Lost Cog Games (designers Matthias Bonnici and Dave Simpson) have performed an impressive feat of gaming alchemy. Rampaging Jotunn combines the frost giants of Norse mythology with Viking society in a way that’s seldom seen at a gaming table.
Welcome to the Saga of the Unnamed Land. Ymir has awoken from his slumber and the stage is set.
2 players go head-to-head in this wild ride, each controlling a Viking faction with 2 armies and 3 villages. The action starts on a board which players assemble from 6 interconnecting board wedges chosen at random, ensuring a different randomized playing field each time (the staggering number of possible board wedge combinations exceeds 4 million.)
Plains, woods, mountains and volcanoes are the 4 terrain types represented in this game. Why no bodies of water, you ask? There’s actually plenty of that too, albeit of the salt water variety, into which no playing pieces may enter. As such, it serves as the perimeter. The game board itself is a “great, hidden and uninhabited island, its verdant lands rich in resources.”
Gameplay unfolds with each player rolling to see who goes first, followed by each player readying their own 3 village tokens (and 2 army tokens) for placement onto the board. The game’s 12 board wedges get shuffled (face down,) and 6 of these board wedges are then selected, from which the island is formed. Placement of villages and armies occurs next, followed by a drawing of 5 cards into each player’s hand. The starting player then rolls a d6 to determine the starting facing of Ymir the Jotunn in the center hex.
Players proceed to take turns consisting of 1 of 3 allowable actions. Play a card from your hand. Move an army. Or discard 3 cards to raise an army (only 2 armies may exist for either player at any time, so proceed with caution when choosing to perform such an action.) Players draw back up to 5 cards at the conclusion of each turn.
One example of a card appears in the picture shown above. It pertains to the movement of Ymir; the fulcrum of the game. Not only will your armies be defending your villages while engaging in combat with other armies and demolishing other villages. Nay! Your armies (and villages) will both be hoping that Ymir doesn’t come angrily trampling in your direction.
No combat against Ymir will ever happen. If he tramples a village, he’ll return to his starting space (the center hex.) If he tramples an army, he moves no further spaces during the turn. If he ends his movement on a volcano, he’ll return to his starting space.
Other card examples include “Turn Around,” “Diagonal One Movement Point,” “Backward One Movement Point,” “Raise An Army,” “Order Ignored,” “Reset Jotunn To Center” and “Path Cannot Be Changed.” With 81 cards in all, a plethora of options will present themselves to each player during the course of a match.
In addition to having a hand of 5 cards, each player also begins each match with 3 Army Cards (used to determine how many Movement Points will be spent to move their armies around the board during a turn.) These cards will read “Move Up To 2 Movement Points,” Move Up To 3 Movement Points” and “Move Up To 4 Movement Points.”
Moving armies through different types of terrain will cost different amounts of Movement Points, as follows:
Plains = 1 Movement Point
Woods = 2 Movement Points
Mountains = 4 Movement Points
Volcanoes = Forget it. Armies cannot enter volcano hexes (unless a player plays the coveted “Move Your Army Two Spaces Regardless Of Terrain” card, of which 4 are found in the deck of 81 cards, allowing armies to move through volcano hexes.)
Careless usage of the Army Cards whilst maneuvering armies on this island can backfire faster than you can say “Valhalla” so remember to be aware of all that’s happening on the board at all times. When an Army Card is used, it gets turned over and shall remain face down until all 3 Army Cards have been used (at which time they reset, turning face up again.)
As for Ymir, he can land on a volcano hex. If he does, he returns to his starting space. If he reaches the perimeter of the board, he’ll do a 180-degree turn at the cost of 1 Movement Point. Ymir cannot leave the island.
In addition to armies, Ymir’s movements are affected by the terrain types as well.
Plains = 1 Movement Point
Woods = 1 Movement Point
Mountains = 2 Movement Points
Volcanoes = Return to starting space
As for villages, opportunities will arise for players to improve a village’s defenses, by way of defensive lines and garrisons. It’s been said of chess that “the best offense is a strong defense,” and the same is true during matches of Rampaging Jotunn. It’s very tempting to have your armies marching towards enemy villages at all times, but one must exercise restraint and be more fluid with their army movements if one is to be successful on this perilous island.
Knowing that your villages are the only spawning points for your armies should be all the incentive you need to defend your villages at all cost. When your opponent’s villages are gone, the match is over, and you’ll be triumphant. Think it’s easy? Think again!
Highly recommended for abstract gamers, chess players, war gamers and fans of Nordic culture. With a 4-player expansion coming soon (Rampaging Jotunn: The Winter War, with new armies, new rules and more,) now’s a great time to try it out for yourself. If you should happen to see Ymir between now and then, let him know that we said “Hallo!”