Leadership Lessons from Yggdrasil – Part I

As a Residential Coordinator at a large public University, and as a gamer, I’ve been hosing a board gaming event on a weekly basis on campus. Recently I observed some students playing a game called YggdrasilYggdrasil is a co-operative game – meaning the players work together as a team and win or lose together- based on a Norse Mythology theme.  As I was reflecting on the game, I realized it is a great example of why I put so much time and energy into planning gaming events and the learning that comes from playing modern board games.

I’m inspired to do a series of blog posts to put some of my thoughts in order, and hopefully, to inspire others to consider more creative and engaging methods for reaching co-curricular learning outcomes.


In Part I, I want to tell you a little bit about the game and how it works.  I believe some explanation of the game will help readers understand the next several parts – where I will elucidate the learning I saw taking place- more fully.

As I mentioned earlier Yggdrasil is a co-operative game for 1-6 players.  In it players take the roles of Norse Gods such as Thor, Odin, Freya, or Heimdel and are trying to hold back attacks from the enemies of Asgard such as Fenrir, Loki, Surt, and Hel.  On the board Yggdrasil – the world tree- is pictured as well as the 9 worlds of Norse Mythology.  Each world represents an action a player can take, and players may choose 3 actions to take on each turn.

But, before a player takes actions they must draw an enemy card from the deck.  The enemy pictured moves further into Asgard an triggers a special effect.  For example, when Loki moves forward – he calls Frost Giants to spread panic in Yggdrasil.  Frost Giants block players from taking particular actions until they are defeated.  Fenrir, on the other hand, causes players to waste actions trying to calm him before they are allowed to take their turn.  Each enemy of Asgard has a unique special effect.

The player then takes their actions.  They can collect resources, such as mythic weapons, elven warriors or viking souls to help them in future battles.  Alternatively they can trade resources or “manage”  the group’s chances of collecting resources in the future.  Of course, they can also do battle with Frost Giants or Enemies of Asgard.

If, at the end of any players turn, 5 enemies have managed to move beyond the wall of Asgard – the players lose.  Likewise, if 3 enemies are beyond the door to Valhalla – the players lose.  And of course it only takes 1 enemy in Odin’s throne room for the players to lose.  If the players manage to avoid these conditions and play through the entire enemy deck, the have won the game.

If you would like a more complete rules explanation check this video (you can skip to the 2:00 mark for the rules).

In my next several  posts, I’d like to talk about the skills I saw students practicing and developing – such as teamwork and cooperation, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and emotion management.  Coming soon – critical thinking.