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Subject: Nemo's War review: would Jules Verne have been proud of this? rss

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Stephane Josephy
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Nemo's War by Chris Taylor.
Victory Point Games
1 player
Age 12+
Time: 45'

Foreword: Back when I was a teenager here in Belgium, our clueless French teachers probably enforced a strict no-fun policy when picking the books we had to read. Adventure? Nope! Action, suspense, thrills? You're kidding me! Comedy? Get outta here! Hundreds of pages of psychoanalytic descriptions of a woman enduring painful menstruations? Yup, that's your September assignment. (and I'm not making this up).
So, obviously, I never had a chance to read any Jules Verne novel back then, and for some reason, I never caught up until now. So, when I played my first couple of Nemo's War games, I wondered how thematically close it was from the original book. And then, just for you, my dear readers, I bought and read 20.000 Leagues under the Sea, then played another couple of games before posting this review. That's what I'd call professionalism, if I was making any money here (besides geekGold, hint hint )

Theme: Nemo's War describes Nemo's year-long journey around the world, inside his submarine Nautilus. Jules Verne depicted Nemo as a mysterious character with unclear motivations. Was he pursuing wealth, scientific enlightenment, revenge, or was he just a misanthropist hiding from the rest of the world? The book didn't really provide clear answers, and the game has the great idea of leaving that choice to the player. What motivates you as the impersonation of Nemo: Science, exploration, anti-imperialism or war? The choice is yours!

Now, is the game close to the book? Yes, very close. Event cards reenact book events (with much-appreciated flavor text), and, whilst these cards are drawn randomly, you can also, as a variant, sort them out and play them chronologically. If you read the book, this is a very nice touch. The three main characters besides the captain (Aronnax, Conseil and Ned Land) are also part of the journey, adding a one-shot powerful effect against an amount of Victory Points (VPs). However, I somewhat disliked the fact that the game is heavily biased towards naval combat, where the book is fairly pacific. I guess it is easier to design a game around combat than around cephalopod classification...

Components & rulebook clarity: this is a Victory Point game. See my Disaster on Everest review for my feelings about VP and hand-crafted games. I knew what I was getting: extra-thin game map, really cheap event cards, two of the smallest ever d6s, and approximately cut out counters. Not exactly high quality, you need to be aware of that.
The 6 pages of rules are nicely written and leave no room for interpretation or error.
You also get an epilogue sheet, telling the outcome based on Nemo's commitment and your score.


Game Mechanics: Nemo's War plays over 52 weeks. However, if the deck of events runs out, the seas are filled with enemy ships or one of the Nautilus' resources runs out (Nemo, crew, hull), the game ends prematurely.
Each week starts with a 2d6 check to see whether an event occurs. If so, events themselves often require another 2d6 check to determine if they PASS or FAIL. You can gamble Nautilus' resources to have a bonus to the dice roll. But a failed roll means that those resources are lost, so you have to pick your spots wisely. Passed events give VPs and science points, whilst failed events can deplete the resources.
After the event phase, you can perform your action for the turn:
- move the Nautilus to other ocean
- search for treasure in the area
- fight ships in the area
- rest (gain one crew), repair (gain one hull point) or refit (use salvaged wrecks to add extra equipment to the sub)
- incite (liberate native people from imperialism).

If you choose War as Nemo's commitment, you'll fight a lot, while exploration leads to lots of treasure hunting, for instance. At the end of the game, sunken ships, treasures, freed people, science, wonders and remaining resources give VPs, with given multipliers according to the chosen commitment. For instance, a sunken warship of value 4 is worth 8 VP if you chose War, but only 2 if you went for Science. This ensures some nice variety between games.

In the end, according to the score, you get an utter defeat (< 50), failure, draw, success, triumph (201+). After 4 tries, I never scored more than a draw. Doh.

Gameplay experience: Ok, we get the basics. Is it fun? I really like the fact that you have to make a commitment and follow it despite the temptations, while keeping an eye on the seas and your resources to avoid a premature ending. Oh, and another nice touch: during the game, you can switch the commitment once, and decide to go for some other goal.
Basically, this allows you to change the end of game terms during the game! Cool. As the game progresses, you'll find yourself wondering how to squeeze some extra VPs before the year is over, and this leads to interesting dilemmas (unless you play for War, in which case the path -sink as much ships as you can- is rather straightforward, not to
say dull.)
Now, if I have to find something I don't like about Nemo's War, I'd say the amount of dice-rolling. Lots and lots of 2d6 checks here, be ready to throw over 150 dice during the course of the game, and despite the fact that you can decide to apply modifiers or not, I really have the impression that the luck factor is just a little bit too predominent here. But hey, let me win a few games, and perhaps this game will be all about skillz!

In the end, Nemo's War is a fairly accurate depiction of 20.000 Leagues under the Sea, and a game with a lot of qualities for solo gamers. Very original and narratively rich, it lets you choose your own way, and even change it mid-game. Multiple goals, multiple end-of-game conditions, this is a swiss-knife of a game!


Pros & cons:

+ originality of the theme
+ Nemo's commitment determines the score algorithm
+ events relate faithfully to Verne's novel
+ difficulty (one-more-try factor)

- too much combat
- too much dice rolls


Overall: 7.5/10
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John Welch
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Chris is an amazing game designer and developer...and a really nice guy to boot! Nemo's War is a wonderful game and really does capture the feel of the novel. I would love to see the reaction of students if they had a chance to play this game while reading 20,000 Leagues.

I've been lucky enough to see Chris' prototype for a War of the Worlds game and it looks positively fantastic!
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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nounet wrote:
Now, if I have to find something I don't like about Nemo's War, I'd say the amount of dice-rolling. Lots and lots of 2d6 checks here, be ready to throw over 150 dice during the course of the game, and despite the fact that you can decide to apply modifiers or not, I really have the impression that the luck factor is just a little bit too predominent here.

You may or may not like the die rolling, but the fact you do a lot of it doesn't imply a high level of luck in the outcome. A large number of die rolls actually reduces the impact of luck, as opposed to a game with a smaller number.
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Rob Rob
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I have a number of VP games. While I appreciate the effort in providing a game completely playable "out of the ziplock," I'd really rather they saved themselves the effort/money on supplying me with micro dice that I'm going to immediately replace with some of the many D6 (we all have) laying around.
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Victory Point Games
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The dice are a gift from us. Please accept them in the spirit in which they were given, as a "thank you" for your purchase from us. :)

Alan Emrich
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Christopher Stueck
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I must say that I truly enjoy the game. I agree with everyone that it follows the spirit of the book. The game "made me" find the book and read it again.
Also, I appreciate the gift of the dice. Among other things, they are a great conversation starter. I actually ordered more of the tiny dice and built a small dice tower for rolling them. (makes it harder for me to lose them)
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Indiana Jones
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What impressed me the most about this review is that I just learned I can read Belgian I'm calling my travel agent tomorrow and booking me a long deserved vacation laugh

Thanks for the review!
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Stephane Josephy
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Sphere wrote:
You may or may not like the die rolling, but the fact you do a lot of it doesn't imply a high level of luck in the outcome. A large number of die rolls actually reduces the impact of luck, as opposed to a game with a smaller number.

Correct, of course. Let's just say I find the amount of dice rolls annoying, and that, ultimately, as the dice decide the outcome of critical events, some people might find it frustrating.

Robrob wrote:
I have a number of VP games. While I appreciate the effort in providing a game completely playable "out of the ziplock," I'd really rather they saved themselves the effort/money on supplying me with micro dice that I'm going to immediately replace with some of the many D6 (we all have) laying around.

As I read somewhere else, the gain of removing those microdice is something like a few cents. I wonder if the cost of replacing those dice by real ones is also in the range of a few cents... In the meantime, I somehow appreciate the microdice. Believe it or not, the last couple of Nemo's War games I tried where in a remote location, with no other dice available. So, they can actually be handy at times!

jaderaistlin wrote:
What impressed me the most about this review is that I just learned I can read Belgian I'm calling my travel agent tomorrow and booking me a long deserved vacation laugh

Yup, Belgium, visit it while it lasts soblue
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Lance McMillan
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nounet wrote:
As I read somewhere else, the gain of removing those microdice is something like a few cents. I wonder if the cost of replacing those dice by real ones is also in the range of a few cents... In the meantime, I somehow appreciate the microdice. Believe it or not, the last couple of Nemo's War games I tried where in a remote location, with no other dice available. So, they can actually be handy at times!


Just so everyone's clear, when Alan says those dice are a 'gift' from VPG, he means it. Notice that there's no mention of dice anywhere in the game parts inventory. Alan bought a big box-o-minidice early on so he could stick one into each of VPG's games, and I've been told that once that box is exhausted, ain't no more dice bein' tossed into those game baggies. So if you like the teeny dice, get 'em while you can.
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Michael Matecha
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I LOVE mini dice!

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Captain Nemo
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nounet wrote:
Sphere wrote:
You may or may not like the die rolling, but the fact you do a lot of it doesn't imply a high level of luck in the outcome. A large number of die rolls actually reduces the impact of luck, as opposed to a game with a smaller number.

Correct, of course. Let's just say I find the amount of dice rolls annoying, and that, ultimately, as the dice decide the outcome of critical events, some people might find it frustrating.

Sounds like a killer to me. My experience of solitaire is lots of rolls on tables that leave me unmoved.

nounet wrote:
Yup, Belgium, visit it while it lasts soblue

Done it; bought the T-shirt... . Waiting for it to slide into the waves ... .
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Joshua Gottesman
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hammurabi70 wrote:
nounet wrote:
[q="Sphere"]You may or may not like the die rolling, but the fact you do a lot of it doesn't imply a high level of luck in the outcome. A large number of die rolls actually reduces the impact of luck, as opposed to a game with a smaller number.

Correct, of course. Let's just say I find the amount of dice rolls annoying, and that, ultimately, as the dice decide the outcome of critical events, some people might find it frustrating.

Sounds like a killer to me. My experience of solitaire is lots of rolls on tables that leave me unmoved.

Wow...its tough if Captain Nemo doesn't like his own game. This is not like B-17 or something like that where everything is decided by rolling and looking at tables. Here, you just have a large number of "challenges" and similar situations where success or failure is based on the die roll. Its not like you have to roll and go to Chart A which tells you where you move and then Chart B tells you what you encounter there and then Chart C tells you the results of the encounter, etc., etc. I think the die rolling is in there so its less scripted.
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Jonan Jello
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Very nice review, Stephane Josephy. I bought Nemo's War around the time I was crazy for playing Zulus on the Ramparts. Played the game once and returned to Zulus.
This summer, Nemo's War has been revisited and had several games played. It's quite a good solitaire game. Sure there's a lot of dice rolling, but I've come to expect that in a lot of my 1-player games (although recently games like LoTR: The Card Game and Onirim have shown provided me hours of diceless solitaire fun)

I find Science the easiest commitment. Haven't won a single game, but I get very close with Exploration and Science commitments. Seems the commitments increase in difficulty from left to right in their commitment track box on the pay mat?

Here's a question for any of you who've played the game. Do you ever use Ned Land, Professor Aronnax or Conseil? I've yet to sacrifice there VP value for a re-roll or + DRM.


professorwelch wrote:

I've been lucky enough to see Chris' prototype for a War of the Worlds game and it looks positively fantastic!

....
Someone please tell me this is going to see the light of day through VPG!
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John Smales
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Colonel Peter Gansevoort (1749 – 1812) Defender of Ft. Stanwix, Rome, N.Y., 1777
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I've been playing war games for years--started with Avalon Hill in the early 90s--and I love this little game. It takes about an hour to play, and it keeps me totally interested each time I hit the high seas.
I'd buy War of the Worlds in a micro second. Hats off the Chris for having the imagination and passion to put a gem like this on our maps.
I've mentioned this on another thread, but I'd buy a GMT Deluxe version of this game without question.
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