Our little board game crew gets together every few months to try out the latest addition to our collection, so I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what I’m going to like right off the bat. I like to drink while I game, so complicated rules and any kind of math are out as far as I’m concerned. I also love a fast pace and heavy interaction between players. Fortunately, Don’t Fall in the Mead Hall has all of those, and some surprising extras.
Firstly, all the rules come on one sheet of paper – bonus! It’s laminated? Extra bonus! It is a drinking game, after all. (Not to worry, non-drinkers – the night we were playing, both of my companions were sober, but you wouldn’t have known judging by the ruckus that was constantly threatening to wake up the baby throughout our gameplay. Thanks a lot, ‘Don’t Fall!’)
Setup is easy – a table for each player, with 5 little Vikings all around it. As you get into the instructions, you’ll notice they’re well written and pretty funny – also good for holding my short drunk attention span.
For example, when you roll the side of the die that means you’ve picked a fight with another player, the directions scold you: “You shouldn’t talk about Ragnar’s wife like that! Her beard is lovely.”
“Can you hold your own or are you a weak-livered milk drinker?” -Taunt on the back of the ‘Don’t Fall in the Mead Hall’ boardgame box
If you have new players, you can have someone who’s read the directions tell you how to play, but it’s not really neccessary. Unless you’re me, and you’ve been drinking and taking a bunch of pictures annoying the crap out of everyone during game setup. Here’s my husband trying his best to be the patient saint that he is as he explains how to play:
There’s more, but you get the jist. Set up your tables, fill up your horns with mead, and get on with it. The die on top of your table tells you how drunk you are, and if it reaches 6, one of your Vikings falls over. If they all fall over, you’re out.
The Fate of the Die
To play the game, each player rolls for initiative (or turn order) each round. When it’s your turn, you roll the gameplay die, which has different images on it ranging from Brunhilde the serving person (not a wench – it’s 2016, guys) to a drinking horn – obviously my favorite.
In the middle of your mead hall, sits the empty red table, which is the brawling table. You can imagine a ring where drunk Vikings fight to the death, a cagematch, an armwrestling table – whatever. But fairly often, someone will roll the die to start a fight, they’ll pick you, and you’ll find yourself rolling to see how you fare.
If your Viking gets knocked out, they’re out. It’s a brutal society.
Sometimes, however, a Viking will get pissed off at the guys at his table, and will look to move to a different one, which could be yours. The player who rolled that option can choose whose table his Viking moves to. If it’s yours, you’ll have more chances to not fall in the mead hall. So, as the die taketh away, so does it also giveth.
The drinking horn was my favorite side of the die, not only because I peddle drinking horns all day, but also because of what happens when you roll it – you make a toast, in real life, and everyone has to say “SKÅL!!” really loud at the end (or in our case, loud enough to feel beastly, but quiet enough to not wake up the baby – life’s full of challenges). Everyone’s personal drunk die then gets moved up by one, because “any true Viking would not refuse to drink with another Viking upon hearing a skål!”
I’m just going to throw in as an aside that you’ll be rolling a d20 for initiative all the time, which I’m sure is an intentional twang to the sweet nostalgia nerve that D&D folks know all too well.
No fancy ratings, no pros/cons – just one simple fact: This game is going into my regular rotation. Its small size means I can stash it in a backpack with my current portable go-to, Love Letter, to share with faraway friends and family. I can see long nights of gaming on vacation this summer while taking long drafts out of my horn. (The game would be easier to pack than my horn, I might add.)
I say this game is simple, and I’m going to emphasize that point again – but only because it’s one of my top requirements. It’s quick to learn, it’s fast paced, it’s straightforward, but it’s also a ton of fun and leaves no time to be bored.
It’s also different, well-thought-out, and makes it pretty easy to imagine that Vikings could have actually played a board game like this. In other words, it’s pretty timeless.
The other benefit to its high simplicity to fun quotient is that while my drunk ass had a great time, the sober folks did too, and I could also see us using this as a family game to play with the kids.
While the game box says it’s for 2-4 players, it could certainly be easily adapted for more. I would say that in order to have a fun time playing with 2 people, you should add a third dummy table and either have one of you play it, or take turns taking its turns. To adapt for more, simply make teams of multiple people per table.
I could also see maybe adapting for a lot of people so that you represent a person sitting at the table, and you could get individually knocked out or moved around as a game piece.
In order to make this game quicker, you could definitely play with less pieces around each table.
All in all, the verdict for a night of gameplay: fun was had, baby stayed sleeping, I finished that St. Bernardus, and we laughed our asses off.
Purchase at VikingNerds.com