill any gaps. That always seems to appease the guests.
In the end, you get to look back and reflect upon your accomplishments. There are so many different paths a Viking can follow in his or her life, so how does one measure success? Well, by how much stuff that Viking accumulated, of course! All stuff is good, so how much space it takes up is the only fair way to measure its worth. (The only exception to this is literally the Crown of England, for which you get a nominal bonus of 2 victory points.) If a bunch of your neighbors move away you can also get points for that, which I guess makes sense because that way there are fewer people around to try and steal your treasures?
Whether A Feast for Odin is really about Vikings or hoarders, one thing is for certain: it is a masterpiece in game design. There are a vast array of strategies to explore, yet the game is perfectly balanced to ensure that no singular path emerges as dominant or overpowered. AFFO has immense replay value – it feels like playing a new game each time you revisit it, without the need to learn a new set of rules.
One detail I particularly love about A Feast for Odin is the dice rolling for hunting/pillaging/raiding. In true Uwe Rosenberg fashion, he found a clever way to insert randomness into the game without significantly increasing the role of luck. When players roll, they get up to three chances, but must keep their last result. That result can then be modified with certain resources to succeed and receive a reward. Alternatively, the player may choose not to spend resources, fail the roll, and receive a ‘refund’ of resources and workers.
Thus, Uwe Rosenberg has essentially distilled dice rolling into two strategic elements. First there is the ‘press your luck’ mechanic where players must decide whether to keep a result or risk it for something better. Second, players must weigh the relative costs and benefits of “success” and “failure”, as sometimes a prudent failure can be better than an expensive success in the long run.
A Feast for Odin is chock full of juicy morsels of game design brilliance like the above example. But I’ll save myself the typing and you the reading, because exploring all the nooks and crannies of this game is a big part of its appeal. If you like playing a game once and then moving on to something else, A Feast for Odin may not be for you. But if you want a heavy Euro game that you can come back to time and again, A Feast for Odin absolutely won’t disappoint.
Thanks for reading this post! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. If you’d like to follow this blog on Twitter and/or Facebook, check out the links below.
For more Uwe Rosenberg “fan theories”, be sure to check out my Patchwork review.
If you prefer to read/comment via the BoardGameGeek forums, be sure to subscribe to the Top of the Table Geeklist.