Friday, November 18, 2022

Upcoming Kickstarter preview: Fjord Serpents - Vikings at War

A friend (thanks a lot Bryan!) recently made me aware of a new miniatures wargaming coming soon to Kickstarter - Fjord Serpents, subtitled Vikings at War.

Two fully painted ships and their crews.

As any of you who have read my blog previously may know, Dark Ages combat and Vikings in particular are a passion of mine. So, all it took was a mild nudge by the aforementioned Bryan and I was compelled to explore further.

The game will be published by Hammer of the North, a company with which I am admittedly unfamiliar. I’ve taken the liberty of using images from their promotional videos to illustrate my thoughts.

The first thing that struck me is the scale. This is not a 28mm wargame such as I normally play. The figures are 10mm scale, so they are tiny by comparison. With my aging eyesight, painting them may be a bit more difficult than I’m used to. That said, I’ve painted smaller figures before (15mm Bolt Action), and I think that painting in a smaller scale can sometimes be more forgiving. Hopefully that will cancel out the vision issue and painting them will be quick and painless.

A fully crewed Viking ship that fits in the palm of your hand!

Two Karvi Longships sail off in search of plunder and adventure upon the Fjords

The second thing that jumped out at me is that this will not be your run-of-the-mill land combat game, where Viking ships are terrain props at best. It appears the ships will be integral to gameplay as ship-to-ship boarding actions and combat are specifically mentioned in the videos.

That’s a great feature in my opinion, since it accurately reflects Viking history. Combat between Viking fleets was not the ram-or-be-rammed affair of earlier ages. Nor was it a matter of standing off and peppering the foe with artillery. It was brutal, get in close, board the enemy and fight face-to-face combat. When large fleets fought, large groups of ships were often tied together and the battle surged across them - basically land warfare at sea.

The ships themselves were the next thing I noticed. The renders and samples shown are just plain beautiful. They look to be an excellent compromise between realism and playability. The ships have deck inserts that can be removed and replaced with stands of various troop types to reflect their crew. They can also change masts to show whether they are under oar or using wind power. And last, but certainly not least from a modeling standpoint, the ships will come with interchangeable figureheads and optional shield rails.

The Karvi and Snekkja Longships from the Kickstarter box set.

Detail of the deck cutouts for placing troops aboard the ships.

Some of the figurehead options from the preview.

Hammer of the North has revealed two ships so far, the Karvi and Snekkja longships. The Karvi is the smaller of the two, coming in at around a little more than six inches. The Snekkja measures right at eight inches or so. In one video, it is mentioned that there will be an option for a third, larger ship - the Drakkar. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing that!

The troop stands look fantastic. There are a variety of levy-type troops (leidang) with various weapons - spears, bows and javelins are mentioned. The more elite troops are more heavily armored and can use swords or huge axes. Special troops are also available, including traditional berserkers and Ulfhednar. The number of troops per stand is determined by the type of unit - eight for common warriors and six for elite fighters. Your jarl is a single figure and looks quite imposing for one so small!

Bondi and levy-type troops come eight per stand.

Hirdmen with swords or axes come six per stand.

Berserkers and Ulfhednar also come in sixes.

Leadership is solitary, the jarl stands alone.

Not having seen the rules, I can’t really discuss gameplay. The video does mention that turn initiative is a two-stage event. If you win initiative, you can decide to either go first in the ship movement phase or in the combat phase. But, your opponent will have first crack at the other. That’s a neat little twist that will make tactical decisions challenging and keep players on their toes. I’m very eager to see more of the mechanics as Hammer of the North gets closer to launch.

The Kickstarter teaser image shows the boxed set that will be available. According to Hammer of the North it will be enough for two players, or can be the start of a large fleet for one player. The box will contain two of each of the ships (Karvi and Snekkja), enough troops to man them all and more, the rules, dice, tokens, accessories and some card terrain. (I’m already planning on making my own, surprise, surprise!)

The box set and its components, Fjord Serpents – Vikings at War

Without knowing the cost yet, it’s hard to know what kind of value this is. There will be a pledge level that includes two boxes sets, to split with a friend (or foe) or kick your individual quest for Scandinavian domination into high gear.

Using this game in conjunction with other Dark Ages games such as Saga or (hopefully) next year's Clash of Spear Dark Ages supplement could result in really wonderful campaigns. For example, the amount of troops available for a land battle could be determined by the results of a massive engagement at sea.

To say I’m intrigued would be a major understatement. I will be following future reveals from Hammer of the North closely. My ultimate participation in the Kickstarter will be determined by when it goes live and cost (budgets being what they are currently). I don’t really need another game (who does?) to further divide my limited time and money, but I can quite easily see myself jumping in on this one!

In fact, I've already begun to think about Jarl Halvar and the crew of his flagship, the Dragon's breath!

'Til next time!

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