Co-Authored with Tristan Bourne-Nisson
Nomads is a solid and balanced economic game with an uncommon flavor. It’s been out since 2006, but we first became aware of it at Origins 2011 where we were a vendor this year. Having played and reviewed Jet Set from the same company before, we were very interested to see what else Wattsalpoag might have come up with.
Just like Jet Set, we found that the art on the box and the theme itself didn’t do anything exciting for us. Us being the hard-core nerdy gamers that we are, we didn’t let this deter us, and neither should you. Just like the saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, don’t judge a game by it’s box. I actually applaud Wattsalpoag for going a different route when it comes to choosing a theme. While fantasy worlds with knights and monsters are wonderful and have a definite appeal to gamers, there are already a lot of games out there that have gone that route.
This game is all about a pilgrimage to Mecca. You want to be the pilgrim that makes the largest monetary donation when you get there so that you may “find respect and happiness in Arabia”. To do this, you herd animals to nearby towns that are on your journey, and sell the animals. The more animals you have in your herd, the slower you travel, so selling animals also aids you in completing your journey efficiently.
Getting animals is a matter of calling the beasts. The game comes with colored dice that represent the different animals present in the game. On your turn, you roll the dice to determine how many, and what type of, animals are drawn to your herd. But it only does you good to call these animals if there are some present in your area. The board is segmented into five different land types, each of which have the potential to have animals. Before attempting to call the animals to you, you can clearly see which land types have animals, and what kind of animals are there. For this reason, you might choose to move to a different, more inhabited, piece of land before attempting to call the beasts to you.
The market price for each type of animal also fluctuates greatly through out the game. For this reason, it’s very important to evaluate what an animal is worth, before adding it to your herd. After all, why haul around sheep with you if they are worthless? But if horses are selling for a lot of money, it may be worth it to add a few of those to your herd, even if it is going to slow you down some. This give and take forces tough choices on players and requires them to evaluate their immediate needs each turn: money or speed?
We found this game to be intriguing and a satisfying way to spend an evening. It was meaty, forcing players to think before acting, however it was also capable of being played in two hours or less. The rules were also pretty easy to read and understand, and thus allowed for new players to jump in pretty easily. While I am not sure that it usurps Jet Set as “my favorite Wattsalpoag game”, it’s a good run at it. And to pull all of this off with an unusual theme simply earns brownie points with me.
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