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Subject: Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Via Nebula With Two rss

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Milena Guberinic
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Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Via Nebula With Two




The Overview


Via Nebula is a game about the mystical, mist-covered Nebula Valley that has just emerged from a dark time of being ruled by fierce and frightening fog monsters! As a player, you are tasked with building the most magnificent buildings and towns in the valley to aid its recovery from its devastating past.

To aid in your building endeavors, you will receive two secret building contracts (when playing with two players) and a player board that will have
*4 explorer spaces covered by meadow tiles (you will gain points for uncovering these)
*a storage area for unused resources (you will lose points for these at the end of the game)
*spaces for your craftsmen (who will exploit the land to make resources available to you and other players)
and
*spaces for your buildings (which you will build over the course of the game)



The main board features
*empty meadow spaces
*exploitation token spaces
*forbidden spaces
*fog spaces
*petrified forest spaces
*ruins



Each turn, you will have 2 action points to spend on any combination of the following actions.

1) Place a craftsman - Place on of the craftsmen from your board onto a space containing an exploitation token, add the resource shown, and take the exploitation token, as you will receive points for having it at the end of the game



2) Place a building site - Take one of your building sites and cover a free ruin space



3) Explore a fog space - Take one of your meadow tiles and place it on a fog space adjacent to a space occupied by another piece/tile of your color or adjacent to another empty meadow space or tile



4) Explore a petrified forest - Take one of your meadow tiles and place it on a petrified forest space adjacent to a space occupied by another piece/tile of your color or adjacent to another empty meadow space or tile. This action costs TWO action points!



5) Transport a resource from a meadow to one of your building sites, moving it along EMPTY meadow tiles

6) Erect a building on one of your building sites if the combination of resources on that building site satisfy the combination of resources required by a public contract or a secret contract in your hand. If you have the resources pictured, but have additional resources, you may still erect the building, but you will have to place surplus resources into your storage area and deduct 1 point for each from your score at the end of the game. Carry out the bonus shown on the contract, replace the building site tile with one of your buildings, and place the fulfilled contract on the table in front of you. If you fulfilled a public contract, replace it with a new one from the deck.


Some public contracts


[i]Some private contracts


The game end is triggered when one player has built his last building. That player receives a 2VP card and the remaining players get one final turn each.

Points are awarded for:
*Exploitation tokens
*Fulfilled contracts
*Points for uncovered explorers on your board
*The end-game trigger card

Points are deducted for each resource present in your storage area and each resource remaining on the board with your explorers and on your building sites.

The Review


Played prior to review: 7x






1.SO SO SO SO PRETTY! I want to glue my eyeballs to the box! And the bits! And everything in this game!
I cannot get enough of the cuteness in this box! Yes, the candy-colored, childhood wonderland illustrations are pretty and fun, but the unique building shapes for each player take things up a notch! And the insert is perfect! It stores and keeps all components perfectly separated and reduces the time you need to devote to setting up and putting away the game! That means more play time!

I should note that some people may be unhappy with the somewhat thin player boards, but I have no problem with them. The material lies flat and is functional.

2. A great blend of synergy and competition between players
Via Nebula features a fun blend of synergy and competition between players that creates a lot of tension in the game. Every time you send a worker to unlock resources on an expedition, you are unlocking those resources for all players. Every time you create a connection between an expedition site and one of your building sites, you are expanding the potential transport network for resources for all players. And every time you take a resource from another player's expedition, you are benefiting from the resource that will help you build a building, but you are also effectively giving that player a point, as any remaining resources get turned into negative points at the end of the game. Of course, the extent of these benefits will vary over the course of the game; transporting a resource from another player's expedition to one of your building sites when you know that player needed that resource would clearly benefit you more than that player. However, this is more often a very grey area that you will have to consider carefully.

Because there is so much synergy between players in the game, one of the most interesting aspects of the game for me is trying to figure out how much I am helping myself vs. my opponent with each action.

3. Great spatial planning element
I love games that present me with a combination spatial/logistics puzzle. Via Nebula does just that by presenting you with a board populated by a variety of resources and challenging you to determine which are the best locations for erecting which buildings and to build a network to get the right resources to those locations. This challenge is compounded in Via Nebula by the fact that resources you have remaining at the end of the game will incur negative points, forcing you to optimize your selections when placing workers on expedition spaces and placing building sites on ruins.

4. A race-y game of efficiency and optimization
In Via Nebula, you really have to optimize each turn and each building site placement in order to ensure you will be able to make the most points in as little time as possible, which gives the game a very strong race-y quality. You are essentially racing to place all your buildings on the board and complete the public contracts with the best powers before somebody else does. The game ends when one player has placed all his buildings on the board and lagging behind in any aspect of the game due to inefficiencies is a sure way to defeat. As in a race, every action you perform has to be optimized for perfect efficiency! And I love optimizing things for perfect efficiency!

5. SO MUCH thought given to the two-player version! THANK YOU!
FINALLY! A Martin Wallace game that works with two players! NO! A Martin Wallace game that SINGS with two players! This is delightful!
A lot of thought clearly went into ensuring that Via Nebula played as well with two players as with three players as with four players. When playing with two players, you use a special player board that has one extra worker (so you are able to reveal a sufficient number of expeditions to fulfill contracts), full-size building sites (so you cannibalize the available building sites on the board more quickly), and more meadow tiles on your explorers (so you are tasked with the same challenge for reveling explorers as you would be when playing with more players). You also get 2 private contracts and exploitations produce 1 fewer resource, meaning that resources are just as scarce as they would be when playing with more players!

A two-player game of Via Nebula feels tight, tense, and competitive and resources and building sites can be sources of much contention depending on their placement. Thank you Space Cowboys for putting so much thought into the scaling of this game!

6. High replay value
Via Nebula features a double-sided board with two different maps, a large deck of public contracts that will become available in different distributions and at different times in each game games, a number of different private contracts, and a random arrangement of resources on the board. All this variety means that you will face a different spatial optimization puzzle every time you play, that each resource and each ruin space will differ in value in each game, and that you will have to evaluate the desirability of contract abilities against your ability to fulfill them using a different meter each time. All this variability makes Via Nebula addictive and highly replayable!

7. Perfect duration and pace
Via Nebula takes us about 35 to 45 minutes to play, which is astounding given the amount of thinking and planning we do in the game! And because you have only two action points to spend during each turn and the actions you take are simple and speedy, there is little down time.



soblue


soblue 1. The game looks "nice" but allows you to be a bit mean, which some people may not appreciate
This isn't a negative for me, but some people may not appreciate the fact that you can do mean things in this game. For example, one building contract can allow you to remove a meadow tile from the board and place it anywhere else, which can help you cut an opponent off from being able to access a particular resource or slow him down, effectively demanding that he waste a turn to place another meadow just to get the resource back. This could perhaps help your opponent uncover an explorer as well, so you have to take care to ensure you are only hurting him by doing that.

In general, you are in competition for resources and contract cards and you can both intentionally and inadvertently hurt opponents by beating them to contracts. This isn't a horribly mean game, but there is a bit more meanness than you would expect from the happy illustrations.

soblue 2. Luck of the draw can influence the game, but it hasn't been too significant or frustrating in any of our games
The public contract cards are a source of randomness in the game and can occasionally swing the game in one player's favor or allow a player to end the game prematurely (or rather, earlier than anticipated). In a few games, we have experienced one player completing a public contract only to draw a new one that requires only two items that just happened to be sitting on top of the next player's building site in preparation for completing another, more demanding contract. This may seem unfair, but the lesser contracts provide fewer points and generally tend to be less powerful than the higher contracts, but one does provide an extra action, which is quite important and powerful, as Via Nebula is a race of efficiency and optimization. Of course, this doesn't always (or even frequently) happen, but when it does, it doesn't feel all that great.



Final Word


Via Nebula is a simple game both mechanically and rules-wise, but rather than suffer from that simplicity, the game rises above it to create a rather complex ecosystem for players to work within. You have to create the most efficient route to get the resources you need to erect your desired buildings and you have to do this while both helping and competing with other players. This game is a tense, tight, and beautiful race that strikes a perfect balance between depth, duration, and complexity. With its simple rules and stunning table presence, it is sure to appeal to a casual crowd, but with its depth and breadth of decision points, it is sure to give seasoned gamers plenty to chew on as well. It's simply satisfying in every way!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE






***


Mina's Love Meter


angry Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)



To see my other reviews, visit this geeklist.


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Harv Veerman
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Great review.

I share your enthousiasm for this wonderful game.

My only comment would be about calling this a race. Sure, you want to be the one with the 2VP for finishing your 5th building first, but the card is more a balancing thing IMO. The one who finishes building first will definitely not always be the winner. Not that it's what you are saying, just want to stress this for others.

Love your reviewing style (just finished reading the one about Estoril as well: now I need that game even more...)

Keep it up!
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Raymond Fowkes

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Punching and playing this game needs to be a goal of mine for next week if health issues permit!
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Milena Guberinic
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Mad Math wrote:
Great review.

I share your enthousiasm for this wonderful game.

My only comment would be about calling this a race. Sure, you want to be the one with the 2VP for finishing your 5th building first, but the card is more a balancing thing IMO. The one who finishes building first will definitely not always be the winner. Not that it's what you are saying, just want to stress this for others.

Love your reviewing style (just finished reading the one about Estoril as well: now I need that game even more...)

Keep it up!


Thanks! Yes, it isn't a race but it does have the sense of racing because you want to be as efficient as possible while collecting the most points. It's race-y, not a race per se. Perhaps I should clarify that...
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Milena Guberinic
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Sekwof wrote:
Punching and playing this game needs to be a goal of mine for next week if health issues permit!


Best of luck!
 
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bort
Australia
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Played this a day ago, and it was fun

Last couple of rounds were a bit weird - you're better off just placing meadows anywhere, rather than risk trying to get resources and end up with extras (even if you do manage to finish a building!). I won (barely), last 2 turns were just this.
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Milena Guberinic
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bortmonkey wrote:
Played this a day ago, and it was fun

Last couple of rounds were a bit weird - you're better off just placing meadows anywhere, rather than risk trying to get resources and end up with extras (even if you do manage to finish a building!). I won (barely), last 2 turns were just this.


I think the open expeditions and some building powers can help with that. You can use resources that are already available or try to chain building powers such that you end up adding a resource to your existing building sites or open another neutral expedition...The last couple of rounds might go a bit better next time...
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Ian Spaulding
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Hmm, interesting. I primarily play games with my wife, so when I was able to play a demo of this at GenCon I was very worried about how it would play with two players since a lot of the gameplay revolves around bouncing off your nearest neighbors. Reading this review is very encouraging, and definitely got me interested in a second look at the game.
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Calvin Baker
United States
Carlsbad
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Hey-You Looked! Been on BGG for a couple years and just getting around to this...
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Thanks for doing this review! You pushed me over the edge- even though I tend to primarily buy solo games! I think my wife would like it.
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Kortnee Boshears
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Somerset
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Always love your reviews. I was debating whether or not I needed this game and your review settled that for me. Got to play it tonight with the husband and creamed him, which was a good feeling, considering he beat me three times in a row at Karuba last night. Really loved the game, was surprised by how quick it went. Granted we were specifically trying to play it quickly, but it ended after a very enjoyable 40 minutes. I already want to play it again.
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Duo Maxwell
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Great Review. I love your Love Meter rating scale. I also like this game a lot. I hope they release an expansion with more contracts but the game has simple rules but allows for some "thinky" decisions.
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Bill Eldard
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Thanks for taking the time and effort to craft another perfect review, Mina! It told me everything I need to know. I've bought a copy of the game and I look forward to playing it.

UPDATE 1-23/24-2017: My wife and I have played five 2-player games (we split 2-2 and one tie), and we thoroughly enjoy it. I understand Mina's reference to a "race," as competition for resources and buildings is was very close. And as in so many Wallace designs, there are penalties for wasted (unused) resources, thus rewarding good planning and efficiency. Despite the simple rules, I see considerable depth to this game.

UPDATE 4-04-2017: We had several 3- and 4-player games, and we find the multiplayer game to be excellent. My wife prefers it as 2-player, whereas I have not preference at this point.
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Vince Lupo
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Mad Math wrote:
Great review.

I share your enthousiasm for this wonderful game.

My only comment would be about calling this a race. Sure, you want to be the one with the 2VP for finishing your 5th building first, but the card is more a balancing thing IMO. The one who finishes building first will definitely not always be the winner. Not that it's what you are saying, just want to stress this for others.

Love your reviewing style (just finished reading the one about Estoril as well: now I need that game even more...)

Keep it up!


My wife and I played this 3 or 4 times already. Twice within one sitting since it was already out and took only 35 minutes or so.

But yes. We definitely had a game where someone triggered the end and the other player couldn't get a fifth building or even any more points that last turn and still won. Sadly I've only played the game two player so far and I'm eager to try it with more players to see how that goes.

We also sorta tried to play isolationist from each other one game but inevitably we ended up mooching off each others resource piles at some point.
 
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