A preview copy of Nemo’s War: Second Edition was provided by Victory Point Games. We would like to thank Victory Point Games for supporting our blog. All thoughts, comments, and pictures herein are our own.
The year is 1870, also known as the “Dark Ages” of naval development. The seas are a mysterious and dangerous place, full of peril and uncertainty. Vessels are disappearing, lives are lost, and legends of sea creatures can be heard at every port. Assuming the role as the infamous Captain Nemo, commander of the Nautilus, you set out to confront these mysterious, tame these seas, and maybe gain some fame and treasure along the way.
Nemo’s War, designed by Chris Taylor and Alan Emrich, illustrated by Ian O’Toole, and published by Victory Point Games, is a 1-4 player game based on the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. What exactly was Captain Nemo doing in the Nautilus? If you’re like me, you probably don’t remember too much about the original story, aside from giant sea creatures and a cranky captain. That’s okay. Although the game is based on the novel, you really don’t need to have much, or any, prior knowledge of the text. You are the Captain, you will make the choices, starting with your motivation. Why are you out here? Are you looking for scientific discovery? Are you looking to explore the uncharted waters, finding new lands, and possibly people? Are you trying to incite a war to overthrow the imperial overlords? Or do you want to support the anti-imperialism cause, lending your resources to the fight? Once you have chosen your motivation you will construct a draw pile based on your motivation. Your end game conditions will also depend upon this choice. The board is then seeded with hidden ship tokens, representing the growing threat in the seas.
Nemo’s War begins in Act One, playing through Three Acts (unless other end game conditions are met). As each new act is introduced more dice are added to the dice pool and more ships are added to the oceans, bringing the game to a tense crescendo. The turn begins with an Event Phase, flipping over a new card in the act deck, resolving any events or trying to overcome a test. Other cards may be put aside to use at a later date. Tests are completed with a roll of the dice, the cards are then put into a pass discard pile (netting you points at the end of the game) or a failed discard pile. After the Event Phase is the Placement Phase where new ships are added to the board. When placing new ships a number of dice is rolled equal to the current Act. Then dice may be a combination of black and white. The dice will show you what waters new ships will be place. The differential of two of the white dice will also determine the amount of action points you will have to spend this turn. Finally, the Action Phase, where you will have the opportunity to spend your action points.
Action points can be spent in a number of ways, from adventuring to attacking other ships, from inciting rebellions to resting, repairing or refitting the Nautilus. Most of these actions will require dice rolls for success or failure. You may also leverage your crew, ship, and even yourself to help alter these rolls a bit. Make no mistake, this is just a glossing over of the rules. This game is deep, with many choices to spend those precious action points on. Nemo’s War is more than just a “roll the dice, take the action” type game. There are many choices to make each turn, many different way to help mitigate your rolls, chances to take, that will probably not work out in your favor.
Nemo’s War, for me, has been immersive, each game bringing new things to overcome, and new ways to do so. I love the choices, right from the beginning the tone of the game is set with the choice of the motive of Captain Nemo himself. From there the choices multiply. Should we start clearing out the seas? Should we look for treasure? Do we need to upgrade our ship? How about starting a rebellion in some far off lands?
Nemo’s War was built with the solo gamer in mind, and that makes all the difference to me. This was far from a mode that was added on through stretch goals in a Kicistarter. I have played this game as a solo game, as well as a multiplayer game. I prefer the solo game by far. It feels like this game was made to be played purely solo. Everything, from the tokens to the artwork on the cards is done with prefect detail. The game draws you into the story, you truly feel as though you are the captain of this ship, making tough choices, and just trying to survive one more day.
Nemo’s War offers a challenge, and many times I have suffered defeat. Even a “win” is measured by how successful you were, offering five different epilogues for each motive. The replayability has been immense. I have not yet played all the motives, instead I keep trying to do better in the ones that I have played already before moving on. The tokens and gameboard are all very well done, thick cardboard, and well illustrated. The cards contain quotes from the book, move the story forward, and also are beautifully illustrated. Everything has been made with attention to detail as well as staying true to the original material. If you are looking for a solid solo game to add to your collection, look no further, Nemo’s War has it all in one package!