“The earth does not want new continents, but new men.” Can You Walk in Captain Nemo’s Footsteps? Nemo’s War Game Review
Nemo’s War 2nd Edition Game Review. Publisher: Victory Point Games Designer: Christopher Taylor and Alan Emrich Price: $65.00
Passed Inspection: Perfect solo gaming experience, dynamic story based on the book, unique game play, beautifully designed
Failed Basic: footprint slightly too large for an average card table, rules need an index
I have always loved Jules Verne’s classic 1870 novel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Form my first view of the Nautilus as a youngster watching the film adaptation on The Wonderful World of Disney to reading the novel when I was 10 to re-reading it now as part of this review, to its adaption in to Japanese anime with the classic TV series “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water”, Verne’s adventure story was ahead of its time. Now Victory Point Games puts you in the roll of Captain Nemo as you chart your path of exploration and revenge with your crew and the super submarine, Nautilus!
The box art, components and rules are works of art. The blue and green of the oceans is counterpointed by wood grain browns making the artwork evocative of the story on which the game is based.
Upon opening the box, the player will find:
• One 17” x 33” game board
• 62 Adventure Cards
• 10 Nautilus Upgrade Cards
• 6 Character Resource Tiles, 2 Motive Tiles, and 1 Captain Tile
• 220 tokens and markers (ships, gemstones, etc.)
• 12 Uprising cubes (10 natural wood, 2 silver)
• 5 dice (3 white and 2 black)
• 1 Nautilus miniature
• 1 Rules book
• 1 Epilogues booklet
• 9 co-op game Officer Cards
The rule booklet is logically organized in to a sequence of play format which allows the players to start playing right away. There are plenty of well illustrated examples. Unfortunately, the rules do not include an index so much page flipping is needed to find specific rules during game play. Luckily, the basics of the game are pretty simple to learn and most of the other rules are fairly easy to figure out as the cards tend to walk you through the system with their various texts.
The game takes place around the year 1870. The beautiful and functional game board represents the world around that time. Each turn represents around 10 days or so. Each counter is one ship. The board plus the different counters and cards makes this game’s footprint just a little too big for the average card table.
Each ship of the “Imperialist Powers” is rated for attack strength, defense strength, notoriety gained if you sink it and victory point worth. Each ship is also flagged for its nationality and the class of ship is indicated. The back side of each ship counter represents the ship upgraded with extra weapons to reflect the navies of the world being out for Captain Nemo’s blood! If your notoriety goes above a certain point, you are being actively hunted.
When you begin playing the game, you’ll need to set up two containers to draw counters from. One container will hold ship counters while the second will hold treasure tokens.
Then you pick what you wish Captain Nemo’s motives to be. The motive cards cover everything from simple “exploration” to full blown “war” against the “Imperialist Powers”. The motive card influences the way you play the game – do you explore for treasure or sink every ship you spot? The notoriety track has different failure points depending on your motives. If you go for “exploration” and sink too many ships too fast, you risk losing the game early! But fear not, I originally took “exploration” but then was given the option later in the game to adjust my motive. I took “war” right before I was due to lose the game based upon my original motive and stayed in the game for five more turns before the HMS Invincible finished me off and sunk the Nautilus. In addition, the motive cards modify the victory points you gain for different from completing different adventure cards.
Then you use the chart in the instructions to shuffle adventure cards along with special Act I, Act II, Act III and Finale cards in to a deck. This deck will partially dictate the flow of the game. Each adventure card features text from Verne’s book in order to set the tone for the turn. Adventures can include everything from Ned Land, the Canadian harpoonist you rescued, throwing a fit of temper and attacking you to encountering special hunting ships ready to destroy the “sea monster” (which is how the world views your submarine) to fighting a giant squid! These cards are put on the left side of the board.
Each adventure card gives ways to pass the adventure and succeed plus ways to lose and suffer the consequences.
In addition, there is another deck of adventure cards which provide missions for the crew to go on in order to explore the seas of the world and find treasures. These cards are put on the right side of the board. When you achieve a test on these cards, you draw from the treasure chits to accumulate wealth or other positive effects from the treasure hunt. Sometimes these chits allow you to add jewels to your stash of treasure.
The point to point map of the world has spaces for each of the oceans. Some spaces include counters for unsighted ships. As the game progresses, more and more ships populate the ocean spaces. When you encounter a ship, it may be an innocent passenger liner or it could be a war ship tasked with finding and killing the “sea monster!
Character cards represent various characters from the book such as Ned Land and Professor Aronnax. These folks can be used to help out with difficult situations. Once they are used, they are flipped over and can’t be utilized again unless a specific circumstance allows it.
The gemstones are placed on the map and on top of the Adventure card draw deck on the right side of the board. Initially, based upon the format of the rule book, I had no idea what these gemstones represented but, I must admit, I liked their bling! I still wasn’t particularly clear to me after playing but the gemstones seem to provide extra-valuable treasure in areas that contain them.
The Nautilus, itself, is rated for Nemo’s health, the health and efficiency of its crew and its hull points. If any of these ratings fall to zero, the game ends in failure. Three lines of numbers with descriptions are located on the board – that’s what each line represents. In addition, there are other numbers between the ratings points on the status lines, these represent bonus points which can be used to modify die rolls for successes but each time one is used, the rating in that particular line falls. These ratings can be boosted back up by doing things like resting the crew or repairing the submarine but these attempts may not be successful.
Through the course of the game, the Nautilus can be augmented or upgraded with additional systems. Things like advanced propulsion or armor or even primitive torpedoes.
Another area of the map contains space for counters which show the state of rebellions across the globes which can be stoked by Nemo and his agents. These rebellions can help take the “heat” off of Nemo and the Nautilus.
For each turn you draw an event card and play through its affects, then you chose actions based upon the number of action points you have (which can change each turn). Actions include things like exploring, repairing or upgrading the Nautilus, giving the crew a rest, going to battle stations and attacking ships (either with a bold attack or by carefully stalking them), moving, etc.
When the Nautilus encounters a ship combat can occur. If the ship is a warship and the Nautilus is not armed with torpedoes, the war ship attacks first. If the ship encountered was a civilian ship or the Nautilus survives the first salvo, the Nautilus attacks usually by ramming the enemy ship. Combat is quickly and efficiently handled and can be very deadly for the Nautilus if things go wrong.
Then you roll to see how many more ships populate the ocean board. If there are too many ships on the board, it can create very dangerous situations for your submarine. If all the ocean spaces are filled up by ships, the game ends with your defeat. Needless to say it is important to balance your attack on the world’s shipping with your motives and notoriety with your need to travel the oceans without attracting dangerous attention.
The turns continue through all three acts and towards the finale (if you can make it that far). If you survive until the end, there are rules for determining victory points based upon Nemo’s motives then the Epilogue Book is consulted and this provides an ending to your game’s story.
The game play is like an interactive novel. It propels you in to the world of Jules Verne and spins a strong, atmospheric narrative. There are so many variables that no game plays like any other game. The varieties of adventures combined with the motives of Nemo make for a game with fantastic replay value. Rules are provided to make the game easier or harder depending on the player’s skill and success in past games. Additionally rules are provided to have the game become a multiplayer game instead of a solo experience.
I must admit that there are so many layers to this game, I’m still exploring the possibilities and Victory Point Games has just announced a new expansion! I for one can’t wait to cast off in the Nautilus again! “Mobilis in Mobile” or as we say “”moving within the moving element” aka “moving in the sea”. Nemo’s War is a winner and one of my favorite games of 2017!
Armchair General Rating: 98 %
Solitaire Rating: 5
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!