The spray whips across the bow of our longship. We have been crossing the North Sea for days now. Then a green stripe on the horizon. The search for land has come to an end. Our ship pushes itself onto the beach. Thanks to Odin and Freya, the land is fertile. A new settlement can be built.
With Explorer of the North Sea there were then three
Explorers of the North Sea is the conclusion of the North Sea Saga by Garphill Games. One last time we try to collect fame and glory with our vikings. For this purpose we start with a ship and some compatriots from our home village and try to explore the big unknown sea.
By placing six-sided tiles, we discover the North Sea step by step. Thereby we encounter the most different challenges. Sometimes we have to destroy a foreign ship, sometimes we raid a settlement to get victory points. We must try to find farm animals, which we transport back to our home village with our ship. Unfortunately we only have one ship and this ship has only three places free.
This is exactly the trick in this game. We have to weigh up all the time: Do we transfer the Vikings to a new island to found a settlement there or do we first bring the farm animals on board?
Simple rules and complex strategies
The game is a quick to learn tile placement game that is comparable to Carcassonne. Compared to this one, however, it offers a greater game depth. With seven possible elements you can generate victory points in Explorers of the North Sea.
One element is collecting farm animals that appear on the tiles. You get points for each set. You can also generate points by building settlements. Or you can dominate an island and receive points for each island part. You can use different strategies to gain as many victory points as possible.
Yet another mechanism
The third game in Shem Phillips’ North Sea Saga is again dedicated to a completely different game mechanism. The first part worked with a card drafting mechanism and in the second part we could command our Vikings by worker. The third part now comes along with tile placing. But this quite simple mechanism is extended by a deeper strategy, which I missed in my games of Isle of Sky.
With the Explorers of the North Sea you play with all other players on an evolving playing field and mostly quite peacefully. The only unfriendly action you have is stealing another player’s farm animals. Fighting against enemy ships and raiding cities is also quite simple. If you have enough Vikings in your ranks, you automatically win. This makes for fast gameplay.
Great design, great components
The Explorers of the North Sea were illustrated by the well-known artist The Mico, who also created the graphics for the first two parts. The well-known character images of the predecessors can also be found here again, but this time only as possible captains of the player. The package contents leave nothing to be desired. Almost all tokens are made of wood and bring a high value. The only exception are the ships: They are made of plastic and offer space for the little wooden Vikings on their journeys. Only the fact that not all farm animals can be placed exactly in the ships makes for a light sniff.
Final thoughts on Explorers of the North Sea
I enjoyed playing the game, even though I am not a big fan of games like Carcassonne and Isle of Skye. Because of the different ways to score, I had to strain my grey cells from time to time. The game demands a constant weighing up of options. There is no fixed scheme, after which you can play. Unfortunately, I don’t like the Explorers of the North Sea as much as I like the Raiders of the North Sea, here I simply liked the game mechanics better. But the first part of the series, the Shipwrights of the North Sea, can compete with the last part of the North Sea Saga without any problems. I also admit that this is grumbling on a high level, because I would play any game of these three games at any time.