Yggdrasil - Board Game Box Shot

Yggdrasil

| Published: 2011
140 51 6

Yggdrasil, the “terrible steed”, a cosmic ash tree that supports the nine worlds, is in jeopardy. As the Ragnarök approaches, you, mighty among the Æsir and Vanir Gods, have to face the relentless advance of Evil Forces. You must sacrifice everything to prevent Evil from destroying Yggdrasil. The last battle, predicted since the dawn of time, is starting now. Your only aim is to repel the Evil Forces in order for Yggdrasil to survive this universe at war.

Yggdrasil is a co-operative game for 1-6 players. Playing the role of a Norse god, you must, with the other players, stop the advancing Evil Forces in Asgard.

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111 of 118 gamers found this helpful
“Opening Peaceful Realms to the Devestation of War”

Yggdrasil is a cooperative game for up to 6 (!) players and steeped in Norse mythology. While people will be missing the unique visual design Kenneth Branagh brought to the big screen, in favor of more traditional artwork, fans of the film will be tickled to see Thor and his compatriots – Odin, Heimdall, and so forth – locked in combat against the likes of Loki and Hel storming the gates of Asgard, and sending Vikings out in combat against frost giants. This game is tough, and demands brutal efficiency, but it is very mechanically sound and offers a nice tribute to the lore wrapped around it in theme.

The characters in Yggdrasil are represented only by the oversized cards taken by each player. The game board itself serves only to convey the status of the game; they player does not move a piece or place a marker when he takes an action, he simply does it. Each character has a unique power that lets him take an extra action, or grants a combat bonus, and so on. Each turn begins by flipping a card from a deck full of monsters; the card moves that monster forward on the Asgard track and has an effect detrimental to the players’ efforts, wasting actions or speeding up the game or making it harder to gather Vikings to fight, things of that sort. Monsters further up the track are harder to defeat and having too many past certain key points on the track will lose the game. The player then gets to choose three different actions from among the various stations on the tree Yggdrasil. In short, it consists of collecting Vikings and forging weapons to help you fight the monsters and push them back down the track, with a sort of side quest to battle frost giants to try and collect huge bonuses later in the game.

The components in the game seem a bit inconsistent; the cardboard pieces for the Vikings and Elves and various baddies are all nice enough, and the lack of character markers is forgivable since it’s not that hard to keep track of only three actions for less than 30 seconds. But the stations on the board are marked by runes, and while the artwork does assist in communicating intent quite well, it is difficult to distinguish the stations based only on the runes, which actually is what the frost giants use for their effect. Also, as nice as the character cards look, they seem way too big considering the only pertinent information they convey is the name and power for the character. It can be used to hold weapon cards and Viking/Elf tokens but that’s not required and they don’t take up a lot of space anyway. It just seems… superfluous.

The gameplay is nice and tight and gives several great points of tension in decision-making. There are just the right amount of actions where you feel like you’re making some headway but you always just need to do that one more thing. The various islands have different ratios of Vikings to fire giants, causing a conflict of how far to move the Valkyrie up the track versus cleaning or seeding or drawing from a bag further down. And of course there is the question of which monsters to “allow” to remain and which ones need to be sent back right away.

I am a fan of co-operative games as a whole, and Yggdrasil is no exception. It’s fun, engaging and challenging; another great addition to the host of quality titles Z-Man has been publishing in recent years.

 
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109 of 116 gamers found this helpful
“A fun co-op with independent play and a cool theme”

Yggdrasil is another co-op game with a strong Norse Gods theme to it.

Pros:
-Co-op play puts everybody on the same team
-Independent play – this is what I look for in any co-op game so no one person takes control of the game
-Lots of options to take on your turn
-You don’t feel overwhelmed despite the difficult monsters you’re facing
-The right action is not obvious, giving you more choice in how to play
-Beautifully designed pieces and graphics

Cons:
-There are many options, which can seem overwhelming
-The format of the board makes it unclear what actions are available to take
-When ice trolls block a particular action, it’s not immediately clear which action they’re blocking

Just like many other co-ops, players take on different characters who each have their own special ability to help on their quest. Ultimately, your goal is to fight back these monsters until the entire deck is depleted and to not have too many monsters advance too far on the monster track. Actions you can take on your turn include fighting a monster to push it back, pulling out of a bag full of dwarves and fire giants to recruit dwarves for reinforcements, pull out of the bag to remove fire giants, put dwarves into a bag, collect/upgrade weapons to fight back monster, recruit elves for support, and advance a track for bonus actions depending on how far the track advances.

These are a lot of options, and it can be a tad overwhelming. But it adds to the diversity of the game which to me makes it a lot more fun than many other co-ops that could be played by just one person.

 
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90 of 97 gamers found this helpful
“Co-op with awesome theme, but do you feel it?”

Yggdrasil is a cooperative game where all players are on the same team (no traitors or opposing sides). The game board integrates various components (“the nine worlds”) of Norse mythology, and gives you the chance to take on the roles of various gods to stop the advance of evil forces. The general turn sequence will be familiar to players of other co-ops such as Shadows Over Camelot, or Pandemic. You’re going to do something bad (flip a card revealing one of the evil forces, moving them forward and triggering their special ability), and then get three actions to do good.

The losing conditions are less varied than many co-ops; there is only one track on the gameboard you need to watch, instead of multiple different ways to lose as in Pandemic or Defenders of the Realm. If 5 enemies end a player’s turn beyond the Wall Of Asgard (moved forward three spaces), or 3 enemies are beyond the Door of Valhalla (forward 5 spaces), or 1 is in Odin’s Residence (forward 7 spaces), you lose. You win if you get through all of the evil cards (generally 42: 7 each of 6 evil forces: Nidhogg, Surt, Jormungand, Fenrir, Hel, and Loki).

One point that differentiates Yggdrasil from many games, the main board is not really a map that you’re moving a piece around. Instead, it shows what actions are available, and the state of play. You don’t move from place to place; you just take the action. In essence, there is no pawn for you to move.

Following is a review of the 9 different actions. For my thoughts on the game, skip to the following section.

Actions

Each turn, you may take 3 actions, but may only take a given action once per turn. The different choices are listed below, with some brief thoughts on when/how often you’ll use them.

Take an Elf – If any are left, you may take an elf token. Elf token’s may be turned in (after die roll) for +1 to combat.

Move Vanir – The Vanir track can give various bonuses, depending on how far along it you’ve moved, the bonus is generally more powerful the farther along you are. Often used when you don’t have anything better to do (which isn’t all that often, especially early).

Push Back Evil – You’ll be doing this one most turns. Look at the column a given evil force is in to determine their power. You then devote some number of vikings (each count as +1), roll a special die (faces show from 0-3), add any bonuses, and possibly turn in elves. If your value equals or exceeds the enemy power, they move back one spot.

Grab an Artifact – Take a card that gives a bonus towards combat with one of the 6 evil forces. You choose what to take. There are +1, +2, and +3 for each evil force, but you must take the +1 first, and can only take a higher number by trading in the next lower one. You may have multiple types of artifacts, and you don’t lose them when used. It’s pretty common to take this action at the beginning of the game, until you’re well equipped.

Search for Vikings – If you’ve played Thebes, this will feel familiar to you. There are 4 different colored bags, corresponding to an island on the board. You can move from one island to an adjacent if you wish, the you grab three tokens from the bag corresponding to the island you’re on. Keep any vikings, put any fire giants back in the bag. The bags of islands farther from your start position have a better ratio of vikings to fire giants. We end up using this action a lot, on more than half of our turns.

Fight Ice Giants – Ice Giants have a power of 3. You can either fight a face up giant (activated by Loki’s power), or attack a face down giant. Beating giants eliminate the effect they have on the game, and give you 1/4th of a rune, which can give a powerful bonus when completed. Some games we kill lots of giants, others we barely go here at all.

Remove Fire Giants – Going here allows you to choose a bag and pull five tokens from it. Any that are fire giants are removed from the bag. Vikings are returned to the bag. You go here when you feel the ratio in a given bag isn’t great. We’ll use this ~5-10 times per game.

Trade Items – You can take, give, or exchange with one other player. This is easily the least used option in our games; often going unpicked the entire game.

Add Extra Vikings to a Bag – Place 5 vikings into a bag of your choice. We use this a bit more often than the remove fire giants actions.

My Thoughts

I’ve been finding myself playing co-ops more often lately, and this game is definitely a solid entry, feeling different than others. You need to be very economical with your actions. I like that the losing conditions are simply laid out, but miss the added tension of having multiple things to manage as in Defenders of the Realm, or Star Trek: Expeditions. To be fair, this game has enough tension as it is and doesn’t need extra losing conditions just for the sake of having them.

While the board is visually very striking and attractive, I’ve found the bold colors detract a bit from gameplay. When first playing, it was a little tough to find each of the nine actions as they blend into the board. The elves in particular can be difficult to determine if there are any left. The icons used for the game make sense once you know what they are, but remind me a bit of Race for the Galaxy; it’s like learning a new language (there are far fewer than in Race, so don’t let that turn you off). The god cards showing your role are nice, but they’re huge, and only show your ability (and a nice picture). I would have liked if they would put three numbered circles denoting your actions, and given you a token or figure to move along for tracking. While you don’t really need something to track three actions, a couple of times a game the question will come up of how many you’ve taken.

One thing that surprised me, for as much work as the designers put into integrating the theme, I don’t feel the theme when playing. I feel like I’m playing a board game, collecting tokens and pushing back enemies. For reference, I also get this feeling when playing Forbidden Island or Star Trek: Expeditions, as opposed to Pandemic, Shadows Over Camelot, or Defenders of the Realm, where I feel I’m more into the theme. As I’m not a stickler for theme in games, this isn’t a problem for me.

Overall, I enjoy the game, especially the sense of tension it adds. Since all information is open, there can be a problem with one player dominating play, or (as in our group) discussion and consensus can be reached. If you have a dominant player in your group, the game specifically has a solo option; you can encourage them to play that! The game will increase in difficulty with more players, adding to replayability.

In the end, Yggdrasil is a “try before you buy” game for me, though I find it enjoyable. For some co-op comparison, I would put Yggdrasil nearly even with Star Trek: Expeditions, but below Defenders of the Realm. If you’re looking for a Norse mythology game, or are a fan of different types of co-ops, give it a try, it’ll be worth your time!

 
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67 of 74 gamers found this helpful
“A Magic Tree House Adventure”

Many have seen the Thor movies and if not already familiar with the more popular aspects of Norse mythology, know about Thor, Loki, Odin and the Frost Giants. There’s also the Rainbow Bridge where one finds a pot of gold guarded by the Care Bears. No, wait. I mean the Bifrost Bridge watched by the mead-tippling and not-astigmatic Heimdall/Heimdallr.

And so on. This review isn’t Norse Mythology 101 or “I’ll take guys with an eyepatch for $200, Alex”.

The mighty Yggdrasil, fun to say and is the name of a massive tree that connects 9 worlds.

The game Yggdrasil is a gorgeously-illustrated, punishing co-op that has each player taking the role of a deity. All your favourites are here and many, unless Norse mythology is your jam or your system of belief, you haven’t heard of.

I have a few faves, which I won’t list lest I prejudice your gameplay or out myself as an Yggdrasil incompetent, but it’s fun to choose randomly.

I won’t go over the full how-to here. You can read the rule-book yourself or even better, read Artem Safarov’s review (disclosure: he’s a buddy of mine and we have rarely triumphed over Yggdrasil together). However, I hope my intro piqued your curiosity and you’ll give this game a try.

Pros:

The artwork. Beautiful, inviting and belies the horror that this game will deal to you in the form of repeated losses.
Few words. That’s right – this game is all symbols. Language is no barrier (albeit, there are names on the cards in the Latin alphabet)
Straightforward gameplay. You get three actions, keep the Evil Forces from advancing too far down the track, don’t forget your god’s ability.
Plenty of actions. So much you can do on your turn. The strategic part is knowing what to do when.

Cons:

This is not a cake-walk and there will be more losses than wins. For me, however, that’s a pro.
Rolling a die to fight the baddies. Only one side of the d6 has enough axes to take down a frost giant. For all the others, you’ll need elves and Viking souls to help you. This isn’t a con per se, but a few **** rolls and not enough resources, and the game folds faster than Superman on laundry day.
Can feel a little mechanical at times. Like many action-based games, there’s “I’ll do this, then that, then this. Your turn”. Again, not terrible, but not highly interactive. Having said that, you do need to think about how your actions will affect your teammates, which I think slots this under the pro column.

Verdict:

As you can tell, I was really reaching for a cutting, scathing con and I don’t think I succeeded. Like any game, it comes down to a matter of taste. If you don’t like co-ops, you won’t like this game. If you like a win-loss ratio of 80:20, you won’t like this game. But if you enjoy thinking about the moves you need to take and how those will not only help everyone win the game but will support your buddies, then think about trying Yggdrasil. The pros and cons above should give you a sense if this is the game for you.

 
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66 of 73 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Ragnarok & Roll”

Yggrdrasil is a barely pronounceable cooperative game set in the rich world of Norse mythology. The theme is well realized and the mechanics are inventive, yet the stuttering flow and over-reliance on chance holds the game back from true greatness. Despite its’ flaws, it is a challenging, compact game that will help you practice pronouncing the name of Thor’s hammer in advance of the next Avengers.

How it works:
Yggdrasil is a name of a gargantuan ash tree that, according to the Viking mythology, connects all the worlds in existence linking the worlds of men with the dwellings of the gods in the halls of Asgard. In this game, the halls of Odin are under attack by the six mythical evils, including the trickster god Loki, the daemonic wolf Fenrir and the world-eating serpent whose name I am not going to inflict on you. All six attempt to break into the gods’ palace and if they are successful, the game is lost.

The players take the role of the gods (base game comes with six to pick from) such as Thor, Odin or Freya. They have to fight off the invasion using legendary weapons forged by dwarves and employing the souls of worthy Viking warriors to aid them in their battles.

The game takes place on a lavishly illustrated game board, showing the sprawling giant tree with the several areas where players can take actions. Each turn, one of the six enemies advances and triggers their unique harmful effects. The player then has three actions to respond. The actions involve battling the intruders (with a victory pushing them back) or preparation for future battles.

The battles require a player to fuel their power using “good” souls – trusty Viking warriors harvested by Valkyries from the worlds of men. Each of the four worlds is represented by a cloth bag containing a mix of “good” Viking souls and “evil” Fire Giant souls. Using one of their actions, a god can send Valkyries to a world to look for worthy souls – a player blindly fishes out three tokens from a bag – any “good” ones can be used and any “evil” ones are returned.

The gods’ battle prowess can also be enhanced by visiting the Dwarves to forge mighty weapons, giving bonuses against specific opponents or visiting Elves to enlist their aid in battle. Finally, a die is rolled for every combat, adding a variable bonus to your power (or as the case may be when you really need it – not adding anything at all).

There are several ways to lose the game – either one enemy goes to the very end of the 8-step track leading to the halls of Odin, or you let a set amount of enemies close enough to the palace of the gods. If you go through the entire enemy deck keeping the evil gods at bay – you are victorious.

How it plays:
Yggdrasil is an exercise in risk management – the more time you spend preparing to fight, the higher your chances of success as you equip yourself with mighty weapons and gather allies. However the enemies become more powerful as they advance – wait too long and the challenge will become insurmountable.

The most reliable way to boost your fighting chances is to recruit the Viking souls and to do that reliably you must manage the contents of the four bags – the four worlds of men where you can send your Valkyries for posthumous recruitment. The game offers several interesting ways to help you do that – you can either add “used up” Vikings back to bag to increase your chances of drawing what you want, or to randomly take several tokens from the bag and discard any “bad” souls, thus decreasing chances of recruiting a dud. The game also has a way of preventing you from focusing on just one world – the world-eating serpent may make it inaccessible and all your efforts lost, so you have to diversify your actions.

There are many things to take into account as you play Yggdrasil – the relative positions of the enemies, each god’s equipment and special abilities and availability of Viking or Elf souls.

The game accommodates one to six players and its’ difficulty grows the more players are involved. The games are relatively quick – low-player games are over in just over an hour, going up to hour and a half if you have four or more players. Given its’ co-operative nature, the game is prone to over-controlling alpha gamers spoiling the fun by trying to be in charge. There is no in-game player interaction, further making the game feel like a multi-player Viking solitaire. Discussions, while fun, may take too long, robbing the game of some of it’s’ flow.

The luck factor, present mostly in the form of a devious die, is strong as a series of good rolls may replaces planning and preparation. The game is reasonably challenging and new players can expect to lose more than they win, especially early on.

How it feels:
Yggdrasil is a game that sets up very high expectation with a rich theme and gorgeous board, but does not quite live up to these. The gameplay flow is frequently interrupted by player discussions, that can lead to some light analysis paralysis – it doesn’t drag out the games, but makes the game feel less dynamic. With its’ reliance on controlling probability and at the same time being dependant on good rolling – the game is decidedly more analytical than you would expect from an offering with Thor hammer-smashing a giant serpent in the face.

The game’s end, especially victories do not feel especially satisfying as you are just running out a deck of cards, while at the same time losses can leave you feeling powerless. There is a point where it becomes clear you are in no position to win and the game does not offer too many opportunities for catching up.

There is definitely more good than bad though – the game’s many systems click together well, creating many unique and interesting possibilities. For example defeating several of Loki’s minions – Ice Gians – unlocks pieces of powerful Runes – put one together and you receive an extremely powerful benefit, bringing great excitement and boosting your chances at victory. The soul-collecting mechanic is clever and works well. The cruel die’s whims can be mitigated to some extent. The names on the cards help bring the rich world to life.

In Conclusion:
Yggdrasil will satisfy fans of Norse mythology and those who like the thrill of not being in complete control of their destiny. Engrossing theme, inventive mechanics and a cohesive system make it a solid game. Uneven flow, a higher than expected level of abstraction and over-dependence on luck may detract from its’ appeal for some though.

Recommended for small groups of advanced gamers looking for a reasonable challenge or as a solo game to be enjoyed with a mug of your favourite Viking mead.

If you enjoyed this review please visit the Altema Games website for more reviews and other board game materials.

 
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75 of 87 gamers found this helpful
“Arkham Horror, now with 100% more Vikings!”

A fun, very cooperative boardgame which puts the players in the role of various Norse gods, fighting to keep the forces of evil from overrunning the halls of Asgard.
As the evil gods march closer to Odin’s Hall, the players must visit the various realms represented on the board to marshall aid (in the form of viking souls, forged weapons, etc.) in fighting back the darkness.
Visually, the board is full of colorful art, representing the various realms, but each realm is represented by a rune, which at a glance is often difficult to understand. One playthrough is enough to sort out the meanings.
Every game plays vastly differently based on which gods are in play, and there are cards to adjust the difficulty, should things become routine.
Yggdrasil is a fast co-op game, in the vein of Arkham Horror (only much simpler), with a unique Norse theme. Good luck!

 
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My First Favorite!
8
76 of 117 gamers found this helpful
“This one is pretty tough... ”

Yggdrasil is an unforgiving game. With so many options and only being able to do 3 different actions per turn (usually), this game will make you hurt with every botched decision and die roll. The mechanics are awesome. So awesome that I feel they overshadow the theme of the game entirely. I really do feel Yggdrasil can be easily re-themed into just about genre, but Norse gods are awesome.

 
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I Am What I Am
 
76 of 126 gamers found this helpful
“You will lose this game!”

This is a really good co-op game and very difficult to beat the game. I’ve only played it twice and we have lost both times. This game really is full of theme and I love anything dealing with Norse Mythology.

I’m going to go half way on the replay value while I really like the game I’m not sure I want to play it all the time as I want to beat it but at the same time I don’t want to beat it because I feel it will lose its magic.

 
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64 of 133 gamers found this helpful
“Just found it boring.”

My friend might of built this one up a little too much for me, but it felt a little flat to me. Not a bad game, just not for me.

 

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