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Subject: 20,000 things to like rss

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Hi! I've given Nero's War several playthroughs already and felt compelled to post a review. The short version: it's an excellent, excellent game. A real triumph for the designer, artist, and Victory Point.

Let's do the theme and art first. No one will argue that a great theme or art can make a junk game good. But, they can certainly push a good game over the top, or make a great game even better. This is the case here. The components and design and theme are just... spot on. Like, perfect. I was especially happy that the art is in an appropriately period-esque style, and not cartoony modern looking. It feels EXACTLY like a crazy Victorian adventure story, as it should. For people like myself who love that period, it's a real bonus. I can't praise the art enough: it's just superlative.

In addition, the components are great. The individual ship tokens are lovely (and much more fun than something like Silent Victory with largely generic tokens - I know this adds cost, I get it!), all the little bells and whistles, the treasures, the motive cards, etc. They are all well executed. The inclusion of the Mary Celeste with the proper flag is also great.

But let's get to the game! Is it fun? Yes! I think everyone is looking for that holy grail solo experience, since OTB opponents can be so hard to come by for more complex games. I can say with some confidence that this is the best solo game I've played. Why? It strikes a very delicate balance between having meaningful choices and yet still being manageable rules-wise, and not checking charts every five seconds. There is such a variety of potential strategies and approaches that it remains very fun, and doesn't ever feel like you're just figuring out a single optimal victory strategy. At the same time, it also doesn't feel random and cruel. You have to adapt to what the game gives you, as in most solo games (and some strategies just aren't possible if you don't draw that card you needed), but you always have options and intelligent choices to make that will actually make a difference.

Here I'd like to specifically laud the Motives system. It's such a nice, efficient way to both add variety to gameplay and also orient the player in terms of what to do. For an overwhelmed new player wondering "what do I do?" take a look at the motives and use that as a starting strategy.

I've enjoyed VPG's states of siege games, but I always felt like the system was just kicking my ass, and the best thing I could possibly do was barely survive, and with some luck too. Nero's War shares some of the same core mechanics (flip a card, do what it says, it's probably bad for you, repeat), but the Ship Placement rules add a much larger strategic dimension allowing you to manage more of the bad stuff that happens to you. I never felt like I was an unlucky turn away from getting completely wrecked by chance, whereas in some states of siege games I often did.

It feels like the difficulty level is quite well tuned. Don't get me wrong, it's hard! But not unfair. And really, if you are getting worked, just cheat a little. Who cares? I made the damage rules more forgiving for myself at first just to get the hang of things.

The rules are very manageable. I'd say that an index of cards might be helpful because sometimes their implementation is a little ambiguous. And a single sheet player aid would be useful too, but whatever (most of the info that would go on a player aid is scattered around the board anyways). By my third game I didn't need to flip through the rulebook at all really. The rules are straightforward and don't involve tonnes of special cases and exceptions, so smooth play comes quickly. I played with another player for one game and it was actually a lot of fun, and made managing a few things easier. Recommended.

If you're specifically looking for the feeling of running and managing a submarine go for the The Hunters or such, this game is more adventure-like. It's not about the Nautilus so much as it's about you, and the combat is very simplistic. You don't choose distances, night or day, types of attacks, etc... Most of the time you just role for damage to yourself, and roll to see if you sink the ship. The end. Some more tactical depth might be fun (and I do wish there were ways to mitigate or avoid incoming damage), but that's not this game, so hey. I raise this not as a criticism just a point of clarification for folks considering it and wondering what kind of game it is.

All in all I can't recommend this game highly enough. It's a great design, but more importantly it's actually fun to play and rewarding, and I suspect that anyone who gives it a shot will see themselves playing it repeatedly, which to my mind is the real test of whether a game is good or not. I love it. Thanks VPG, here's to many more.
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Pete Sellers
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... this is more like a dozen things to like! Where are the other 19,988?
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Laladien wrote:
... this is more like a dozen things to like! Where are the other 19,988?


I agree. I came in here expecting 20K reasons and all I got was ... twelve?

Reported to mods.

(Enjoyed the review, btw )
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Dave Daffin
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Great review, and very well written and structured!
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Mark O'Reilly
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Chronus wrote:
Laladien wrote:
... this is more like a dozen things to like! Where are the other 19,988?


I agree. I came in here expecting 20K reasons and all I got was ... twelve?

Reported to mods.

(Enjoyed the review, btw )


Agree, click bait - I feel violated. laugh

Great review, thank you
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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Laladien wrote:
... this is more like a dozen things to like! Where are the other 19,988?


It's a deep game. He's only dived dozen leagues, so there's still more to go ...
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Jersey Milk
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My humblest apologies, everyone. You're absolutely right that I shamefully neglected to include the balance of the 20,000 things. I forgot in my haste that I had calculated 19,988 specific ship placement permutations that I found particularly pleasing. With those added my review is now complete, and my promise fulfilled.
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Joe Zarate-Sanderlin
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You could also add some great synergies like "Sunken Treasure Fleet" and "Arcane Library" for some kick arse DRM.
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Russell Martin
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saddamonmytube wrote:

...

If you're specifically looking for the feeling of running and managing a submarine go for the The Hunters or such, this game is more adventure-like. It's not about the Nautilus so much as it's about you, and the combat is very simplistic. You don't choose distances, night or day, types of attacks, etc... Most of the time you just role for damage to yourself, and roll to see if you sink the ship. The end. Some more tactical depth might be fun (and I do wish there were ways to mitigate or avoid incoming damage), but that's not this game, so hey. I raise this not as a criticism just a point of clarification for folks considering it and wondering what kind of game it is.

...


If you want more tactical options, you can look at this thread with suggestions by one of the playtesters/developers:

Further Tactical options
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