Raiders of the North Sea (Digital Eyes)

Release Date: 2015Players: 2-4
Designer: Shem PhillipsLength: 60-75 minutes
Artist: Mihajlo DimitrievskiAge: 10+
Publisher: Renegade Game StudiosComplexity: 2.5 / 5
Plastic (by weight): n/aAir (by volume): n/a

We were a band of feared Viking warriors of Borg on the Lofoten islands. Our chieftain had tasked us with assembling a cunning and mighty crew, collecting provisions and journeying north to plunder gold, iron and livestock from foreign lands. We would find glory in battle and the Valkyrie would lead the fallen to Odin’s Valhalla. We were the Raiders of the North Sea by Shem Phillips from Renegade Games Studios.

Now, I don’t know much about Viking history, other than the stereotypical idea that these were people who used their expert sailing skills to explore new lands and plunder them for precious resources, burning and killing as they went. However, just looking at a map I can see that the Vikings were most likely heading west on their voyages, not north, as the rulebook says. However, some of them were indeed travelling across the North Sea. So the title of the game is absolutely fitting.

As the game’s title suggests, Raiders of the North Sea solely focuses on sending out longships to foreign lands, attacking and pillaging, bringing back riches and honouring the dead who lost their lives along the way. All players live in the same Viking village and want to be the one who impresses the chieftain the most. It’s a game of one-upmanship really. You earn your chieftain’s respect in a number of different ways: attacking and raising foreign settlements to the ground, as well as offering your battle spoils to the chieftain who will reward you accordingly.

Viking Workers

Ultimately, Raiders of the North Sea is a worker placement game, with a bit of resource management and deck building thrown in. There is a bit of a twist though. Nobody owns any workers, even though everyone starts with one. On your turn, you place a worker on one of the available action slots in the village, then take back a different worker. You carry out both actions in that order, which leads to an interesting puzzle.

Sometimes you really need to activate two specific locations, but neither has a worker on it. That means you can only use one of the two worker spaces. Not only that, if you keep an eye on what everyone else is doing, you can create situations where the next player won’t be able to do what you think they were planning to do. It’s a twist on worker placement I hadn’t seen before.

There is another twist though. Workers come in three levels: basic, medium and skilled. Depending on which one is placed in an action space, the action will potentially be more powerful. Some actions are also only available to medium or skilled workers. Now, everyone starts with a basic worker. After a raid, you could return with a medium or even skilled worker. When you place your medium or skilled worker in the village, there may only be basic workers left for you to take. The next player can then take the medium or skilled worker you placed. After all, all of you live in the same village. It’s a simple, but really clever mechanism.

the townsfolk cards, offering tiles and other components from Raiders of the North Sea
the townsfolk cards, offering tiles and other components from Raiders of the North Sea (Photo courtesy of Garphill Games)

Raiding the North Sea

Your ultimate goal is to raid harbours, outposts, monasteries and fortresses and bring back rich spoils, while also collecting glory along the way. To do so, you need to hire a crew, have enough provisions to last the voyage and sometimes also bring gold along the way.

Your crew comes from a shared deck of townsfolk cards. Each townsfolk has different abilities, effects and battle strength and costs a different amount. Sometimes you want to employ townsfolk in the village to give you one-off effects, but most of the time you want to add them to your crew, where they not only add to the battle strength, but also provide additional effects. For example, some crew give you extra glory when you successfully raid certain locations. Others force your opponents to discard a card from their crew, if they die in battle. It creates another level of interest.

You can collect your provisions from certain locations in the village. The same is true for the money that you need to pay for your crew.

The spoil you bring back from your raids can then be used as offerings for the chieftain. However, you can’t just offer anything you like. There are three tiles available at any one point that show the combination of spoils you need and how much glory you will get in return. As soon as a player has completed one of these tiles, they get the points and the tile is discarded, being immediately replaced with a new one. So you have to be quick or you’ll miss out on points.

Quick and Dirty

Raiders of the North Sea can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but it is really quite easy. Setup in the physical game can be a pain, but I’ve only ever played it digitally. So I never had to worry about placing all the loot onto the board and seeding everything. I just had to click “play” and off I went.

Once you’ve taken a few turns, it’ll quickly all make sense and you can learn additional things as you go. In fact, I think the game does lead players along the way. There is not a lot you can do at the beginning of the game. You will try to collect provisions, earn money to buy crew and keep an eye on what places you can raid and how many points you’re likely to get. On your turn, you will be further limited in your choices based on what action spaces are free. So it’s not really overwhelming to play and it slowly ramps up from round to round. It’s almost like an engine-building game, but not really.

Raiders of the North Sea is really quite addictive. Every game does tend to feel very much the same, but you still want to give it another go. Maybe next time you can outwit your opponents and get the better loot. It’s quite weird. You feel like you have a lot of agency in the game and there is a fair bit of player interaction in the way that you all share workers. At the same time, there is also a lot of luck in what cards you draw and how the loot is distributed on the board. It’s a good balance though.

Happy Raiders

So, at the end of the day, Raiders of the North Sea is the sort of game I happily play any time. In fact, it’s on my wishlist of games to buy in physical form. I love playing against the AI in the digital version, but playing against real people face-to-face is certainly a lot more fun.


Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I bought and paid for the game myself.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Frost by Alexander Nakarada
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Stöðvar by Alexander Nakarada
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):

Sea Salt & Paper (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2022Players: 2-4
Designer: Bruno Cathala, Théo RivièreLength: 30-45 minutes
Artist: Lucien Derainne, Pierre-Yves GallardAge: 10+
Publisher: BombyxComplexity: 1.5 / 5
Plastic (by weight): <1%Air (by volume): 15%

The sea was calm and the sun was shining. The sandy beach stretched for miles, strewn with shells, some occupied by hermit crabs. In the distance, I could see a few small boats. Underneath the long abandoned lighthouse, there was a small colony of penguins. As I closed my eyes and dozed off, I dreamt of fish and merpeople. My mind was thinking about Sea Salt & Paper by Bruno Cathala and Théo Rivière from Bombyx.

The introduction is a bit dreamy and tries to reflect the lovely origami art represented on the cards of this quick, family-friendly set collection card game. The artists Lucien Derainne and Pierre-Yves Gallard have realized a really wonderful style that somehow brings this rather abstract game to life. Everything is made up of origami, whether it’s merpeople, fish, crabs, boats or anything else. It’s just gorgeous.

Point Salad and Card Draws

Sea Salt & Paper‘s scoring is really interesting. You score based on sets of cards, as long as you have at least a pair. Some cards score more points for more cards. Others only score for a pair. You also score based on card colour. There is even the possibility of getting points for every single card of a certain type. It sounds very confusing, but becomes clear after a round or two.

The way you draw cards in Sea Salt & Paper is also very interesting. There is a draw deck and two face-up discard piles. On your turn, you either draw two face-down cards from the deck, look at them, keep one and discard the other onto one of the two discard piles. That way the other players won’t know what you’ve chosen, but it also means that sometimes you have to make a tough choice between two really good cards. You can only keep one of those two cards, meaning the other will become available to the next player. That’s because the other option on your turn is two take one of the face-up cards from either of the two discard piles, instead of drawing from the face-down deck. However, doing that means everyone else knows what you took.

It’s a really simple mechanism, but often a really tough choice. It also introduces a memory element to the game. Normally, I’m not fond of memory elements in games, especially if the information was previously public knowledge. Yet, in Sea Salt & Paper I actually quite like it. You don’t necessarily have to remember every card that was discarded or every card that other players took. There will be key cards you want to remember, which means it’s not too much of a burden.

Extra Actions

Already, Sea Salt & Paper is a bit different to other card games. However, there is something else that sets the game apart from other set collection games. There are certain cards that you want to collect as pairs. These pairs will only score you one point, but if you play them, you get an extra action. That could be another turn, being able to choose one of the discard piles and take any card from it into your hand or draw the top card from the face-down deck. You can even steal a card from another player, which introduces a bit of extra player interaction.

When you first play Sea Salt & Paper, you probably play these pairs straight away. It seems to make sense. Yet, the more you play the game, the more you realize that hanging onto a pair can be more beneficial. Timing when you get the extra action can give you a crucial edge over the other players. Get it right and you can sometimes get a card that gives you another pair which gives you another extra action. It is possible to chain several extra actions together and have a super turn.

However, hanging onto cards is also risky. If another player gets the action that allows them to steal cards, you risk losing the vital pair you kept back to play on your next turn. It can ruin your plans, but it is often worth the risk.

an octopus and swimmer card, overlapping a shark card from Sea Salt & Paper
an octopus and swimmer card, overlapping a shark card from Sea Salt & Paper

Push Your Luck

There is also a small amount of push-your-luck in Sea Salt & Paper. When a player has at least 7 points’ worth of cards, irrespective of whether they are in hand or in front of them, they can decide to end the round. They now have a choice: simply stop or push for the chance of gaining a huge lead.

Choosing stop means everyone adds up their points and adds those to their running total.

If you decide to push your luck instead, which is called “last chance” in Sea Salt & Paper, you immediately reveal all of your cards. Then everyone else gets one more turn, during which they might play more of their extra action pairs, before revealing their hand. Once everyone has had their extra turn, everyone adds up their points. If the player who called “last chance” still has the most points, they get a so-called “colour bonus”.

That means they get one point for each card of whatever colour they have the most of. So if they have three yellow cards, two black and two blue, they get three points for the three yellow cards. That’s on top of their normal point score. That’s not all though. All the other players only score their colour bonus. That means you can easily score 10 or more points, while everyone else only scores three or four. That will make a huge difference to the running totals.

If the last-chance player ends up not having more points than everyone else, they only get their colour bonus, while everyone else gets their normal card score, without an extra colour bonus though. So it can be devastating if you don’t win your last-chance bet.

Sea, Salt and Paper Fun

The game continues like this until one player has at least a certain number of points, based on player count. Whoever then has the most points wins. It’s quite simple, but you do have to keep track of running totals and see where everyone is at. The further you fall behind, the more pressure is on you to either call an early stop or risk it with a last chance. It can get very tense.

Like with many games, the more you play Sea Salt & Paper, the better you get at it. It doesn’t take too long to get the hang of it though. After a game or two, most people will start to try out different strategies and tactics. There is also a certain amount of randomness, due to how the cards come out, but you have some control over it through the two open discard piles that you can draw from and even when you draw from the deck, you get to choose one of two cards.

There are also a lot of different ways of winning in the game. So you do have to play according to what cards you get. Sometimes most of your points will come from sets, other times from your colour bonus and if you get lots of pairs, your scoring potential can come from that.

I would say Sea Salt & Paper can be played with younger children, who will pick it up quite quickly. They just might need a little help with the scoring. It’s also just a deck of cards, so it fits easily into a handbag or backpack. It doesn’t take up too much space on the table, so can easily be played while out and about.

I really enjoy this game and it has been popular among my friends as well. I suggest you give it a go yourself and see where Sea Salt & Paper takes you.


Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I played a friend’s copy of the game.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Sound Effects: – © copyright 2023 BBC

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Ailien Lullaby by Mikael Hellman
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):