18 July 2019
A snack for Odin
Lindisfarne is a whole lot of game in not a lot of box. With just a deck of cards, three smallish boards and a few handfuls of tokens, this Viking dice-roller manages to create an experience that feels like it belongs in a package several times the size – and price.
At the centre of the Norse action is dice-rolling, with players chucking cubes equal to the number of Vikings in their clan: six to start, then fewer as they head off to European shores in search of regions to pillage. The results can be assigned to each of the boards to try and achieve the most unique die results, longest consecutive run of numbers or largest number of matching rolls.
The diverse objectives – with the caveat of having to place at least one token and only being able to assign dice to a single board each turn – means that the luck of the dice is offset, leaving enough room for a competitive, tactical feel. The chance to collect dice-modifying runes for unspent Vikings at the end of a round opens up control of the cubes further, without taking away the excitement of throwing down and seeing what turns up.
Achieve one of the objectives and you’ll swipe one of that board’s attached cards, which is where Lindisfarne’s second clever half comes into play. The cards can be worth points alone, but also earn points for the player with the largest collection and offer bonus score for completing connected sections of the panoramic frescos that run across several cards. Meanwhile, objective cards award specific sets of card suits, based on the various destinations; cards from the Viking home of Norway grant bonus actions and scoring opportunities.
Dice-rolling and card set-collection are two staples of the gaming world, and Lindisfarne doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel when it comes to its gameplay. The rules will be familiar to those who’ve spent time in similar small-box card and dice games, and can be picked up in a couple of minutes by everyone else.
That said, what the combination of dice and cardplay here lacks in originality, it makes up for with dependability as tight as a longboat's planks. It’s wholly satisfying to assign dice, collect cards and score points, and the quickness of turns and setup makes a good experience even better. You’re left with the feeling of having played a much more substantial game thanks to the mixture of gameplay elements and scoring considerations coming together seamlessly.
Where Lindisfarne excels in making its components go the distance – the three main map boards flip over to come a final scoring sheet, cards score in at least three different ways – its presentation feels a little less inventive. The muted wood effect and awkward arrangement of its three Europe-forming central boards, which serves a gameplay purpose but looks strangely disjointed, sits alongside cards that are nicely illustrated but lack any individuality versus any one of the countless Viking games out there. In a word, the look of Lindisfarne is forgettable.
Lindisfarne won’t change the world. Taken piece by piece (of the few pieces there are), its gameplay mechanics and look are overly familiar and fail to do anything special alone. Put them together, though, and this compact set becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s fast and fun, and asks little of your time or money. A lot for a little – who can argue with that?
PLAY IT? – PROBABLY
Its gameplay isn’t revolutionary – but the amount it crams into an extremely reasonable package is. This is a thoroughly solid and strategic experience that deserves the small space it’ll occupy on your shelf.
Designer: Damien Fleury, Alain Pradet
Time: 30-45 minutes
This review originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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