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[Nemo's War] Tips and advice

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Anonymous Bosch
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[Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

I got motivated to give this terrific game another whirl after it was mentioned in a recent South Park episode. For anyone unfamiliar with the game, have a butcher's at my review in the Solo Board Gamers thread.

Anyway, I thought it might be useful to provide some helpful tips and advice here, as I recall Smoove mentioning not so long ago that he had struggled with the game. Partially because he still hasn't read the story the game is based upon, which definitely helps provide for a more immersive experience when playing this game, so pull yer finger out there Smoove! (pro tip: just skip over the prolix taxonomic listings of every plant and animal Arronax encounters)

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of getting the most out of this game is learning how to 'paint' the board to fit one's motive. This is often easily overlooked, especially when you're new to the game and tend to be more focused upon the unfolding thematic narrative than much else. 'Painting the board' is best explained and illustrated by the designer of the 2nd Edition in the video below:



Once the the penny drops about the importance of the Ship Placement Phase and how best to utilise it in relation to your motive, you'll soon realise the game is not the luck-fest it may seem at first pass. Having said that, it certainly won't eliminate the luck factor. But it'll definitely help you face the challenge of bad luck, or maximise a run of good luck. It is Nemo's WAR after all, so randomness -- and how best to cope with it -- is vital to the experience.

I would also recommend paying careful attention to the advice posted here and here. Much of which is critical to improving one's score, particularly in terms of achieving 'Success' or 'Triumph' levels of victory.

Finally, I found using this hybrid dynamic scoring system from BGG to track my score dynamically was highly beneficial in improving my gameplay choices. Keep in mind, you play an average of 25 turns per game. So if you're aiming for a successful result (i.e. a score of 250+), that necessitates an average of 10 VPs every turn. So scoring dynamically can be surprisingly useful in terms of illustrating the most beneficial choices depending on your chosen motive, and avoiding wasteful choices that may not otherwise seem obvious when totalling your score after the game has ended.
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Smoove_B »

These are all great, but sadly I think my copy is destined for the trade pile. I will likely give it one more go during these coming holidays (and my desire to be away from in-laws and instead 20,000 leagues under the sea), but I'm not hopeful. It's a great list of things. Maybe I'll find renewed inspiration. :)
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by $iljanus »

Smoove_B wrote: Wed Nov 20, 2019 11:47 am These are all great, but sadly I think my copy is destined for the trade pile. I will likely give it one more go during these coming holidays (and my desire to be away from in-laws and instead 20,000 leagues under the sea), but I'm not hopeful. It's a great list of things. Maybe I'll find renewed inspiration. :)
It's a beautifully made game and I think you should get good value for it. I have a copy so unfortunately I can't take it off your hands and go 40,000 leagues under the sea!
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

Smoove_B wrote: Wed Nov 20, 2019 11:47 am These are all great, but sadly I think my copy is destined for the trade pile. I will likely give it one more go during these coming holidays (and my desire to be away from in-laws and instead 20,000 leagues under the sea), but I'm not hopeful. It's a great list of things. Maybe I'll find renewed inspiration. :)
I certainly hope you're able to keep at it, because it truly can be one of the most rewarding solo experiences around. Rest assured, I went through plenty of unsuccessful games before the game began to 'click' for me.

Once the penny drops -- and learning to 'paint the board' plays a significant role in this -- you'll soon begin to grasp the depth of strategic choices the game provides. When you do begin to eke out successful voyages, they feel that much more epic and rewarding because you know they're hard-fought and not easily won. Make no mistake, that often means Nemo's gotta be brutally efficient if he's to prevail (sucks for the characters that need to be sacrificed, but needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle).

Just to reiterate, I'm going to quote from one of the posts I linked to above:
Wes Erni wrote:Some general mistakes beginners make:

Moving too much -- moving may be fun, but if you just imagine you are throwing a 3 Treasure away each time you move (value of an action point), you might plan a little deeper before moving a muscle.

Lack of patience -- not so much in War, but the other 3 Motives greatly reward very patient play. Letting the board "mature" before executing a well-conceived long-term "attack plan" is enormously advantageous.

Dictate that board -- Look very closely at that innocuous "Ship Placement Priority" chart, you can can literally paint and sculpt the board to (nearly) perfectly fit your agenda. It is sheer poetry how you can completely fill the Tonnage track with marus (non-warships) playing Anti-Imperialism, while engaging only one or two "serious" warships.

Plan the entire game before it even starts -- Of course you have to make long-term plans (which does take a LOT of experience), before you know how to execute them. Knowing exactly what is needed to survive all three "instant defeat" conditions (Notoriety, Resources, one "Hunter" too many) is vital -- the going is so easy in the beginning that it is quite common to have death "sneak up on you". The "Soft Motives" in particular want to know how many ships they need to sink in order to survive (it really isn't that many once you understand the value in targeted REVEALED appropriate ships). The "Goldilocks" amount of killing (and locations) not only keeps Notoriety low, it facilitates huge scores when those Motives concentrate on their "rainmaker" actions.

Being efficient -- knowing when "one more Upgrade refitted is one too many", knowing those "attractive nuisances" that will cost WAY too many Action Points to profitably pass, how to make Lulls your friend...etc., etc. There is an innumerable amount of little tricks to the game -- and the clock must always be "watched". Certain "tasks" (like completing the Tonnage track) have to be done in time, or the player can suffer an immense number of VP "non-gains" (I often will not score a single Scourge VP if the game ended on turn 22 -- but guarantee 40 VPs after turn 23).

Understanding the board -- The board looks so simple, that one can easily fail to see the "geography". The Eastern Pacific is its own "eco-system", but the other 5 Major Oceans are linked to form one giant "sea mass". For movement purposes Europe (at least prior to Arabian Tunnel) is at one "one end", the Western Pacific the other. But strategically (far more important), Europe is the Center...King of the board, the North Atlantic and the Indian are the "swing Oceans", the Western Pacific and South Atlantic are on the "wings".

To give one example of basic "geographic exploitation", the Anti-Imperialist Nemo savagely attacks the "swing" Oceans early (blind, but they are mainly marus and weak warships Act I & II), filling those Oceans Tonnage tracks and creating "vent Oceans" to "purge" undesirable (warships) away from later Hunting grounds. The North Atlantic and Indian Oceans becoming toxic waste dumps of horrifying baddies that will never be fought, the others pure maru and/or one weak warship "escorting" a maru "convoy". There are many, many more "combinations" of Oceans that can used to take advantage of each game's early randomness.
Rather than following the typical recommendation of choosing the Explorer motive (which does tend to require more movement than most), try playing Scientist instead. Make sure you initially upgrade to the Monstrous Design and focus upon the adventure action and treasure-hunting, moving as infrequently as possible. Don't be afraid to use up character tiles to help fuel lull turns. Try to avoid attacking hidden ships, and take out weak warships when they reveal themselves (and are the only warship in that ocean, so as to avoid the -1 DRM penalty). 'Paint the board' to dump nastier ships wherever they won't need to be fought. Aim to end your voyage in the cleared-out Eastern Pacific and if possible, upgrade the Nautilus for some late Imperial sniping. This should allow you to develop a better sense of how many ships to sink in order to survive, and at least ensure you can make it to the finale without needing to worry about Resource or Notoriety death. Which in turn should allow you to start developing a better feel for what's necessary to succeed.
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by YellowKing »

Anonymous, just wanted to thank you for posting this.

I had read a lot of Alan's advice on the BGG forums but haven't yet had a chance to really try it out. The video along with your other posted tips definitely made me want to get it back out and try again. Plus I've got all those nifty KS expansions I haven't tried yet!

I've told friends before that NEMO'S WAR might be the most prized game in my collection, despite the fact that I've never won it. In fact, that's precisely the reason it is so cherished. I LOVE challenging games, and a game I can't beat is not a source of frustration for me. Rather, it becomes like a friendly rival that I vow to take down some day. It mocks me from the shelf, and I find myself re-playing those games much more often.

The other reason it's so prized is that it is COMPLETELY different from any other game I own. I don't know how to describe the game to other people, because there's really nothing like it out there that I've seen. Layer that with an insane amount of strategic depth, and it's hands down my favorite solo game. Again, despite the fact that it kicks my ass Every. Single. Time.

It doesn't hurt that I absolutely love the theme. I've been a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fan since I was a kid reading the book and riding the ride at Disney World. Set out Nemo's War, throw on some nautical music, and I'm one happy camper.
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

YellowKing wrote: Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:35 pm Anonymous, just wanted to thank you for posting this.
My pleasure. I only hope I'm able to convince Smoove to keep at it before he parts way with the game, because just like you, I think it's definitely one the greatest -- and certainly most unique -- solo games ever created. Given that Smoove first started the OO Solo Board Gamers thread, I can't help but feel he's missing out on what can otherwise be a truly outstanding and highly-thematic solo experience like no other (though to appreciate the theme, reading a good translation of the story it's based upon is crucial).
YellowKing wrote: Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:35 pm It doesn't hurt that I absolutely love the theme. I've been a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fan since I was a kid reading the book and riding the ride at Disney World. Set out Nemo's War, throw on some nautical music, and I'm one happy camper.
Amen, you and I both.

When I was a wee nipper in the 80s my family visited Disney World almost every year, and the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride was always a firm favourite of mine. There was just something incredibly awe-inspiring about 'diving' down in a Nautilus submarine that looked just like the movie, and peeking out the portholes to see all the bubbles as you 'sank down to the depths' and took in all the nifty animatronics and such. It always fired up my imagination something fierce. Sure, the rides of today may have fancier bells and whistles, but I still feel bad for anyone that missed out on that ride. Much like the game, it was something rare and truly unique.
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Smoove_B »

I think I need to buckle-down and watch a playthrough on Youtube or something. Because the theme isn't drawing me in, I'm having a hard time with the mechanics. I think because it plays so differently and doesn't have a "flow" in the same way that other game do, I'm really struggling with piecing it all together. And of course I did start with Explorer - because that's what I love to do in games. Clearly a mistake here. :D
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

Smoove_B wrote: Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:21 am I think I need to buckle-down and watch a playthrough on Youtube or something. Because the theme isn't drawing me in, I'm having a hard time with the mechanics. I think because it plays so differently and doesn't have a "flow" in the same way that other game do, I'm really struggling with piecing it all together. And of course I did start with Explorer - because that's what I love to do in games. Clearly a mistake here. :D
Unfortunately, many video playthroughs I've seen tend to get things wrong (e.g. I came to realise the Lines' tutorial video in particular botches perhaps the most crucial rule in the game, i.e. ship placement). Just remember, when placing a revealed ship you draw it from the bag, look at it and then decide where it goes; you do not decide where it goes first. Deciding where to place a revealed ship is where much of the long term strategy of the game lies, allowing you to set up the map the way you want it. You can plan many turns in advance this way, and arrange the oceans to suit your motive. Anyway, I think the best place to start would be to watch this demo from Alan Emerich (who also injects plenty of thematic flavour) to learn the basics of how to play correctly:



But if you prefer to see a full playthrough, IIRC One Stop Co-Op Shop's playthrough does a better job than most :

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by tylertoo »

This game is now on my table. I picked it up in a game swap event this past fall, and finally pulled it out to learn/play a week or so ago. I've finished two games, one as explorer, the other with war motive, and lost both. I'm liking it and very interested in learning some real strategy and maybe eventually winning a game, so this thread is very helpful. Thanks anonymous bosch.
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

In terms of useful strategy, I'm going to repost the advice I offered Xmann in the OO Solo Board Gamers thread below, as it covers perhaps the most vital concept to improving results in Nemo's War.

I also recall reading a helpful remark from Alan Emrich, which mentioned that you typically play an average of 25.5 turns during a game of Nemo's War, depending when the Finale occurs. This means that in order to be SUCCESSFUL on your mission, you must aim to score 10+ VPs per turn on average (25 x 10 = 250 VP, the minimum necessary result for a SUCCESSFUL mission). If you're anything like me, it'll take numerous games before that occurs, but you'll learn from your mistakes. As you improve, keeping that simple benchmark in mind of aiming to score 10+ VPs per turn can be surprisingly helpful when striving for an elusive SUCCESSFUL mission.
Anonymous Bosch wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 9:12 pmBTW, one important aspect of the game I would strongly encourage you not to overlook: pay careful attention to the 'Placing Ship Tokens' section of the rules. Because I've seen several video playthroughs of Nemo's War get this wrong.

As the board fills up with hidden ship tokens, you'll eventually need to start placing revealed ship tokens instead. When you do this, you draw it from the bag or cup, examine it, and then decide where to put it; you do not decide where it goes first. Much of the long term strategy of the game lies in deciding where to place those revealed ships, allowing you to set up or 'paint' the map the way you'd prefer. You can plan many turns in advance this way, and arrange the oceans to best suit your motive. It's a subtle detail that can be easily overlooked while first learning the ropes. But overlooking this detail makes the game needlessly more erratic and difficult.

Here's the relevant section quoted from the Nemo's War manual:
victorypointgames.com wrote:Summary List When a Full Ocean Gains Another Ship:
  1. Place a Hidden Ship token in an adjacent Ocean.
  2. Draw a Ship token from the Ship cup, examine it, and replace a Hidden Ship token with it in that or an adjacent Ocean.
  3. Flip a revealed Non-warship to its Warship side (i.e., flip a white Ship token to its Gray side) in that or an adjacent Ocean.
  4. Draw a Warship from the Ship cup, examine it, and place it in any Open space anywhere in the world; if there are no Open spaces remaining, you lose (see Rule 14 – HOW THE GAME ENDS)! If you place it in the same Ocean as the Nautilus, you must fight it immediately.
This is a crucial strategy element in the game! How you decide to “paint the board” with the growing number of increasingly lethal Ship tokens is often the difference between the success or failure of your Motive. When you have a choice, consider these placements carefully!
For further clarification, watch this video explanation and demonstration from Alan Emrich, the 2nd edition designer and developer. The One Stop Co-Op Shop Nemo's War video playthrough does get this detail correct, so it's better than most in terms of visually depicting and correctly teaching how the game is played (other mistakes are made, but they are clearly annotated).

Also, look carefully at your 'Ship Resources' section on the board. Notice that Nemo starts out providing only a +2 Dice Roll Modifier (DRM). But thematically, like the original story, as Nemo declines he becomes more crazed and tenacious, so the Dice Roll Modifier he provides actually increases to a +3 DRM. Again, another subtle detail that is very easily overlooked, but one that can really help out in a pinch, especially as tensions invariably ramp up by the third act.

PS. If memory serves, non-Kickstarter versions of Nemo's War do not include the two cloth bags from which to draw treasure and ship tokens. But even though I own the Nemo's War Cloth Bundle, I found these velour FFS40 Fantasy Flight Tentacle-themed Dice Bags are more pleasant to use, so it's worth grabbing a couple if you enjoy upgrading your game components:

Nemo's War Cloth Bundle Bags:
Enlarge Image

Fantasy Flight Tentacle-themed Dice Bags:
Enlarge Image
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by YellowKing »

For what it's worth, I've yet to win a game yet still place it as my favorite pure solo game in my collection. I've got the latest KS expansion bundle coming whenever that's done. The expansions are not very expensive and are nice additions to the game.
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by hepcat »

Dawn of the Zeds latest edition is only slightly higher on my scale than Nemo...even though it has the single worst rule book I've ever come across. I need to get them both back on the table sometime soon.
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by malchior »

hepcat wrote: Thu Dec 02, 2021 10:58 am Dawn of the Zeds latest edition is only slightly higher on my scale than Nemo...even though it has the single worst rule book I've ever come across. I need to get them both back on the table sometime soon.
I've got to see this rule book because GMT would like to have a word. It feels like every one of their rule books is the worst rule book I've ever come across. Yet I can't help but enjoy their games once you get past it. On topic, I cracked Nemo's War last weekend and it's definitely a ton of fun.
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by hepcat »

When you split your game's rulebook into 3 separate volumes (and one isn't a playbook, like GMT does...it's literally a continuation of the rules) in an attempt to create 4 or 5 different variants for a single game (each one building upon the previous rules set), you've gone way beyond the simple failings of a badly written rule book.

For example: Let's say you want to play one of the advanced versions of the game that incorporate tunnels and other new components not found in variant 1 or 2 of the game (the simpler modes). You have to have book 2 open that includes the new rules, but then book 2 refers you to book 1 for rules on anything from the previous 2 variants of the game mentioned earlier.

The 3rd book is the comprehensive rules...which you would assume means comprehensive. That would be false. It's basically just a third book of variants and a crappy glossary.

So, to play any game beyond the most basic level 1 variant, you have to read the rules for the variant you're playing, then go back to previous variants to find the rules that were explained there.

It's a friggin' mess that has pissed off players from the very beginning. If the game weren't amazingly fun, I would have flushed the three rule books down the toilet in anger.

I think Tom at Qt3 said it best in his list of best solo games:
Dawn of the Zeds is nearly disqualified for the worst rules I’ve ever seen hitched to a well-designed game. The way they’re cut and shuffled among different modes, spread throughout different volumes, with different color-coding splattered across different components is an absolute disgrace to designer Hermann Luttman’s methodical wargamey approach to game design. It’s Victory Point’s clueless misguided development process at its very worst. A crayon smile scrawled across the Mona Lisa.

But once you get Dawn of the Zeds set up and running, you’re playing one of the rare games — on any platform — that truly understands and keenly expresses zombie mythology. With some B-movie garnish thrown in for good measure. If State of Decay 2 were a boardgame, if the first fifteen minutes of 28 Weeks Later were a boardgame, if Romero’s own Dawn of the Dead were a boardgame, it would be Dawn of the Zeds. Third edition, by the way, although the second edition is preferable in some ways.
That being said, I should check BGG to see if anyone has made a "master rule book" that does away with that nonsense. I know they created one for Space Empires that incorporated all the expansion rules into one rule book.
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Xmann »

Played my first game last night and it's really complicated, compared to what I usually play. I'll give it a couple more before I try my other new boards.
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by Anonymous Bosch »

Xmann wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 2:38 pm Played my first game last night and it's really complicated, compared to what I usually play. I'll give it a couple more before I try my other new boards.
Granted, there is a lot to take in when you first start playing. But one of the greatest design features of Nemo's War is that almost every essential rule necessary for playing is clearly and unambiguously printed right on the board in front of you. This makes for a refreshing and welcome change from the more typical and frustrating learning experience most games rely upon, requiring you to stop what you're doing, dig out the rulebook, and painstakingly search for further clarification there.

During your first outings piloting the Nautilus, I recommend you focus upon becoming accustomed to the routine of exerting (betting) your Ship Resources -- i.e. moving its marker one-half position to the right along its track to highlight its +X DRM value -- and develop the habit of always moving the relevant marker(s) back up or down where they belong immediately after resolving the results of your dice roll. Because unless you're super disciplined, it can be easy to become distracted and forget about this amidst the rest of the game's upkeep, and then lose track of where your Ship Resources should be as a result.
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster
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Re: [Nemo's War] Tips and advice

Post by tylertoo »

Anonymous Bosch wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 4:00 pm Because unless you're super disciplined, it can be easy to become distracted and forget about this amidst the rest of the game's upkeep, and then lose track of where your Ship Resources should be as a result.
Yes, this is spot on, I had to train myself to do this immediately or I'd forget.

I also found that the war motive is better for starting out, as it seems more straight forward. But I'm still new, so maybe other motives are better. I found the exploration motive less clear.
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