Trollhalla Review

 Haven't you always wanted to be a Troll that gets to "Halla"?  Wait, that's not what this game is about? Trollhalla is about looting and pillaging? But... isn't that when trolls holla?

In Trollhalla, you take on the role of a family of trolls that is attempting to loot the tastiest islands.  You can pillage (eat) cows, billy goats, princesses, monks, and other screaming victims.  On each turn, you will place two of your trolls (but they can't be next to each other since they don't get along).  These trolls can either be in a boat or used as scouts to help the boat decide where to go.  When playing scouts, you get weather cards that give you extra powers.  After placing your trolls, you can use a weather power (if you want to) by discarding two matching weather cards.  Finally, you roll the die to see which boat tries to move.  If the boat is full, and a clear path has been scouted, then it goes and pillages an island.  If not, a captain troll is placed to help the boat move next time.  Play continues in roughly this manner until all of the possible pillaging places have been plundered (the bag runs out of tiles).  At that point, you get points based on the tiles you have pillaged, and any bonuses you may have scored (for things like pillaging the most princesses).

The first thing that I really like about Trollhalla is the billy goats.  The billy goats have a special rule - they don't get along with any of the other loot that is on your boat.  And so, when you collect a billy goat, they kick one of the other tiles off of your boat (except for another billy goat).  And, billy goats are only worth one point each at the end of the game.  However, there are a couple of reasons that you might want billy goats.  First of all, there is a bonus for being the first (or second) person to collect one of each type of plunder.  Second, there is a bonus for each plunder type - you have to have at least three tiles of that type, and then you get the bonus unless another player exceeds the number you have.  The bonus for billy goats is 25 points - which is significantly higher than any other single scoring in the game.  Of course, you might have a fairly empty ship if you have enough billy goats to score that bonus.

Most victims are screaming
The next thing that I like about Trollhalla is that it flows well and doesn't have much down time.  Even against people that traditionally spend a lot of time thinking about their turns.  For most games, the time on the box is often very contingent on the people that you play against - an hour long game can easily take two or three hours if everyone playing is really a thinker.  However, I think that Trollhalla really can be played in about an hour regardless of who is playing - assuming that they know how to play the game (which is pretty easy to teach) and pay attention.  One of the reasons for this is that you really can think about your next move on the previous players turns.  Some things will change, but enough will stay consistent to help you make decisions more quickly.  (And, there's just not that many options in the first place!)

Finally, I liked how the captain trolls worked.  Whenever you roll a die at the end of your turn, you attempt to move the corresponding boat.  If it is not full, then you place a captain in the boat.  If it is full, but there are two or more islands that are equally scouted, then you place a captain as a scout (to break the tie).  If a captain is on a boat that pillages, the captain gets loot.  However, every time that a boat moves, the scouts are sent to a special track, and they will share in the captain's loot.  Once that track is filled, the person with the most trolls on the track will get to take one tile from the captain's loot, and then remove all of their trolls.  Then the player with the second most trolls and so on.  This is a nice little way to get another tile, and can help reward the players for scouting.  Plus, the placement of the captain prevents the game from stalling.

Now that it's full, decide where to go
The main con that I had for Trollhalla was that I felt like the strategy was a bit too prescribed.  (This may be the real reason that it plays fast.)  At least nine times out of ten, if there is an empty spot on a boat, that is where you want to place your troll instead of using him to scout.  This is not always the case (hence I said nine times out of ten), but it is typically better to get to pillage anything than it is to try to decide what you will get to pillage (placing a single scout won't guarantee where the boat goes).  The only reason I can think of to not place on a boat is to avoid a billy goat.  You might also want to try to ensure that you get a certain tile to complete a bonus or two, but even if you do that, you will only want to place one of your two trolls in scouting (since you can't place them in the same place), and so you would still want to place the other one on a boat.  I'm sure that there are people that disagree with me on this and feel like there are more strategies and such, and I welcome them to share them in the comments, because I simply didn't see them.

My other con for Trollhalla is that you lose points at the end of the game for unused weather cards.  I am guessing that this rule is in place to encourage the players to actually bother playing the weather cards (without them, the game could be a bit "dry" - hehe, that was a weather pun; one of the weather cards is a storm... you know, where it's raining and such), because I can't really think of any other reason for this mechanic.  And, it seems odd to me that you would force a player to use bonuses.  (Since I haven't mentioned them before, the weather cards can let you do one of three things: clear all of the scouts from one location, allow the active player to place an extra (third) troll, or flip a boat around so that it is pointing the opposite direction - thus reversing who gets what tiles when pillaging.)  If a player chooses not to use bonuses, shouldn't they be disadvantaged enough without costing them points? 

Overall, I give Trollhalla a 7.5/10.  I can see why people like the game - it is fast, the theme is enjoyable, and there is strategy involved.  However, for me, I felt like the strategy was a bit too prescribed, so I probably won't keep coming back to this title.

If you like quirky themes, then you might also like Road Kill Rally, Micro Mutants Evolution, and Loch Ness.


  1. Yeah, this one was on my radar for a while because of the family accessible play, breezy length, and light theme. But the more I looked at and read about it, the more "samey" it seemed it would be after a few plays.

    Thanks for the review! Doing some back-log of "not-quite-so-new-hotness" titles? :-)

  2. Well, right now I'm caught up on all of my review copes, so I have time and posts to fill with some of the games that I acquired in other ways (this one I got in trade a while back).