Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 8 and up
- For 2 players
- Approximately 30 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Fighting your enemy isn’t your biggest problem
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The Viking clans fought for and died to control the island. It lay like a jewel in the sea, rich with resources. When only two Viking clans remained, they quickly established settlements and resumed their battle for control. One morning, a roar shook the island. Ymir the Jotunn had awoken. Some fled, but the bold saw the Jotunn as a means to an end.
Rampaging Jotunn, designed by Matthias Bonnici, David Simpson and to be published by Lost Cog, will reportedly be comprised of 12 Location tiles, 1 Jotunn Starting Center tile, 2 standard six-sided dice (1 red, 1 blue), 81 Game cards, 1 Jotunn marker, 4 Army markers (2 red, 2 blue), and 6 Village markers (3 red, 3 blue). As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. However, we were provided an outstanding demo copy of the game that gave us an excellent idea of what to expect when the game is published. The demo copy itself was shelf-worthy. I can only imagine how good a polished and published copy will be.
An Island of Fortune, A Land of Fear
To set up the game, each player selects 1 of the 2 colors (red or blue) and takes all the Army and Village markers of their selected color, including the same colored die and 3 “Army Movement” Game cards. The 3 “Army Movement” Game cards are placed face-up in front of the player and represent different Movement Point values used by the player’s Army.
Second, place the Jotunn Starting Center tile in the middle of the playing area. Then turn all the Location tiles face-down and shuffle them. Deal them face-down and have the players choose 3 tiles each, placing the remaining tiles back in the box. Use a die to determine which player will go first and then take turns placing the Location tiles face-up so a large hexagon shaped playing area is created. This is the island.
Third, in turn order, each player places 1 Village marker at a time. Village markers can be placed on any terrain except volcanoes and must be at least 2 spaces away from another Village marker. After the Village markers are placed, the players take turns placing their Army markers. Army markers must be placed next to a Village marker.
Fourth, shuffle the Game cards and deal each player 5 cards face-down. This is the player’s starting hand. Place the remaining cards face-down and to one side of the game playing area. This is the draw deck for the duration of the game.
Fifth, roll a die and place the Jotunn marker on the Jotunn Starting Center tile, facing in the direction of the number rolled.
That’s it for game set up. Time to see who can survive the Jotunn!
A Giant Problem
Rampaging Jotunn is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn is comprised 2 steps which are summarized here.
Step 1: Take One Action
The player has 3 possible actions they can select from, but they can only take 1 per turn.
Play 1 Card
The Game cards allow the player to move their Army and Jotunn markers. The Game card will describe the action and have a picture of the marker the player can move. The Jotunn is big and strong, but fairly dumb. It will move where it’s told, but does not care who it stomps, as it has no allegiance.
The “Army” Game cards allow the player to move their Army markers into attack position and out of the Jotunn’s way. There are even a few Game cards that allow the player to build hasty defenses.
Once the Game card is played, it’s discarded.
Use 1 Army Movement Card
A player is not dependent on their hand of Game cards on their turn. They can always use 1 of their 3 “Army Movement” Game cards in front of them to command their forces. Once used, the “Army Movement” Game card is flipped over. This card is no longer available until the player uses all 3 of their “Army Movement” Game cards.
Discard 3 Cards
If an Army marker is removed from the game board, the player can discard any 3 Game cards from their hand and place the previously removed Army marker back on the game board.
Step 2: End Turn
The player’s turn is now over. They draw back up to 5 Game cards and turn control of the Jotunn over to their opponent. However, there is one exception. If the player discarded 3 cards on their turn, they do not draw up to 5 cards at the end of the turn.
Movement and Combat
An army will only survive if they are fleet-footed and able to avoid the Jotunn. At the same time, the Jotunn is a force that cannot be stopped by conventional means, but must be controlled. Clearly, it’s no fun being in the army as they must confront not only their sworn clan rivals, but contend with a giant the size of a hill. Movement and combat are a way of life, which means a soldier’s life expectancy isn’t that long.
Both the Jotunn and the Armies are given Movement Points. These points are spent to move the markers through different terrain. The harder the terrain, the more Movement Points it takes to move through it. Obviously, it’s easier for the Jotunn to move through terrain, as he is a giant. But terrain can be used to the player’s advantage, hindering the Jotunn and even forcing the monster to retreat back to the center of the island.
While the player controls their Army movement, the Jotunn is only somewhat in the player’s control. Jotun movement Game cards are used to make the lumbering giant take huge steps, but only in the direction the player wants if they control it on their turn. If the player focuses only on their Armies the Jotunn takes 1 big step forward into the next space. If the Jotunn should reach the end of the island, it does an about-face, and begins to walk the other way.
Combat can occur between the two opposing Armies and an unfortunate Army versus the Jotunn. Armies that “charge” (that is, move into) an opposing Army are given a one time +1 attack bonus. This includes Armies that are “magically” raised and dropped into the same space as an opposing Army.
The results of combat are determined by rolling the six-sided die. The player who rolls the smaller value loses their Army, removing it from the game board. Combat in this game is swift, brutal, and pretty much luck-based. Ties are re-rolled.
When an Army attacks an enemy Village, the Village falls immediately, removed from the game board. When an Army attacks the Jotunn, they lose. Stomp, splat, the end, but the Jotunn stops its movement to see what exactly it stepped on. Not the case when the Jotunn encounters a Village. The Village marker is destroyed and the Jotunn doesn’t appear to give it another thought, but it does lumber off to its starting position.
Raising Armies and Fortifying Villages
The current standing forces only allow the player to have a total of 2 Army markers in the game at a time, but there are enough people in the clan available to hastily form new Armies if the need should arise. And it will. The player can return a lost Army marker by either playing a card or discarding 3 cards. The raised Army marker is then placed on any free space next to the player’s Village marker, except for the volcanoes. In this way, Village markers act as “spawn points”.
Villages represent the player’s foothold and claim of ownership over the island. If they are removed, so too is the player’s right to rule the land. As such, they are very important and must be protected at all cost. A player can move their Army marker into the same space as the Village marker to create a “Garrison”. This Village marker is now fortified. Defensive lines can also be added, which not only serve to hinder an attacking army, but cause the Jotunn to work much harder to destroy the Village. Not that the Jotunn cares, mind you.
Claiming the Island
As long as the player has at least 1 Village marker in the game, they have a chance of winning. If the player forces their opponent to remove their last Village marker from the game board, the player wins and controls the island. Never mind the Jotunn…
The Child Geek’s favorite part was the Jotunn. Whenever they had a chance to use it and move it – slowly – across the island, the Child Geeks would jump up and down with excitement. According to one Child Geek, “I love that we can control a giant in this game.” Truly, nothing was more satisfying to the Child Geeks than crushing enemy armies and stomping villages using a ridiculously huge monster. But there was more to the game than just giant driving. As one Child Geek put it, “You have to move everything around the island in a really smart way. You also have to know when to move it.” Which is to say, timing is everything. With limited cards and narrow windows of opportunity, the Child Geeks tended to favor the brawn of the giant over the finesse of their armies. After all, a giant in battle is a sure thing. When the games were over, the Child Geeks all voted to approve Rampaging Jotunn.
The Parent Geeks were also fans and right from the start. And by start, I mean during set up. As one Parent Geek put it, “I love games that can be altered. I bet I can make this island into any shape I want or even add more tiles.” Very true, but what really drew the Parent Geeks was the need to immediately think about the game from the very first tile placed to the very last card played. According to one Parent Geek, “This game has a lot of tricks and traps, but the biggest is thinking you have total control. You really have to watch your spacing and keep track of where the dump giant is.” Dumb or not, that giant whooped the Parent Geeks’ butts, which they enjoyed. All the Parent Geeks voted to approve Rampaging Jotunn.
The Gamer Geeks were impressed. The game’s presentation suggested a small and easy game, but the Gamer Geeks quickly learned that the small area of play made for a very interesting arena. According to one Gamer Geek, “With not much room to maneuver, your back is constantly against the wall. There is no safe spot, which means everything you do has risk. That’s great.” The game was also found to be very tactical and strategic, but not to a point where the game felt heavy. As one Gamer Geek put it, “You don’t have a lot to think about in this game, but what few choices you have can be really difficult to make.” Unlike the Child Geeks, the Gamer Geeks favored their armies, finding them easier to maneuver. This really pleased the Gamer Geeks as they quickly identified the pros and cons of both the armies and the giant. Each had their uses, but neither was the only means to victory. When the games were over, the Gamer Geeks voted to approve Rampaging Jotunn without hesitation.
This is a fun and frustrating game. A player will never be put in a corner when it comes to being able to take an action. A player can always take a free 2 Movement Point action to advance an army, for example. The frustration is all about how the game progresses. You don’t win by making bold moves. Do that and you’ll lose. You win by really thinking about your odds of survival, analyzing the risk versus reward return, and waiting for openings that may not come. This is a game for the patient, which is ironic, because the game plays pretty quickly.
My favorite aspect of the game is the ability to control both the army and the giant. Both of these forces, if used correctly, create an unstoppable destructive force. The Jotunn is, in my opinion, a giant cheat. Nothing stops it. The game designers, however, were very clever when it comes to the giant’s use. No one player controls this force of destructive nature. As such, a game of Tug-O-War is played out while both players maneuver their armies in for the kill.
Two players is fun, but I wanted to add more and have additional monsters. The playing area is too small to allow anymore than what is provided, but it wouldn’t take much to make the game bigger and more interesting. As it is today, you play the game once, and the second and subsequent games hold little surprise. Not that they are any less entertaining, but it would be nice to have more variety.
I am very pleased with Rampaging Jotunn. It’s fast, fun, and exasperating in a very satisfying way. Controlling a giant has never been more fun or dangerous. The key to success might be patience, but a player needs to have the guts to charge into the fray, too. For those who enjoy games that challenge the players to take risks, which might mean not taking any at all, Rampaging Jotunn is a game to be enjoyed. Do play Rampaging Jotunn and see if it stands up to your lofty standards.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.