Ragnaroll dice game – Preview

We love our Australian game designers here at Gameapalooza and Jason Kotzur-Yang is one of them. His new game “Ragnaroll” has just hit Kickstarter and we’ve got to tell you, it’s looking pretty darn good. We’ve run a few play throughs of the unfinished version for this preview, so obviously we can’t go into the usual build quality and finished artwork etc. but we can look at what we had.

First a bit of background on the games theme. “Ragnaroll is a dice-driven game about surviving and thriving in the Norse apocalypse. You’ll control a mighty Viking hero and a band of hungry Viking warriors. You’ll need to fight with axe and shield to be the last Viking standing or survive long enough to fight in the final battle”.

Ragnaroll Tabletop Game by End Game Games - Gameapalooza Australia InterviewRagnaroll and look at that for gender equality! Well done End Game Games.

As dice games go “Ragnaroll” has some really clever game mechanics that add thematically to the game. Things like the ability to split your vikings secretly into two groups and then co-revealing how many of each type you allocated to raiding and defending. This really adds to the atmosphere. The prototype dice were a bit too big to hide in small hands, but we imagine that will be fixed in the full release version. The ‘initiative’ card is good fun too, after the reveal, the player with the smallest attacking group gets to take that card and decides the order in which all players attack. Again, an interesting mechanic and in the full complement of 4-players we can imagine this would become a really fun part of the game.

Another way “Ragnaroll” changes up the usual dice chucking mechanic is with the use of symbols. This helps lighten any of the ‘mathy’ stuff that comes with a lot of dice chuckers. The use of symbols isn’t new per se (loads of games do this now), but it is done to good effect here in “Ragnaroll” and we think helps speed up conflict resolution. It can still take awhile to complete turns, with re-rolls and who-gets-to-do-what-when, but overall we liked it, once we had a few plays (quite slow for the first one, but then a lot of games can be).

Hilda character art ragnaroll dice game kickstarter preview by gameapalooza Australian tabletop game reviews and newsLady Viking Warriors – Historically accurate!

Where “Ragnaroll” really excels is thematically. The game – despite being largely a dice throwing title – is drenched in viking theme. Each character has different abilities and there’s a good mix of characters too. It’s also worth giving kudos to End Game Games for thankfully not taking the sexist route of making all characters male, there’s a nice split with kick ass characters of both genders. Of note also is that harsh setting of winter and how this and the food stores affects gameplay, pretty cool stuff. Another game that uses food stores and cold is of course “Dead of Winter” and “Ragnaroll” uses it to similar effect, you need to feed your vikings and if you can’t it’s going to be a cold cold night for them.

As the game progresses, the players dice slowly dwindle and they have to make more desperate moves to stay in the game, and those that manage to keep most of their dice will starve faster and drop out of the game. We found in our game that the stores went down quickly, and because you can only get them from other players (there’s no way to get them out of the general supply) it brings “Ragnaroll” to an end in a reasonable amount of time (probably about half an hour for a 3 player game), so this is a really clever addition.

As well as food, the other in game resource in “Ragnaroll” is glory. Every player starts off with a different number of glory cubes, based on their character. You also get them whenever one of your Vikings is killed (and its respective die goes off to Valhalla), or when conditions unique to your character are met. You can spend glory to change the result of certain dice rolls, re-roll dice, insta-kill enemy Vikings, sacrifice one of your own to take down an opponent, etc. At the start of every round a card is revealed that changes some conditions, like how you can gain extra glory, or whether the ‘snake’ side of the dice kills your own Viking or not.

There are also special conditions around the death of your hero. They’re usually harder to kill in some way, and when they die, there are repercussions (usually bad) for the other players. When they die, you flip the character card and unveil a different set of actions you can buy with your glory cubes, including the (expensive) ability to bring that character back from the dead. Again as we’ve already stated “Ragnaroll” is full of theme and it seeps into all these clever little game mechanics.

Ragnaroll dice game end end games previewARGHHHH FIGHT!!!! DEFEND!!! PILLAGE!!

Overall “Ragnaroll” seems like it will be a really well balanced game, where there are still options available to you, regardless of what good/bad things happen to you during the game. Of course it is still a dice game, so there is that luck element to contend with.

Rolling dice and collecting/spending cubes isn’t that much fun on its own, but once you buy into them being vikings/glory/food, the mechanics become much more believable. For example, when you lose a dice you get a red cube. Why? Because the dice is a Viking who died a glorious death in battle, and your clan are empowered by that glory and should be able to convert that red cube into some kind of advantage later in the game. Also, one of the dice is a Viking dog rather than a Viking human, which you can sacrifice (poor little guy) to pay for a lack of food.

Favorite quote of the sessions: “Who sacrifices their dog, I mean really, you’re a terrible person”.

The sheer thought that’s gone into the game seems phenomenal, from the scaling up of complexity based on the experience of the player, to the compelling theme, “Ragnaroll” is definitely one to put on your to check out list.

Given the only real negative that came out of our play throughs was the dice being too big, and intial play throughs being a little clunky, we might try and get a hold of the full release version for a full review (and video). Given this is the pre-release version, we can assume the dice in the finished version, won’t be as huge.

Hopefully this one will do well on Kickstarter because we can’t think of many games that have been able to take some big-board game concepts and distill them into a fast-playing dice game that still feels skillful rather than completely luck-based.

Want to learn more about Jason of End Game Games? Check out our interview with the very guy.