17 October 2022
A leaky boat full of great ideas
Noli should be extremely up my street, or pier in this case. It’s a bidding-based light-Eurogame with a bit of jolly action-dice rolling, some basic powering-up and a whole lot of classic charm. It’s got bluffing, buying and a little bit of randomness. It’s exactly as wonky as I like my games – some weird interactions, slightly odd requests of the players, a slightly dry-but-potentially interesting theme (a settlement in the Middle Ages near the place where the basil comes from in Italy? Sign me up!). Sadly Noli doesn’t quite live up to its promise.
Players start the round by bidding on the actions they’d like to take during the turn. These include moving along the favour track (get to the end, trigger the end of the game), taking an oarsman token (improves your rolls in the regatta), adding a fishing boat to the beach (the multiplier for wins at the end of the regatta) and adding a stack to your tower (the biggest tower wins the game). Bidding happens behind a little screen, and the winner gets to take that action (and optionally pay again to do it twice). After that, there’s the regatta, which sees players roll dice until they roll boats on all their dice. Those who roll fast win the regatta, and will take the number of cards equal to their boats from the first stack of very good card in the fishing season. The next takes the second place slot and so on. These can land players coins for bidding more next round (the best option) or they have take that options with wrecking other’s boats, stealing coins or gaining or removing walls that line the beach front.
In a smaller player count, these walls do nearly nothing. The idea is that through the random cards drawn in the fishing season, players can lose all these walls and then take tower pieces from one another’s game-winning towers. It should be a good mechanism to stop that happening too early, but at the lower counts we wondered what on earth they were there for.
The production is lovely, the rules are clear and simple, it’s one that could happily go down well at Christmas as it exudes classic charm as if it belongs to a past world. If you can guarantee four at the table, it’s something you can definitely get through with a decent level of laughs. We worry however that it will languish at the back of the games cupboard once that moment is over, as there just isn’t enough there to come back to.
At four players it’s quite jolly in an antiquated way and individual elements like the bidding for actions secretly and the action dice rolling are as fun as they always are. But the odd scoring system, and the general looseness of your rewards for winning those fun bits don’t pay off. I still feel weirdly warm towards the game despite all this – so it might be worth investigating for some whose interest is piqued here.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN EGGETT
PLAY IT? MAYBE
For those entirely in for something they can play on Christmas Day with pretty much anyone, it’s a decent bet, but we’re not sure it’s going to give you something for years to come.
TRY IF YOU LIKE… Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game
This action dice oddity from Modiphius is a great way to get your family laughing and rolling a lot of dice, albeit with a less appealingly dry subject matter.
Designer: Jack Caesar & Alessio Cavatore
Time: 45 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Game board
- 16 Wooden boat meeples
- 4 meeples
- 6 Wall pieces
- Tower tiles
- 4 player boards and screens
- Coin tokens
- 4 Custom dice
- Reward cards
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