by Mrs. Saint
You lower your head and grit your teeth as the cold wind whips your face. With each step, the snow comes up over your goatskin boots and you can feel its freezing wetness seeping into the skin above your ankles. You lift your head and squint into the howling storm and know you’re not far. The top of the mountain cannot be much farther. You’ve braved the ocean; you’ve fought a Kraken; you have bested a Troll; you will conquer this mountain and the legendary giants that live here, hidden in their cold caves. You will return to Trondheim as the strongest Viking Leader, having rescued the Archer Clans and brought them to your side. The jagged rocks, the malevolent storm, and the ferocious giants cannot stop you from gaining the Glory you need to become the next Jarl!
We were first introduced to Trondheim and the struggle to replace the previous Jarl, in the base game of Champions of Midgard (read our review here). The Dark Mountains expansion adds literal new heights to the game, where now the Viking Leaders can travel up into the mountains surrounding Trondheim to rescue new allies from the giants who are holding them prisoner.
The Dark Mountains expansion was released in 2017, two years after the base game first premiered and was the first expansion made for Champions of Midgard. The expansion brings a lot to the table. The board gets slightly larger as the Dark Mountain side board is added to the top of the base board. You have two additional Viking Leaders to choose from: Ragnhild and Jorunn. Each of the new leaders comes with their own unique abilities (just like the leaders from the base set). At the top of the mountains, there are two new spaces to face the Bergrisar, the mountain giants who have captured the Archers (new dice) of the northern clans. Defeating the Bergrisar is what gives you access to the new dice. There are additional draugr, trolls, and epic monsters. Also, the expansion now extends the player count from 4 to 5. There is an additional board with extra market spaces if you’re playing with four or more players. We have not used these since we have only played the expansion with two players.
This expansion essentially feels like it builds upon the original base game without adding any new mechanics. Instead, the additions feel like they add more strategies or build upon some of your old strategies for gaining Glory. The new Archers are a very strong warrior choice, having only one blank side and three sides that give bonus hits for hunting. The caveat with the new archers is that they cannot typically be used to defeat the Bergrisar. From a lore standpoint, this makes sense because if they could defeat them, then you wouldn’t need to climb the mountain and rescue them.
Facing the Bergrisar at the top of the mountains is similar to facing the monsters across the sea; you must first face a journey card, for the Bergrisar it’s a land journey card. When you venture across the sea, you need to worry about your warrior-to-food ratio, when you climb the mountain, instead of needing food for the journey, you typically need gold. If you’re too poor for the journey, well you can always visit the improved Beggar market tile.
In our games of The Dark Mountains, we found an interesting thing is that Blame becomes a bigger factor when it comes to scoring because with more options for worker placement spots the Troll gets ignored more often. I remember one game where we both had accumulated an absurd amount of blame because we were too busy executing other strategies of balancing fighting the Bergrisar to get Archers so we could try to get plenty of food to travel across the sea and fight the epic monsters. When it came scoring time, we both ended up losing over 20 Glory due to Blame.
Although the base game of Champions of Midgard stands alone very well, I do recommend, if you love the base game, adding this expansion to your collection. This expansion does not add any complexity to the game and still makes the Champions of Midgard very friendly to anyone new to gaming or the worker placement genre. If you do decide to add the expansion, I would consider adding the play mat from Grey Fox Games’s online store. It helps streamline setup.
If you’ve ventured into The Dark Mountains, tell us about your journey and what you love or maybe don’t care for about this first expansion for Champions of Midgard.