Yggdrasil is the latest game to come out from Stéphane Maurel, the mind behind Cyclades, Haru Ichiban, Blue Lion, and others. As a cooperative game, Yggdrasil manages to avoid the pitfall of Cyclades, in that it does not need an AI.
You play one of nine Norse gods attempting to fend off the forces of Ragnarok, including Odin, Frey, Freya, Thor, Tyr, Heimdall, Frigg, Baldor, and Vidar (the last three unlockable within the game). Asgard, the home of the Norse gods is under seige from a host of antagonistic powers, and you must marhsall the forces of Asgard, Midgard and coordinate events and activities across the nine worlds. All of this takes place around the eponymous Yggdrasil.
The focus of the game takes place on Asgard, which is broken up into eight vertical columns. All the enemies start on the far left of this columnal section, and will be progressed further and further rightwards as the game goes on. Each turn a card is drawn that will push one of those enemies a space right, and activate its power. You win if you manage to exhaust the deck of antagonist movement and you lose if enough of their forces penetrate one of three thresholds. If you have five enemies past the gates of Asgard, three enemies in the halls of Valhalla, or one enemy in the House of Odin at the end of a turn, you lose.
Your enemies include Surt the lord of fire jotunn, who summons fire jotunns into Midgard; Nidhogg a dragon that nibbled the roots of Yggdrasil, who drags other enemies along with him; Loki the half-giant trickster god, who summons the help of the frost jotunn; Jormungand the giant sea serpent that coils the world, which causes islands to sink and pushes back the valkyrie; Hel the goddess of death and the underworld, who steals away the Einherjar (the fallen slain vikings) to the underworld; and Fenrir the wolf that will devour the sun at Ragnarok, whose ferocity causes you to lose a number of turns.
In a single turn, each god has three moves, and must coordinate with other gods. Each action can be used once on each of the nine worlds, with their various effects. Mostly, you will be using a combination of Midgard to collect Einherjar through the Valkyrie, and then throwing those forces against one of the antagonistic gods in Asgard. Each character can only select each of the worlds once during their turn.
The antagonist gods each have a strength that increases the further right they traverse. Your goal is to beat them in combat with a force that is either equal to or greater than theirs. Your combat strength is one for every Einherjar you commit to the fight, one to three if you have a relevant artefact weapon for that god, one to three based on the roll of a die, and perhaps some of the Aelfar that you can commit after the die roll. It is important to note that any Einherjar and Aelfar that you commit are lost whether you win or not. Success pushes the enemy deity back one slot.
This is where the nine worlds come in. There are a variety of different resources that are crucial to manage for your success. Selecting Alfheim (home of the elves) gives you an Aelfar; selecting Vanaheim gives you the aid of the Vanir (which are a range of misellaneous instant effects of increasing power); Nidavellir (home of the dwarves) gives you access to weaopn artefacts, each keyed to one of the six enemy deities; Svartheim (kingdom of darkness) allows you to swap resources between your gods; Jotunheim (home of the frost jotunn) lets you combat the various frost giants; Muspelheim (kingdom of fire) lets you remove fire jotunn from Midgard; and Helheim (the underworld) lets you return fallen or used Einherjar back to an island on Midgard.
There are other particular rules, but the above should give you a sufficient overview of the game that you can go in with some insight.
This is a game that works quite well for the iPad. You have one main board, which readily fits onto the user interface of the iPad, and all the extraneous parts of the game are represented with icons similar to the tokens from the actual board game. All of the information you need to play the game is at your fingertips with a few small exceptions. For example, I found that there is no direct information in the user interface that tells you what each of your Gods has (in terms of Einherjar, artefacts, and similar), or what the order is. Without this information at hand, it becomes nigh impossible to adequately co-ordinate from move to move. I discovered something of a work around, in using the Realm of Darkness to see at a glance who has what, but this option becomes blocked from time to time in the game, so you can’t depend on it.
At this point, the game has a text base tutorial, which is enough to familiarise yourself with the basics of the game, but not enough to really know what’s going on or why you might be making certain actions over other actions. Fortunately, I found it took maybe only a little trial and error in one game before I was confident, and perhaps about three games before I found myself consistently winning half of them (albeit with the built in cheat). However, the developer has promised a video tutorial in the next update which is due for release next week. The written rules seem to have been mostly lifted from the physical game, because there are numerous references to things that only make sense if you’re referring to a physical game. Not enough that you can’t make sense of it, but it’s there.
Edit: quick update, Stéphane has advised that while playing, you can place your finger on the current god, which will reveal the order of play for the gods. Similarly you can place your finger (in cheat mode) on the upcoming deck of antagonist gods and frost jotunn, which will reveal how many of each type are still remaining.
8/10: This is clearly going to rank up there amongst the best games. I think it needs a few more refinements before it gets a nine or a ten, but definitely a game worth your time and money.Yggdrasil,