Tabletop Review: Become the Viking Valley Chief in ‘Valley of the Vikings’

Games
‘Valley of the Vikings’ from HABA. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

HABA is one of those board game brands that is so well known for putting out quality games that their new releases are often something I’m automatically drawn to, especially for board games my kids can play together. When I was offered an opportunity to review a copy of newer HABA title Valley of the Vikings, I jumped at the chance. Many of HABA’s titles are easy to set up and quick to play so they have become favorites in our house.

What Is Valley of the Vikings?

Valley of the Vikings is a tactical game of skill with a bowling component for 2-4 players ages 6+ and takes 15-20 minutes to play. It has an MSRP of $29.99. It was also the winner of the Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019 award.

Valley of the Vikings Components

‘Valley of the Vikings’ game components. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Valley of the Vikings contains the following:

  • 1 Large Viking Valley Game Board
  • 8 Viking Flags
  • 4 Viking Tokens
  • 1 Cardboard Bat
  • 4 Viking Ships
  • 1 Bowling Ball
  • 24 Gold Coins
  • 4 Wooden Barrels
  • 1 Rule Book

HABA makes quality games with solid pieces, so I always open a HABA game expecting well-made components and this game is certainly not an exception to that expectation. The game board actually fits together like a large, thick puzzle. This gives not only a lot of space for the game but manages to create a way to have a large board without making such a huge box that it gets awkward to find shelf space for. The artwork is absolutely adorable and clearly aimed at kids. There are a lot of little cardboard spots to punch out the first time you play though, but I’m still an overall fan of the components.

The Viking Ships do require some assembly. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

The ships will take some assembly work the first time you play the game too, which is the only slight downside I see. Kids probably will need adult help sliding the ship pieces into the little slots. The Viking Ships are decently sturdy, but lining them up will be trickier for kids and you can rip up the ships if you try to force them too hard, which kids are more prone to doing. There’s a lot of equally adorable artwork on the ships as well as with the Viking Flags, the Viking Tokens, and the Cardboard Bat which is shaped like a little Viking. They have the feel of being durable enough to handle many, many games.

The Gold Coins and Bowling Ball are made from plastic. Since the Gold Coins get passed around a lot, the plastic will likely help with their durability. The Bowling Ball has to get batted around enough that the lighter plastic is actually a good choice because anything too heavy and my kids would have likely smacked it hard enough to break something or hit someone in the face.

The Wooden Barrels are brightly colored and made of wood which is the perfect weight for the pins as well as being sturdy enough to take the repeated knocking down the game requires of them.

My overall consensus is that the game components are exactly what I’ve come to expect from HABA as a brand.

How to Play Valley of the Vikings

Goal

The goal of Valley of the Vikings is to gain the most Gold Coins through a combination of strategy and bowling skills to become Valley Viking Chief.

Setup

A game ready to play. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Once the Viking Ships are assembled for the first time and all of the little pieces are punched out, setup is pretty quick and doesn’t take a lot of work so kids should be able to play this game on their own without needing a grown-up to keep setting it up for them.

The Rule Book comes with a very nicely labeled diagram that makes the process pretty easy. Players use the following steps to set a game up:

  1. Assemble the board in the middle of the table.
  2. Each player selects a color and gets the Viking Ship and Viking Token that matches.
  3. All 4 Viking Tokens go in front of the first Dock Space even if there are fewer than 4 players.
  4. Each player puts their Viking Ship in front of them. Viking Ships not claimed by players are set to one side of the board. Every Ship gets a Gold Coin.
  5. The remaining Gold Coins (Hoard), the Bowling Ball, and Bat go next to the board.
  6. Shuffle the 8 Viking Flags face down and place them randomly in their assigned spots face up.
  7. Randomly place the 4 Wooden Barrels the the grass circled holes on the board.

Gameplay

Once you have a feel for how a turn works, the actually play mechanic is not difficult at all. Play moves clockwise starting with the player who most resembles a Viking.

Player Turn

Preparing to strike the Bowling Ball. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.
  1. On their turn, a Player puts the Bowling Ball in the Board Corner closes to them and smacks it with the Bat towards the Wooden Barrels. They may keep trying until they know down at least one Wooden Barrel.

    The Active Player can choose to move the Yellow Viking first to prevent the Blue Viking from getting to steal a Gold Coin from everyone. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.
  2. The active player moves the Viking Tokens according to what Wooden Barrels they knocked over. If more than one Barrel is knocked over, the player decides what order to move the relevant Viking Tokens. The Viking Tokens are moved to the first unoccupied spot to the right. If any Viking Tokens move off the Dock into the Water, the player’s turn is over. 
  3. Gold Coins are rewarded.

    Players get to decide how to place the knocked over Wooden Barrels. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.
  4. Overturned Wooden Barrels are replaced in whatever order the active player chooses.

Scoring and Gaining Coins

The Blue Viking gets 4 Gold Coins, and the Red Viking gets to steal a Gold Coin from the Yellow Viking. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Only players who have Viking Tokens on the Docks may earn Gold Coins. Non-player Viking Tokens still get their Viking Ships rewarded with Gold Coins too. The Gold Coins are rewarded to the player closest to the Water first and then in order until the player with the Viking Token closest to Start is rewarded last. Players earn Gold Coins in the following ways:

  • Viking Flag with Gold Coins: Player earns the number of Gold Coins depicted.
  • Viking Flag Matching Player: Player steals one Gold Coin from each of the other players.
  • Viking Flag of Other Player: Player steals a Gold Coin from the shown player.

Game End

Counting Gold Coins at the Game End. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

The game ends when the Hoard of Gold Coins has been emptied and each player finished up any Gold Coin stealing for the round. Players then count up their Gold Coins and the player with the most Gold Coins is declared Valley Viking Chief and wins. If there is a tie, the player closest to Start on the Dock wins. If a non-player Ship has the most Gold Coins, all players loose.

Why You Should Play Valley of the Vikings

Overall, this is a great little game and I was pleasantly surprised at how much strategy could be applied in a game aimed for players as young as six years old.

The pieces are the sort of solid quality that HABA is well known for matched up with really nice artwork. What materials were used for what components absolutely makes sense, and I’m a big fan of how they found a way to make a big game board so compact. Low game shelf space is a real struggle, but this was handled so well. 

The first time setup takes a little extra work, but after that it goes pretty fast and my kids have easily been able to play on their own since then. Clean up isn’t too difficult either. There’s no awkward fitting of components or anything that makes the process a challenge. 

The game is fairly quick to catch onto and there is a sample turn in the instructions for those who need it. The nicest little surprise may be that there’s a decent little bit of strategy worked into the game especially in deciding which Wooden Barrels to aim for, what order to put the Wooden Barrels back in, and what Viking Tokens you want to move first. A clever player will start to notice they can set things up to try to force other Viking Tokens to end up off the Dock first, or to try to keep other players from landing in preferred Dock spaces. Younger players may not catch onto this part at first, but older players can help them see those connections. It certainly added a gameplay level that made things much more interesting for the nine year old. The game seemed decently balanced skill wise though, the first three games we played each had a different winner so the youngest player doesn’t always get overwhelmed by the others. 

Valley of the Vikings has an MSRP of $29.99 which is within range of what I would expect from a HABA game, and given the nice components, the giant board, and the replayability, I feel that’s quite fair. If you want a copy, HABA has a way for you to look up where to buy locally here or find it via Amazon here.

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