This month’s Game of the Month is Odin’s Ravens, designed by Thorsten Gimmler. It was first published in 2002 and is unfortunately out of print at this time; however there are copies out there available at reasonable prices for folks that want to hunt them down.
Odin’s Ravens is card game for two players and you can play a complete game in about 45 minutes, probably less.
I chose this as Game of the Month because it’s a game that honestly, I haven’t decided if I like or not. I played it a couple of times in 2008 and thought “eh” and never played again. I did the same thing with Patrician and that is one of my favorites now, so let’s give Odin’s Ravens a fair chance.
I loved Norse mythology when I was a kid. Without getting into much detail, Odin was the father of Thor and the leader of the Gods. In order to keep track of what was going on in the world, he had two pet ravens, Hugin and Mugin, that he would send out to watch over the land. They were his eyes and ears, so to speak. In Odin’s Ravens, players take on the roles of Hugin and Mugin in a race across the northern hemisphere.
The game comes with a set of 40 land cards that are used to create what is essentially a two lane highway for your raven to race across. Each player gets a neat little wooden raven to mark his or her place on the track.
Each player also receives a set of 50 flight cards with images of different types of terrain that correspond to the types pictures on the land cards. Basically, you have to play a flight card of a matching type of the one that is in front of your raven in order to move forward onto that card, and thus move forward in the race.
Each player also receives eight Odin cards that are shuffled in with their flight cards. The Odin cards give you a choice of one of two special abilities listed on the cards. The game comes with a set of six magic way cards, which I will talk about later, and a small wooden cylinder with a lightning bolt on it, called the Odin marker.
The initial set-up is pretty simple. You shuffle the 40 land cards and then start flipping them over to form a row, nine cards long. Since there are two land spaces on each card, kind of like dominoes, as you set them up, you want to avoid having two land spaces of the same type right next to each other on the same lane of the highway. If you cannot avoid this by rotating the card, then you put that card on the bottom of the deck and draw a new one.
The six magic way cards are mixed up and one of them is turned over and set off to the side of the track. Each player shuffles their 33 cards (25 flight and 8 Odin), draws five cards to their hand, and then places their raven to one side of the first card of the nine card highway in the lane closest to them. You never get to switch lanes in the race.
On your turn you can play up to three cards from your hand, and up to three cards from your auxiliary stack of cards. At the start of the game, you have zero cards in your auxiliary stack; however, as the game progresses, you will add cards to this stack. So on any given turn, you could play from three to six cards. I guess you could play less than three, but I don’t see why you would ever do that, unless it’s at the very end of the game.
On your turn, you’ve got a choice of several actions:
- Play a card face down to your auxiliary stack.
- Play a flight card or an Odin card from your hand or your auxiliary stack, moving your raven along the highway or taking the one of the two actions listed on the Odin card.
- Play a flight card from your hand or your auxiliary stack to the magic way card.
- Discard a card from your hand or your auxiliary stack.
There are few special rules about moving your raven along the track. If there are a group of land spaces ahead of your raven that match, then you can play a single card to move all the way to the last card in that group. So if you have three mountain spaces ahead of you, playing a single mountain flight card will move you ahead three spaces. Why would there be matching land spaces when I already told you to avoid that when setting up the highway? Well, that’s where the Odin cards come in to play. I’ll talk more about those in a bit. Also, if you find that you can’t move forward because you don’t have a matching flight card, you can use two of the same type as a joker. If you have a frozen tundra ahead of your raven, but no frozen tundra cards, then you could play two river flight cards as a joker to move forward. You could play two from your hand, two from your auxiliary stack, or one from each.
Let’s talk about the Odin cards. The Odin cards allow you to manipulate the race as you go on. Each card has two actions on it, but you only get to use one. This is how you can set up those matching land spaces, either by rotating a card, swapping two cards, or removing one entirely. You can also place the Odin marker as a roadblock in front of your opponent’s path, which is a pain in the butt. Using the Odin cards at the right time is extremely important.
At the end of your turn, you draw cards to your hand to bring it back up to five. You can also, if you choose, add a land card to the flight path. Unlike during the game set-up, you get to choose the orientation of this land card, so that’s another way you may create matching land spaces. Why would you do this? Well, if you are behind, it may give you a chance to catch up, or if you are in the lead, it could earn you more points at the end of the game.
The game ends when one player reaches the last card of the flight path. That player scores as many points as he is spaces ahead of his or her opponent. You play until one player earns 12 points. That’s it, except for the magic way.
There are six magic way cards, each with a different combination of two land types or a land type and a picture of Odin. At the start of the game, you flip up one of these cards. That is the only magic way card that will be used for this particular race. As one of the actions on your turn, you may play a card that matches one of the two land types (or Odin) to create a stack of cards on your side of the magic way card. The player who has played the most magic way cards at the end of the race, receives an additional three points. Why is that important? Well, if you are obviously going to lose a race, then playing to the magic way card can help mitigate your loss. If you are way out front, you can add to your final score. It can also serve to get rid of an otherwise useless card, either from your hand or your auxiliary stack.
Headless Hollow is wonderful website that has a bunch of great player aids for games like Odin’s Ravens. You could find that on BGG, but if I’m going to refer to it, I thought I might try and send some folks to the source. You can find it under Freebies. I could have linked to that too I suppose, but I think as you look for it you will realize what a cool site it is and explore a bit.
If you are really dedicated and you can’t find a copy in English, you can search for Odins Raben on Amazon.de but you’ll have to paste up the Odin cards with English text, or brush up on your German.
I’m not sure if there is an online version of this game. I’m looking forward to playing it face-to-face, even if there is one.
Let me know what you think about Odin’s Ravens in the comment section or play it a bit and share your thoughts on the follow up post at the end of the month.
Disclaimer: I have recieved no review copies of this game. I have included links to funagain.com, an online retailer that I support by including affiliate links to games. If you purchase something from Funagain, and include my affiliate code, P2RX, then I get a few pennies of store credit so I can buy more games.