The light wargames are really great for different kinds of get-together meetings. You can have a great time, play the game fully and also spent some time socializing. And in such cases I am definitely reaching for my small Academy Games collection. As you probably know, I love to play Mare Nostrum, and have a blast with  Storms of Steel. When I heard about another game – 878 Vikings – I immediately knew I will be interested in this!

The Game

Let me share first some details about the game. In 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, players control the invading Vikings or the English nobles who are trying to withstand the invasion. Viking players either play as Norsemen Viking freeman or as the fearless Viking shock troops known as Berserkers. The English play as the Housecarl, the Kings’ household troops, or as the Thegns who were regional noble Leaders. The English players will also be able to call up the peasant levies, called the Fyrd, to defend their cities. In essence this is 2-player game which can be easily converted to 4-players variant.

Players for each side strategize together in order to coordinate their strategies. Each side attempts to control Cities on the map to win. The English start the game controlling all of England but a Viking Leader will invade from the sea each Turn. The English players raise reinforcements from cities they control, while the Vikings must wait for a new invasion for reinforcements. The game ends when the Treaty of Wedmore is called and the side controlling the most cities wins the game.

The Session

Let us move now to actual play. We were lucky to have a full-house, i.e. four players willing to participate. We draw lots and our set-up was in the end following:

  • Norsemen Vikings – Michal (me)
  • Berserkers Vikings – Kuba
  • English – Housecarl – Konrad
  • English – Thegns – Lukasz

Round 1

  • We start from the Saxon’s betrayal which results in a speedy conquest of two cities by my forces (including Londonium). Just after me it is Kuba’s turn and his Berserkers plunge further into the southern territory.
  • Still, English do not give up – a large counter-attack reconquers key city – Winchester.
  • Not a comfortable situation for Vikings, as a lot of territory is captured but the forces are spread thin.

Round 2

  • We as Vikings decide to play slowly, concentrating forces for future rounds – one small territory is captured and our second leader barely survived!
  • Saxons build a large army and try again to counter-attack but this time their effort is futile.

Round 3

  • In my opinion a game-breaking round. First of all, my Norsemen execute a tremendous raid through the central England. The goal is simple – limit Saxon reinforcements.
  • Kuba and his Berserkers finally takes Winchester and Oxford; great success!
  • But Saxons do not give up – Konrad and Lukasz managed to gather significant forces and kill one of our leaders…

Round 4

  • Another “Operational Break” and gathering of forces on both sides – quiet round
  • Exeter falls, central England is being cleaned-up – some progress is still made
  • Despite significantly reduced reinforcements, Konrad and Lukasz managed to muster such a well-planned attack, that our second Viking leader was killed. We were left with only one – on the bring of defeat.

Round 5

  • Surprisingly, it occurred to be the final round
  • The English Kink enters the game and kills our 3rd leader. Fortunately, we managed to put fourth one on the map before this.
  • But the fortune can be very volatile, and Alfred the Great was soon to learn this the hard way; he was lured, ambushed in Sherwood woods and killed.
  • As both my Norsemen and Kuba’s Berserkers were for the Treaty of Wedmore, we managed to force Saxons to accept it (special way to end the game).
  • The score at the moment of agreement was 12 to 5 for Vikings so we got the victory!

During the game we had a lot of interesting rolls – like 5 hits on 5 dices, or 5 retreats on 5 dices!

Pretty often we saw the Vikings hosts roaming through the countryside while small, token forces of Saxons were trying to hastily erect some kind of defense – the amount of Northern warriors was so large, we moved only leader figures on the map:

First impressions

That was a very enjoyable first meeting with 878 Vikings and we definitely agreed more is needed. What I would like to specially underline is:

  • The game is very thematic – the mechanics itself (Viking raids) and the opposing English are very well depicted and you feel as a part of history
  • It is definitely a fast-paced and quick game which can be played in reasonable time
  • On the other hand it is also exciting & brutal, with battles being a main driving factor here
  • As usually, Academy Games produced beautiful position with great components
  • I like the fact that there are different ways to win the game
  • Last but not least – still to be explored by us – there are tons of expansions !

There will be for sure more reports from me as the game definitely hits the sweet-spot of theme and how long it plays. We had really great time!