27 June 2019
A glowing, growing delight!
Nemeton sees players become druids, reinvigorating the forest using the power of the moon and the help of their animal familiars. Despite its dark, sombre box art, this is an uplifting game full of colour, with themes of rebirth and co-operation, celebrating the power and beauty of nature.
While competition between the players is present, it is very non-confrontational, with every player expanding the forest, creating more opportunities for all by populating the board with flowers and places to visit. The only action that allows players to mess up one another is intentionally low on impact and aggression; one player can take a resource from another but, even then, they must give a resource in exchange. Nemeton is much more concerned with everyone doing well and enjoying their stroll through the growing forest, among its old oaks, rivers and water features.
That said, Nemeton’s forest is no walk in the park. On its own, no single feature or element of the gameplay is overly complicated, but the sheer amount of options and objectives can be hard to wrap your head around. This is a game that definitely takes several playthroughs before players get a good and firm grip on everything available to them.
Players begin a round by laying a tile that triggers certain areas on the board to grow plants, the game’s main source of victory points. The tile placement itself is a little pattern-recognition puzzle that test players’ attentiveness and their power of foresight. Players need to think carefully about what they are trying to achieve on their turn and how the tile placement can benefit them the most, while avoiding making their opponents’ turns too easy by providing them easy-to-reach resources.
Some tiles generate special areas, where another host of available actions become available. Players can go to the Nemeton stone monoliths to use their accumulated plants to brew victory point-giving potions, fly to old oak trees to exchange resources or visit water features to call on familiars. Each one of these three options spreads like a tree branch into several other sub-options to choose from. For example, every familiar has its own ability that can either be immensely useful or will sit on the player board for several turns until you remember you can use it.
At the end of a turn, players can get achievements based on what they have accomplished in the game so far. Some of them reward the number of potions brewed or how many special areas in the forest were visited. On their own, these are not hard to achieve. However, the sheer quantity of them, combined with all the other things players need to do on their turn, make them that much easier to forget about. Instead of having one or two objectives players absolutely must get, Nemeton has 11, which dilutes the players' focus.
Nemeton has great ideas – oh, so many great ideas – wrapped in a beautifully-coloured package with 3D components and an ever-expanding whimsical forest made up of its hexagonal tiles. Yet it can also feel slightly overwhelming with choice, where the sheer number of objectives and powers make it easy to forget to use them. Luckily, Nemeton’s world is enjoyable enough to venture into again and, with more experience, the game will keep growing on you.
PLAY IT? – YES
Nemeton is a beautiful tile-laying and resource-management game that has a lot to offer. It may take a couple of playthroughs to familiarise yourself with the myriad of options available, but this will definitely be an enjoyable journey.
Designer: Johann Favazzo
Time: 75 minutes
This review originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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