I can’t hide my excitement since this is a Viking-themed game and I’m thrilled by that Age. I love History Channel’s Vikings series and games highlighting this theme just keep coming, not complaining!
What sets HEL apart from them though, is its dark setting. We are talking about a horror (semi?)cooperative Viking game, with the perfect aesthetics to bring that experience to life. They are coming into the game with a twist, and I’m loving it!
Lastly, I do have to highlight Mythic Game’s amazing track record on Kickstarter thus far. This makes me feel confident about the quality of the project, letting me focus on the gaming experience.
Players each embody one or more survivors of a Viking expeditionary force looking for a colony established by their King on a mysterious island.
HEL: The Last Saga is a campaign-driven adventure game, played through a “Saga”, divided into 13 “Songs” (chapters). The “Those who are Peregrines” clan is a Viking expeditionary force in search of a colony established by their King in a mysterious land. As members of this clan, you will try to survive and discover the truth behind this colony, while following your destiny.
The Book of Saga is the heart of the game, holding your fate in its nearly 900 paragraphs. A narrative booklet that you will be using a lot, giving flesh to your story.
The game starts with 13 unique Heroes. Each Hero is represented by a highly detailed miniature and their dashboard. There, you will find elements such as their Attribute scores (for actions & tests), their Skills, Talents, and more. The combination of these elements creates a one of a kind individual in your party.
These special cards are acquired during the campaign, with each Hero holding up to 2 of them. They give special benefits to their owners, such as abilities and companions. So, choose your combination wisely before each Song!
Representing objects, Item cards are collected by our Heroes and have many interesting uses. There are several categories of Items, serving different purposes. Like Hero cards, each Hero can hold up to 2 Items.
Heroes have their own beliefs, and the Prayer cards of those make up the Prayer deck. When a Hero successfully performs the “Pray” special action a Pray card is put into play. This way, permanent abilities will be granted to Heroes of specific Beliefs.
That’s one of my favorite little elements of the game, as they add a lot to the flavor of the game!
Events always spice up a gaming turn and they couldn’t be excluded from such a thematic experience. Fate cards are working this way, introducing special rules to each game Turn, and resolving some other elements of the game.
Threat & Hostile Cards
This is no common island, with nightmarish entities wondering in the shadows. These are the Hostiles, which will give you a hel of a time, and are hidden in the form of Threats.
Threat tokens represent a potential number of Hostiles. A Threat card dictates the behavior of each type of Treat token until that is revealed, showing the number of Hostiles.
Hostiles come into play in the form of a miniature, according to the active Threat card. A Hostile card of the respective Hostile will showcase its specs and abilities.
Dice & Tests
HEL uses the success-based test system, where you need a certain number of successes rolled, according to the test’s difficulty. The number of dice rolled is determined by the test’s Attribute.
Each Song comes with its setup, and potentially special rules and revelations. It plays through several Game Turns, and each consists of 4 phases. You have to complete each turn before proceeding to the next one:
I – Event phase: The Heroes organize themselves(by distributing the various Roles) and reveal the special conditions of the game Turn indicated on the Fate card.
II – Heroes phase: Each Hero performs actions. You will play in turns, activating an available Hero, until all Heroes have been activated. The Fatality card indicates the number of actions a Hero can take during this turn.
There are multiple actions a Hero can take, like Move, Attack, Heal, Search, and more. There are also some Free actions, which are activating a Hero card(if applicable) and/or exchanging an Item.
III – Hostiles phase: Each threat progresses and the Hostiles attack the heroes. Beware of Threats that can perform a ranged attack, as this is troublesome in any game! New Threats will also appear at the end of this phase.
IV – End phase: Time passes and players check the conditions of progression or decline in the Song. The Fate card can also have some End Phase effects that have to take place now.
A Song Ends & Conclusion of the Saga
A Song ends as soon as a paragraph indicates it. In that case, you can either continue with the next Song or save your game for next time! Of course, a Song can be failed, which comes with a price, as this will affect your next attempt in some way.
Each Song will introduce new elements, mechanics, and certain surprises to the game. You will open 13 boxes in total, one for each Song, with unique content on each, following a format close to what we see in “Legacy” games (of course, you won’t have to destroy your game, no worries!).
During the last Song, you will be reading the Concluding Paragraph, indicating the end conditions of the Saga itself. This will vary depending on your journey up to that point, as actions have consequences. A selling point of the game is the character development of the Heroes. You will learn their story and their deepest secrets, as well as their secret desires. This might lead to players having different goals, making the game semi-coop at the very end of it!
HEL: The Last Saga has many more elements and mechanics which I didn’t cover here, like its dice battle system. It’s a big, dark adventure with a rich narrative and many twists. Mixing dungeon crawl mechanisms and resource management for the survival part of it, for an epic Saga!
The right mood to play the game
On highly thematic games, like this one, I love to set the right environment to play the game in. One of the most important elements is the music! Thankfully there are countless hours of awesome Norwegian Folk music available. I would highly recommend groups like Wardruna and Danheim for an enhanced Viking experience!
Before diving into this horror adventure, you must understand that this is a mid-complexity, highly thematic game that probably needs your commitment. Especially for such games, I make sure that everyone is on the same page with the rest of the group before starting. If everyone is invested in this collective experience you will all have an amazing time and an extraordinary story to share. It’s that sometimes not everyone is on the mood for such a session, and that’s fine, you can always try another day.
Be adventurous, be bold, be Viking!
Who is this game for?
I strongly believe that HEL appeals to a broad audience, as it manages to combine multiple awesome elements. First of all, if you love highly thematic experiences, this is one to consider, especially if the dark Viking setting appeals to you.
Secondly, even though the game has a solid structure and mechanics to tie everything together, it has a narrative core. Thus, if you want to experience a great narrative and enjoy story-telling experiences, this is one of HEL’s strong points.
Then, we have the cooperative aspect of the game, for you (and me) that love to play against the game, working together with your group. In this case, though, we have a campaign mode with at least 13 plays, meaning that you need to commit to the game. Each session will be tied to the previous one, as you create your unique Saga up to its completion. If you already have a dedicated group in mind for this adventure, this is for you!
Lastly, we have all the mechanics that make the game tick. There is resource management, exploration, dice battle, and more. Luck certainly plays its part, since this is an adventure, but HEL manages to counter that with meaningful tactical decisions that are up to you. It promises many plot twists, enhancing its narrative and exploration elements, along with the vague indication of a Semi-coop ending.
I’m not a fan of semi-cooperative games, as they seem to not work, but I was honestly thinking that they might do work on a campaign environment. As you will have to think long-term instead of short-term. Giving up on the victory of today’s battle might win you the war!
Even though I focus on the game’s gameplay and experience, I have to add that the art and graphic design are phenomenal. They are so good that they might not let you pay attention only to the game’s gorgeous miniatures!
Another well-structured campaign by Mythic Games, where no element is unnecessary. This phenomenal job has already paid off with the campaign being already funded!
ATTENTION: This is a KICKSTARTER EXCLUSIVE project. Mythic games offer one Pledge option for HEL, and that is an ALL IN one! They are putting everything in the box, for the Saga to be complete. Instead of going with the classic “base game + expansions” route.
In my opinion, for this little beast, this is the right way to go. I like to know that this is a complete game and I have everything required to experience my own story.
Make sure to check it out for more details and support it in case this is right up your alley!
You can also join the game’s private Facebook group and explore the unique content shared by the game’s fans thus far!