Type: Worker Placement / Narrative / Race

Time to play: < 90 minutes (Teaching: 15 minutes)

Best played with: 2-4 players (Best with 3)

Looking for a narrative game that allows you to build your character and go on an adventure? However, you want something you can break up into 60-90 minutes games with lots of maps? Well… Near & Far by Ryan Laukat might just be that game!

This is a simple narrative game built on a book full of maps – the incredible design of a book full of thick card maps which open up across the double pages. Add to that one board which represents the town, and where you take your worker placement actions and you have a simple, fun game. The game then adds replay-ability through a mix of different characters, and a couple of different game modes!

Campaign allows you to take any set of characters through a core story line that drives you to the final map. Character mode allows you to take individual stories of each of the characters and play it again and again with many groups. If you get through all of that content you can still pay this through in a simple mode without the legacy aspects of these stories.

Strip back all that content though and what you have is a worker placement game where players race to meet the victory condition. First player to get all their camps out finishes the game, but at this stage you count up the points – finishing the race first doesn’t guarantee you will win the game. You get points for the things you have achieved during the game (stories / killing bandits / placing camps in key locations). This core game is an interesting challenge – the conditions encourage you to push your luck early in the game to score the points before your opponents can. The bandits get harder, the point locations are near & far and going to the far edges of the board can be a real challenge!

So you are being pushed to take risks early, and you can get these great stories from the successes that you only just achieve and from the occasional big misses that happen when you take these risks. If you are playing the story modes of this game you can get out there and keep pushing the story, or your character story forward! These interesting little snapshots of your character develop over time with key words and other elements carrying over from one story to the next.

The worker placement of this game is pretty simple – a small number of actions to select from and you can’t stay still. However, you can go into the action spot that someone else has taken – as long as you are prepared to duel them for the spot. Lose, and lose a turn. Win and take the action! These exciting moments require a bit of luck though. This is probably the common theme of the game – there’s quite a bit of output luck and that will frustrate some people. Whether it’s the times where you go for the story and you have no idea what will happen, or if it’s going for the duel and rolling the dice. At points the game combats this with allowing the player to spend hearts to add points, however this does limit or restrict the player and sometimes doesn’t get them over the line! If you hate this kind of output luck then it might be worth playing this game before buying it.

However, the game’s narrative is highly engaging, the characters are very distinct and in a 2-3 player game there is very little downtime. The worker placement spaces are limited but the actions are varied, and each allows you to develop your character and their party in interesting ways.

The only other negative to mention is the importance of the mine (and it will be interesting to see how the recent kickstarter expansion changes this); the mine allows you to place camps which is how to achieve the end of the game and it gives you key resources. This will be a dominant strategy for players and players will need to take this action when the option arises.

For me, this is a great game – I am looking forward to completing more character stories and to exploring how each map (with very different paths) changes the balance of the game.

Last notes;

  • If you like story driven games and a combination of push your luck, race and euro mechanics then you have to try this
  • If you hate output luck or don’t have a regular group to get through the stories… perhaps enjoy the occasional game
  • If you win, turn the page and go again!