A to Z Gaming: Odin’s Ravens

We raced across a changing landscape in Odin’s Ravens, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Odin’s Ravens (Original edition)
Players: 2
Time: 30 Minutes
Designers: Thorsten Gimmler
Artists: Johan Egerkrans, Anke Pohl, Thilo Rick, Andreas Steiner
Publisher: KOSMOS

Odin’s Ravens is a fairly quick 2-player game where players participate in several races to get their birds across a number of landscape tiles as efficiently as possible. They do this by managing the cards in their hand and “reserve” pile while also strategically shedding cards to gain a few extra points. Whoever best manages all of these the best over several races will win.

The game is set up with each player taking the raven and card-deck of one color. The landscape tiles are shuffled and nine placed in a row such that there are no two types of landscape adjacent to each other (some cards may be discarded in this initial set-up to make that happen). The Magic Way cards are also shuffled and one turned face up. The player’s birds are placed near the start of the row of landscape cards, each player taking one side of the track. The Odin marker also is placed nearby. Players shuffle their cards and take a hand of five.

On their turn, players can play up to three cards from their hand and three cards from their reserve pile (which is empty at the beginning of the game). Those cards can be played for movement, for their effect (the Odin cards), to be added to the player’s reserve or as a sacrifice to the Magic Way. For movement, the player needs to either play a single card matching the terrain of the next space for their raven, then move their bird to the end of that terrain (possibly moving over several cards), or they can play a pair of another terrain-type to move over any terrain. These cards can come from their hand or from the top of their reserve or even one from each.

To play a card for effect, the player simply plays an Odin Card, choosing one of the two possible effects on the card. This can include adding new terrain tiles to the end of the track, removing or rotating existing terrain cards, playing the Odin Marker to hamper a player’s movement, or even simply moving your raven forward or your opponent’s backward.

To play to their reserve, the player simply takes a card and places it facedown in a pile in front to of them. They can look at their reserve at any time, but can not change the order of the cards. The cards are always played from the reserve from the top down.

Finally, to play to the Magic Way, the player places a card of one of the two types showing on the Magic Way card face-up near it.

At the end of their turn, the player can optionally add a new terrain card to the end of the track, choosing its orientation. Finally, they draw back up to a hand of five cards.

The current race ends as soon as one player’s raven makes it to the end of the track. That player then gets points equal to the number of terrain cards they are ahead of the other player. Also whoever has played the most cards to the Magic Way gets three points. If a player has surpassed 12 points total, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins. Otherwise, the race is reset by shuffling the terrain cards, revealing a new Magic Way, and players shuffling their decks.

This was one of the first several games in our collection. I remember hearing about it from another gaming couple as a great example of a game specifically designed for 2-players. (This was before I knew anything about the KOSMOS line of 2-player games!) This would have been in the mid-2000s. I know when we first picked it up, we did play it a lot. It felt revolutionary to have an interesting game designed for two. We had been playing a lot of games designed for more players which often didn’t work well at the lower player-counts.

At this point, though, we haven’t gotten Odin’s Ravens out very often. I suspect that’s because there are way more multi-player games that now just work for two players. We also tend to lean toward bigger, point-salad-y type games these days, so some of these smaller ones fight to hit the table.

I do like the tension of the game, deciding whether or not to extend the route at the end of your turn, and then laughing as you reveal a terrain type that just doesn’t work with your current cards when you do. Sure, you’ll have some time to get those cards out of your deck, but what if you just helped your opponent by accident?

How is it as a 2-player game? Odin’s Ravens works very well as a 2-player game because … well … it was designed that way! As one of the KOSMOS 2-player line of games, I would expect nothing less.

How about the art and component quality? The cards are good quality, though their narrow size make it kind of hard to shuffle. The art is fine, and the different terrains are easy to tell apart. I particularly like the raven tokens ?

Will this stay in my collection? For the moment, yes, this will stick around. Now that we’ve bubbled it up to the top of our minds, it may get to the table a little more often. And if not, we’ll consider letting it go.

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