If you haven’t played Tales of the Northlands: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, check out my review on whether this might be the game for you. However, if you did pick this up and are struggling with some of the mechanics / strategies available, here are my thoughts on the methods to win…
During the Game:
Sagas; These drive the story – the risk of Nogbad winning can be easily avoided by committing to these sagas and why wouldn’t you – they score a lot of points! The three stages of the saga are perfectly balanced – lots of points for committing pieces early, but quick and easy points for committing late. The balance is good, the only thing I would avoid is losing too many meeples to a single card that is still uncompleted – specifically don’t fill up the first two stages of the card and then struggle to complete the third…
One Contribution; When you go to the market, whether you are going for a saga or an invention, you should try to commit as much as you can in a single journey. It might be obvious but it’s extremely inefficient to keep going to the market, and to only have partially gained the saga / invention. If two players are rushing to this same goal then a part may be better than nothing, but otherwise you should focus on completing the card in a single go.
Inventions; If you really want to win the game you need inventions. Don’t stress about getting the most (10 points or so is a big swing but not the end of the world). The top players in any game will race to have more than each other, however a player struggling with other points can be allowed to get ahead with inventions without levying a real challenge on the others. So work out who is your main competition and stay in touching distance of them – if they are one ahead / behind that’s okay but if they walk off with 40 points to your 10 points (or even worse o!) then you have no hope.
Reset; During the game you can reset resources; don’t do this for no points or for only a few points, but when there are lots of resources in the market you should keep an eye out for the opportunity to get the points from the reset. It doesn’t cost much time, so it’s worthwhile and a good use of a solitary meeple!
Time Management; Optimising this game will mean that you don’t pass at any point because you run out of workers. Think about this turn and next turn – do you have enough workers to do the actions that will take you the rest of the way around the wheel of time. If the answer to that is no, then you are probably using too many meeples to repeat an action or have got your meeples trapped by Nogbad (which you could have avoided through planning!).
Avoid Nogbad; Look ahead on Nogbad’s wheel and work out where he is going next – don’t over commit to this area otherwise if he does move (and this is luck based) then you will be stuck for at least a little while. If you can still act before the next season progresses, it may be worth sending him back to his castle before he captures your meeples!
Year 2 Build; The year 2 buildings are considerably better than the year ones – two impacts to the game. Firstly, have land available or quickly available for this purpose – even if that means cutting down your own orchard. Secondly, be ready early in that year to build. Position on the time track and holding over resources for this can both mean you grab the best building available as soon as the second year starts.
Extra Nogs; Extra meeples sound good for all players, but where this really comes to life is if you are committing nogs to the early stages of saga cards. You will be reliant on others also advancing the plot and their delay can be your downfall. Mitigate this by getting extra nogs from the buildings that provide them. Otherwise, take the buildings that give you a mix of nogs and resources.
Fishy draws; Some players will hate going fishing because you are pulling random discs out of the bag. Well to me that means you want to get a boat (so you can take lots of discs in one go and improve the distribution) or you get the Lookout Tower. That plus one to every journey from the tower means you will never come back empty handed. This is a big advantage to what is otherwise the biggest risk in the game.
Striking Gold; I like to try to use the mine once the miner is at an edge. A couple of actions here will let me flip a tile and then try to get the gold. If the gold is too far, then I will leave it. However, I will never flip the new mine unless I am ready to chase down that gold piece immediately!
Harvest; I like to utilise the food on the player board. Leaving that to spoil in the winter is a shame and can be easily avoided. Now I won’t necessarily replant the farms, but I find it regularly worth while to harvest before the winter sneaks up on you in this game! You can always give away spare food next turn!
No Resets?; Harvesting the fields and cutting down the orchards is particularly a good tactic when the food / wood has not been reset. It’s worth keeping these resources for a while and using them when players are holding out for the reset!