AKA Viking After Hours
The Gaming Library team just got around to opening a copy of Spoils of War, the newest game from Arcane Wonders (Sheriff of Nottingham, Royals, Onitama) about Vikings wagering and bluffing their way to prosperity.
Spoils of War is set after a good day at Viking office (out in sea, pillaging towns and taking your gold) and the game is all about divvying up the loot. While other games would have you go through nefarious means (looking at you, Cash & Guns), SoW takes a more direct route: LIAR’S DICE!
As someone who has been playing Liar’s Dice for years, it’s nice to see the classic game get some love and a revamp. The basics are still the same: everyone has a set amount of dice and a cup, they shake the dice inside the cups and set them on the table. Everyone gets to look at their cups and participates in a round of wagering.
What sets Spoils of War apart from the classic is player involvement. Players who aren’t directly involved in a wager are forced to support either side. To make picking sides more meaningful, gold is involved and the losing side give up all their wagers. Like its spiritual successor, Sheriff of Nottingham, gold is how you win the game.
Treasure cards are the most direct way to earn gold at the end of the game, but getting them involves being on the right side of a wager. The player who bids highest gets first pick of the treasure and becomes the Viking Chief. Teaming up becomes more than an act of alliance but also a series of guesstimates, one involving the dice and another involving the outcome of the wager.
Artifacts found in the treasure pile also add opportunities to gain information or manipulate the game in unexpected ways. Like regular treasures, these magical artifacts have an equivalent gold value, but all of the artifacts are drafted face-down. So while the incentive may sound great, not knowing what you will get may be an issue.
Spoils of War attempts to connect a few ideas and the results are very interesting. The design has a lot of call backs to Sheriff of Nottingham, but reduces play time and streamlines negotiations. The elimination so prominent in Liar’s Dice is mitigated by using a different resource (players lose gold instead of actual dice). Spoils of War finds itself in a happy middle between the two games, resolving some issues but also creating some in the process.
My issue with Spoils of War is a minor one, but it does deserve some attention. The happy medium is a tricky spot to be in. It avoids the eventual bogging down of the negotiations in Sheriff, but it takes a while to finish as well. Wagering also change in tone, as one finds opportunity not in your ability to trick players but in your ability to forecast dice patterns and how people wager on their turns. Spoils of War avoids being unfair to players who lose dice early in Liar’s Dice, but some opportunities still escape those who start losing money early, especially in wagering for the Chief Viking token.
All in all, Spoils of War is a refreshing take on Liar’s Dice and a strong sequel to Sheriff of Nottingham. It recreates the heavy emphasis of Sheriff on player interaction despite removing forced negotiations by having players pick teams every round. It may not be able to replace Liar’s Dice as a quick filler game, but I think I have found an automatic alternative whenever friends would want to play Sheriff or just have a merry round of wagering for gold and treasure.
Spoils of War is currently available for purchase at Gaming Library. If you would like to request for reviews and previews of games or any other board game-related content, contact Duane at firstname.lastname@example.org.