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Subject: Nemo's War: Unboxing and First Impressions rss

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Richard Saunders
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This review was originally posted on the CO-OP Gestalt blog:
https://coopgestalt.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/review-of-nemos...


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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.



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
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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!




First Play
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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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Alan Emrich
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Let me help you on your next playthrough:

Quote:
But those particular turns where you get 0 or 1 action are just not fun.


Turns with 0 Action Points generated are called Lull Turns, and they offer a whole other set of strategies since the "expensive" Actions (which normally cost 2 Action Points) are "on sale" for only 1 AP on those turns. That is a real bargain in a game that will average around spending a total 55 APs or so -- the problem is, you generated 0 APs that turn!

So, did you save 1 AP from the previous turn? (The maximum, and always an interesting decision as 1/6 of the time each turn during Acts I and II you should get a Lull turn). Should you sacrifice something off your tableau for their +APs benefit?

And during Act III, when you're rolling 3 white dice and picking 2 of them, on many turns you can either embrace or reject a Lull turn, and that decision is can be a very strategic one and not mere randomness.

The Action Point mechanic being the differential is there to resemble the rising and falling action in the book, but in a roughly 25-turn game, there are enough dice rolls where things should average out, and the results even "go your way" once you hit Act III (and add the thrid white die). It really does take some strategy to be prepared to meet the game's myriad random activities, including Adventures and combat.

Keep sailing! The fun is there in repeated plays and further discoveries. There are more layers to this onion!
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Steve Ramsey
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Hey Alan,

Just got my copy today with the two canvas bags. For the bag printed in black ink: what is the graphic inside the compass rose supposed to be? I have no idea what it's supposed to be - simpler next time might be better.
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Richard Saunders
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Hey Alan!

Thanks for the response! A few thoughts:

1) I am the worst dice roller ever. Seriously. If you want to beat me at a game, challenge me to a game with dice. I think somewhere in my ancestry, a Sea Hag from the Moors of Scotland cursed my ancestor and all his progeny. And that curse still follows me today. But I digress ... But, I think that's why I am nervous about the dice rolling for actions.
(I also think it's why I tend to like cooperative games: my bad luck will be evened out by someone else's good luck)

In fact, I remember many times in Act III rolling a 1,2,2 or 1,1,2 on three dice. (Seriously? Yes, I have terrible luck). I know statistically that shouldn't happen, but my curse from the Sea Hag follow me around. :)

I also know that luck tends to even out, which is why I am looking forward to future games.

2) Lulls: In my first play, I didn't have a single lull. (The curse of the Sea Hag strikes again!) I had a chance for it when I had three dice, but I chose to take the actions instead. So, yes, I am aware of the lulls, but I just didn't experience them in my first game.

3) I don't think I gave the board enough love in my review. It's a really nice 6-fold board. It looks nice, folds nice, easy to read and it worked very well.

------------------------

Thanks Alan for watching the BGG for reviews. I am looking forward to more games so I can learn how Nemo's War works. The curse of the Sea Hag just follows me and my dice everywhere! Let's hope I can escape them. :)

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Wes Erni
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saunders wrote:
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.


The Ship Placement Phase does look like dry, procedural "AI maintenance" -- the giant leap in appreciation for this game comes when you realize it is the most thought-provoking part of the game-play. The ability that the players have to "paint the canvas" (mapboard) through SPP manipulation is the operational "heart" of consistent success (IMO). I admit being a bit hazy on "how" Nemo is "bending the world to his will" here (I have articulated many "rationalizations" on BGG -- none that convincing), but it does elevate the gameplay enormously.

Quote:
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.

Once you have mastered a "line of play" for a particular Motive/Upgrade combination (there are dozens of intriguing choices), you really do need that randomness to "keep you on your toes". I may know exactly how I want a particular game to unfold, but I still have to "think on my feet" in reacting to the inevitable "unfortunate developments" (and be ready to exploit unexpected good fortune). Rolling dice for "Actions" is not irritating here as:
A: the game has enough turns to create a nice "bell curve" for "average results (and the game is quite kind early so you shouldn't be defeated before luck can "stabilize").
B: Using cards for "fixed actions" doesn't guarantee "average luck" either given the (usually) numerous cards that will never get played.

I suppose giving a constant rate of actions per turn would be "fair", but rather "sterile", and minimize one of the great skills present in games with randomness -- mastering luck. Mitigating, or at least reducing the impact of "bad luck" and maximizing "good luck" is an art form in its own right.

Given your review was a "First Impressions" and you are encouraged enough by the game to continue playing, you probably didn't need me to point out things you will "find out". But many players over the last 3 years of development found Nemo 2 very frustrating, I highly recommend giving the game "time" to absorb -- when it "clicks" it is just really, REALLY cool (IMO).
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