It makes norse sense to me

Ragnarok logo

MIRAGE * £34.99 * 1 Meg * mouse/joystick * Out now

The historically aware among you will no doubt be perfectly familiar with the concept of Ragnarok - a specific time in Norse mythology whereby all the gods gathered their armies together in a fight to the death, to free the world of evil and create a better plane for mankind.

Of course I knew this too, and duly brought it to the attention of the rest of the office, who erroneously believed that Ragnarok was in fact the sequel to Chuck Rock.
Those Nordic types were a tad rough if my memories of A-level history lessons serve me correctly (he failed - Ed). No I didn't - Mr. Haworth "asked me to leave" because of my apparent lack of interest, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, we could reasonably expect a computer game depiction of such a race to involve arcadey hacking aplenty, combined with a fair old beat-'em-up element and no small measure of animal abuse. But not a bit of it - no less than a board game is what we have here. Ragnarok is based, for those of you who've played it, on the ancient King's Table.

Odin is the king of the Gods, and knows that he will die at Ragnarok. In this position I must say I'd be tempted to stay at home in my comfy palace and send some minions out to do my dirty work.
But unlike our Royal Family, Odin wishes to retain his dignity, and decides to face the problem head on, descending to earth with his customised game tto pit his wits against devious humans in the hope of picking upon some pointers as to how he can cheat his destiny.

The two sides are the Blacks and the Whites - the Whites represent good, and must protect their central figure (Odin) from the evil blacks, who need to surround him on all four sides to become victorious.

On his visit to earth, Odin entered a tavern where he found 11 men and women willing to take him on. Each differs widely in skill, and he (or rather, you) must defeat each opponent twice - once as White and once as Black - before progressing onto the subsequently better skilled competitor.

Victory in 22 consecutive matches is rewarded by a very nice animated sequence (there's also an optional one at the beginning of the game), but this kind of success doesn't come easy, and you can choose to practise as Black or White against any opponents of your choice.

Also included is a two-player mode and the original game, giving even more longevity to an already tricky game.

The options allow you to toggle the battle sequences on or off. A battle sequence takes place every time a game piece is taken, and involves the personified pieces offing each other in several bloodthirsty ways.

Chess players should derive great satisfaction from Ragnarok, but it's a very easy game to play for anyone - I've never so much as looked at a chess board sideways, but became instantly familiar with the rules, though admittedly didn't meet with a great deal of success.

Despite the battle sequences, it is worth remembering that while effectively offering two games in one package, Ragnarok is at the end of the day a computerised board game. An enjoyable and engrossing one, but a board game nonetheless.


Ragnarok
  1. Odin begins the game protected on all sides by his army. He cannot be defeated unless surrounded on all sides by the Blacks. He pays for this strength in his limited moves - only two squares in a straight line.
  2. If Odin reaches a corner, or any side of the board, he cannot be surrounded ans has effectively won the game.
  3. Pawns have unlimited moves in a straight line but are susceptible to knockouts, as they need only be surrounded on two sides. Useful for causing a nuisance and helping to manoeuvre another piece.
  4. Unlike the original King's Table, there are several special pieces - six in all, although only four can be used at any one time. Abilities of these pieces include moving diagonally, and taking any other pieces they land on.


Ragnarok logo

Mirage * £34.99 * 0260 299909

Ragnarok is a struggle between good and bad depicted on an eleven-by-eleven board. One player plays the good gods, whose objective is to transport the Odin piece from the centre to one of the four corners. The other plays the bad gods. Their objective is to stop Odin reaching the corner by capturing him.

The animated conflict between the pieces is entertaining and the computer opponents are reasonably good, each of them has their own characteristics, although they do seem to slip into stalemate fairly easily.

Two minor problems: the 3D viewpoint means it is possible to 'loose' pieces behind others. Also, the cursor, used to move pieces, has a habit of disappearing under players when there is a group, and you cannot always tell which player you are pointing at.

Ragnarok is not dissimilar to chess and reasonably playable, although at £34.99 it is a tad expensive.



Ragnarok logo

Seit es Computergames gibt, erweisen sich die Alten Winkinger als unerschöpfliche Quelle der Inspiration. Hier machte sich Mirage über ein antikes Brettspiel namens "King's Table" bzw. "Viking Game" her...

Was die frühzeitlichen Seebären da zockten ist, grundsätzlich eng mit Schach verwandt, nur daß sich fast ausschließlich Bauern am Brett tummeln. Was die neuzeitliche Company daraus mache, ist ein prima Strategical mit Offizieren, erweiterten Zuregeln, feiner Präsentation und einer fürs Genre ungewöhnlich phantasievollen Vorgeschichte um den Winkingergott Odin!

Genau um den geht es auch beim geistigen Kräftemessen vor dem Monitor: Als Chef der im Zentrum des Bretts aufgestellten weißen Partei ist es Odins Aufgabe, eins der vier Eckfelder zu erreichen, während die an den Seiten postierten, zahlenmäßig überlegenen Schwarzkrieger dies verhindern müssen, indem sie ihn einkesseln und damit matt setzen.

Alle anderen Figuren werden durch diese Umzingelung geschlagen, und die ganze Schlägerei läßt sich sowohl mit zwölf verschiedenen Computergegnern als auch mit menschlichen Kumpeln durchziehen. Ja, wer mag, darf sogar das Oldie-original ohne Offiziere spielen.

Optisch werden Odins Mannen von einem hübschen Intro begleitet, zudem gibt's Kampfsequenzen à la "Battle Chess". Ferner winken Euch schön düstere Melodien sowie allerlei nette FX, und über die Maussteuerung kann man sich gleichfalls nicht beklagen.

Freilich wirkt das Brett hin und wieder etwas unübersichtlich, und im Endspiel lassen die digitalen Widersacher auch mal taktische Finesse vermissen - aber das sollte keinen wahren Denker daran hindern, sich über die Anschaffung dieser neuen alten Grübelei Gedanken zu machen... (jn)



Ragnarok logo

Take some Norse legends, add a little strategy and voila.

Many would question the validity of converting a board game into a computer game. They'd say that it does not use the capabilities of the computer to enhance the game, or that it does not provide any more than a set of pieces and a board's worth of entertainment but at a much higher price, or that you cannot play it in the bath or something. The counter argument would retaliate that for a start you have a computer opponent, which provides a better challenge to those who keep whopping the butts of all their mates, or indeed for those who do not have any mates. They would point to Battle Chess as an example of a board game which has been enhanced by the battle sequences and animation.

Another good excuse for doing a board game on the Amiga is that it is simply unavailable as a board game. This appears to be the case with Ragnarok. Ragnarok, as the manual so informatively points out, is based on an ancient European board game called King's Table, the roots of which can be traced back to the Vikings (it says here, although I find it hard to believe that a marauding group of international vandals, whose sole reason for living was that there were still civilisations around that they had not completely slaughtered, could come up with an intricate board game involving a heavy strategic element).

Have you ever heard of King's Table? I know I haven't. (Stuart has. - Ed). And I bet if you had heard of it, or even read an in-depth account of how it is played and thought to yourself 'Hmmm, sounds like an interesting way of exercising my intellect using strategy combined with a ruthless determination to go for the kill when my opponent is at his weakest', then you would not be able to just pop down the corner shop and get it anyway.

So now you have the chance to buy it for £34.99 in a fascinating new variation called Ragnarok. Not only that, you also get King's Table itself bundled with it. Your search is over, your life-time struggle is at an end, your mission is complete. (I should be doing PR for a living, I'd be good at that). OK, there might be the odd person out there who has been dying to get hold of King's Table (or any derivatives) their whole life, but for the most of us it is really a case of 'Well, what is that then?' And we are really going to need some convincing if we are going to shell out thirty five quid to a game that was not interesting enough to survive beyond a time when human intelligence stretched to wearing helmets with horns sticking out of them as some sort of personal statement.

Happily I can tell you that Ragnarok is interesting enough. It is actually a rather intriguing game which offers a wide variety of ways to achieve your objective. I admit I was expecting a poor man's chess (or perhaps a moronically violent man's chess, considering its Viking roots). Instead you get a game which has similarities, no doubt, but has a completely different structure to it. Just look at the board layout and you will see that it works in a different way.

The two opponents play black versus white, but unlike chess you do not get the same pieces on both teams. The white team plays with eight "Einhrirar", the Ragnarok equivalent of pawns, Odin himself, who is equivalent to a King in chess, and four special pieces which have their own unique powers. These thirteen pieces are arranged in the middle of the table with Odin at the centre.


It is actually a rather intriguing game

The black pieces are made up of twenty pawns (the Giants) and again four special pieces, and these twenty four pieces are arranged around the four sides of the table. The objective of the white team is to get Odin from the centre of the board to one of the four corner squares, thus winning the game. The objective of the black team is to prevent this from happening, and the black team wins if it surrounds the Odin piece on all four sides.

The black team always starts the game. The pawns can move an unlimited number of squares horizontally or vertically as long as nothing blocks their way. The special pieces have varying qualities, such as being able to jump over other pieces like that horsey one in chess, and before the game each player can choose the four special pieces that he wishes to use out of a choice of six.

To take an opponent's piece you have to sandwich it between two of your own, with the exception of a couple of special pieces which require surrounding on three sides and of course Odin who has to be cut off on all four. And that is about it really, with a few other inevitable technicalities in the rules. It might be as clear as mud to you at the moment, but I can assure you that it is dead easy, and if you are still unsure of what to do during the game it will tell you how each piece can move and what options you currently have open to you. You can even get advice on what move to make next.

It is a good game which requires totally different tactics from chess (although the similarities are obvious - there must be some common ancestry here). You can play a human opponent or a computer one. In order to beat the computer and progress to a higher opponent you have to beat it twice, once as black and once as white.

To enhance the game further there is an animation run whenever a piece is taken, which is fairly amusing in some cases (like when the dwarf takes a swipe at the giant who does a back somersault to avoid the blow, only for the little guy to pull out a gun and shoot him in the groin). The computer opponents also add the odd quip to wind you up.

The difficult part now is actually rating this thing. I face a similar problem to Mark W in his Chess Master 2100 review, in what we are really looking at a board game here and if you do not like the board game then you are not going to want it are you?

Having said that, it is well executed, the animations enhance the action and Ragnarok the board game is not only a lot of fun but a good intellectual challenge too. If you are looking for an original board game with an intelligent strategic element then you will love it. Anyone else will know they are not going to like this, so you can go on to the next review if you like. Simple, isn't it?


EVERYONE LOVES ABBA

Einherirar, or white pawn to you and me. Moves horizontally or vertically any number of squares.

Frey can only move diagonally, but can move an unlimited number of squares.

Fenrir the wolf. He can move two spaces horizontally and vertically and skip any pieces in the way.

Giants are black pawns and can move an unlimited number of squares horizontally and vertically.

Garm guards the gates of hell. Moves like a pawn, but has to be surrounded on three sides to be taken.

Heimdall, guardian of the rainbow bridge, can move in any direction but only one square at a time.

Hyrm moves two squares and when taken he's placed back on the board on any staring square.

Jormundgand, the world serpent, can move an unlimited number of squares horizontally or vertically.

Loki, also known as the Wizard of Lies. He can move any number of spaces, but only diagonally.

Odin, the main man. He can move two spaces horizontally and vertically.

Surt, king of the Fire Giants. He can move in any direction but only one square at a time.

Thor, god of thunder, moves like a pawn but can move onto a square occupied by an opponent.

Tyr is the bravest of the gods and has to be surrounded on three sides to be taken.

Vidar is the son of Odin. He moves two squares horizontally or vertically.

Valkyries move two squares horizontally or vertically, and jump over some pieces.



Ragnarok logo

If you go slightly damp at the thought of taking a bishop you're probably quite perverse. Tony Horgan looks for a cure.

Norway's famous for many things: a large fishing industry, Vikings, mountains, fjords, tourists in day-glo anoraks, the list is endless... And then of course, there's that old favorite - King's Table, rapidly overtaking snakes and ladders as the world's most popular game, or so it says here.

If the words 'rook bishop to knight king four' have got you itching for a quick session of chess, then you have my condolences. Sympathies aside, do you ever fancy something a bit different? Something with challenge of chess, but with a cunning twist? Ragnarok could be just the ticket... and then again...

Based on King's Table, Ragnarok is a kind of poor man's Battle Chess. You can play it against a friend, or against the computer in either a single game, or a full tournament. The rules are like a cross between chess and draughts, with extra ones added in an attempt to spice it up a bit.

One player starts with all of his pieces amassed around the middle of the board, while the other has his pieces lined up along the edges. The idea is for the first player to get his central piece to one of the corner squares. The second player has to stop his opponent doing so by capturing his central piece. To do this the second player has to surround the central piece on all four sides with his own pieces. In the process, both players can take each other's lesser pieces by sandwiching them between two or more of their own. Got that?

When a piece is taken, you get a Battle Chess-style animation of the characters fighting it out. Unlike BC, this doesn't actually take place down the board. Instead you get a close-up scene overlaid on the board, with some of the mankiest animation I've seen for quite a while. Most of the characters have groin fetishes, knocking off their opponent with underhand stabs or magical bolts. The graphics pick up occasionally, with the appearance of cameos of the computer players.

It all feels a bit crowded. With half the pieces encamped in the middle of the board, there's not much scope for varied strategies. If you're the one trying to get to a corner square, it's not so bad, but if you're the defending player, there's nothing much to spur you on. Falling between the complexity of chess and the simplicity of draughts, it could provide a short term diversion for hard core strategists.