Northgard is a delightful surprise from Shiro Games that blends elements of games like Warcraft 3 in with Civilization. It’s in Early Access right now, so there’s work to be done, but it’s still fun in its current state. Northgard requires you to think ahead, to plan, and to make strategically important decisions almost constantly. You’ll need to frequently adjust what you’re doing to deal with natural disasters, harsh winters, and attacking rival clans, all while growing your own clan. As you play, you may start to think that you have everything under control, that you can coast on autopilot, but you’ll quickly learn that if you rest on your laurels, your clan may soon be an anecdote for the history books.
What makes Northgard particularly interesting is the fact that you can only place a few buildings in each section of territory that you control. This means that you’ll quickly fill up your starting plot, and need to colonize adjacent areas if you want to expand. This also means that you need to choose wisely when placing buildings, to avoid needing to destroy and rebuild things.
It’s not an overly heavy combat game. You won’t be controlling vast hordes of Vikings; you may only have a handful of warriors at a time. In many ways, it feels like a city builder that you’re trying to fine-tune to run like a well-oiled machine. This is Northgard’s greatest deception, and I mean that as a compliment, as it challenges your brain in a way that I find familiar but altogether unique. The dichotomy of managing your resources whilst planning how to expand, and being mindful that you need to implement a strategy for your warband makes for a difficult but satisfying experience.
Rather than just tell you about the game, I thought I would share some tips based upon what I’ve learned from playing it. Right now, you’re only able to play single-player against AI, but a campaign as well as a multiplayer mode are both on the way. Grab your axe and prepare to learn how to effectively manage food production. I mean, exterminate all other clans. What did I say?
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Roles
At times, you may notice that you have an excess of one resource and you’re in great need of another. Don’t be shy about reassigning your workers! Even if a building goes unutilized for a time, if winter is coming and you’re short on food but have ample wood – convert some wood cutters to villagers or hunters, or something else that will allow them to contribute to food production. It’s difficult to make a blanket statement about who you should convert, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, warriors cost a decent amount of Krowns to produce, so you should try to avoid constantly converting someone to or from being a warrior. Outside of that, assess the situation and ask yourself if you really need healers at the moment, or if you can spare that loremaster. And remember, whatever you do is temporary. You would be surprised how quickly you can boost a single resource by dumping a bunch of people on that task.
2. Build a Training Camp Early
As I said before, it’s unlikely that you’ll have anything resembling a massive army, but you will need warriors. The Training Camp has a bit longer build time, and you’ll want to have at least one warrior pretty quickly. He will be able to handle the occasional wolf that may try to attack your villagers. If your villagers and other workers are killed off by wild animals, this can really set you back as it can take a considerable amount of time to gain a new villager at your town hall.
3. Build What You Need, Not What You Want
This sounds obvious, and easier said than done. However, the reason I say this is because I don’t want you to fall into the trap of telling yourself, “Ok, I don’t have any wood production, but I’m just going to do this other thing first and I’ll come back to that.”
If there’s a resource that you don’t have a positive flow for, it will become a problem faster than you think. For things like ore, you don’t have to worry about those immediately, but you definitely want food, wood, and Krowns. So, check to see what your current production rate is for each of those and make sure that you’re addressing what you need. You may be tempted to build a defense tower, but your Krown production is at -1. Abort! Build a trading post. You’ll be glad later.
4. Keep An Eye On The Calendar
It is imperative that you watch the calendar on the bottom left of the screen. Not only do you see how far away winter is, you’re even told when various disasters will occur. You’ll need to utilize the calendar when you’re planning your next move. Because wood consumption is increased during winter, you may want to slow down or stop your building plans until winter passes, for example. Once winter begins, if you’re confident that you have a handle on food, wood, and Krowns, proceed accordingly. If there’s a blizzard coming though, brace for impact. Those are a vast drain on your resources.
5. Fight On Your Terms
Once you scout a new area, you’ll be able to see all of the monsters that live there. If left unchecked, these monsters will start attacking your territory from time to time. Even if you’re not planning on immediately colonizing an area, it can be beneficial to go on the offensive and clear out some of those monsters. Rather than posting warriors randomly, waiting to be attacked, and then needing to heal them (which can be quite time consuming), take the enemies out on your terms. This way you won’t be caught at an inopportune moment.
6. Recruit a Warchief
The Warchief is a stalwart beast of a man. He hits harder and has more hit points than your standard warrior by a large margin. You can also assign warriors to your Warchief so that they’ll follow him wherever he goes. While he is expensive, he is well worth the cost. It may be helpful to try and find some iron earlier rather than later, because you’ll need to spend 10 as part of his recruitment cost. Alternatively, you can select a blessing that will award you some iron. This can take a while, as you’ll need to unlock 6 items in the Knowledge tree first.
7. Collect Treasure
Occasionally you’ll come across shipwrecks and other places where you can find treasure. These can have substantial rewards in terms of things like wood or Krowns. Make sure to utilize these by sending a scout to recover the treasure. It can be just the boost you need to keep going.
8. Be Flexible
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. As you play Northgard, there will be developments during the match that fundamentally change the landscape of things. As such, it will benefit you greatly if you adapt accordingly. You might be in the middle of ramping up your food production, but you see on the calendar that earthquakes are coming. You may want to switch to wood production if you think you’re going to need additional wood for repairs. Or you may be working toward a Wisdom victory, but then one of your scouts discovers the Magma Flow, which gives you the option of crafting Odin’s Sword to achieve victory. Be willing to change course if it makes sense to do so. Northgard doesn’t change things up to the point of being frustrating, but it does periodically tilt things just enough to where you need to stay on your toes.
Hopefully these tips have helped you improve your strategy, or helped you get more enjoyment out of the game. I think Northgard has a lot of potential, and has managed to find its own spot amongst similar games.