Northgard: Uncharted Lands Board Game Review

Northgard, the video game, came out to great acclaim a few years ago. It uses the concepts of 90’s RTS classics like Age of Empires and The Settlers, alongside a sophisticated modern sandbox approach. Players control Viking warbands to build villages and complete grand quests. They are encouraged to pursue bigger and more powerful deeds to gain glory, like slaying beasts and crushing enemy players. Now this RTS/adventure game hybrid has a passionate and immersive board game adaptation titled Northgard: Uncharted Lands (see at amazon).

To its credit, this tabletop game stands both comfortably alongside its digital predecessor and independently of its own merit. Fans of the video game will discover inspiration lovingly sprinkled across the various maps, miniatures, and tiles.

Northgard: Unknown Lands

Designer Adrian Dinu has created an outstanding board game that combines established systems with a fresh vision. One does not have to be familiar with the original Northgard to enjoy this adventure, as its main connection is abstracting core themes of exploration and scarcity.

While controlling one of the asymmetrical clans, you focus on exploring the new continent as well as developing its lands. Tiles randomly reveal the vast landscape in a process that mimics procedural generation of its kind. You will meet other players and discover wild animals, encounters that often lead to open conflict. It’s a violent and surprisingly reflective experience that feels right at home on the tabletop.

Uncharted Lands draws its primary design influence from the classic board game Carcassonne. You pull tiles from a stack and align them around the growing board to connect and define expanding geographic boundaries. It’s my favorite Northgard mechanic as the region borders are unpredictable and full of strange shapes. This is in stark contrast to most area control games, which feature a very rigid map carefully designed to promote balance and encourage conflict. Northgard is just great in its freedom. It encourages aggressive exploration to seal off territories by rewarding you with loads of points for doing so.

The second major influence is the core deck building action mechanism. Similar to the board game megahit Dominion, your deck starts with a humble and reliable engine to fulfill the necessary core components of the game. Each turn, you play a card from your hand that allows you to move across areas, recruit units, or construct buildings. Over the arc of seven rounds, your deck will evolve and diverge from your competitors.

The most brilliant thing about this aspect of the game is that the cards you add to your deck are free. Most games require you to scrounge resources and weigh your purchasing options, which often stalls progress. In Northgard you acquire a card from the open market immediately after passing the round. This helps give the game a fast pace as it encourages players to fold early.

However, you have another option. Instead of drawing from the row of cards available to everyone, you can spend an action mid-turn to draw a card from your hand and replace it with a clan-specific option. This creates a small but significant touch of asymmetry that complements your clan’s ongoing abilities.

Northgard: Uncharted Lands has an exceptional sense of smoothness.

Northgard: Uncharted Lands has an exceptional sense of smoothness. The actions flow quickly, the core mechanics are simple, and there’s a constant sense of accomplishment. Combat creates a degree of drama with a single dice roll on each side adding to the strength of the unit. Everything here feels like it’s been given just enough oomph without veering into complexity or convoluted processes.

But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Despite my admiration for exploration and amorphous regions, the board often appears as an overloaded mess once it takes shape. Players will struggle to visually discern the boundaries of an area, causing them to misjudge strategic bottlenecks and perhaps even leading to an unexpected attack from a neighbor. That’s an inevitable sore point, as the busy illustrations on the tiles only blur the important boundaries further.

Northgard also loses some of its advantage once the map is fully explored. When regions become static, all that remains is to fight for the scarce resources and continue the fight. This is functional, but the sense of wonder evaporates and what rushes to fill that gap is something less interesting.

However, the designers have recognized this. They’re trying to ease the late-game doldrums with the included Creature expansion. This adds neutral fighters like wolves, draugr, and fallen valkyries. The cascading effects of stumbling upon these beasts are both wondrous and terrifying. The upside is that they add to the dynamic sense of exploration, resulting in an evolving board over time that remains wild and chaotic until the creatures are defeated.

The serious disadvantage is that these make the game process much more difficult. With higher player counts, more tiles will be explored and more creatures encountered. This leads to a stage in the game where everything freezes as you look at each beast’s behavior, how they move and what effect they trigger. Some will shove you around, others will halt resource production, and the worst will devour your armies.

These creatures are an interesting addition. They almost feel like a necessary part of the game. But they are sometimes a liability and can lead to really one-sided sessions where a player feels randomly attacked. There are some things you can do to control and tend these neutral creatures beyond simply fighting and killing them, but in my play sessions the tactical considerations they require have often been elusive for less experienced players.

Despite the awkward board condition, this is a great design. With just two or three players, it manages to offer elements of the 4X genre in a short 60-90 minutes. With four or five participants, this takes two hours or more, but still feels relatively brisk and snappy due to the quick build-up of corners.

Ultimately, his greatest achievement is capturing the contrast between the wonder and scarcity of digital Northgard. This is achieved not only through the struggle for fertile land, characterized by exploration and conflict, but also by limiting the size of the army. You’ll need to feed your troops every turn, creating downward pressure on expansive armies and giving a natural boost to players who’ve taken a beating. In this way, it also models the video game’s harsh winter season.

Even more intriguing is that wonder and scarcity are modeled through the core deck building mechanism. While it cleverly allows you to add new cards to the top of your deck so you can experience their benefits right away, you’ll spend several turns waiting for those juicy options to appear in your hand again, hoping that A wonderful combination of skills shows up and is presented with dramatic agency. This act of patience is akin to watering a cornfield and then biting your lip while waiting for the harvest. When that bounty finally comes, sit in your chair and beam with light as you build a mighty fortress or launch a brutal offensive and claim what is yours.

Where to buy Northgard: Uncharted Lands Board Game Review

Isaiah Colbert is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button