Champions of Midgard: Valhalla Expansion Board Game Review

W Updated March 23, 2019
 
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CoM-Valhalla

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There Will Be Games

You shall ride eternal, shiny, and chrome!

Let me just say that Champions of Midgard is one of my favorite games of the last few years. Let me also say “Lords of Waterdeep” because, as we all know, reviewers are required by law to mention Lords of Waterdeep in any review pertaining to Champions of Midgard. I'm glad we got that out of the way.

I could babble on about thematic but the simple truth is that the Valhalla Expansion crushes it. Whereas in the base Champions of Midgard, you worry and fret about possibly losing a warrior with ill fated dice rolls, now you can revel in their ascension into Valhalla. When a warrior is lost, a “sacrifice” token of the type of warrior that was lost is placed on that players' burial ground tile (represented by a burning ship because “Vikings!”). These tokens, which we call “souls” are then traded for player boosts on the new, additional Valhalla side board. (Alexa: Find me a Champions of Midgard Playmat). The Valhalla board is a “But I want ALL of those things” market addition. The currency of the souls of the dead only makes the agonizing decision of “Should I wait to buy the bigger, better card” all the sweeter. What if someone beats you to the epic monster that you have already decided that you NEED to complete your strategy? Other cards, which reward you with an item, can also give you progressively more Glory Points based on what round you purchase them. Now, what appeared to be a appetizer card, suddenly becomes worthy of being the main course. 

Leader Dice and, more importantly, the new mini-leader ability boards are another fantastic addition. Now, it really is a tough choice of what leader you choose because the mini-boards bring a balance to all of the previous leader powers. Instead of just a name on a board, your character is now a real, physical dice. Gone is the “It is by my hand that you will rise from the ashes” attitude, instead you are in the trenches risking wounds for reward with your warriors. Rolling a viking helmet on the leader dice kicks in that leaders new bonus but the leader dice also include single and double strikes to bolster the damage. Leaders can't be killed but they can, however, be wounded. This hearkens back to the Valhalla sideboard where, if the proper cards come up, you can use souls to purchase additional dice and return a wounded leader to your dice pool. Of course, Grey Fox included the two leader ability boards for the leaders found in Dark Mountains expansion because that is the type of marketing that suckers in completist like me.

The Valhalla Expansion is so good, it actually supercharges the Dark Mountains expansion and makes it worthy of play. Where the risk/reward was debatable when fighting the Mountain giants when using Dark Mountains alone, the addition of the things like Loki's Compass (which lets you disregard a travel card and simply take a blame token instead) and needing to trade the souls of Archer Warriors to gain some of the Valhalla Rewards make it a tempting alternative. Maybe some warriors perish on the trip though the mountains but with a scream of “I Live, I die, I live again!” you can trade the souls for a Berserker Warrior or Shield Maiden: Stronger, better Dice that can reap even better rewards when their souls ascend to Valhalla.

On the downside: Adding this expansion extents both the set-up time and the gameplay time. Taking both of those into account, it can almost double the typical playtime of the base game, especially when also adding the Dark Mountains. On the plus side of this down side, I never felt the game was dragging, which would occasionally happen on the seven or eighth round of the base game.

New Dice, new mechanics, new destiny cards: These all lead to a new lease on the afterlife. If you need me, I am awaited in Valhalla. They were calling my name. I should be walking with the Immortan. Feasting with the heroes of all time.


Wade Monnig  (He/Him)
Staff Board Game Reviewer

In west Saint Louis born and raised
Playing video games is where I spent most of my days
Strafing, Dashing, Adventuring and Looting
Writing reviews between all the Shooting
When a couple of guys reminded me what was so good
About playing games with cardboard and Wood,
Collecting Victory Points and those Miniatures with Flair
It’s not as easy as you think to rhyme with Bel Air.

Wade is the former editor in chief for Silicon Magazine and former senior editor for Gamearefun.com. He currently enjoys his games in the non-video variety, where the odds of a 14 year old questioning the legitimacy of your bloodline is drastically reduced.

“I’ll stop playing as Black when they invent a darker color.”

Articles by Wade

Wade Monnig
Staff Board Game Reviewer

Articles by Wade

Editor review

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Board Game Reviews 
 
5.0
New Dice, new mechanics, new destiny cards: These all lead to a new lease on the afterlife. If you need me, I am awaited in Valhalla. They were calling my name. I should be walking with the Immortan. Feasting with the heroes of all time.

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Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #294172 21 Mar 2019 10:06
Yeeeeaaaaaahhh, brother, this is the good stuff. Nice write up!

As a huge fan of the base game, didn’t hesitate backing the expansions. I never played either expansion on their own, I went whole hog right from the get go after getting my stuff. I can see where Dark Mountains could be boring on its own, but both together? I’m not going to say they complete the base game, it was fine on it’s own, but the expansions truly elevate it well beyond being “Lords of Waterdeep with dice.” Such a badass game, and I can’t think of another WP game that I can label “badass.”
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #294173 21 Mar 2019 10:22
My question is: If I'm already playing Blood Rage, which is aggressive/combat-heavy worker placement about Vikings... do I need another game that basically does the same thing?
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #294175 21 Mar 2019 10:36

Jackwraith wrote: My question is: If I'm already playing Blood Rage, which is aggressive/combat-heavy worker placement about Vikings... do I need another game that basically does the same thing?


Yes. They’re completely different beasts.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #294194 21 Mar 2019 13:40

Josh Look wrote:

Jackwraith wrote: My question is: If I'm already playing Blood Rage, which is aggressive/combat-heavy worker placement about Vikings... do I need another game that basically does the same thing?


Yes. They’re completely different beasts.


Totally Agree with Josh on this. The fact that the comparison between the two never really occurred to me until you posted (and I love them both) attests to how different they play.
mezike's Avatar
mezike replied the topic: #294252 22 Mar 2019 11:10
Please may I ask if anyone has much experience playing this with two players? I got to try this once quite a while back but it was a slow and frustrating experience and as nobody else was interested in playing again I didn't get the spark to go looking for a copy for myself. I'm thinking my son would probably like this though so I might now get a copy to play at home, I have however seen comments that two player is a little flaky. I'd be interested to hear the trusted opinion from people on here.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #294269 22 Mar 2019 13:25

mezike wrote: Please may I ask if anyone has much experience playing this with two players?


Man, that is a question that almost needs another review. If you are talking base Champions of Midgard, it seems (at first glance) like 2 player doesn't work well. The blame system means that the first few games, you'll usually be fighting over who fights the Troll in order to avoid taking blame and to give one blame to your opponent. You start feeling like your first actions in every round revolves around troll but the more times you play it, the more you realize it doesn't have to be key. If you are playing Jarl's Longhouse correctly (which the same player can't take the first player token two turns in a row without passing it to the other player), then it becomes a bit of a game of whose going to blink and whose going to go to the Troll. So, you go though phases over multiple 2-player games of "This doesn't work...oh, wait, it does work...nope, still doesn't work quite right." and it can be the focus of playing more than the rest of the game. In the context of adding both expansions, suddenly all the choices you have make this much less of a focal point. You can just go all-in and max out blame and avoid the troll all together. Or not, and let one person dominate the troll aspect of the game and spend it wondering if they have Troll bonus cards. The whole process I just described is fun to realize on your own in a two player game.

tl:dr- It can look like it doesn't work at 2-players in the base game but it actually does a decent job. Adding both expansions makes it work even better/smoother at two players. I still prefer it at 3/4/5 players.
mezike's Avatar
mezike replied the topic: #294275 22 Mar 2019 14:17
That’s great insight, thanks! I think it sounds like I’d either need to find an interested third player or get the expansions which would be a bit pricey for us for an untried two player. I might try to borrow a copy from someone or keep an eye out for a trade before I part with cash on this.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #294287 22 Mar 2019 16:09
Borrowing it and playing a few plays at 2 player would be optimum. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the base if you had three players most of the time but my two player games have been the exception, not the rule. I've always enjoyed the two player games but I "knew" the game by then. (P.s. my wife loves it, so it has more casual appeal too)
mezike's Avatar
mezike replied the topic: #294685 28 Mar 2019 15:28
So I came across a second hand bundle of the base game plus Valhalla at an attractive price and took a bite at it as I can always flip it for little or no cost. I don’t mind paying a little extra to also get the mountains as it’s discounted down pretty much everywhere at the moment and we’re certainly not bothered by lengthy or complex games. Is it worth getting both expansions at the same time for a full experience, or do you think Valhalla on its own will work? I don’t want to go into a lopsided experience if the two work better in conjunction but equally don’t want to spend money without reason.

Edit: I should add that I’m not suffering from confirmation bias and fishing for validation on this. I’m genuinely interested in whether Valhalla will work well on its own or if the game really needs both expansions together.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #294691 28 Mar 2019 16:22

mezike wrote: So I came across a second hand bundle of the base game plus Valhalla at an attractive price and took a bite at it as I can always flip it for little or no cost. I don’t mind paying a little extra to also get the mountains as it’s discounted down pretty much everywhere at the moment and we’re certainly not bothered by lengthy or complex games. Is it worth getting both expansions at the same time for a full experience, or do you think Valhalla on its own will work? I don’t want to go into a lopsided experience if the two work better in conjunction but equally don’t want to spend money without reason.

Edit: I should add that I’m not suffering from confirmation bias and fishing for validation on this. I’m genuinely interested in whether Valhalla will work well on its own or if the game really needs both expansions together.

Valhalla works great on its own. You just pull some cards that reference dark mountains, if I recall. It works, imho, better with DM just because of the additional choices. If you love the game, then bite on DM. it's nothing you NEED.
mezike's Avatar
mezike replied the topic: #294701 28 Mar 2019 17:20
Thanks again! I think then that I’ll give it a couple of run throughs with just Valhalla and take it from there. If it doesn’t work for us then I doubt DM will fix anything but nice to know that we can happily add it in if we do want more.