Review of Nemo’s War — Part I. The Unboxing and First Impressions

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Nemo’s War (Second Edition) was a Kickstarter back in about January of 2016.  The purpose was to reprint Nemo’s War in a second edition.  It was promised in November of 2016, but just delivered to me yesterday (Friday, June 23rd, 2017).    So, it’s about 7 months late.  Typical for a Kickstarter, but still slightly annoying.

You’ll notice (from my unboxing above) that I got some cool swag: a canvas bag for the ships and a canvas bag for the treasures (polus a neato little Nemo’s War pin).  The bags are Kickstarter exclusive content (I think the button is too?)

Solo Game and Cooperative Game

So, this game is a solo game.  Out of the box, all the rules refer to a solo game that you set-up and play.  I loved Friday by Friedemann Friese, so this solo game looked fun and enticing.  What sold me to back this Kickstarter: At the $63K funding mark, they added a cooperative variant for 2-4 players.  I was intrigued: I like solo games, I like the underwater Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea theme, and I love cooperative games.  So,  I backed it.  (There is a semi-cooperative variant, but I suspect I will never play it).

What’s Inside

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Here’s what’s inside: lots and lots of token to undo: (220 or so, according to the rulebook), some dice, some cards, and a really nice 6-panel fold-out board.

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The components are very nice.  Most of the token are (fairly think stock) cardboard.  The cards seem to be linen-finished.  The rulebook is shiny and on nice paper.  Overall, the components are good.  The art is good (not great, but I do really like the picture on the box).  In general, good stuff.  Nothing great.

The Rulebook

I am very happy with this rulebook overall.  My only gripe was that there was no glossary at the end (for terms you didn’t know).  A lot of the nomenclature is introduced in the first few pages, so I think that “counts” as the glossary.  Still, it would have been nice to have.

Having said that, this was a rulebook better than most!  As the rulebook explained some rules in each section, there were sidebars which showed examples and pictures of the rules under description.  The text was fairly clear.  I can’t remember being confused at any point, especially after looking at the sidebar examples.  This rulebook was a little on the long side, but it did a good job of explaining all the concepts.

Set-Up

The set-up took a long time.  After I got the game on Friday, I tried to learn it Friday night.  Nope, I had to start into it and leave it halfway for the next day.  Be warned: it’s going to take some time to get through the rulebook and set-up the game the very first time.   Two to three hours?  Now, mind you, I am one of those people who wants to understand what each piece is as I set it up.  As one of my bosses at work (Bob Weyker) says:

“If you don’t know what something is now, it will come back to bite you later!”

The point is that I make sure I understand each piece as I play it.  So, someone who just wants to jump in will probably be able to set it up much faster.  But I claim that’s a false savings: the time saved setting up the game will be spent when you have to look up rules when you are playing.

Anyways, I got it all set-up.  Whew!

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First Play

My first play took about 2 hours.  That’s in line with the playing time (60-120 minutes from BoardGameGeek).

There was a lot of maintenance per turn placing ships and following the “placing ship” algorithm: as the game gets in later stages, there are more and more ships placed, which cause the algorithm to get more and more complicated.  Well, it’s not that bad, but it was starting to get annoying.

I am concerned about the randomness a little.  The number of actions you get per turn is based on the difference of two dice. So, some turns you get 0 actions (17% of the time), 1 action (28% of the time), 2 actions (22% of the time), 3 actions (17% of the time), 4 actions (11% of the time) and finally 5 actions (5% of the time).  They actually have the percentages on the board, which I really like.  But, I am reminded of a recent Top 10 list from the Dice Tower:  Top 10 Things Designers Need to Stop Doing!   One of Sam’s gripes:  (At Number 1!) : “Stop Rolling for Actions/Movement”.   And that’s exactly what this game does.

Sam’s point: sometimes you have 0 actions, sometimes you have 5 actions!  A turn with 5 movement is sooo much funner than a turn where you do nothing.  And what if you get 3 to 4 turns in a row where do nothing?  It’s so frustrating.

There are mechanisms to mitigate this random number of actions.  For example,  there are one-time-use characters which grant “extra actions” (and I think there are some events).  Over time. “statistically”, you will get 2-3 actions per turn over the course of the game.  But those particular turns where you get 0 or 1 action are just not fun.  And it’s hard to be strategic: you tend to react (based on the number of actions) rather than plan (knowing you can execute a plan).

Impressions and Next Steps

The components are great.  The rulebook is very very good.  The theme seems to come through pretty well. I am concerned, however, about two problems: the maintenance and the randomness.

The amount of work per turn to “keep the game going” is a bit much, but I believe this will be okay once I know the game a little better.  I think this will get better in future plays, but we’ll have to see.

I am more concerned about the randomness.  I lost spectacularly on my first play: which I expect!  I’ve never played before, so of course I did horribly.  I just hope I can do better and “take into account” the randomness on my next play.  That’s my main question: Can I leverage the randomness to come up with a strategy, or am I just going to be reacting every turn?  We’ll see with future plays.

This sounds more negative than I want: That’s not my purpose.  I am excited to play this in the cooperative mode.   And, I will give this a number of plays to get a feel of what the strategy is.

Nemo’s War is a fairly complicated solo game with good components.  I was pretty overwhelmed on my first play (and lost horribly).  I look forward to future plays to see what the longevity of this game is.

 

 

 

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