Family Game Review: Fire & Axe

Welcome to another Family Game Review! This is where my kids and I play a game that none of us have played before, then we each independently write something about it. Along with me, you’ll hear the thoughts of Connor (22), and Rhiannon (14).
This week’s game is Fire & Axe by IDW and Pandasaurus Games.

Fire and Axe box

Scott

In Fire and Axe, players are Vikings raiding, trading, settling, and completing sagas around Europe. Doing these things earns players Victory Points (represented by coins), with, as you might expect, the player with the most at the end being the winner. Each player has a ship card on which to place their goods and Vikings, and a corresponding ship piece on the board.

Players complete 7 days worth of actions on their turn. Each action, such as loading one viking or trade good placed on the ship takes 1 day, as does sailing one space on the map. Map locations can be traded with, raided, or settled to earn Victory Points immediately (as with trading), or at the end of the game. Along the way, players can complete sagas, which are cards that give bonus victory points for achieving certain tasks, such as trading with every location in a region, or settling every location in a region. Players need to be aware of who else is in the area and watch their timing, however, because the bonus goes to the person who completes the last item on the saga, not who does the most of them.

Although there is no direct combat between players (Vikings on the boat are used to raid and settle cities), they can affect each other through the use of Event Cards. Some of them are helpful to the player who uses them, and others are detrimental when played on another player. Another interesting aspect of the cards is that when you play one, the weather changes. Each area on the board (North, South, East, West) is represented on a dial in the corner of the board. The number that shows through the holes in the dial determines how many space a ship can sail without taking losses (either a trade good or a Viking, player choice). As the dial turns, this number will change for each area. Playing an event card can allow you to sail further by improving the weather, or you could move it to make the weather worse in an opponent’s area, thus restricting their movement.

I had fun with this one, with all the planning and replanning when someone else did the thing I was going to do. It is important to know all the ways to earn Victory Points and diversify a bit. I don’t think you can win with only one goal in mind. Chance is still a factor in this game, as Connor had some pretty unfortunate dice rolls, and couldn’t even successfully raid Lindisfarne (the monks fought off and killed all his Vikings!).

I like the components and layout of the board, and feel that between this and Risk Europe, Rhiannon’s geography and history knowledge should increase, especially with the conversations we have around the board while we are playing. Games like this aren’t necessarily inherently educational, but exposure to the place names and locations, plus using those as a starting point for conversations can definitely improve players’ awareness of these topics.

Fire and Axe set up
Set up and ready to go! There seem to be some issues with light reflecting off the board, though.

Connor

A rather less action-packed game than the title suggests, and very similar to another Viking game I don’t remember the name of, but good nonetheless. I can see some potentially interesting strategies around trade and which sagas you choose to complete.  I don’t really have a lot to say about this one, it’s just a fairly solid game, but without anything that really stands out.

Fire and Axe in progress
Green has made some settlements while everyone else continues to trade and raid, and red also heads for Constantinople (not Istanbul).

Rhiannon

It was pretty cool, easy to learn. We were all rolling really badly so it made it better and worse at the same time which was pretty funny. I didn’t realize I had to settle places so I just went around conquering making it easier for my brother and dad. The bulk of my points came from how much money I had. It was a really fun game, I would love to play it again.

An endnote:

I’d like to note that after I looked at the Board Game Geek entry for Fire and Axe, I realized that Connor is correct: we have played this before. We played the second edition about 6 years ago. The artwork is different enough that I didn’t put it together in my memory.

Have you played this one? What did you think? Are there similar games we should try?
Check back next week, because I think we’ll be doing some cowboys in space themed action!