Published by: IDW Games and Pandasaurus Games
# of Players: 3 to 5
The edition of Fire & Axe I reviewed is a reprint by IDW Games of the original that was first printed in 2004. I have never played the other two editions of Fire & Axe, so I can not compare the difference between the three editions. I can say that I was impressed with many of the components in this edition. The game comes with a lot of miniatures that can go on your boat. They even made multiple sculpts for each group to add a little diversity in the look, though they have no difference in gameplay. The plastic used in the models is okay and would compare it to what you would find in Kemet or the various Risk games. The boat minis were fragile in the sail and could break by handling or storing the game. The cards have a nice linen finish and are a very good card stock. The cards were some of the easiest I have ever shuffled. The game board was a little disappointing. The colors are very dark and similar in color. There are visual aids on the rings around the towns to help tell which make up a region but can still be hard to tell apart. I am not color blind and I found some of the colors in the towns hard to tell apart. The game board itself is really thick and sturdy. Each player has a longship board that also has a summary of what you can do on your turn and what costs a day to do. This is a very handy board that makes the game easier to play as a new player.
Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga is a mission based strategy game. Players are moving across the board to trade, raid and settle the various towns. Players will earn treasure (victory points) for trading and raiding. Players will also earn treasure for completing sagas and settlements at the end of the game. The game is played through 3 ages that progress as you complete saga cards. Once the final saga is completed or the final round token has been played, the game will end and after final scoring the person with the most treasure will win. Players can take 3 different actions in the game that will cost 1 day. A player has 7 days total to perform actions for their turn. If the player is in the wintering zone, they may load crew and goods. Each crew or good loaded counts as one day. A player may draw a rune card at the cost of a day. They may only draw rune cards in their Homeland (Denmark, Norway, or Sweden) and may only have up to 3 rune cards in their hand. The last action that requires the use of a day is sailing. Whenever a player moves their longship a space on water or in/out of port it spends 1 day. Players should be careful as there is a wind dial that tracks how many fair weather days you will have of sailing on your turn. Anything above that number will require sacrificing a good or crew member. For example if you have 3 fair weather days but want to sail 4 or 5 spaces, you will be required to remove 1 good or crew. If you decided you wanted to sail all 7 days that would require losing 2 goods or crew. As many players can be on the same water space but only 1 person can be in port for a specific town at a time.
Settling will require you to dedicate up to 3 crew and roll a die for each crew you have dedicated to settling. You will use that same town number for this roll as well. You must exceed the number shown to be successful. A good previously traded does reduce the number by 1 needed. You will only roll the dice one and for each roll that was a failure you must remove a crew member. If one of your dice exceeded then you will move that crew member in the town and it is now your settlement. The only way to remove a settlement is by rune cards. If at anytime your longship has no crew, they immediately go to the wintering zone with 1 crew and end your turn. Players can play or discard rune cards during their turn as free actions. When playing or discarding a rune card, the player can also move the wind wheel that displays the number of fair weather days. At any time during your turn you may move to the wintering zone and discard all but 1 crew member and end your turn. Once a saga is complete from the 3 that are available, they player will take that card and receive any treasure it may give. The next saga card will replace the empty space. At the end of the game players will receive treasure based on who has the most sagas, towns and settlements. The winner is the person with the most treasure.
Fire & Axe is not your typical Viking game. Players may expect more of a war game type experience, but I found the Viking theme worked well with Fire & Axe's mechanics. The game is very easy to teach. The people I played with were split on if they thought it was okay or liked it. The game will take longer than the claimed 90 minute game time. I found it works best as a 4 player game, that way players will be competing over sagas instead of each taking a separate saga. Rune cards were not too aggressive and for a Viking game this will play well with those who don't like player conflict. I do not care for Saga cards that had requirements already completed not going to anyone. If you settled the most in a region you should be able to claim a saga card revealed that has it's requirements met. Only other issue I had was how dark the board was. They also used colors that were to similar to mark regions, forcing players to use the rings to figure out which towns were in a region. I guess they wanted me to experience what it is like to be colorblind. I found that Fire & Axe had a good amount of strategy and push your luck elements that I enjoy in a board game. I would recommend this to anyone who likes Vikings or enjoys pick up and deliver type games. War gamers will find this boring. I enjoyed Fire & Axe and it will currently stay in my collection.
+ Rule book was designed and organized to easily teach you the game and reference
+ Components are very solid and sturdy
+ Viking theme works surprisingly well with a pick up and deliver mechanic
+ Reprint of a game that some were wanting to add to their collection
- Same may feel the game is bland or boring when going over the 90 minute play time
- The game board is too dark and muted
- Sagas that already had their requirements met are discarded