VIKINGS - twisty puzzle game

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE CREATION OF VIKINGS FOR SMARTGAMES


Personally, I think that “Vikings Brainstorm” is one of the best games I ever designed. It looks beautiful, it’s original and “different”. It’s not as difficult as Titanic or Temple Trap. But it’s also a mechanical puzzle with sequential movements and most of all ... fun to manipulate.


DON’T GET DIZZY

The object of the game is simple: navigate one or more viking ships to the the right location (indicated by arrows on that can be clicked on the border of the game board). But the boats move in a surprising way: they move forward by rotating!


When you start a challenge you place the 9 puzzle pieces of the sea, the boat(s) and the arrows on the right place. After this setup, you are only allowed to touch the boats.


There exists other puzzle games with rotating puzzle pieces. Douglas A. Engel amongst others explored a lot of possibilities of puzzles with circles and intersections. But Vikings is very different for a couple of reasons:


1) Every sea puzzle piece has only 2 cutouts (the space of the intersection). This way you can only rotate a puzzle pieces when the cutouts of neighboring puzzle pieces are facing the puzzle piece you want to rotate. In most cases puzzle pieces are blocked by other puzzle pieces. In a way, this part of the puzzle functions more like an 2D version of “Planets” (a brainteaser invented by Oskar van Deventer).


2) The viking ships are the parts that fit in the intersection between the circles. But not all intersections are filled with boats. There are challenges with one, two, three or four boats.


3) In most puzzle games with circles you solve them, by rotating the circles on the sides or in the centre. In Vikings you are not allowed to touch the sea pieces, but only the ships. So you don’t move the intersections (=ships) by rotating the circles, but you rotate the circles by moving the intersections. This is an important difference, because it means that you can’t rotate any sea pieces if they don’t contain a ship. The ships act like a key to unlock the puzzle pieces.


4) The object is not a to bring all circle segments to a specific end state, but to bring all boats to their right end position. How the sea pieces are orientated, when the puzzle is solved, doesn’t matter.


5) And of course you have different challenges (60 in total) depending on where the boats and sea pieces are placed during setup and where their end position is.

top: game board of Vikings during setup


IS YOUR BRAIN STORM PROOF?

It takes a while before you get used to the mechanics of this game. It’s not that hard, once you understand how it works. But people are often misguided by the fact that it seems so simple and that the right order in which you do something doesn’t matter. Another reason why people get stuck is that they want to leave boats close to their end position and only focus on the boats that are still on the wrong place. This way you often can’t solve the challenges, because boats need to help each other in order to get unblocked.


There are a few challenges with only 1 viking ship. These are quite simple. All other challenges use more boats. Challenges don’t become harder by using more ships. There are JUNIOR challenges with 4 boats and MASTER challenges with only 2. This was unexpected when we tested the game. Something that does influence the difficulty level is the numbers of moves. The hardest possible challenge has 32 moves (shown in the booklet), although I always need more moves than the computer program calculated (btw, thanks John for your help by writing the algorithm for this game).

It’s one of the reasons why the box says 6-99 and doesn’t have a WIZARD level.


But most older children and adults will find it more than difficult enough and the fun of manipulating this game compensates more than enough for the lack of very hard challenges. When I was developing this game I was a little afraid that it would not function very smooth in reality. But the first preproduction samples worked already flawlessly. Every time you move a boat, you hear a “click” when the sea pieces are rotated 90°. Even my 5 year old son, can do this (although he can’t solve the challenges with more than 1 boat of course).


top: example of a solution in 21 steps of a challenge of Vikings with 3 boats


MAELSTRÖM, DREKARS OR VIKINGS?

My colleague Hans (who did the nice artwork) and I wanted to name the game “Malstrom” or “Drekars”. But apparently these words are very uncommon for people without any knowledge of Scandinavian myths and legends, so we settled for the slightly more boring name “Vikings”.


The first designs had islands with viking houses on it. This looked nice, but they hindered when you wanted to move the boats. So in the final product, the end positions are indicated by more abstract arrows. But the ships are like real viking ships and I think they look cute.


The sea puzzle pieces were also a point of discussion. Two versions were made, one with spirals on the puzzle pieces the other one with concentric circles. Although I preferred the spirals (which would make more sense in a whirlpool) we eventually choose the other one (that looks more like the waves you get when you throw a stone in a pool) because this one looked simpler.


For those people who have problems with storing all parts back inside the box, my colleagues made a short explanation video (it’s really simple though):

http://vimeo.com/81712961


And if you want to take the game with you as compact as possible (without the cardboard box), that’s also possible, because the blister is much thicker than normal and doubles as a lid:

http://vimeo.com/81712976


REVIEWS AND OTHER LINKS

  1. Vikings on the official website of SmartGames

  2. http://pelnapara.znadplanszy.pl/2013/07/08/do-plecaka-3-wikingowie-burza-mozgow/

  3. http://www.deskovehry.com/

  4. http://scheherazade.znadplanszy.pl/2013/12/31/wikingowie-burza-mozgow/


If you like sequential movement puzzles like this one, you might like Jump In’ or Temple Trap too.

 


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Raf Peeters, January 2013

2017

TEMPLE CONNECTION

SNOW WHITE

JUMP IN’

IQ-FOCUS


2016

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

PENGUINS POOL PARTY

PARKING PUZZLER

IQ-XOXO

DEDUCKTION

DINOSAURS MYSTIC ISLANDS

WALLS & WARRIORS

SMARTCAR 5x5

HIDE & SEEK PIRATES JR

HIDE & SEEK JUNGLE

NORTH POLE EXPEDITION

GHOST HUNTERS

ANTI-VIRUS MUTATION

2015

THREE LITTLE PIGGIES

BUTTERFLIES

IQ-BLOX

IQ-CANDY

PENGUINS PARADE


2014

QUADRILLION

BRAIN CHEESER

CITY MAZE

IQ-STEPS


2013

BUNNY BOO

VIKINGS BRAINSTORM

BACK 2 BACK

IQ-LINK

AB UNDER CONSTRUCTION

AB ON TOP


2012

TEMPLE TRAP

BILL & BETTY BRICKS

BEND-IT

IQ-FIT

NOAHS ARK

AQUABELLE


2011

PENGUINS ON ICE

TRUCKY 3

TROY

IQ-TWIST


2010

CHICKEN SHUFFLE

ANACONDA

CANNIBAL MONSTERS

SMARTCAR

SMARTPHONE


2009

TITANIC

DAY & NIGHT

2008

ROADBLOCK

METROVILLE

ALCATRAZ


2007

CAMELOT JR

CASTLE LOGIX

GOGETTER 4


2006

AIRPORT TRAFFIC CONTROL

HIDE & SEEK PIRATES

TOWER OF LOGIC INFERNO

DUOPUZZLE


2005

CAMOUFLAGE

HIDE & SEEK SAFARI


2001

GOGETTER 1, 2 AND 3