17 October 2022
One Man Against the World
Though they share many characteristics, board games aren’t books. The way that narrative in board games is generated is different. In games, stories emerge from your actions, that’s the compelling thing about them. You control the story told. Every marker placed, every die rolled is a bend in the narrative path. The destination? A story that lasts for the duration of the game. A story that will never be told again. When words are used in games they should be sparse. They should nudge and hint. They should never prescribe.
Nemo’s War is a game that understands this. The words in this game are judiciously deployed to lead you into the story. The beats of that story though, the petty victories and monumental defeats? They are all yours. You create them.
While the game claims to be a cooperative experience for up to four players it is truly a solo game and should be considered as such.
Nemo’s War places the players on the Nautilus witnessing the hubris and mental degradation of the maniacal captain.
You start by choosing your victory condition. Whether you want a game focused on exploration or a more martial bent. This sets the way you score points but also the trigger points of certain inflection points in the game. Namely, when the big guns will arrive to take you down.
A deck of events is built at the beginning of the game with one of a number of possible endings at the bottom. Get to the bottom and pass the final test and you win. Exhaust your resources or antagonize the world powers so much that the sea is saturated with their war ships and you lose.
The playing of the game mainly constitutes tests. These are done with manipulated dice rolls. Hit a certain number and you pass. The main way you help yourself in this cause is by leveraging one of the three main ships resources, Crew, Nemo or your Hull. These give you numbers to add to your dice rolls. Pass the test and the resource remains where it is. Fail and it decreases, slowly pulling you towards the bottom of the sea.
The wonderful thing about Nemo’s War is its balance between chance and skill. There is a lot of dice rolling in this game but your decisions can determine how likely they are to come off for you. And you completely control the pace of the story. You can decide how conservative or cavalier you wish to be. How aggressive or surreptitious but, and this is the thing with games that rely on physics and its interaction with numbered cubes, sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, the dice might just not fall for you and that creates a wonderful story.
That is the rub though for Nemo’s War. If you cannot stand the injustice of dice this won’t be a game for you because the sheer amount of dice rolling will result in the kind of punishment that only chance can deal out.
Fundamentally though it is the story that really stands out in Nemo’s War. Not in a book sense but in a game sense. In fact, the beginning and end don’t really matter because those words are purloined from another medium. It’s the game mechanisms that make you feel like you’re sailing across the globe, narrowly avoiding the imprecations of the hated British or French. It’s the mechanisms that make you tear out your hair or raise a defiant fist.
Nemo’s War replaces players with incident and takes you on an incredible journey. Just don’t expect to be able to plan everything.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
If solo games aren’t your thing or you hate dice rolls you should probably avoid this, otherwise this is a rollicking good time.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Under Falling Skies...
Nemo’s War feels like the logical next step for players who were introduced to solo games by Under Falling Skies. There is no great leap in difficulty but a great one in scale.
Designer: Christopher Taylor & Alan Emrich
Publisher: Victory Point Games
Time: 90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Game board
- 62 Adventure cards
- 10 Nautilus upgrade cards
- 6 Character resource tiles,
- 2 Motive tiles
- Captain tile
- 220 tokens and markers
- 12 Uprising cubes (10 natural wood, 2 silver)
- 5 dice (3 white and 2 black)
- Nautilus miniature
- Epilogues booklet
- 9 Co-op game officer cards
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