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FIRE & AXE

Reviewed by Herb Levy

FIRE & AXE (Asmodee Editions, 3 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; $49.99)

 

When you’re renting a car and expecting a compact but end up with a luxury sedan, that’s pretty nice. When you show up on a blind date and discover your date is a super model, well, that’s pretty nice too. You see, EVERYBODY loves an upgrade. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to something as important to us as gaming, a classy upgrade is always welcome. That is the case with Fire and Axe, the new release from Asmodee, which is a new and improved upgrade to Ragnar Brothers’ Viking Fury.fire&axe

The original Viking Fury game originally featured in the Fall 2004 issue of Gamers Alliance Report (and reprinted in this issue) was a well designed excursion into adventure as Vikings explored and settled land. With Fire & Axe, the essentials of the original game design remain untouched while the physical presentation is given first class treatment.

First of all, the game is bigger. The box is more than double the size of the original and it has to be to hold the treasure trove of improved components. This new edition contains a colorful, triple fold, larger and MOUNTED game board showing the chilling Northern Seas all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea, from the Atlantic Ocean to the waterways of Eastern Europe. The Vikings are large and colorful plastic pieces and the counter used are on tactically pleasing, thick cardboard.

The only non-graphic difference in the game is the introduction of nine new “rune” cards. These cards, denoted by the presence of “red diamonds” on the cards, are optional additions to play. According to the rulebook itself, these cards add “greater interaction and chaos” to the game. Just what do they do? A few examples: ” Choose a longboat in a port. Discard one of the goods it contains” or “You double the value of the treasure from the city you just raided” or “Choose a Viking. That player must give you a settlement of his choice” or “Choose a settlement. Roll a die. On a result equal or higher than 4, the crewman figure is removed and that settlement disappears”. You get the idea. These kinds of cards raise the chaos quotient of the game and bring the game down to a more “family” level. As these new rune cards are very similar to cards already in the game, this addition may or may not be added to the mix according to your own sensibilities and preferences and the tastes of those players who will be joining you around the table. And, as long as we’re talking about the cards, be aware that several cards used in the game display the same artwork but have different text and, therefore, different effects. Best to READ the text before playing the card to be certain the card you play is the card you want to play o avoid any embarrassing problems in the heat of the moment. And speaking of the text.

The cards in the game are of a good size which makes one thing about them so puzzling: type size. For reasons shrouded in mystery, many companies continue to favor miniscule typefaces on a card while devoting 50% or more of the available space to pictures or graphic designs that do not advance the game play! It’s understandable to highlight graphics to create a certain ambiance or atmosphere to highlight the gaming experience. But it is the text that powers the game along. To keep the game flowing, the text should be easily readable at a glance. As we gamers get older, tiny type is not our friend. With the graphic improvement of the game, larger type would have been an easy and welcome improvement too.

As mentioned elsewhere in this issue, Vikings seem to have invaded the psyche of game designers, miraculously appearing in more than their expected share of recent games. But it’s all good as Vikings seems as designers offer widely disparate approaches in applying the theme. In this case, gamers who had heard a buzz about the original Viking Fury game but had a hard time finding a copy now have that problem solved as will gamers who simply enjoy the Viking theme or really get into games that allow them to trade and raid (along with settle and sail). Viking Fury is a game of solid play value; Fire & Axe enhances that quality with graphic excellence. – – – – Herb Levy


 

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Summer 2007 GA Report Articles

 

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