Winds of the North is an upcoming solo Viking gamebook. It features sandbox gameplay with a mix of adventure and farm management. Each week, until open playtesting begins, I’ll be sharing a preview of the mechanics and features.
Much of your time will be spent on the farm, planting crops in the spring, harvesting them in the fall, building, crafting, and recuperating after difficult adventures and bad winters. But you won’t be alone while you work.
Household and Companions
You begin with 5 Household members, representing family, hired farmhands, and thralls. You’ll need a large household to take on larger projects. And a large household also provides passive building progress at the end of every month. But these folk aren’t hardy adventurers, and leaving them sick can result in deaths and unhappy people.
While the members of your Household aren’t of the adventuring type, your Companions are. There are a wide variety of Companions which break down into four categories: Workers, Fighters, Sorcerers, and Outdoorsmen. But all of them will join you in your adventures and provide an attack bonus in combat. They can also soak hits for you, but most of them aren’t as tough as you and can easily die.
So what do these people actually help you with? What do you do on your farm? The game begins in spring which is the only season during which you can plant crops. All crops in the game are historical crops the Vikings commonly planted, from barley, to flax, peas, and to onions. During harvest, you are rewarded with increases in Happiness for having a variety of food-yielding crops. Your fields come in two sizes, 6 squares for a large field and 4 squares for a small field. You begin with a large field and 1 crop of barley, the rest is up to you.
How do you get more fields? Build. There are several buildings to choose from and some that can be built more than once for stacking benefits, but you won’t have room for all of them. Some can be built early with just wood, but others will require a Smithy (also a building), a large enough household, and/or other buildings. You can have up to 3 projects under construction at once, and with a large household, having multiple projects going can be beneficial as you get free progress each month. You’ll also find ships under the Build activity, and the Dock increases how many ships you can have.
Your mounts and livestock are under Animals where you’ll keep track of each individual animal and whether they are healthy or sick. The Vikings often saved space inside their homes for animals to stay during the winter, and your starting house can hold 4. But you can expand your house to store more, and the Byre reduces the risk of illness in winter for animals. Though, if an animal does get sick, you can always offer them up as a sacrifice or slaughter them for meat. At the end of the year, pairs of animals of the same type might breed, so make sure you’ve got room for more!
Another activity you’ll become very familiar with is crafting. As you acquire resources like wood, iron, and cloth, there are a variety of items to craft with them such as weapons, armor, tools, trade goods like clothes, or even a house banner that provides a passive bonus. Without a Smithy, you’ll only have access to Basic Items. With the help of a Rune-smith (a type of Companion), you can also craft runestones to add to your farm, each one providing a one-time bonus. But runestones are meant to commemorate great achievements or tell the story of your ancestors, so many of the runestones can only be crafted once you’ve met their requirements.
Next week, we’ll look at exploring, events, and filling in your map with discoveries. See you then!