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An exhilarating raven race for two that is very tactical and confrontational. Easy to learn and can be a great get-away game with high replayability.
The game and gameplay
Odin’s Ravens is a racing game where each player takes a raven marker and tries to reach the end of landscapes as fast as possible. Players play multiple races until one reaches a score of 12.
Players score points on the number of spaces they finish ahead of their opponent. Also players score 3 points if they have the maximum number of cards on the magic way cards.
Fairly easy to learn and play, it requires a little bit of learning curve to get familiar with Odin cards and how everything works together.
This is essentially a card game and comes with the following components:
One set of flight cards/landscape cards representing different landscapes for each player (in 2 different colors)
A set of land cards that is laid out for ravens to move on and race
8 Odin cards for each player (these are special ability cards that affect the game greatly!)
Magic Way cards which need to be drawn for each race to determine the 3 points
2 wooden raven markers
1 Odin marker
This game plays a little differently to other 2-player games like Lost Cities, Balloon Cup etc. For the first few games I almost felt this game was very simple and had nothing to interest me, until I went back to the forums to find out what was so good about this game.
After a little reading up and playing this a few more times, I can tell you the design of this game is very, very elegant: meaning it plays very subtly and really interconnected. The game mechanic is simple:
On your turn you can play up to 3 cards from your hand and up to 3 more cards from your auxiliary stack;
You can play these cards to advance your ravens over the landscape or play them on the magic way cards;
You can at the end of your turn increase the length of the race by placing one landscape card!
This, my friends, is the most confusing part, as the rules do not state how each action of yours are interconnected! And herein lies the beauty of Odin’s Ravens.
There are four aspects to this game that makes it very interesting:
Players draw 5 cards from their shuffled pack and on their turn they can play a card to advance their raven, or place it on the magic way card to win the 3 points, or start placing it in a face down stack in front of them as their auxiliary stack.
This mechanic is very different, as you know which cards you are placing on your auxiliary stack and you can play 3 extra cards after you have played the 3 from your hand! Huge advantage!
You can play your card on the magic way card to score 3 points: if you think that you are going to lose a particular race or simply maximize the points, this is an excellent way. Just place it on the magic way cards.
From your draw pile, you get 8 Odin Cards: special cards that come with different effects to change the game complexion itself. Some allow you to change the landscape cards, some allow you to pull your opponent’s ravens back or move yours ahead by one step, some allow you to keep an Odin marker to block your opponent, some allow you to cut short the length of the race by one card etc.
Overall it brings in the surprise element that can completely put your opponent off guard!
Also by careful usage of cards you can stack up similar landscape cards one after the other to move over multiple cards using just one of your landscape cards!
And this is Odin’s Ravens for you in a nutshell. What makes this game so fascinating is the interconnectedness of playing cards to advance your ravens (from hand and auxiliary stack), playing it on the magic way cards and playing from the auxiliary stack. It offers very good depth and scope to explore strategies!
It takes about 30-40 minutes and is definitely not a brain burner. This is a game high on tactics (meaning you have to constantly keep changing your plans), rather than have a preset plan and trying to execute it, as in Puerto Rico.
Pros and cons
This is a very elegant game that can get confrontational if two people play it competitively. I say this because sometimes this game loses its fizz if people don’t play it in an attacking manner!
The biggest plus is the amount of tactics this game manages to pack in such a small box.
Having said that this game requires little bit of learning and understanding how your actions are interconnected and how to balance everything at the same time. There are multiple routes to victory, but you’ll learn them as you go along.
I would say this learning might be a little frustrating up until you pick up the cues (very subtle), but this is very simple once you play it 3-5 times, like Carcassonne.
I feel playing a game of Odin’s Ravens makes me refreshed and I talk about it with the other player: “Hey you know, I should have done this rather than that move”, or “You screwed it up here”, or “That’s a nice strategy” etc. It’s that sort of a game: it leaves you feeling really nice.
Anyone who is tired of playing basic games like Monopoly, Life etc. should go and pick up Odin’s Ravens. I can bet, you’ll keep coming back to this more often than you would have thought!