Review: Valley of the Vikings (Tal der Wikinger)

Friends – this game was so fun and we were laughing so much, you wouldn’t be able to hear a pin drop (I’ll see myself out).

What Is It?

Valley of the Vikings is the 2019 Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year) winner, published by HABA Games. Designed by Wilfried and Marie Fort, this 2 to 4 player game plays in about 20 to 30 minutes.

In Valley of the Vikings, players compete to gain the most gold in the annual bowling competition, and try to stay dry while doing it! This game is part dexterity game with slight strategy and tactics thrown in.

To begin, players place the bowling ball in the designated hole at their side of the board and then use the cardboard bat to propel the ball in the direction of the wooden barrels. When barrels are knocked down, the current player then moves the corresponding player tokens along the dock in any order they wish. This is where the strategy comes in – when a player is knocked off the dock, the other players immediately receive rewards based on their position on the dock – so deciding the order of player movement has consequences. Players can receive gold from either the bank or steal from other players depending on where you land. Afterwards, the next player repositions the fallen barrels in any way they desire. Play continues until all the gold from the bank has been depleted. The player with the most gold coins at the end of the game wins.

Is It For Me?

I will be admit, after reading the rulebook, I thought Valley of the Vikings would be too simple for me and my game group and therefore, I wouldn’t like it. I was so wrong. The fact that this game is rules-light does not detract from the sheer fun that is to be had. Trying to knock down barrels is an enjoyable tactile experience and when aiming for specific barrels, it can become surprisingly tricky. Also, figuring out where to position the previously overturned barrels requires some thinking.

Valley of the Vikings is a game that adult and children can enjoy, either together or separately. I do think that the strategy that can be involved in the jockeying for position on the dock in order to maximize rewards will go over the heads of some younger children. But they will still enjoy the bowling aspect of the game. There were a few times during the course of the game where players would pause to calculate how to maximize rewards. However, there were definitely very silly moments in the game where all players were trying to knock down a particular barrel while spectacularly failing.

There is one quibble I have with the game. While Valley of the Vikings states it can play two to four players, if there are less than four players, “dummy” players make up the rest until all four player tokens are in play. This can lead to an unsatisfying conclusion where a dummy player can win the game!

The game’s use of bright colors and attractive artwork make for a pleasing to the eye board game package. The components in the game, including the wooden barrels and plastic tokens, are pretty good. I have noticed that the ships where the coins are stored don’t always stay intact and after several plays, some of the cardboard ships are beginning to fray.

Ultimately, while playing Valley of the Vikings, laughter was ever present at my gaming table. What more could you ask for from a game?

Table Takes

Here are what some of my friends had to say about the game:
– “It bowled me over!”
– “I split my sides playing it!”
– “This was an extremely upsetting game” (caveat – Tim was losing at the time)
– “A silly but fun game.”
– “A tasteful import.”
– “My ship is falling apart!”

Beneeta’s Rating: 8 out of 10. Valley of the Vikings combines dexterity and strategy into a good-looking package that is sure to entice players to your table!