A Feast for Odin is designer Uwe Rosenberg’s newest worker placement, resource collection, player board optimization euro game. Having previously played games of Agricola, Le Havre, Caverna and Ora et Labora (all worker placement, resource management games by Uwe) and having watched a few reviews of Feast, I thought I was prepared to take on his latest cardboard epic about vikings. Yet once all the components, decks of cards and boards were setup, I was struck by the shear scope of the game’s size and possibilities.
Yes, A Feast for Odin is big. But is bigger better? How does it compare to Mr. Rosenberg’s past achievements? Has he finally made his magnum opus, or has he become as glutenous as the wooden viking meeples that demand more and more cardboard for their feast?
A Feast for Odin is played over six or seven rounds. Players will slowly receive more and more viking meeples which they use to place on an action board that has 61 possible action spaces. In a four player game there is also two spots that can mirror an action on a random column. Vikings are placed in groups of one to four to do more or less powerful actions. A small amount of luck is injected into the game through the mechanics of rolling a die to hunt or pillage. The roll can be mitigated by resources or weapons that are randomly gained throughout the game.
The focus of each player’s player boards is a large puzzle reminiscent of Uwe Rosenberg’s games Patchwork or Cottage Garden. Players must use resources and gold to cover an intricate grid in order to increase their income and gain other resources. From a design standpoint, this is definitely the most innovative aspect of Feast. A new puzzle for gamers who love to delve into meaty, thinky game engines.
Victory points are tallied on a pad and are given for a variety of achievements in the game. Players can build houses, discover islands (which are also intricate grids) and play occupations that may award points. Income and gold is also worth points.
Thoughts on the game:
I should preface my opinion of Feast with a short disclaimer: I am at a point in my board game playing and design where I am appreciating and seeking out tight games with multi-use cards and a concise amount of components. So a three hour game of A Feast for Odin was perhaps the exact opposite experience I am looking for right now. I would say that overall I enjoyed playing Feast because I am a game designer and it is a good lesson in structure and scope. I enjoyed it the way I enjoyed reading Crime and Punishment. It was big, sprawling and I felt like a lot could have been taken out of it.
The thing about Feast is that perhaps more than any game, I felt that it was multi-player solitaire. There are no tight battles for a first player token or for action spaces. I felt that the tension that most worker placement games offer was replaced by a personal tension each player had with managing the puzzle of their player boards. One player I played with noted that in Feast ‘you don’t play against the other players, but you play against the game.’ And readers should not take this to mean I dislike the game, I love good solo games and encountering thinky puzzles. I am actually very much looking forward to playing Feast again because my score was embarrassingly low and I did not play the player board puzzle properly.
How does it compare to Uwe Rosenbergs other games? I feel that with A Feast for Odin, Uwe let himself go. Ironically much like a viking king gorging himself at a feast table. For me the game had too many options. It felt like the opposite of stream lined. Not so much clunky as simply out of focus. If people complain that some board games can be too scripted, forcing the players to go in specific directions, then I would say Feast is not scripted enough. Players are too free to gather the leaves of their point salad to pig out at an end game victory point smorgasbord.
But to end on a more positive note, the game is quite beautiful, filled with the high quality components we’ve come to expect from this designer. And I secretly hope Mr. Rosenberg has gotten the ‘more is better’ out of his system so he can design more focused euro masterpieces like Le Havre and Agricola.