CONdensed LIVE from GenCon: Thoughts on Jarl- The Vikings Tile Laying Game

*Photos and article by: Dylan Terry

Just to start, I haven’t seen a single episode of the Vikings TV show. While I hear it’s good, that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this demo at all.

“Hey you, want to pillage some villages?”

How can you ignore a call like that?

Jarl is a game about sailing around, making sure your warriors don’t starve, and pillaging the crap out of the countryside. The game board starts with the Viking village, a half-ring of face-down water tiles, and a Ship card. You collect resources, erect runestones, and vie for Influence by raiding hapless villages.

The game is played over the course of four seasons, which are divided into Days. Each action you take reduced the number of Days you have, and the player with the highest number of Days remaining takes their action first. It’s a great simulation of staggered passage of time, and in our game the four players were very rarely taking more than one turn at a time.

Your ship card has a number of spots on it for resources, warriors, food, loot, etc. Most of these resources only take up a single square, but as I started raiding I had to make the ever-present decision regarding the benefit of taking more gold and having enough food for my men.

The boys went hungry, but the ones who didn’t starve to death sure enjoyed a payday bonus.

Jarl

Though I only played a single season of gameplay, the demo guy said that in later rounds the map would expand, the ocean would be redistributed (so finding an efficient path one season may not be the same during the next), goals would be redealt, and Influence would shuffle to change who can do what, and when.

This was probably the game I enjoyed the most during my first day demoing stuff at the con, and it felt reminiscent of a Vikings-style game of Catan, where you take resources instead of rolling for them randomly. The exploration mechanics and how Days determined turn order and game length felt natural and organic. I’d probably recommend this to people who haven’t watched the TV show as well. I was certainly able to get in the pillaging mindset without having any prior experience.

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