Four ancient clans are locked in a battle for supremacy. Gulveig, the Vanir goddess of avarice, has managed to use her power to sew dissent in the ranks of the four clans. Suddenly the cosmos has erupted into a giant battle between the Aesir gods, the old Vanir gods, the fearsome Ice Giants, and the ferocious Fire Giants. They bring out their best to battle members from opposing clans to assert their dominance in the world as they know it, and at the center of it all is Gulveig, watching with content as the battles unfold before her very eyes.
Fate of the Norns: Gulveig is a fast-paced card game developed by Andrew Valkauskas that’s modeled after a popular game from Europe called Turkstantis. It funded successfully via Kickstarter, and is now available for players to purchase through many different resources. Each clan in Gulveig has a clan symbol that closely resembles classic card suits. Players can achieve clan supremacy by strategically playing a pair of like-suited cards and gaining a bonus for the entire round of play. As players play cards to the table they compete for points, and the first player to reach a set number of points wins.
Gulveig is a card game, and a small-ish one at that. When you pick up a copy of the game you’ll receive a set of cards that includes:
- 7 Ice Giant cards
- 7 Fire Giant cards
- 7 Vanir God cards
- 7 Aesir God cards
- A Rules of Play card
- 2 double-sided artwork cards
To my surprise, the cards are quite sturdy and made from some great material. I got my copy through the Kickstarter, where I paid DruveThruRPG to print and ship the cards. Perhaps my favorite thing about the game (and probably the biggest reason I bought it) is the artwork. Natasha Ilincic did all of the artwork for the cards and I think her skill is phenomenal. Each of the cards is wonderfully ornate with bright colors that really pop for the eye. Each god/goddess has their own distinct look, even when compared to others from the same clan. The game is certainly stunning to look at, which lends to the Fate of the Norns storyline, since this game is set in the universe created for other games by Valkauskas.
Battling with Gods
In Gulveig, players will be competing with each other to score points. You’ll earn points by placing bets and playing cards to win different tricks that are played during the round. The Rules of Play included with the game is a bit muddled, and the larger set of rules available for download online is also a bit fuzzy, so I’ll try and go over gameplay to make it as simple as possible.
When setting up the game, shuffle all of the colored cards together, with one exception: each clan has an extra card that doesn’t fit in a normal game. These cards are noted by the banner placed at the top of the card. Here’s an example:
Once the extra cards are removed the rest of the colored clan cards are shuffled together. Then seven cards are dealt to each player in the game. Three cards are left face-down in the center of the table. This is the treasure pile that players will bid on during the beginning of the hand. Each game of Gulveig is made up of hands which are played out in seven rounds. Each hand is played out like so:
- Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player makes a bid on the treasure pile in the middle of the table. What’s the reason for bidding on this pile? Well, it is possible that the cards in the treasure pile could help you create combos for supremacy, or they could be worth a lot of points when you score at the end of the round. Bids start out at 90 points, and each player can increase the bid in increments of 10 or more points. If you wish not to bid you can pass, and once all players have passed whoever placed the last bid wins the treasure pile.
- The winner of the bid takes the treasure pile into their hand and then decides to place three cards from their hand immediately in their score pile to be calculated at the end of the round.
- The player who won the treasure plays a card from their hand into the center of the table to lead off the trick. You see, each card has a combat (upper left corner) and a value (upper right corner). When a card is played into the middle, each player in clockwise order will take a turn playing a card from their hand into the center. The card played MUST match the clan (color) of the initial card played. If a player does not have a card matching the color, they may play any card they wish to the center.
- Next the combat stats of each card are compared. The card with the highest combat defeats the others, and the player who played the card takes all of the cards in the center pile into their score pile. Any cards played into the center pile that did not match the color of the initial card have their combat stats reduced to zero.
- The winner of the trick then leads off in the next round by playing a card of their choice to the center of the table. Play the continues the same way as above until all seven rounds have been played.
- At the end of the hand each player totals up the value of all the cards in their score pile. The player who won the bid earlier MUST earn at least the number of points they originally bid on the treasure pile. If they meet or exceed this amount they immediately score points equal to the amount they bid. If winning bidder does not score at least the amount of points they originally bid, their score is reduced by the bid amount (and yes, you can go negative). All points scored up and above the bid are lost. All other players score whatever points they earned from the cards in their score pile.
- Play continues as such until a specified score limit is reached, which is normally 1000 points.
There is one thing to mention about the game when it comes to playing cards. That is this: when you lead off a trick/round, if you have a pair of matching clan cards, you can reveal them to claim the points listed for the match. For example:
If you claim this combo, you score an immediate amount of points equal to the amount listed on the combo. Then you choose one of the revealed cards to play to the center for the round. The clan of the revealed matching pair then has supremacy for the hand until a new pair is shown. For example, if the above matching pair was revealed, the Fire Giants would have clan supremacy for the hand. Supremacy adds a +7 to the combat of all cards matching the clan played. This means that, even if you can’t play a card matching the one that lead off a round, if the card you play has supremacy, it could still wind the round. Here’s another example:
Calculating your odds of getting supremacy is what brings strategy to the game and provides a reason for bidding on the treasure pile. If you hold a matching pair and think you can gain a nice chunk of points at the end of the round, you can drive the bid up to try and reach the amount of points you can claim for the matching pair. Remember, any points you score up and above the bid you made to win the treasure pile are lost, so driving up the bid when you have a matching pair combo could help you achieve a higher score. Once you get to 880 points (in a normal game) the only way you can earn points is by matching your bid. Players no longer score points from just having cards in their score pile. Once a player gets to the agreed upon point level they will rise as the victor!
The Fate of Norns
Gulveig seemed, at first, like a game that I would never understand in my lifetime. The rules looked jumbled, but once I got into playing the game it all came naturally and I picked it up in no time. Gulveig is one of those games where the rules look extremely confusing and scattered, but in essence they’re not. The game is easy to learn, but it becomes difficult to master because of the level of strategy that comes into play with the matching clan pairs. Players will also have to, well, “know when to hold ’em” in order to play the right cards at the right time in order to win rounds.
Gulveig is quite replayable, and I found myself playing it multiple times in one night. The 30-minute time frame for the game is about right, but it could take upwards of an hour with 4 players. The rules have a slight change at both 2 and 3 players, however, so it scales easily with the amount of players you have.
I really like Gulveig, mainly because of the game’s artwork and story, but the gameplay is pretty solid. It’s definitely a light card game, and I think it would be great for downtime in between events, or just spending time with the family. I really like how the game has a bit of a “push your luck” element to it with the bidding. Bid too high and you’ll go in the hole, fail to raise the bid high enough and you’ll lose out on points in the end. This is where bluffing comes into play, which adds a brand new dimension to the game.
Though the game funded via Kickstarter, you can pick up a copy via DriveThruRPG, Paizo, Cool Stuff Inc, and even through the game’s official website. If you’re looking for a game that’s got a pretty neat story, is compact, and is easy to learn but a lot of fun to play, I’d recommend you pick up a copy of Gulveig for yourself. For $24 it’s not bad at all.