Dale Yu: Review of Rebel Nox

Rebel Nox

  • Designers: Helge Meissner, Eilif Svensson, Anna Wermlund, Kristian Amundsen Ostby
  • Publisher: Aporta Games
  • Players: 4-6
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Aporta Games

Rebel Nox is an interesting card game that has a bit of trick taking, a bit of social deduction, a bit of shifting alliances, and a lot of influence point collecting.  It is a standalone game in the universe of Capital Lux, one of Aporta’s earlier releases.

In Rebel Nox, each round is played over six different locations, each with its own set of rules.  These locations are arranged in the shape of a pyramid with three cards at the base level. As five of the six locations are randomly drawn each round; it will always feel different.  There is a deck of cards which goes from 1-17 in 3 colors as well as 3 rebel cards. The deck is sized for the number of players and then each player gets a hand of 9 cards. Anyone who is dealt at least one rebel card declares that they are on the rebel side at the start of the round.  (Note that they do not tell you how many rebel cards they have – only that they have rebel cards).

One of the rebel cards has a star on it – and the player who holds this card leads the first “trick”.  This part of the game follows a trick taking pattern. A conflict marker is placed on one of the bottom-most locations.  This is the location being fought over this trick. One player leads a card and then all other players must follow suit if possible.  The color of the lead suit also determines the trump suit for that trick (this is explained on the conflict marker).

Each of the cards has a color and rank, and some of them also have special symbols.  Assassins take out the highest ranked card, Infiltrators cause the player who played the lowest card to switch cards with the winner, Flags increase the value of a location.   Assassins are applied first and then the trick is resolved. The winner takes the location card and any flags on it. Now, apply any location card effects. Finally, infiltrator card switching occurs.

Continue playing until all six tricks are done – which means all the locations are played for and claimed.  Then, at the end of the round, players once again announce if they are Rebels or not – note that due to Infiltrator play, team identities can switch in the midst of a round! Each team calculates their influence – found on the location cards collected plus the flags collected.  The players on the winning side collect followers (dependent on the number of players on the team: 6/4/3/2/1 followers if 1/2/3/4/5 players on the team).

Finally, you check to see if either team has won – if a team has more than 10 followers per player on the team, that team wins.  If both teams have exceeded the threshold, then the team which won the most recent round wins. If there is no winner, you play another round.  Players keep the three cards they are currently holding; the rest are shuffled, and 6 cards are dealt out to everyone to set up the next round. Locations are set up again and the game continues.

Dale Yu: Review of Rebel Nox

So, when I first got the game in Essen, I was under the impression that it was a trick taking game with a whiff of social deduction.  Once I played it a few times, I’m honestly not sure how to categorize it. Sure, you take “tricks” along the way, but it doesn’t really feel like any other trick taking game as the evaluation and the eventual winning of the game is so different from anything else.

The trick here is trying to figure out who is on your team and then trying to further your team to victory.  Of course, you don’t always have control of which team you’re on… If you’re a rebel, an Infiltrator can draw your Rebel card from you… and then, you’re a Loyalist now.   For the rest of the table, it just becomes an exercise in guessing who has what cards. There are only 6 tricks each round, so there’s not a lot of time to try to figure out who is on what team based on behavior.

In my games, I have won twice. Both times by engineering myself on a team by myself, and then winning with just more than 10 points.  I suppose that there was some skill involved in that play. But, after most of my games, the majority of players in those games have told me that they never really felt sure about who was on what team, and as a result, it ended up feeling like the game played them.

I would have to agree.  Of course, people familiar with my strong, intense, long-lasting, and never wavering dislike of social deduction games would have probably realized this early on – but to be clear; the addition of unknown and shifting roles seems to hinder the game more than it helps.  I personally find it too frustrating to try to figure it all out; so I have spent my games focusing on myself and how to get on a team by myself in the end – and this approach takes most of the social deduction element out of the game, and makes the game tolerable for me.

The art is similar to that of Capital Lux.  If you liked the futuristic sci-fi vibe of that game, this one has it in spades.  The cards are of good quality; but I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of the single indexed cards.  Sure, it gives the artist space for large expressive artwork, but it reduces playability, and it also leads to a higher chance of a card getting a mark which identifies it as there is only ever one correct way to hold the card in your hand.   As you play the game, you’ll either learn to keep your hand unsorted, or you’ll end up shuffling it a lot because there is plenty of drawing of cards out of hands.

Pikoko on the left, Rebel nox on the right – in both cases — why?!

I like the concept of the game – this is certainly a game where each card play needs to be thought out; trying to figure out who is on what team now… and how those teammates might change before the end of the round, and all sorts of other things.  But, there just isn’t enough game there for me to want to spend that much energy. Maybe it’ll work for a werewolf player who wants to get into real games. But, for me, this one fell flat.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

James Nathan (1 play): It wasn’t for me either. I was also expecting, or at least hoping, for more trick-taking and less social deduction -that it may be more teams that shift around. Maybe I’d be okay with that, I thought. But my group doesn’t do a lot of out-loud negotiation and maybe that’s what Rebel Nox needs: They passed some cards back and forth and maybe I’m on a different team now.

Should I have said that part out loud?

We say those parts in our head because, well, social deduction isn’t our thing.  Out-loud negotiation isn’t our thing. If it was, would things be different?

My experience is limited, but I swapped cards with another player one time. With the effects of the various locations, the card special abilities, the shifting teams, the amount of cards not dealt out in a 4-player game…it’s at least one unpredictable element too many, and maybe more.

Dan Blum (1 play): We played with six so all the cards were dealt out and it was essentially impossible to engineer a one-person team, but it still wasn’t very good. The facts that you’re only playing six tricks from a nine-card hand and there are so many assassins mean that trick play is very chaotic, and the game doesn’t have much else going for it. I like the idea of a shifting-alliance trick-taking game that’s not Mu (Mu is good but having a different game of that sort would be interesting), but I don’t think it was executed very well here.

Joe Huber (1 play): I can live with a game where things just happen, if the things are interesting enough.  Trick taking isn’t interesting enough – there needs to be more to a trick taking game to earn it even a temporary spot in my collection.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me… Dale Y, James Nathan, Dan Blum, Joe H.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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