Jorvik was the Viking name for York, and in this game you are Viking settlers, trying to establish your dominance.
Vikings are often portrayed as nautical savages, but although they did lead raiding parties they also settled, traded, and developed their own technologies. In the game, you’ll be doing all these things, but the action takes places via the game mechanic of bidding.
Each player begins with four vikings (used for bidding) and some coins (used for paying for a successful bid). The board goes centrally and each round ten cards are dealt out in two rows of five. Then each player, on their turn, places a viking next to or on a card to signify a bid. On the bottom row, you may bid on a card someone else (or many others) have already bid on, by placing your viking underneath theirs. On the top row, you place a viking on the card of your choosing, and move it up to an empty row at the top of the board.
Once all vikings are placed, bids are resolved. In the bottom row this means the person who bid first has the option of buying that card – but they have to pay as many coins as there are vikings who bid for it. If they pass, the next viking has the same option. Thus, every time someone passes, the card in question becomes 1 coin cheaper – and if it reaches the last person to bid still unclaimed, they can take it for a single coin.
The top row works similarly: only one viking can bid on each card, but the amount of cards that were bid on defines the price. As with the bottom row, later bids are cheaper!
The cards function in a variety of ways, all of which can either get you points, coins, or resources – resources are used to fill orders, which get you big points. Some cards offer Defense – every now and then the deck will reveal that the Picts are attacking, and the player with most defense will score points. The player with the least defense loses points. At the end of every round, players receive a certain amount of coins as income, and a new round begins.
And the game continues until the deck runs out at which point orders and some other end-game cards are added to your score. Most points: wins.
The game is a development of an older game called The Speicherstadt, which works the same way but without the top row. Jorvik can also be played without the top row for a simpler/quicker game.
If you like a game with minimal interaction then Jorvik definitely is not it – your best-laid plans are going to be harpooned over and over in this surprisingly feisty experience. But if you want that type of battle, Jorvik is a bona fide hit. When is the right time to spend big on a card? When is it best to scavenge around the edges, picking up what you can cheaply? It’s quite a simple idea but it provides real tension. My only criticism really is that it’s quite long for a bidding game. But excellent all the same.
I really enjoy this game. The bidding system is dead simple but allows a lot of room for manipulation, and many unexpected (often unwelcome) outcomes. If there are juicy cards available, everyone will pretend to ignore them for a bit – the moment someone jumps on a card everyone will pile in too, usually ensuring it’s just too expensive for the original buyer. So there’s an awful lot of feigned nonchalance hanging in the air. The game does run rather long, and you are essentially doing the same thing over and over, so it can drag a bit – but for me, there’s usually lots of enjoyable table talk and it’s not mentally taxing so I don’t mind the length. You can play a simpler version of the game without the second tier of cards, but the bidding system for those is particularly devious so it seems kind of shame to lose that aspect.
Plenty. You can force the price up for another player even if you have no intention of buying the card. You can grab resources you don't need to stop another player getting them. And of course, you can receive the same treatment!
Once you know the game, it's surprisingly low. That first play will requite some patience as everyone decides where to bid, but after that...
... Jorvik is a fairly reactive game but you have a maximum of ten places to put four vikings. So it can be played relatively quickly. You can also play a simpler version that uses the just the bottom row.
Cards come out randomly and you can try different strategies. The main thing here though, is the battle of the bids. Highly interactive!