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Co-operative games are all about fighting a common enemy, something everyone playing can agree deserves to be defeated: the destruction of the world's population through plague in Pandemic, the ascendance of Wu-Feng in Ghost Stories, a restaurant full of hungry, angry diners in Wok Star. Now Cédric Lefebvre and Fabrice Rabellino's Yggdrasil asks players to take on the role of one of the Norse gods – Odin, Thor, Tyr, Frey, Freya, Heimdall – to fight against Loki, Hel and others who want to bring on Ragnarok, the end of time. Sounds like another worthy cause, right?
The players must work together to resist the onslaught of the enemies of the world-tree Yggdrasil. In game terms, a half-dozen enemies start the game at the left side of the game board, and at the start of each turn the active player draws an enemy card and advances the depicted enemy toward Yggdrasil. If at the end of a turn, five enemies are in Asgard, three are past Valhalla or one stands in Odin's residence, then the players have lost and the world has fallen. After the enemy moves, its special ability takes effect – such as removing Vikings from your reserves or bringing fire giants into play – with the strength of the effect increasing as the enemy advances toward Odin.
After this, the active player can perform up to three actions, such as turning to elves or dwarves for aide and weapon assistance, sending valkyries to find new recruits for the Viking army, fighting against the ice giants that also threaten the gods, and (naturally) combatting the main enemies themselves. Each action takes place on a different world, so to speak, and the player must choose actions on different worlds. Giants can block access to certain worlds, in addition to cancelling the special powers of each god while in play.
If the players make it through the enemy deck without one of the conditions above being reached, then they win the game. As with other co-ops, such as Ghost Stories and Pandemic, players can choose from different levels of difficulty, specifically by swapping 1-6 "Angry Enemy" cards into the enemy deck to supercharge the opponents.
Update, Aug. 28, 2010: Ludonaute has noted that due to its continued efforts to line up international partners for Yggdrasil that the game's release date has been moved from October 2010 to 2011. That said, the game will still be present at Spiel 2010 for those who want to look at or play the game and anticipate the end of the world.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com
Average Rating: 5 in 1 review
As a solitaire, it's a very good game, a tad repetitive at times, but still, a very good solitaire game. Now, let me tell you about it with two or more people: I have never, EVER, played a game that was more tense than Yggdrasil! It's great fun watching noobs play this, because the first few turns, they're thinking: "Ah, no big deal. Enemy crosses the line, you clobber him. No tension here." Then you watch the horror grow on their faces as they realize this game is not a matter of clobbering an enemy: it's more like trying to stop the tide from coming in! And the more players, the bigger the nightmare! It is REALLY hard to win! For some reason, the game includes a host of extra enemy cards to make the game more difficult, perhaps in an effort to appeal to the masochist gaming community.
Speaking of tides, Yggdrasil is not dripping with theme: it is DELUGED with theme! On but a few occasions, in an effort to make the game work better mechanically, absolute faithfulness to the Norse mythological sources is sacrificed; but most of the time, it's just astonishing how much Messieurs Lefebvre and Rabellino have tied in what you're doing with the actual Ragnarok myth. And rather than just throwing in a bunch of generic frost giants, each of the sixteen frost giants is taken (by name) from the Edda!
Graphically, Piero has created beautiful imagery; and little details, like Ratatosk the squirrel, scurrying up Yggdrasil's trunk, really bring the myths alive. It's too bad he left out the Norns, though. It's also too bad that there aren't any spare fire giants, Vanir, or Viking tokens: an appalling oversight. Don't lose any! It is the most argumentative co-op I've ever encountered. So much depends on each and every action that players are constantly arguing for what is the best thing to do on a turn. By far, this is the best co-operative I have ever played.