02 May 2020
Norse mayhem reaches new heights.
The time for Ragnorok is nigh. Fenrir is set to bound from his cage whilst other unyielding forces of evil descend upon the nine worlds. Together, the mighty norse gods of Asgard must prevail against the imminent onslaught and save Yggdrasil, the world tree.
Hot from Essen this year is Cédric Lefebvre’s bold reimagining of 2011’s much lauded but long out of print Yggdrasil. More than a fresh lick of paint, Yggdrasil Chronicles comes packed with new mechanics, campaign play and a gloriously imposing new look. Not content with merely transcending realms, publisher Ludonaute has opted to transcend dimensions, with gameplay bounding to life atop a new 3D board. Like a totem honouring the exciting world of modern board gaming, Yggdrasil Chronicles’ World Tree stands tall and proud, its branches grasping out at inquisitive passers by and sprouting seeds of curiosity. It’s certainly got our attention, but how does it play?
Yggdrasil Chronicles is a cooperative game for one to five players. As one of seven gods, each player will take turns in any order as they fight against evil forces invading the nine worlds of Yggdrasil. Turns will usually involve moving around the board and preventing certain enemies from either advancing too far up the tree or becoming too powerful. Being on the same world as an enemy offers the opportunity to fight and repel, but combat can be a dangerous business. If a god is ever reduced to zero health all players lose. Often players will make use of the various action spaces on each world, which can empower the gods with mighty artefacts, Elven warriors, or aid from brave heroes bound for Valhalla.
Turn-by-turn gameplay is dynamic and tactile, as standees and meeples flitter about the tree and its rotating mid section. It’s thematic too, with each unique enemy activation cleverly evoking aspects of Norse lore. Loki, for example, appears out of nowhere on the active player’s location, summoning Frost Giants to meddle throughout the nine worlds and increase his strength.
Yggdrasil Chronicles makes use of an innovative ‘wheel’ system to handle the encroaching evil forces. At the start of each turn all players will play the top card of their personal enemy deck to the centre of the wheel facedown. The chosen first player will then reveal their card and place it in the wheel’s corresponding slot. Whenever two matching enemies appear on the wheel, that enemy will activate. If ever an enemy can’t carry out it’s action - either by invading Asgard or reaching their full strength - the game is lost, reducing Yggdrasil to ashes.
There’s a Pandemic-esque tension to this mechanism, relieved only by the appearance of Nidhogg, whose movements along the track in the game’s saga book usually push the players ever closer to victory.
Nidhogg’s movement also plays into the game’s various modes. In an easy game, Nidhogg skips along the track without too many hiccups - perfect for getting a grasp on the rules - whereas hard mode has players dealing with multiple enemy activations as the game advances.
Making things even more interesting is the campaign mode. Stretching over six games made up of various ‘steps,’ the campaign game lays out new win conditions which players must fulfi l before Nidhogg comes to a punishing halt. Each chapter of the campaign also introduces new components and mechanics which helps keep things fresh whilst piling on the tension.
Whilst the game succeeds at providing a unique and challenging thematic experience, it is not without its faults. Setup can be a bit of a chore and there are some discrepancies between the quality of some of the design choices and components. At first glance the standees can look very similar, often getting lost in the midst of the busy 3D tree. Furthermore, the game relies on a fair amount of iconography meaning plenty of trips back to the rule book in early play-throughs. Th at aside, Yggdrasil Chronicles is a tense and explosive romp through Norse mythology, with enough clever mechanics and variety to keep its relatively short campaign ripe for repeat plays.
PLAY IT? YES
Yggdrasil Chronicles admirably lives up to its table presence, oﬀering a deeply involved and unique cooperative experience. Getting to grips with all the moving parts can be overwhelming at ﬁrst - especially with the game’s over reliance on symbols - but get stuck in and turns will soon zip by, giving Yggdrasil Chronicles a great sense of momentum.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… PANDEMIC LEGACY
Its gripping campaign mode may not share the Legacy mechanics, but Yggdrasil Chronicles’ edge of your seat tension and reliance on teamwork will appeal to fans of the cooperative classic, whilst still oﬀering something new.
Designer: Cédric Lefebvre
Artists: Maëva da Silva, Christine Deschamps
Time: 90 minutes
Players: 1-5 players
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
- 3D World Tree board
- 12 Enemy standees
- 7 God standees
- 44 Meeples
- 18 Artifact cards
- 18 Creature cards
- 18 Iotunn cards
- 7 Double sided god sheets
- 1 Wheel of Enemies
- 5 God dice
- 13 Vanir dice
- 3 Runic stone tokens
- 7 Devestated World markers
- 25 Life Point tokens
- 9 Promise tokens
- 4 Hel’s Limb tiles
- 1 Pad of experience charts
- 1 Sagas Book
This review originally appeared in the January 2020 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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