Recently, The Viking Herald had the pleasure of presenting a Viking comic project (based in space!) - Battle Code Ragnarök.
Today, we will be showcasing a different Viking-inspired project, a board game called Althingi: One Will Rise, set in Viking Age Iceland.
In order to find out more about the project, we spoke to Joshua Gillingham, author and board game designer from Vancouver Island, Canada, behind this ambitious idea.
TVH: Hi Joshua! First things first. Could you kindly introduce yourselves to our audience?
JG: Halló! My name is Joshua Gillingham, and I am an author and board game designer from Vancouver Island, Canada. "Althingi: One Will Rise" is a card game set in Viking Age Iceland (more on that later!), and I also have a troll-hunting fantasy trilogy inspired by the Norse myths titled "The Saga of Torin Ten-Trees." I've had the chance to collaborate on some really neat Viking-themed projects, including "Old Norse for Modern Times;" this humorous phrasebook translates common sayings of today into Old Norse and was co-authored by myself, Ian Stuart Sharpe (creator of the Vikingverse) and Dr. Arngrimur Vidalin from the University of Iceland.
My books and games have been featured at museums, including the Jorvik Viking Museum in the UK, and I have been a featured guest at IceCon in Reykjavík. I started writing and designing games in 2016 after two or three years of binging every translation of the Norse myths and Icelandic sagas I could get my hands on.
These projects are an attempt on my part to process all these fascinating tales of those who sailed the frigid northern seas of Scandinavia more than one thousand years ago. In addition, my family is from Norway, Sweden, and Finland (don't let my last name fool you), so there was a deep-rooted family connection for me as well in all these projects.
Joshua Gillingham, the board game designer behind the "Althingi" project.
TVH: Many will find the term "Althingi" unfamiliar. What was the Althingi?
JG: A Thing (Old Norse: Þing) in Viking times was a regional gathering with special social, political, and religious dimensions. One of the most important aspects of this gathering was the presentation of legal cases before an audience of free, land-holding Vikings, an ancient custom that evolved over time into our modern jury system.
Arguments would be made according to a set of laws recited annually as part of an oral tradition with cultural roots stretching back to the pre-Roman Germanic tribes of mainland Europe. When Norway was unified as a kingdom in the mid-900s, it quickly adopted a much more Christian (and soon after that, fully Christian) social and legal system.
The original Norse customs were carried to Iceland, where they were preserved in a historic collection known as the Grey Goose (Icelandic: Grágás) Laws, or Úlfljótr's Laws. Land was distributed, marriages arranged, and many of the Icelandic saga's most famous villains (and heroes!) were outlawed at these events.
For a plethora of social, political, religious, geographical, and historical reasons, this traditional societal structure was preserved much longer in Iceland (and Greenland) than anywhere else in Scandinavia. As Iceland was settled, all the Icelanders of influence would gather once per year for an island-wide Thing which became known as the Althingi. In fact, the parliament in Iceland is called the Althingi to this day, and it is the longest-standing governmental body in all of recorded history!
TVH: Can you introduce your card game, Althingi: One Will Rise?
JG: The year is 931 CE, and the tyranny of Harald Fairhair has driven many powerful families from the fjords of Norway across the frigid Atlantic to Iceland. Players step into the role of a powerful goði, or chieftain, and each one vies for influence at the Althingi, the historic annual gathering that takes place on the plains of Thingvellir.
Each must judiciously distribute treasures to bribe Vikings to join their camp and weapons to defend those in their hird, or clan, without exhausting their limited resources. Players send forth the Vikings in their camps to challenge other chieftain's Vikings to holmgang, a ritual duel, and each must defend against holmgang challenges from other players.
Once all the Vikings have arrived at Thingvellir, the player who has the most influence controls the Althingi and wins the game!
The game is set in Viking Age Iceland.
TVH: What are your goals for the project and future ambitions? What's the planned timeline for the project?
JG: I love Vikings, and I love board games, so I really wanted to bring an authentic historic Viking game to the table. Admittedly, I really enjoy games such as "Blood Rage" or "Reavers of Midgard," which both include strong elements of Norse culture (not to hate on "Feast for Odin," but that is truly the most grueling worker placement game I have ever played...), but I really wanted to hone in on a historical setting, and Viking Age Iceland seemed like the perfect fit.
That meant no horned helmets, no skimpy chainmail, and no axes that looked like they came off the set of Conan the Barbarian. The response was absolutely stunning, and it was so clear to me that there was a ravenous appetite for historical Viking games within the board game community. After my card game "Althingi: One Will Rise" was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2020, I followed up with an anthology of historical fiction written by best-selling authors around the world called "Althingi: The Crescent & the Northern Star."
It is now my ambition to continue to expand this universe with game expansions such as "Althingi: Saga Heroes" and an upcoming novelization centering around Gyda the Grim, one of the base game characters, titled Ran's Daughters and written by the stellar Swiss-American writer Kaitlin Felix. And if you are wondering if more Althingi projects are in the works, the answer is... ja!
TVH: Sounds great! How can people support the game, and what benefits can supporters expect?
JG: So, the first official expansion for "Althingi: One Will Rise" (the base game) is live on Kickstarter right now; the "Althingi: Saga Heroes" expansion adds ten brand new Vikings plucked straight from the actual historic Norse sagas, a new feuding mechanic for settling scores with rivals, a kinship card system which gives players secret objectives for scoring extra influence, and a devious new Loot card with special abilities.
The good news is that backers can get both the base game and the expansion through the Kickstarter, plus other projects in the Althingi universe, such as the in-world anthology "Althingi: The Crescent & the Northern Star," premium game components such as a custom neoprene game mat, and bonus projects from my fellow creator and collaborator Ian Stuart Sharpe, the mastermind behind the Vikingverse.
Truly, a wyrm's hoard of Viking books, games, and comics awaits any who check out the project page!
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