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Fire & Axe
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Fire & Axe

domestic edition of Viking Fury

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 90 minutes 3-5

Manufacturer(s): Asmodee Editions, Ragnar Brothers

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Product Description

Trade, raid and settle the world of Middle Ages Europe. Sail the seas to the end of the world. Fight bravely under the Raven's banner and bravely enter Valhalla! Make the civilized world tremble and priests fervently pray "Lord, save us from the fury of the Northmen".

Fire & Axe gives players a chance to take on the role of Vikings traveling between 750 and 1020. Each journey begins in Scandinavia, where crewmen and goods are loaded and the runes cast. During the journey, you will trade with the locals, raid them for treasure or try to establish settlements. If you can, you may try to accomplish sagas which will be repeated by the skalds.

The speed at which you will gain riches and notoriety will determine how great a mark your Viking will have left on Middle Ages Europe.

Product Awards

Product Information

  • Manufacturer(s): Asmodee Editions, Ragnar Brothers

  • Year: 2007

  • Players: 3 - 5

  • Time: 90 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 2,002 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.


  • 1 rulebook
  • 1 game board
  • 33 rune cards
  • 27 saga cards
  • 5 longboat tiles
  • 1 wind dial token
  • 33 goods token
  • 15 treasure tiles
  • 67 gold coins
  • 5 drakkar figurines
  • 75 crewman figurines
  • 3 large town figurines
  • 12 small town figurines
  • various counters
  • 3 dice

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 2.5 in 1 review

Fun for most - too lucky for me.
May 24, 2007

Fire & Axe (Asmodee Editions, 2007 – Steve and Phil Kendall) was on my list of most anticipated games from 2007. A reprint of Viking Fury (by the Ragnar brothers), I had heard many good things about the game; and the Viking theme, along with the fact that one of my favorite companies was producing the game, certainly attracted me – I played it eagerly.

The game has since become so popular that it has continually seen play in our gaming group – a few folks have declared it one of their favorite games. And I certainly see why, it’s full of theme, wonderful bits, and interactive, enjoyable game play. Yet something holds me back – and it’s easy to identify – I don’t necessarily enjoy the luck involved in the game. Sure, I don’t mind dice or luck in games, but to me, there are a few rolls, which make or break the game, and I’ve seen players lose the entire game due to poor rolling. Still, the game was enjoyable despite this, and perhaps I’m a lone voice in the crowd (I certainly am against the group here!). Fire & Axe captures the imaginations of players and gives them a lot of good, interesting choices for an immersive experience.

There are a decent amount of rules in the game, so I’m going to give a briefer overview of what’s going on than I usually do. Basically, players each have a ship, into which they can load goods (skins, tusks, and furs) and crewmen. Starting from Scandinavia, players will take turns during the game, sailing through the seas around Europe, settling, plundering, and trading with cities, although not necessarily in that order. A Saga deck offers different ways that players can score points (such as settling all the towns of a certain region), and some cities are large enough to be outright attacked.

Players must watch what sea they are sailing in (some are more treacherous – therefore causing slower movement than others and use Rune cards to help themselves and/or hinder other players. The game utilizes an action point system for players when moving their ships, but it doesn’t offer too much room for analysis – it’s more of a tracking device for movement. A wind dial shows the direction of the wind, changing the attitude of the seas; and there is always one type of goods in demand, offering more victory points. Trading is the easiest thing to do and makes later plundering and attacking more effective, but it also has the lowest payoff in points. Raiding and settling are riskier (relying sometimes heavily on luck) but offer extreme awards. After all the Saga cards are revealed, the game comes to an end, with players scoring points for different actions they have taken (completed Sagas, raided settlements, etc.); and the player with the most points is the winner!

Let’s take a closer look at some of the features of the game…

  1. Components: The game is a stunning mixture of plastic models and cardboard tokens and does a good job of depicting the European map of the Viking era. The box is large and holds the components well, covered with evocative artwork (also found on the cards and rulebook). Each player has a large round cardboard circle that represents their ship – and it’s quite handy for storing the goods (cardboard tokens) and men (plastic figures). The city pieces are small plastic cities with a cardboard token wedged into the bottom of them to give them random values. All in all, the quality is very high.

  2. Rules: The rulebook has sixteen large pages, but there are a ton of illustrations and examples, including one page of a rules synopsis. Even though it might take me a while to explain the rules in detail when writing them, the game flows very smoothly while teaching. Much of this has to do with the theme, which absolutely makes sense when coupled with the mechanics. An example would be that a player gets “+1” when raiding or settling a town that they have previously traded with. This makes sense thematically, because trading with a city will make at least some elements of the city predisposed to be friendlier with you. And as I explain the game, these things make sense to people, and I can see them nodding their heads. Fire & Axe may be a “Eurogame”, but the thematic trappings make it very easy to explain and learn.

  3. Longboats: Each player has a longboat that can hold five things (six or seven later on in the game). When loading the ship at home port, a player can load up goods and/or crewmen. The more crewmen, the easier it is for players to invade and settle towns across the board; but they will have less trading ability. The decision of how to fill up a boat is rather similar to another game I own – Serenissima, although in Fire & Axe, there is no invading other boats. Any decisions you make when filling up affect only yourself, but it is frustrating when you are far away from home port, threatening Rome itself and finding yourself with too many goods and not enough crewmen.

  4. Trading: There are only three types of goods, and each group of cities (most are grouped in triplets) allows only one of each good. So it makes sense to carry a diversity of goods, although it’s often tempting to carry the goods that are “in demand” at that point in time, since they give a bonus. Trading is most certainly the easiest thing to do in the game, although it rarely carries the bonuses of the more lucrative settling and raiding. Still, it’s quite possible to do well at the game mostly on trading, although you would have to be the only player doing that.

  5. Invading: Raiding is a quick way to make victory points, although it’s potentially draining, as a player sends in their troops, which may quickly get killed. Sending in more troops doesn’t give a player a positive bonus, other than give them more chances to win. A player may send up to three troops per battle and rolls them one at a time. They must exceed the value of the port, which is often “4” or “5”. If they do not make the roll, the crewman is discarded; and if they run out of crewmen, the battle ends in defeat. However, if they do win the battle, the city is removed, and the person receives the points printed on the bottom. There is even a “bloodied axe” bonus at the end of the game to see who has raided the most towns. This bonus is not nearly as good as it sounds; most of the points from raiding occur from the towns immediately after they are conquered. However, as I said at the beginning, this is one of the problems I have with the game. It’s very frustrating to go to Rome with six troops, attack twice, and lose all six crewmen, only to watch someone else sail in with one crewman and conquer the city. In many games, the luck of dice seems to even out over time, but with only a few big cities on the board a lucky person can get a giant leg up on the other players. There are a few cards that can give some bonuses when attacking, and trading can give another bonus; but drawing cards is random, and carrying trading goods takes up the room of crewmen on board. I’m sure that this is the way the game is intended, but it can make you literally furious to get nothing when sending men overseas, and then seeing someone just trounce in and snag it simply because they were more lucky.

  6. Settling: Settling a city is just as lucky as raiding, except a player rolls all the dice at the same time rather than one at a time. Usually not as critical as raiding – if you can’t settle one place, you simply move to another – it still has an annoying luck factor, and you can actually lose more men if you’re not careful. I do think that the scoring of settlements is interesting – happening at the end of the game. Each settlement is worth the value of the port but is doubled or tripled if two or three of the ports in that region are occupied – even by an opponent. Settling is something that players don’t really notice as the game is played but can really turn out well for a player at the end of the game, especially if they manage to get a couple groups of settlements together.

  7. Rune cards: A player can give up some “days”, which are used for sailing, to draw Rune cards, which command a variety of effects throughout the game. Some allow a player to attack another player’s settlement or create some other negative problem for other players. Others give bonuses when attacking or settling ports, allow ships to move faster, change the “in demand” good, give bonuses to players with settlements, etc. Several of the cards are marked by red diamonds and may be left out of the deck if players want less interaction in the game. I really cannot fathom people taking these out, because even though many of them are of the “take that” mindset, it’s fairly necessary in this game. Players can attack each other in no other way but by using these cards; but if you want a peaceful game that is basically a race, I would leave them out. None of the cards are too powerful, although there are certainly cards that are better than others. However, a player who plays or discards a Rune card can rotate the wind dial, allowing them better movement in the sea of their choice. I find that players often ignore the Rune cards, because it slows you down when traveling over the seas, but they can often make the difference between victory and defeat.

  8. Sagas: However, there is no question about it – Sagas are the most important cards in the game, and players who ignore them do so at their peril. There are three Saga cards shown at any given time, and they gradually get better as the game progresses. Each saga card gives a victory point bonus if the player accomplishes some sort of goal – settles the final city in a region, trades with the final city in a region, raids a specific town, etc. These cards often help focus where a player travels and what they do, as it’s rather open-ended otherwise. There are twenty-seven Saga cards included in the game, although only eighteen of them are used, so players can’t depend on any single one showing up. Also, sometimes a Saga is revealed, and it’s already been completed (such as raiding a city – and that city has long since been defeated). There can also be some sneaky little things done – like Joe settling two of the cities in a group, then I slide in and settle the last one, getting the bonus and the Saga card. Players must keep an eye out for this, and occasionally there is some cutthroat action regarding these cards, especially when Rune cards get involved. But there is something even more valuable about Saga cards. Each is marked with one of the three main Scandinavian ports (Norway, Denmark, and Sweden). At the end of the game, the player who has the most Saga cards for each country receives ten points for each card, while the second most receives five points per card. Folks, I have seen this decide the game in EVERY game that I’ve played or observed so far. Getting thirty or forty points near the end of the game can be a huge bonus, and bring a player from mediocrity to first place. Saga cards are necessary for victory!

  9. Fun Factor: The theme is fun, especially when players really get into it with a small amount of roleplaying. The Rune cards (especially the red diamond ones) bring a level of interaction that is enjoyable, and most people enjoy the freedom they have to do what they want during the game. Even though players take their turns one at a time, individual turns go rather quickly, although most games have taken a little more than two hours to complete. It’s a lot of fun raiding and trading, although some people (myself included) might find the rolling of dice to be horribly annoying when it doesn’t go your way. Still, the game is light, enjoyable fun with a variety of paths to victory.

I stand alone in my group in my slight distaste for the game – everyone else gets a surge of enjoyment from it and don’t mind the luck when attacking ports. I can also see how the game has a certain appeal and enjoy the variety of options available. It has tremendous components, a good, embedded theme, and is simple enough to be explained to new players with ease. I usually don’t mind luck in games, and only rant about it here because it can be extremely important at small, critical junctions in the game – and in a two-hour game – I don’t necessarily want that. This is certainly a game to try before picking up, as your views may (and probably will) vary.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games”

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