Raiders of the North Sea board game review : Beware The Raiders of the North Sea

Ragnar was a young and ambitious Viking warrior who dreamed of becoming the next Chieftain of his clan. He had his eyes set on the beautiful daughter of the current Chieftain and knew that the only way to win her hand in marriage was to impress her father with his bravery in battle.

The problem was, Ragnar was not the only warrior in the clan who had his sights set on the Chieftain’s daughter. There were several other warriors who were also vying for her hand, and they were all eager to prove their worth by raiding as many settlements as they could and recruiting as many crew members as possible.

As the weeks went by, Ragnar and the other warriors, who had come to be known and feared by the name of “Raiders of the North Sea”, set out on numerous raids, each one hoping to emerge as the most successful and earn the Chieftain’s favor. They battled fierce enemies, plundered rich towns and villages, and brought back treasures and spoils to present to the Chieftain.

Despite his best efforts, however, Ragnar found himself falling behind the other warriors. He had lost several battles and had failed to bring back as much loot as some of the others.

But Ragnar refused to give up. He knew that he had to find a way to impress the Chieftain and win his favor if he was ever going to marry his daughter and become the next Chieftain.

One day, as Ragnar was out on a raid, he stumbled upon a group of enemy warriors who had taken some of his clan’s people captive. Without hesitation, he charged into battle, and despite being outnumbered, he fought bravely and managed to rescue the captives and defeat the enemy warriors.

When Ragnar returned to the clan’s village with the rescued captives and a massive bounty of loot, he was greeted as a hero. The Chieftain was impressed by his bravery and leadership, and he knew that Ragnar was the warrior who would make the best husband for his daughter and the best Chieftain for the clan.

And so it came to pass that Ragnar was chosen to marry the Chief’s daughter and become the next Chieftain of the clan. But as he stood before the gathered warriors and his new bride, he knew that his work was not yet done. There would always be new challenges to face and new warriors eager to prove their worth and win the Chieftain’s favor.

Ragnar set out to build his own crew of loyal warriors, to raid new lands and conquer new enemies, and to prove himself as the greatest Viking warrior the clan had ever known.


Raiding season is upon us and what better time to revisit one of the North Sea Saga trilogy games? One that’s all about sailing and raiding and gaining glorious fame as a fierce Viking warrior! Raiders of the North Sea is a worker placement strategy game that has been designed by Shem Phillips and published by Garphill Games in 2015.

It’s been designed for 2-4 players (playing a solo variant offered by the app is also an option) of 12 years and older and may take between 60-90 minutes to play. The game has gained considerable traction for its immersive Viking experience and is definitely one of the best Viking games out there.

You and your friend(s) will take on the role of young Viking warriors striving for honor and fame, all doing their best to impress the head of their clan or go to Valhalla by the hand of the Valkyrie while trying. You’ll be given your own crew and longship and expected to recruit new members for the clan, raise its flag within new territories and bring wealth to your people in the form of loot. The warrior who manages to do a better job by the time one of the three different ending conditions are met, is declared winner.

The game uses a mixture of strategy and luck to create even grounds, which makes the competition between the young warriors all the more breath-taking. The luck element, represented by drawing from a shuffled deck of card, might be a deal-breaker for some, but all those who’ve had no problem with it have greatly admired this game. It’s relatively short and simple for a game of its scale and theme but it plays out exceptionally well and isn’t too hard to learn for newcomers.

Raids, Raids and More Raids

Each player receives their designated player matt and Viking mini figures at the beginning of the game and they set out to explore the world which is represented by the main board, set up with the central harbor and various locations for raiding, pillaging, and recruiting.

You start the first round with eight starting buildings that will help you assemble your crew. Provisions and resources required to take the initial step are all provided by the starting buildings. Keep in mind that assembling and upgrading your crew is only one of the many things you’ll need these provisions for.

The game is mostly about moving to new locations, resolving whatever quest awaits you there and then returning your ships back to the shipyard. Sounds simple enough but isn’t always so in practice. You may choose on your turn to travel, recruit, raid and all sorts of other Viking activities. You have villages to raid, loot to collect and offerings to make the Chief.

Players will take turns making actions until the end of the game, where the player who’s gathered the highest number of Victory Points by completing tasks wins it all. The game ends when either only 1 Fortress raid remains, all Valkyrie are removed, or all Offerings have been made. Before I forget, you’ll need to keep an eye out on the bonus Victory Points that your resources might get you; sometimes those few extra points break a tie game by nearly an inch.

While not being actively advertised, we also notice a good deal of player interaction in this game which isn’t entirely unexpected given the Euro style of it, but is still a nice touch and adds to the heat of the competition, making it more engaging and fun for everyone.


Any description I give you of how big the North Sea is, would be an understatement. If you’ve liked what you’ve seen in Raiders of the North Sea so far, you’re going to love what’s ahead. The game has seen many reimplementations through the years and besides a Collector’s Edition, a Prequel RPG and a couple more games in the series, it’s received to expansion packs that are both worth looking into.

1. Hall of Heroes

This expansion pack brings with itself new gameplay mechanics, components, and strategies to the base game, which allows players to further explore the world of Viking raiding and conquest.

Jarls are introduced as new powerful units that can be deployed on missions, but have their own special settlement. Additionally, if you meet the requirements, you now have the option of setting off on quests given by the new Quest Cards. New buildings are also featured which means fresher and better resources and better preparation for raiding.

Hall of Heroes adds tons of new content and mechanics to the base game, making it a great choice for players who are looking for even more depth and strategy in their playthroughs. The expansion seamlessly integrates with the base game and offers a lot of replayability, making it a valuable pick for big fans of the original game.

2. Fields of Fame

Another exciting expansion pack with new components and fresh content awaits honorable Viking warriors in Valhalla. This expansion was released in 2018 and is compatible with Hall of Heroes. New mechanics, meeples, cards and more are added to the game with this note-worthy upgrade.

Berzerkers are the new recruits and of course the new meeples. Berzerkers have a higher strength level than most other troops and can be used to gain victory points by defeating tougher enemies. You have new challenges such as the new enemy cards ahead of you along your career path as a Viking, but are also presented with new means to overcome them as you move forward.

Another deck that’s experienced a refreshment are the Plunder Cards. This expansion brings all-new Plunder Cards that may prove invaluable to your strategies. Plunder cards offer various bonuses and abilities that can help players to gain an advantage over their opponents.

Fields of Fame adds a new layer of depth and strategy to the game, while visibly (and successfully, to an extent) attempting to maintain the easy-to-learn mechanics that make the game so approachable and fun for such a gruesome theme. It should also not be forgotten that both expansion packs come with new Scoring Sheets so, you know where to go once those run out.

What It’s Like

Raiders is an excellent worker placement with Euro elements implemented for ease of access. It’s very commonly compared to titles like Champions of Midgard and its reimplementation, Raiders of Scythia. In comparison to both of these games, Raiders is much more polished out and more visually pleasing, at least with regard to the art style of the components.

In terms of gameplay, Raiders of the North Sea features a richer gameplay experience in comparison to Champions of Midgard, since the element of luck has been turned down a notch to make the strategy stand out and the outcome of each decision more predictable. Champions, although heavily dependent on luck, may perform better at conveying the theme, but Raiders is more suitable for casual plays.

The solo variant, cleverly released as a companion app, is exactly what you would expect it to be. It’s not a game I’d frequently play solo, but one that is definitely helpful for newcomers and anyone who’s enthusiastic about the game’s theme. It’s safe to say the game is more fun with less than the maximum player count but also definitely more fun to play with friends than solo.

The Phillips brothers have gone almost all out with their Medieval trilogy and Raiders is one of their best ones yet. It’s not by any means a perfect game, but with the addition of the expansion packs, it’s a lot of fun and I think Shem Phillips has achieved his intended degree of entertainment. That’s why I can confidently say this game has room for improvement and it’s already improved to a more than just acceptable level, but still isn’t the obvious best choice among Viking themed board games and subjective opinions may differ on how fun it actually is. I like its strategy and how nothing included in the game feels unnecessary or extra as well as the stunning artwork that’s been featured inside.

This game isn’t too complex for family and friends gatherings and if you or your party are into Viking adventures, there’s nothing stopping you from playing it. The blessing of abstraction in a game largely affects the smoothness of gameplay, because it helps with keeping all the rules side by side your strategical plans in mind. I’d definitely recommend this game to anyone who’s looking to blow some steam after a long day, sailing the North Sea, raiding unsuspecting villagers and pillaging their wealth for your own.

Final Thoughts

The Viking way of life is more than just sea voyages and throwing axes. It’s about honor and glory, only to be found in the battlefield. It’s about prosperity and peace for one’s own clan. It’s about making your foes shiver at the utterance of your name. And as one of the epic tales of the Viking warriors unfolds right on the table in front of you, you’ll realize that it’s also about strategy and social interactions.

If you’re into ancient times’ resource and worker management, and attacking and looting civilian towns sounds like something you’d be into, Raiders of the North Sea might be just the game your group is looking for.

Make sure to share your raiding experiences with us down in the comments!

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