Type: Co-Op or Solo / Push Your Luck
Time to play: 60 minutes (Teaching: 10-15 minutes)
Best played with: 1 Player (1 – 4 Players)
Diving in to this solo game, I was very excited because one of my favourite podcasts (Secret Cabal) absolutely love this game, and I understand why. This is a theme rich solo and co-operative game that draws you in from the first turn. If you like a roller coaster of a game then I hope the below helps to shed a little bit of light on Nemo’s War (from the second edition kickstarter).
So, what’s the basis of the game? You are Nemo and you are trying to achieve one of four personalities associated with Nemo – the scientist, the explorer, the war seeker, or the anti-imperialist. You pick that personality at the start of the game and it will drive your choices for the rest of the game. Will you be remembered for adventures? For crushing the imperial fleets? Or for leading up-risings across the globe.
This tool is fun and allows you to really bring a theme rich experience to the play – each style really does change the way you should play the game, the risks you should take and the way you use your actions. This also makes the game vastly more replayable which can often be a challenge for a solo game. If every solo game is a puzzle that you solve, then this is immediately 4 puzzles in one box.
So the first turn comes about and you roll the dice. That’s the key element of this game which will make every situation different – there’s a lot of dice rolling. You will place the enemy ships based on the dice, and you will gain a number of actions based on the dice. There’s some ability to mitigate luck in this game, but if you don’t roll enough actions in a game, you will struggle to score well. However, I think this game is not about the point maximising as much as the story. Sure some games will be far harder than others, sometimes the ships will pop up across the world and you will travel more than others, but the story then changes and your ability to manage that luck drives the game.
You get some actions then each turn, and you will use those to travel, to fight and to explore. Will you pull treasures from the bag, will you fights the ships early or leave them to build, and will you cause uprisings to lower your own notoriety. There’s a good number of choices each game, and it will be tough to pick a perfect path within your limited actions.
However, I have jumped ahead a little, because alongside the dice being rolled you have to draw an event. This event is a big push your luck moment in the game. You will choose what to risk and whether you can pass! Sometimes the risk will be so high and the rewards limited, that you just roll. However sometimes you can see a big benefit from the event and so you can choose to risk some of your stats to get a dice roll modifier. If you succeed then all good – your stats return to their starting place. Fail though and those stats fall – costing you points potentially at the end of the game, and limiting you from taking the same risk later in the game! Failing a roll cascades – the more you fail the less benefit you get from risking the stats, and the harder it is to achieve the next goal. Taking smart risks is key to doing well in this game.
Sure, you can heal those stats through the game, but that’s using actions and it’s taking different / further risks. This is a challenge then. Don’t take risk if you don’t have to, but if the return is worth it then sometimes you have to.
So, event done, ships placed, actions allotted. There’s lots I could talk about but I will jump to the fighting. It doesn’t matter what theme you choose, you will need to fight the ships and frankly this is where the biggest tension in the game is. Just like those events you will take risks on dice rolls and you will use your health stats to modify the roll. Will you get hit by a ship and take damage, or will you modify the roll and pass first time. Sinking ships is necessary to not get overrun but every time will put you at risk.
Going to war is the selection of a random enemy (most of the time) and that dread to see a really strong ship come out of the bag, and then the joy when you roll and succeed. This is a highly thematic and pivotal moment in the game, and like any good game they have found a way to bring this out many times during a single play. If you do too much warring though, it can cause an instant loss. So you have to manage this against your notoriety – events and uprisings will help you.
Through the game then, you will have big pivotal events, striking wars with the empire, and moments of exploration where you hope to pull the rabbit out of the literal bag (of treasures next to the game board. This is a class act of a thematic game and so rich in moments – the key to me is that at the end of every game I can look back and remember those key rolls (the right way and that went the wrong way) and they defined the way that game panned out.
Now, there’s one key negative to all that. If you don’t like a game where you can play for an hour only to see it turn to dust over two bad rolls, then this game may frustrate you occasionally. You can only mitigate the dice so much and two tough rolls back to back might just cost you the game – or at least the level of victory you were on for. That’s what creates the memories but that’s also what prevents you from really achieving what you want even if you played perfectly.
Also, while this game does play co-op, you are definitely just splitting the lead roll. You will co-ordinate amongst the team, but you will definitely be passing the quarter back roll (hoping you pass it). I enjoy this game with one or two, but above that I do think it’s more of a struggle.
- If you like co-ops with pivotal events and exciting stories, then check this out – the production is also incredible
- If you want a solo & a co-op then this has limitations, and can be very luck driven in some games
- If you win, try again with another theme/personality