Valley of the Vikings is “Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019” (2019 Children’s Game of the Year) – a look behind the scenes

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It’s time to loosen up, stretch and get going! The annual barrel bowling contest is taking place in the Valley of the Vikings – and players of the new HABA game are in the middle of the action. Children ages 6 years and older can use their skills, a little luck and brains to be named the chief of the Vikings. But be careful! Anyone who bowls over the wrong barrel or positions their figure poorly on the dock might fall in the water and only win the title of “Unlucky Fellow”.

Valley of the Vikings impressed the jury for “Kinderspiel des Jahres” with its special charm and has won the prize “Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019.” But it’s a long path from the first idea to a finished game complete with typical yellow HABA packaging. Why don’t we take a look behind the scenes?

The game designers – a successful duo both professionally and privately

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Wilfried and Marie Fort are the creative minds behind “Valley of the Vikings”, and have also developed more than fifteen other board games. Their shared passion not only connects them professionally, but also in their private lives. The happily married couple have two sons and live in the peaceful region of Saint Colomban near Nantes (France). Before becoming full-time game designers, they both had completely different careers: Wilfried Fort, born in 1982, is a trained carpenter and joiner, while his wife Marie, who is three years younger, previously worked in business.

In their games, the French couple like to tell affectionate stories that their figures bring to life. In February 2019, their game “Mr. Wolf” won the prestigious “As d’Or de l’année enfant 2019” prize at the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes. By winning the title of “Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019” with “Valley of the Vikings”, the game designing couple has won another globally recognized accolade. By the way: The married couple is well known at HABA. The movement and dice game “Snails On The Run” already lets us look back on a successful cooperation.

From pirates to Vikings

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Marie and Wilfried Fort presented their game idea for “Valley of the Vikings” for the first time at the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes in February 2017, with a self-made prototype. Luckily it grabbed the attention of Jenny Bessière, sales manager for toys at HABA France, and Markus Nikisch, idea scout from the HABA Game and Book Editorial Department. “From the very start I was convinced of the potential of this game. I told the two game designers that I wouldn’t leave before we continued work on it together,” remembers Markus Nikisch laughing. After all, that’s precisely what the HABA game editor is responsible for - Discovering special ideas, recruiting the game designers to HABA and developing excellent games for children with them. With “Valley of the Vikings” he once again hit the mark.

Incidentally, it was originally going to be pirates who challenged players to a big competition. But it’s historically proven that Vikings enjoyed holding all sorts of competitions. So it’s fitting that in “Valley of the Vikings” players handle rustic barrels and find the most skillful and tactically smart bowler in the village. The pirates were soon transformed into Vikings.

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Designing of the game required a lot of tinkering work by the HABA editorial team headed up by Annemarie Wolke, who was responsible for supervision of the game. The dock and coin compartments were originally in the game box, but this meant that the players were not always able to reach everything easily. “Placing the player tiles in holes in the game board solved the problems caused by off-course ball rolling. It means that nothing slips,” explains Annemarie Wolke. The results are impressive - the Viking ships are cool 3D eye-catchers and, together with the impressive XXL game board, create a cool game atmosphere.
The game was then really brought to life with the excellent illustrations by Maximilian Meinzold. His figures and attention to detail lets both children and adults dive into the world of Vikings. Meinzold, born in 1987, is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. He lives and works in Munich. His specializes in children and youth literature, fantasy, and science fiction. He has already be nominated for numerous prizes for his varied, modern and innovative book designs.

A great idea by two game designers was combined with plenty of creativity, passion, and the cooperation of many enthusiastic participants. Winning the title of “Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019” confirms it was a resounding success!

Valley of the Vikings