- Designer: Johann Favazzo
- Publisher: Blam!
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 12+
- Time: 75-90 minutes
Nemeton is a new game from Blam! – a game company from the Alps (as seen in the snow covered “A” in their company logo). The company first hit my radar last year with Time Arena, a clever combat game which used sandtimers. The new release, which was sent to me in nearly final Prototype form, is Nemeton. It is the maiden design by Mr. Favazzo (well, at least as far as BGG knows, it is his first design!) In this game, players are druids, inhabitants of a Forest which has been cursed and is somehow dying. The druids must try to rescue the forest and its animals. Using all you powers, including those of the nemetons, will help you score the most victory points – which of course means you’ve done the best to save the forest.
I had never heard of many of the words in the game, such as Nemeton. According to the always reliable and truthful Wikipedia: “A nemeton was a sacred space of ancient Celtic religion. Nemeta appear to have been primarily situated in natural areas, and, as they often utilized trees, they are often interpreted as sacred groves. However, other evidence suggests that the word implied a wider variety of ritual spaces, such as shrines and temples.”
Each player starts with their own player board which holds an Owl tile to start the game. Players also get two special movement tokens. A goal board is placed on the periphery of table – this has 11 goals on it as well as 7 animal tokens. It is surrounded by potion cards in an array. The initial part of the forest is made from two starting tiles which are placed in the center of the table. An Oak tree is placed in the open field.
As the game goes on, the visible part of the forest will grow with each turn. Each player is given a set of 8 shuffled moon tiles marked with the same rune, and then two extra starter tiles are added to the top of the stack for a total of 10. DO NOT look that the backside of the tiles.
The game is played over 10 rounds. Each player goes through the four phases of his turn (Night, Dawn, Day, Dusk) and then the next player goes.
Night – take the top Moon tile from your stack and place it adjacent to one or more tiles of the Forest – for now, DO NOT look at the backside of the tiles. The Moon side of the tile shows you one of the terrain types on it (blue water, green field, brown dirt, or gray rock). You place it next to a tile or tiles and then look along each of 6 possible axes. The Moon shines from your tile along these 6 directions in a straight line. The moon will illuminate any tiles in those straight lines BETWEEN itself and a tile of matching type. Any moonlit hexes which are empty – that is without any plant tokens nor druid figures on it – refill with plant tokens.
Dawn – Flip the newly placed Moon tile over, if there is a special symbol at the bottom, get a matching Special (Nemeton) tile from the box, and then place the shown objects on the tile. This nemeton tile is then placed so that it is adjacent to the newly placed tile and at least one other.
Day – Here, your druid must over in the forest – 1 or 2 tiles in a straight line – and then they may take the action of the space they stop on. Druids can collect all the plants on the tile. If there is another druid there, plant tokens may be exchanged. Or, if there is a special thing on the tile – your Druid can Brew a Potion is a Megalith present; use an Animal tile if a Spring is present, or use the powers of an Oak Tree. There are some special ways to move; you can exhaust a special movement token to either take an extra step OR change direction while moving. You can also discard a purple Nightshade token to turn into a bird and fly to a space with an Oak Tree in it – this is a free movement, and you can still take your 1 or 2 hexes of movement.
To brew a potion, you must be at a Megalith (Nemeton) space and trade in the plants depicted on the card. Discard the plants and take the card and place it next to your board.
If you are at a Spring, you can collect either pair of Animal tiles in the bottom row by paying plant tokens as seen on the pair of tiles you collect. These Animal tiles are then placed on your board. These animal tokens can be expended later in the game to do things such as changing the terrain type the moon shines on, giving you more options when brewing or taking Animal tiles, or allowing you to walk over hexes with rivers on them for free. Each animal tile can be used ONCE in the game; once you use its special ability, flip the token over. Additionally, if you took animal tiles or brewed a potion, you have the option of taking the Triskell token (if still available) OR reactivating one of your two special movement tokens.
Dusk – Refill the Potion and Animal tokens if any were taken. Then, see if you have completed one of the 11 goals on the board. If so, place your marker on the goal space. Generally, you must simply meet a game state (i.e. possess two Triskell tiles, possess one of each of the five colors of plants). Nothing is discarded when you meet a goal, you simply mark it with one of your player tokens. If there is still a plant token bonus on the space (as you are the first to reach the goal); take the marker as your bonus. You may only complete one goal per turn.
The game ends after the end of the 10th round – at this point, all the players will have exhausted their stack of moon tiles. Scoring is done on the back of the player board. You score points as shown for your completed goals and brewed potions. You score 2VP for each Triskell token that you collected, and you score points for each set of 5 unique animal tiles (with partial credit being given for incomplete sets). The player with the most points wins; ties are broken in favor of the player with the most plant tokens at the end of the game.
Nemeton is an interesting take on the resource management game as there is a tile-laying element that goes along with it. The main resource are the plant tokens; you collect these as you walk through the forest, and then you convert them into victory points by brewing potions out of them. You can score 3/5/7/10 points for potions that take 2/3/4/5 plant tokens. There is a second currency in the game, namely the animal tokens. These will convert to victory points at the end of the game.
The tile laying part of the game helps bring a bit of uncertainty to the game as the forest evolves in sometimes unpredictable ways. There is also a certain randomness to the location and timing of the special tiles, and sometimes it helps to be lucky in this regard. You will surely benefit if a needed tile comes up at the right time so that you can pick up some animal tiles or brew a nice valuable potion…
You also need to figure out where the best place to put your Moon tile is – you should try to make sure that you are able to pick up plant tokens on each turn. As you only get 10 turns in the four-player game, you really must make sure you get 1-2 plant tokens if you are not taking a special action. To make this possible, be sure that the moon illuminates the tile where you plan to stop!
The game is mostly a sandbox sort of thing, with the exception of the resource trading. Whenever you land in a space with another druid, you can engineer a trade of plant tokens. The active player gets to decide which resource is given up by BOTH druids. So, you can possibly get a resource that you especially need… or you can take something away from an opponent so that he can’t complete a goal or a potion on his next turn possibly. Each druid does have the ability to protect one of his resources on the somewhat not clearly marked bulga with thorns around it – a graphic which is generally obscured by the actual wooden plant token that sits on top of it. In general, just remember that you can’t steal the left most resource.
As I mentioned at the outset, I was sent a pre-production prototype, so the artwork and components are not necessarily final – but I am impressed with what is in my set, and I would be happy if these boards, tokens, etc were in fact the true retail production. The rules are fairly well laid out, though there are a few confusing terms which are used to keep with the theme – but in my opinion, only served to confuse me as I was not familiar with the terms and then later at the lack of constancy in the usage of these unfamiliar terms: Nemeton/megalith are exchanged at times, “ogham” and “bulga” without definition at first… But, after a careful reading and use of the helpful examples in the rules, all became clear.
The player aids included in the card deck are a big help showing you pictorially what you can do on your turn and how the animal tokens could work. It is admittedly a little confusing at first, but once you are walked thru how the pictures on the card work – it becomes a useful reference. The player board also helps you remember what the different animal tokens do.
The overall game is complex but the individual options each turn/phase are fairly simple, and I do think that with some familiarity with the game, it should fall into the 75 minute time frame as stated on the box. I look forward to giving this more play in the coming months.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor