The tale of Beowulf. The epic story of the legendary king of the seafaring Swedish Geats, the man who fought and vanquished ancient evils, who was in turn destroyed by a dragon. The very name evokes a rush of bravery, a steely-eyed glare at all who would dare oppose you, and the drive to rush headlong into the night wielding a great-sword and punishing all evildoers….
If you’ve ever felt like that after reading the epic, then have I got news for you! King Post, in its second ever release of a game, has brought the grand story of Beowulf to your home where you can play it in air-conditioned comfort while imagining the grim and gritty world of the character you are pretending to be.
King Post’s first game is the magnificent voyage of Moby Dick Or, The Card Game. While Beowulf has some big shoes to fill, the passion for the story and the vision of the gamemakers really shine through again here.
Beowulf is very technical, and there are a lot of moving parts to fiddle with and to exchange for other things. Players represent tribal chiefs, whose lives are intertwined with Beowulf’s. The game progresses down the timeline of Beowulf’s life and players are meant to earn glory by defeating monsters, trading resources and by raiding other tribes. The player with the most glory at the end of the game, after Beowulf’s untimely death at the claws of the dragon, wins and takes his place as the king of Geatland!
Let’s dive into the gameplay here. The game is set up with each Geat tribe receiving 800 soldiers and 3,500 gold pieces. These are the troops and the resources that players will use to make their attacks or to trade with.
Each player also receives five Rune cards that are linked to events that happen across the board, and that can also be a good or bad thing for the player who holds them. Some Rune cards can bring income and some can cause great misfortune. Just like in real life!
Five Rune cards are placed on the board, as belonging to the Danes. The Danes are not controlled by any player and their moves are dictated by the game itself.
And, as the instruction book clearly says, the hairiest player should go first.
Gameplay progresses in the following fashion: The hirsute player draws Rune cards for a maximum of five. If they already have five, then the player proceeds to settle any Debts they may have. This is based on any active Rune or Wyrd (exactly what it sounds like) cards that they may have open in front of them. If the player has any Runes that will bring them income, they play these cards now and receive the income immediately (not like real life).
The Beowulf token then advances down the timeline by as many squares as indicated by the next card in the Wyrd deck. If Beowulf touches a square with a red rune, he must stop on that square. The player then draws a Wyrd card from the deck and places it face up.
Wyrd cards are the paper representation of the Winds of Fate (how exciting!), and can have positive or negative outcomes. They contain single play events, over-arching events and even monsters, who must be dealt with at the end of the players turn. The Wyrd cards can also cause a player to lose all soldiers and all gold to pay off debts incurred by the event on the card.
The game then progresses to the Raid and Trade part, where the player can choose either to raid another tribe or the Danes, or to trade with them, or to simply do neither and move on. Once this is done, Rune cards belonging to the player can be played.
After all these steps are over, the player must fight any monsters invoked by the Wyrd card during his turn.
If you fail to defeat the monster, Beowulf will appear and fight it. You then lose the corpse of the monster as a trophy. You also will have to pay Beowulf for his monster fighting services – and mind you, he does not come cheap.
Once Beowulf reaches the last square and is defeated by the Dragon, the final part of the game begins. This is known as the War Against The Geats. With the loss of their hero, the Geats are weakened and not considered a threat any more. Other kings have long coveted their lands and their trophies and they will come to take them.
Turns follow the usual sequence but the Beowulf piece no longer moves. The game ends when the Geats have lost their last trophy to their enemies. When any one player has more trophies than the others, that player wins the game. Songs are sung, feasts are had, and so on and so on.
Beowulf is an amazing game that lovingly recreates the timeline of the epic while allowing players to immerse themselves in the world of Norse mythology.
The game is packaged in a hardy cardboard box containing beautifully illustrated cards and a gorgeous playing board. One can feel the premium quality of the pieces and it isn’t hard to imagine the detailed work that went into bringing this magnificent game to life.
I would highly recommend this game to anyone who loves the story of Beowulf, or if you just enjoy epic monster killing games in general. All the thumbs of my trophies up!
For more information on this or on Moby Dick, visit facebook.com/mobydickgame.
Novel Games is a monthly column in which we review board games inspired by books, reading and storytelling.