- Designer: RV Rigal
- Publisher: La Boite de Jeu
- Players: 1-4
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 60-90 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by La Boite de Jeu / Blackrock distribution
The Neta-Tanka is the leader of the Frostrivers tribe, and when it is time for the current leader to pass onto the next world, there is a ceremony where the potential new leaders of the tribe compete to show who is best suited to be the next Neta-Tanka. While this sounds a lot like the Hunger Games, it really is a much less violent sort of boardgame… Here, each player performs different actions which score them victory points, as this is obviously how the Frostrivers tribe measures greatness.
The main board shows the Village with its 14 different areas, and there is a totem pole board which goes alongside it. The deck of Neta-Tanka cards is shuffled and a display of five cards is laid out; the same is done for the Handicraft deck. There are many different locations in the village, each with its own action corresponding to it. There is also an area between many adjacent areas for a Link token.
Each player gets their own Clan board with a single Copy Power token on it to start the game. Each player also gets an Objective card which is kept secret. A starting player is chosen and players get a token compensation for their position in starting order.
The clan board has a number of distinct areas on it. The left side is a place to collect your resources. At the bottom, you will see ten cooking pots where you can feed your clan. The top of the board has space for 5 tents, and the center area is are area where you can stack resources to make Totem poles. Finally, Handicraft cards are aligned against the right side of your clan board.
The game is played over a pre-determined number of rounds; and each round goes through the same three Phases: Place Nomads, Resolve Actions, End of the Round
I] Place Nomads – each player places a single nomad on their turn onto a location. Depending on the icon on the space, some locations can accommodate only a single meeple while others can have as many as possible though there is a rule that says that you can never have two nomads of the same color in any location. It could be that players have an unequal number of Nomads, and players are skipped if they have none remaining. Continue until all Nomads are played to the board
II] Resolve Actions – Players take their turn – in which the use ALL of the actions of ALL of their Nomads; and these actions can be done in whatever order. When a Nomad is used, leave it in the same location, but lie the meeple down to show that it has been used. There are 18 possible actions to be done (actions with a caret ^ are open spaces, actions with an asterisk * can be done by a single meeple and CANNOT be copied, all other actions can only be done by a single meeple):
· Fell Timber – gain a Generosity point but then add resources (3 wood, 1 mushroom) to the Forest
· Get Wood – Take up to 2 wood from the Forest (if it is available)
· ^Get Mushrooms or Wood – Take 1 wood OR all the mushrooms in the Forest
· Erect a Totem Pole – Take 1 wood from your supply and place it on your Totem Pole on your Clan board. Adjust your standing on the Totem Pole board if necessary
· *Totem Elder – Take 1 wood from the supply and place it on the Totem Pole on your Clan board. Adjust your standing on the Totem Pole board if necessary
· *Handicraft Elder – Take a Handicraft card from the table, and add a resource from your personal supply onto one of your incomplete Handicraft card
· Make Handicrafts – add a resource from your personal supply onto one of your incomplete Handicraft card
· Make an Offering – trade Generosity for a resource or vice versa, spend a Generosity point to take a Handicraft card or spend a Generosity point to use a Link. You can make up to 3 Offerings per turn.
· Construct tents – Take up to three resources from your supply and put them in your Tent area
· ^Gather your Thoughts – get a Generosity point
· Hunt – take a Generosity point and then flip up one of the two Buffalo tokens to the “caught” side
· Tan – if there is a “caught” Buffalo token, flip it back over and add 3 hide and 3 meat to the tanning area. Then, take 2 hides from the tanning area, if available
· *Hunt Elder – take one Meat from the reserve, then play a resource to your tent area
· Smoke Meat – spend a wood, take 2 meat from the Tanning area, if available
· Feed your Clan – take a meat or mushroom from your supply and fill a pot on your clan board with it
· *Nourishment Elder – get a mushroom from the supply, then take a meat or mushroom from your supply and fill a pot on your clan board with it
· Canoe – take one of the two actions shown on the current Canoe tile in this area
· Consult the Neta-Tanka – Spend one meat or 2 mushrooms and then get a cow skull token to place in your totem pole area or take one of the single use Neta Tanka cards from the side of the board.
If you have the Copy Nomad power – which is earned after you have filled the fifth food spot on your clan board – you can place one of your nomads in a copyable single nomad spot. Remember that you cannot copy your own meeple as you can never have two meeples of the same color in a location.
As you are taking your actions, you can also take advantage of any Link tokens that you have surrounded on both sides with a nomad of your color. Most of the benefits allow you to gain resources or to play resources to your clan board. Place a reminder token on any used Link token so that you only use it once on your turn. When your turn is over, remove all the reminder tokens.
III] End of the Round – once all players have had their turn to take all their actions, there is a bit of upkeep. The start player token is moved, and the Buffalo/Tanning area is cleaned up. The current Canoe tile is discarded and the next one revealed. The Nomad at the Hunt Elder automatically moves to the Hunt space for the next round and the Nomad at the Forest elder automatically moves to the Fell Timber space for the next round.
If the final round of the game has been played (i.e. you are out of Canoe tiles), the game moves into the scoring.
· Tents – look at your tents on your clan board and add points from left to right for all consecutively completed tents.
· Totem Pole – score 5 points for each set of 2 wood/1 skull in your totem pole. Also, score points based on the location of your marker on the Totem Pole board
· Feeding – get 2 points per meat in a pot and 1 point per mushroom in a pot
· Handicrafts – each card has a point value if completed. Also, score a bonus 5 points for each set of three different types of completed cards
· Objectives – score 3 points if you have completed your objective card
· Generosity points – score the face value of any Generosity points you have left unspent
The player with the most points wins. If there is a tie, the player ahead on the Totem Pole board is the winner.
My thoughts on the game
Neta-Tanka is a nice mid-weight worker placement game where you have plenty of options for things to do. With 17+ places each round to put your Nomads, you’ll always have somewhere to go – the question is whether or not you can use all your actions to your advantage…
There are multiple ways to score VPs, and in my games so far, I have seen people max out the tent building, I have seen a giant totem pole, I have seen a player finish two sets of handicraft cards and I have seen someone boil up 9 meat tokens for points. I have also seen a player or two pivot their strategy in the middle of the game (due to increased competition) and still manage to be competitive.
I do tend to like games with a fixed number of actions, and here, you know from the start how many actions you’ll get. In a 3p game, we’ve never really run out of things to do; and in a 4p game, there is an occasional Nomad that needs to go to the collect wood or collect a Generosity point – but again, for the most part, most Nomads got to do an action that they wanted to do. But, given the restricted number of actions, there is a reward for being more efficient and getting more out of each Nomad action (either due to action choice or more likely through maximizing the link bonuses for adjacent Nomads). I suppose there is also some added benefit to getting the Wandering Nomad when available at the canoe site; but this is more for initative than an extra action as it still costs you an action and a resource to get it in the first place.
After my first few games, I am debating whether or not the decision to nourish people is critical or not. Having the ability to copy an action on the outer ring can be huge near the end of the game as it keeps you from being shut out of the things that you most need to do in the final round(s). Sure, everyone might end up wanted to do this, but there are a couple of sites which allow the feeding as well as a link action and a Neta-Tanka card if available. Until proven otherwise, I’m likely going to push for this strategy if it is available…. Which will probably be proven otherwise in my next game now when one player decides to zag while we zig for food and gets to do all sorts of stuff unimpeded…
Admittedly, the game is much easier on the summer side of the board than on the Winter side. The reason for this are the Link bonuses. On the summer side, most of the Links are synergistic – that is, they either duplicate part of a neighboring action or they provide a necessary resource for an adjacent action. Thus, you can often maximize your actions and get a nice bonus onto whatever you were doing.
Because of the synergistic nature of the links, the play on the summer board tends to be clustered into quadrants. Once a player has taken some connecting areas, it sometimes doesn’t make sense for another player to poke their head in because they already know that they can’t get the synergistic bonuses. So, one person feeds a lot while someone else places 3 or 4 wood onto their totem pole and someone gets to put 6 things in their tent area.
In a way, it makes for a easy game to play as the synergistic actions make sense. But, it does lead to a less interesting game when players end up in their own areas on the board all the time. However, when you flip to the winter side, everything is different. The links don’t really seem to have any relationship to what’s next to them – so while you will get extra stuff, you don’t necessarily get to use those bonuses immediately… though sometimes two carefully placed pairs of nomads can each generate a link that benefits the other pair.
Artwise, everything is appealing to the eye, though there was some confusion at first with the color of the mushroom token (purple) and the artwork which shows a red mushroom on what is ostensibly a dark dark dark purple background – which looks black in the lighting in our game room. The light tan and white markers also could use a bit of distinction – whether in the colors themselves or being given a better description/picture in the rules. Once those issues were sorted out (after not that much time), the game plays smoothly. Our games are still closer to the ninety minute range, but some of that is due to unfamiliarity with the game itself and the high number of possible choices to be considered, especially early on in a round.
Overall, Neta-Tanka is a nice easy/middle weight worker placement game (depending on which side of the board that you use), though again I would have maybe wished for a layout in between those offered – or maybe a modular board to allow for this sort of setup. The multitude of different possible actions seems daunting at first, but after a round or two, all of the actions are easily grokked and easily explained by the iconography on the board. I look forward to continuing to explore this one, and I intend to use it as a introductory game to the worker placement genre with one of my game groups.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Jonathan F.: We had a good game on the summer side. It was pleasant and even with 4 players, there were enough spaces that I never felt the need to go build enough mushrooms/meat to unlock the bonus. I don’t think any of us went hard for the tents. A typical first outing, in that it was fun, but not shockingly different from other point salad games – I recommend it to people who like Endeavor: Age of Sail, but with less theme. I agree with Dale that a ‘spring/fall’ board might be nice, as the winter side looked brutal.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Jonathan F, Craig V.
- Not for me…