Greenland - Phil Eklund's Frigid Frontier


We talked about raiding after the game, Tom, I think the consensus was ‘I’d have loved to have done that, I just never had enough people!’. I actually got screwed pretty hard midway through the game, since one of the 12+ Decimate events was drawn, when I had 12 hunters, and the other two had 10 and 11. But they got screwed a couple of turns later when a Feud event came up, and I had a Chief, and neither of them did. I think it’s pretty important to maintain a Chief. I almost forgot, I even got hit by the freaking VD decimate due to my marriage. It’s a miracle that I almost won.

Marriage for the Tunit is almost a must. I married the Norse Daughter with the +2 hand size. I do think there is a lot of room for strategy in the game, despite all the disaster management. I am looking forward to playing more.


I finally got a couple of games of this in last night! My voice is still weak and it’s a struggle for me to talk much, but I can power through a game explanation. So I gathered two of my experienced boardgamer friends for this three-player game. Each game took, say, an hour and a half. I think we all agree that the Tunit – the historical losers – have a huge early game advantage with their starting colony in Vinland for plentiful energy, the daughter who makes it free to appoint elders, and a tracker who lets them hunt cold biomes as if they were warm. It seems like the Tunit are awfully comfortable while the Norse and Thule really struggle to get going. It’s very thematic, since the Tunit are precursors who’ve been here all along while the Norse and Thule are recent arrivals. But is it fair? It’s worth noting the Tunit didn’t win any of our games. :)

We had very little intermarriage, which was surprising to me. We were leaving hugely powerful ingame bonuses literally sitting on the table! I think we were reluctant to negotiate with each other. We were similarly reluctant to fight too much, but that’s normal as you’re learning any game. Plus, in a three-player game, there’s the perception that two players fighting only helps the third player. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but we did get wise to some tricks that aren’t immediately apparent. For instance, having a war chief when you’re the first player means you can designate someone else the first player. By the time we were done, a first player with a war chief was routinely letting someone else go first so he could undercut whatever hunting that person was trying to do, particularly when that person’s war chief was dead so his hunters couldn’t fight back.

We had one absolutely brutal session in which the Ice Age kicked the table’s ass, plunging everything into dibilitating cold and reducing Greenland itself from 12 biomes to three biomes by the time the game was over! Ouch. There was nothing to eat. We had turns where hunters were basically sitting around waiting to be decimated by disease. By the time that game was over, two of us were all flooding into the New World, trying to stay alive against the Beothuk natives. We were barely able to fight each other because we kept losing our war chief elders. The third player decided it was better to keep his few remaining hunters allive at home rather than risk losing them to the hostile Beothuk.

That game was also interesting because one of my friends was running away with the scoring. As the Norse, he had managed to domesticate Orcas (!) early on, and all told, he was sitting on about 25 victory points worth of trophies (BTW, this is a key part of why Greenland had shrunk; taking trophies seriously depletes the board!). He and I were squaring off for a polytheism/monotheism battle, where it was clear I was gearing up to flip to monotheism, at which point I would send an emissary to try to convert him to monotheism. This would have meant he lost all his trophy victory points, because only polytheists get victory points for trophies. Monotheists get victory points for amassing wealth and I had set up a colony on Vinland that was giving me a stready income of iron. Furthermore, I was trying to build up my literacy to convert him, because the roll for conversion uses a number of dice equal to your literacy. I had even married Birgitte, his Norse daughter who adds two points to your literacy.

Unfortunately, I lost my bishop on the last turn to an event (!) and was unable to make the conversion roll. That’s what I get for waiting until the last moment. But by that time, Greenland was a tiny frigid blasted wasteland and I had enough colonists in the New World at Vinland, and enough iron stored up, that I blew past the points he scored with his trophies.

After that game, my Norse playing friend observed that he thinks it’s a problem that you start with a lot of options and the number of options goes down as the game progresses. On your first turn, all your elders are alive and Greenland is a sprawl of 12 biomes, all ready to be exploited by your handful of hearty hunters. Eventually, the biomes go away or turn cold and inhospitable. Your elders die out. You struggle for energy. You don’t have enough hunters to roll the numbers you need. He contrasted the structure to Civilization, where you start with a settler and end with an empire, going from few options to lots of options. It’s a fair observation, but I think it’s an intentional part of the design, and furthermore, we had just played a worst-case scenario where Greenland had been utterly destroyed. But I do feel that’s a point of the game. You’re trying to survive in a time of ecological collapse. Dominant Species’ ecological collapse is less brutal, because the idea is that your species is evolving and adapting, not so much that it’s getting wiped out. Greenland is more akin to Navajo Wars in terms of how it beats you down. You just have to hope it beats down the other guys even more, and where possible, you have to exploit that.

Anyway, I ended up enjoying the game every bit as much as I expected. Unfortunately, I don’t think either of my friends was particularly fond of it. It can be a discouraging game. I think the main thing I learned is to brace a new player for that element of the game. This certainly isn’t one of those build-up-a-glorious-empire games.



Tom, can you comment on the solo game? How does it work? Are you just playing for a high score?


The solo game – like solo games of most multiplayer games – isn’t really worthwhile. It’s just a survival challenge/puzzle where you play all three cultures.

In the normal multiplayer game, you make a random event deck that consists of ten of the sixteen event cards (note that events are almost all bad stuff). But in the solo game, you have to survive a deck of all sixteen cards. The problem is that using all the cards automatically dooms Greenland. There is pretty much no wiggle room in terms of the number of migrations or global coolings. Hence, it’s a puzzle. Apportion out the marriages, make sure everyone shares the domestic animals, carefully distribute who hunts where. If you play it once, you’ll see all it has to offer.

Furthermore, playing co-op solitaire means you’re missing out on the competitive gameplay dynamics. No fighting, no conversions, no turn order shenanigans, no auctions for trade goods.

I guess it can be kind of cool to see how Greenland progresses in terms of which biomes come out when. But it’s not a meaningful substitute for the game as designed, which is as a competitive multiplayer experience.



Interesting. I like games which have a different way of unfolding the game but I can understand why it might have struck your friend as off.


Thanks for the info on solo play, Tom. I was afraid it’d be like that.


Today Sierra Madre’s Facebook posted about this mod for Tabletop Simulator:

They are doing a 2nd Edition Greenland this year as well.

Tom M


Excellent on both accounts. I purchased Tabletop Simulator on steam during a holiday sale and I’ve been impressed with the community support. I just need to teach myself how to use the dang thing now.

p.s. Tabletop Simulator is on sale for 10 bucks on Bundle Star right now.


Also the prequel to Greenland: Neanderthal.


And boy am I excited for that one. I keep meaning to track down the Vassal module that’s out there.

Tom M


I’m more intrigued than excited. I learned a lot less going through the Neanderthal cards than the Greenland cards, other than Phil’s unique and unprovable views on language acquisition.


Yea I never got Origins but I would have been interested in it. There’s a lot of Phil’s WTF take on human brain and social development in that one. Neanderthal seems to be borrowing some of that.

Tom M


Phil has restarted Bios: Genesis. This is an exciting thing…


For the solitaire inclined, there’s a really good solitaire variant on Board game geek as well as a coop 2 player game. Both use a random AI table which makes the games much less deterministic.


Trying to find it. Is it called Frozen Valhalla?


Yes. The coop version is later in the thread.

I imagine the idea could be adapted for Neanderthal with some work.


So, anyone else back the kickstarter for the latest printing of this game? I hopped on board pretty much as soon as it went live (especially because of the $9 flat shipping).

I’m curious if everyone is still as enthusiastic about these games now. I remember hearing a lot of good things when they were released, but I completely forgot about them until this new kickstarter went live. Also, any thoughts on the new graphic design?


I have the first edition. I just haven’t been able to play it. I went on and got Neanderthal and BIOS Genesis, first editions there too. Haven’t played them either so I just don’t have it in me to get the new ones yet. I’m curious to hear from players who have but we’re talking a set of niche gamers within a set of niche gamers when it comes to Phil’s games. Right now I’m just being kind of sore that Cole’s John Company hasn’t made it to my door yet.

Tom Mc


I have the previous edition of this and Neanderthal, and though tempting the changes didn’t look significant enough to justify buying them again, given I haven’t played the ones I have much. :)

The interesting bit was that one of the unlocked stretch goals is for expanded solo rules - but it seems they’ve not yet been designed, even though the game will apparently be sent to manufacture at the end of Feb. Worrying.

Also slightly worrying is that this is yet another new mob that Phil is partnering with for kickstarter, right? High Frontier didn’t go so well, and I guess Bios/Megafauna disappointed him too as it seems he broke ties with his kickstarter partners at the end of that one.

Though it could be seen as a good thing too I suppose, him having high standards and trying to minimise the delivery problems, with this being a feature:

The games will be shipped and delivered all the way from the manufacturer to the end-customer by the same transport company.


This bit is the source of my consternation with John Company. There were some misprinted with the other games that held it up and I got chided on BGG for pointing out there should have been nothing wrong with having John Co. go ahead. Oh well right? That’s just the way things are, but now those misprinted games are hitting homes and I haven’t heard anything since my order was confirmed a long time ago.

Tom Mc