This review is part of The Review Roundup - Round 1: Games Related to the End of the World
Norse mythology has its very specific version of how the world is going to end. The world will fall into a deadly winter, and all kinds of natural catastrophes will occur. Monsters will rise from the depth in which they hid. The monsters will ally with the giants, facing the gods and heroes. In this final battle between good and evil, everybody will perish - including the chief god Odin.
Old Odin is understandably not too thrilled by this prospect. Brooding up in Asgard, he devises a plan. All he has to do is to be prepared. So he invents a board game simulating the final battle. Good versus Evil, Light versus Dark. Odin goes to Midgard and finds what he deems suitable opponents to try different strategies... in a pub. Only if he manages to beat each of them both as good and evil side, he can be sure to have taken every possibility into account.
The Legend of Ragnarok places its action on a 11x11 board. The Odin figure starts in the centre, surrounded by its loyal Einherjar (the risen spirits of brave warriors who have fallen in battle). Odin has to reach one of the four corners in order for 'good' to win the game. Evil in the form of an army of giants, who start the game spread around all four sides of the board, is trying to prevent that.
Figures are eliminated from the board not by moving to the same space they occupy, but by surrounding them: Moving two figures to the opposite sides of an enemy kills it. Odin himself is a little harder to kill: He has to be surrounded from all four sides.
To spice things up a little, there is Ragnarok mode which lets every player select four special figures out of a choice of six. Each of those has special abilities which add more variety. For example, the normal Einherjar and Giants can only move vertically and horizontally. God Freyr moves diagonally instead. The evil wolf Fenrir can only move two spaces, but he can jump over other figures. Odin's son Vidar is reincarnated shortly after every time being killed. And so on.
Having two completely different sides in the game and forcing the player to master both is certainly a very good idea, and the special characters add a lot of alternative strategies. As so often in such games, all this only really gets interesting when playing against a human opponent. The computer AI is too easily beaten to provide a real challenge. The pretense of different opponents complete with character portraits and their own choice of words might be funny for a few minutes, but not more. Same with the animated battles (Trying to build on the success of Battle Chess?) which are nice to watch the first few times, but repeat themselves too quickly.
Fortunately, the game still works when stripped off that sugar coating. As so often, it's the board games with the simplest rules which actually turn out to be the fun ones and also, in a way, the most complex ones - because perfecting one's style of play is anything but trivial. Good luck, and hopefully, playing the game will prepare you for the end of the world, too!
The other entries are of this round are:
Manhunter: New York
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