Viking raids on England, 793-866. Lindisfarne, Northumbria, Thanet, London. Human player acts for the British (Saxons) against the Vikings (Danes, Northmen). Some attempt to follow the real course of History.
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This campaign requires a mid-to-high-end computer. I played it on a 450 PIII and still encountered some minor lag. The lag is usually confined to the opening minutes of the scenario, where you will be subjected to massive Viking invasions. That being said, I must confess that VIKING RAIDS has given me some of the most pleasurable gaming hours I’ve had in a very long time, and some of the best gameplay I’ve ever had in AOK. The campaign is from a design team called ENOTH who have done half a dozen or so cpx’s but have received scant attention from the AOKH playing and reviewing community. I have played four of their campaigns and I intend to review their entire body of work, so hopefully they’ll finally get some much-deserved attention.
What will you get when load up VIKING RAIDS? In a nutshell: six historically accurate episodes of Viking attacks on the British Isles that occurred in the 8th and 9th Centuries. At the start of each scenario, however, buckle up and be ready to ride, because the Vikings come from out of nowhere and hit hard, pushing your gaming skills to the limit.
Now, one player has commented that he found this to be kind of a turn off – being thrown into a huge battle where you’re vastly outnumbered. Normally I would agree. But I’ve played a lot of ENOTH’s stuff and I know this isn’t something they do from a lack of imagination (as is the case in most scenarios that cram the map full of hostile units).
Not at all.
This is a reflection of the historical reality ENOTH works so hard to achieve in their campaigns. And historically, the Vikings did come from out of nowhere, like a nightmare, and if you play these scenarios, you'll get a rush of that terror - trust me! But here’s the key: The opening of each scenario (when the Vikings first hit) is a problem that you have to solve. Each one can be beaten – I know, I’ve done it – but you’ll have to freeze the game and study your limited resources many times, as well as saving frequently. But each time, when you finally beat back the pagan horde and slowly reclaim your battered, burning city, you’ll feel like you’ve truly accomplished something.
PLAYABILITY - 4
In spite of all the pleasure I got out of the various raids created by ENOTH, I did take a point off due to the lag problem. But no more than that. As far as the rest of it goes, you’ve been forewarned: If you’ve got a PII 250, you should probably just steer clear of this one.
BALANCE - 4
Again, these are some tough scenarios – not designed for the beginner. However (and this contributed to my leniency on the playability issue as well) the scenarios alternate in difficulty level very nicely. For example, I believe I spent over four hours beating the first attack on Lindisfarne, but the next two scenarios played in under an hour each. So although you do get somewhat overwhelmed at times, the cumulative difficulty level balances out in a satisfying way.
CREATIVITY - 5
This is some smart, clever scenario designing. Each of the six Viking raids has a particular twist to it. The creativity doesn’t hit you in the face in a sensational way, but it’s in the subtle details. For example, you fight off Viking attacks on London three times, but each time London has changed slightly. Between 835 and 850 the citizens have been slow to rebuild the town, but by 852 they’ve learned their lesson. London Tower now has a stone wall and the city has a strong army. The creativity is also manifested in the AI work. Trade merchants come and go, Vikings have a real personality in their attack patterns, and your allies really work hard to achieve your mutual goals. Nice stuff!
MAP - 4
Some of the map designing here is exceptional. I especially loved the medieval, ringed fort that serves as your base in scenario one, with two outer yards and an inner bailey. (Hint: Abandon the outer yards and concentrate your forces in the inner bailey. Put your archers in the towers and let them do most of the work – you’ll still have you hands full fighting off the Norse devil, believe me!) But much of it, though thoughtful and functional, is unexceptional. One specific problem I’ll note is that it’s often hard to locate critical buildings in the pitch of battle, and this could have been fixed by laying out the cities more clearly.
STORY/INSTRUCTIONS - 3
This is ENOTH’s weak point. Scenario instructions are sketchy. Objectives are often placed in the Hints section, not in the starting instructions. And although there are misspellings, something makes me suspect that English is not this group’s principal language. (For example “mayor” is consistently misspelled as “major” – “j” sounding just like “y” in Spanish and Latin.). Very curious as well is the lack of commentary in the History section. I say “curious” because this group has an obvious love of history and the research they’ve done drips from every pore of the campaign. Why not share that research in some cool historical commentary? Similarly, Victory and Loss messages are minimal announcements, rather than enlightening us about the historical consequences of winning or losing.
But overall, if you love history and dig Vikings – and if your cpu is up to it – VIKING RAIDS is a must-play campaign!