What's Eric Playing?

#133 – Near and Far

Base price: $70.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: ~90 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 6

I’ve been excited to write this review for some time, since I’ve been a big fan of the Red Raven games that I’ve gotten around to reviewing already (Dingo’s Dreams being one of my preferred filler games, and Above and Below being such a different game than I’m used to playing). For some reason, I haven’t gotten around to playing Islebound in a while, but I’m hoping to rectify that soon.

Anyways, in Near and Far, you take on the role of a character on a journey to The Last Ruin, a fabled heart of a long-lost civilization. You may be a robot anxious to repair itself, a young person whose “shard” can see far more than is normally visible, or a variety of other characters with their own reasons for their journey. While you might start in familiar territory (the world of Above and Below, to be precise), you will journey across many new lands to make your way to your destination. Will you find what you’re looking for, or will your journey end in failure?

Contents

Setup

This game’s a bit of a bear to set up. What you should do is give everyone a player board, to start out:

Also set the town board on the lighter side (without turtles) for your first game:

Now, give everyone camps:

And give everyone a starting cat or dog (or platypus, if they lost the previous game hard):

Everyone should get to pick a character, now:

Put the little character chits on the “0” on the Reputation line on the Town Board. Put all the characters in town, as well. If you’re playing at two players, add a third character to the game and place them in the Town Hall. They’re the receptionist, now.

Now, take the Atlas:

And open to the Glogo Caverns map, if it’s your first game:

If it looks familiar to you, well, it’s the Above and Below world. Isn’t that fun?

Now, the hard part. You’ll have a bunch of quest tokens:

You’ll want to add a certain number to the board, randomly, depending on your player count:

If you’re playing the Extra Stories Variant, just use 4 Quest Tokens per player. Please note that this will make the game take longer. If you’re playing Campaign Mode, you should skip two maps, and if you’re playing Character Mode, you’ll probably only really play two games, this way. If you’re playing Arcade Mode, well, this doesn’t really impact you.

Anyways, as far as placing Quest Tokens goes, there’s no good way to do this for any map, but here’s what I do. Get a randomly generated list of numbers from 0 – 14, and place quest tokens on the lowest number on the map + the numbers, in order, until you’re done. How do you get a randomly generated list of numbers from 0 to 14? You’re welcome. For the first map, it’s random letters, but … that’s hard. Just remember that O is the 15th letter of the alphabet and go with that. I believe in you. You’ll also want the Storybook:

Well, unless you’re playing Arcade Mode, in which you should use these Arcade Mode cards instead:

Once you’ve done that, set the other tokens nearby:

Give every player 3 coins and set them aside, preferably near the gems:

I think these are Kickstarter bonus rewards, but there are definitely some cardboard ones that come with the game, too.

Note that people have been complaining at me that the gold coins are worth 1 and the silver coins are worth 5. In the Boy Scouts, the Silver awards are actually more valuable than the gold awards. But, either way, those coins are bronze / brass, so, uh, it still works out.

Add 3 pack birbs per player to the Stable:

I got these from MeepleSource! Purveyor of fine birbs.

Draw 5 Adventurers from the Adventurer Sack and place them in the top-left corner of the town board:

Put the Threat Cards in order and place them on the space on the map for them. One of my maps is missing a space for them, so if that’s the case just set them nearby or make it work:

You’ll find the Chiefs as well; set them aside, for now:

You might find some Boss cards. Don’t worry about them unless you’re playing on The Last Ruin in Campaign Mode: 

If you are, then you know enough about this game that this is probably not the most helpful part of my review for you to read? But I’ll explain anyways. You’ll use different bosses at different player counts:

As for the World Cards, don’t shuffle them, just set them nearby:

Yeah I’m not going to show you what they are; even I’ve only seen like, one. Spoilers, my dudes. Shuffle the Treasure Cards and put them on the space on the Mystic’s Hut in town:

Those, you’re allowed to see. Knock yourself out. Finally, give every player five Artifact cards and two Advanced Artifact cards (the Advanced cards have the symbol on the back):

Once you’ve done that, take a few minutes to breathe, but you’ve done it! You’re ready to start:

Gameplay

Before you do anything else, you have to draft Basic Artifact Cards a la 7 Wonders. Leave your Advanced Artifact cards aside, then take a Basic Artifact and pass the rest to your left. Once you’ve taken 5, you’re done drafting. Now, you may discard as many Basic or Advanced Artifacts as you’d like. Be mindful that it is difficult to get rid of Artifacts later in the game, and unbought Artifacts are worth -1 point per Artifact. Careful, on that. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, you must discard one Advanced Artifact. Can’t have you running around with both. You can also discard both, if you’d prefer.

So, there are a variety of different ways to play, but they play somewhat similarly. Essentially, this is how they work (and bear with me; I’m condensing a 40-page rulebook):

After the last two, you’ll gain experience after every quest. In Character Mode, just fill in the star after every quest you do. In Campaign Mode, you’ll need to fill in one of the boxes on your Character Card. Once you’ve filled in three, then you may fill in the star. Each star is worth one experience point.

At the start of a Campaign or Character Mode game, you can spend these experience points to acquire a variety of abilities, such as gaining extra food to start every game, having extra slots for certain items, or even being able to spend one item as though it were another item. They’ve got different costs ranging from 1 – 4 experience points. Spend wisely.

Either way, you’ve picked a player to go first, randomly, so there are two types of actions you can do:

I’ll explain each in detail.

You can, however, at any point on your turn, purchase Artifacts in your hand as a free action by paying the requisite cost (including faction tokens) to the supply. Purchased artifacts can give you extra abilities, hearts, swords, skill (hand) symbols, or a variety of other fun effects. They’re also worth points at the end of the game, which is nice.

You may also gain a Chief as a free action if you ever have four faction tokens of the same faction present in your player area (as tokens or on adventurers) and that Chief hasn’t already been gained. It’s worth 5 endgame points, which is nice.

Town

You can always go to town! Town is fun. The best part about town is that you can go to town no matter where you are on the map. It’s just a “head back to town” sort of fast travel. Hooray!

So, while you’re in town, like I said, you can do a variety of things. You can remain in town as long as you want, but you must visit a different building every turn. Why? Well, if you want to go to a building currently occupied by another player, you must duel them. Before you break out the card games, it’s very easy to duel another player:

Just as a note, if you’re playing a two-player game, the Town Hall is always occupied. If your opponent’s character is there, you must duel them rather than the dummy player. Anyways. Let’s talk the various buildings in town:

Cool, once you’ve done all of those things, you’re ready for an adventure.

Adventure

Alright, so the first thing you do is that you need to leave town. As you imagine, if you are not currently in town, you cannot leave town, since you’re not in it. When you leave town, you do the following things:

Now, if you’ve just left town or if you’re starting a turn outside of town, you move!

Every player starts with two base movement (+ any extra movement you gain from your party, your pack birbs, your purchased artifacts, treasures, World Cards, and etc.), so feel free to move to your hearts’ content.

If you ever cross over a space without a camp, you lose one heart. It’s tough to keep going without stopping.

If you end your movement (or choose to end your movement) on a quest space (has a book token), you may attempt a quest. Pass the storybook to the player on your left, and have them turn to one of three things:

If you’re playing Arcade Mode, just use an Arcade Card:

If you’re using the Storybook, you’ll see a quest like this:

WEP1

You’re writing up a review of Near and Far, but you realize that in order to provide the best example of a quest, you’d have to make up a plausible-sounding quest on the spot. That said, the storybook is right next to you…

Skill 4
“BORROW” A STORY FROM THE STORYBOOK
You shamelessly steal a story from the storybook, and it doesn’t even match your writing style! While doing that, however, you notice something in the couch.
4: green faction, -1 reputation
6: gem

Skill 7
IMPROVISE A STORY ON THE SPOT
You try writing your own story, but it gets hopelessly meta. You hope your readers will understand. While writing, you also get a snack.
7: blue faction, two food
9:
 coin

Not my best work, but, here we are. The reader should read the first paragraph, and then the bolded text of the choices onlyDon’t read the reaction paragraph or the rewards.

If you need to make a skill roll, roll, and then add all of your skill symbols (the hand symbols) in your active party to your roll. If you need to make a combat roll, roll, and then add all of the dagger symbols in your active party to your roll. If your roll is less than you’d like, you may spend hearts to add +1 to your roll per heart spent. If you beat the requirement by 2, you also get the bonus (below the reward). If you fail, well, you just fail and get no reward (or story text). Either way, remove the quest token from the game. Some quests will require you to pay a resource in order to choose an option (they’ll say -1 coin or something). You can get all sorts of stuff from quests! Even World Cards, which, again, I have only seen once. Note that if you gain or lose reputation, you must gain or lose reputation.

Anyways, quest or no quest, if you’d ever like to place a camp on a space, you spend three hearts and add one of your camps to that space. As with the mine, if you reveal an item when you place a camp, you gain that item immediately. Unlike the mine, you also gain a benefit based on the space. If it’s a coin or a gem space, you immediately gain a coin or gem (respectively) for every eye icon in your party.  Placing a camp ends your turn.

There are a few types of spaces you should be cognizant of:

Like I said, coin spaces give you money when you place a camp on them.

Gem spaces do the same, but gems, rather than money.

Trade routes are a bit interesting. There are four types of trade routes: peppers, machine parts, ichor stones, and tea leaves, obviously. If you place a camp on one, it does nothing. If you place a camp on both matching spaces, however, you gain the full value of points on the top of the map near the trade route spaces. If you share it with someone else, you gain the smaller number. Alas.

So you can’t make camp here, but you will cross these as you progress on your adventure. When you do, you must fight the top threat of the threat deck by rolling for combat as you would for a quest’s Combat roll to try and beat the bottom number on the threat (between 4 and 15). You may spend hearts to boost your roll, and you also gain bonus swords from your party / purchased artifacts / etc. If you fail, you cannot pass the space. If you’d like to avoid the space, there are a few ways to do so:

  1. Have a party member with a shield (Caution) symbol. This allows you to ignore any and all threats on the board.
  2. Sacrifice a pack birb. You’re a bad person, but you can give up your pack birb in order to pass a threat without fighting it. RIP in peace you beautiful birb.
  3. Have a treasure card or purchased artifact that lets you ignore threats. There are a few of those. They’re neat.

If you successfully defeat (not avoid) the threat, you may take the threat card and put one of your camps on it. This will earn you endgame points.

If both sides of a threat space have a camp on them, the threat space is neutralized. It will not bother you again. For threat purposes, the town space is considered to have a camp on it.

Like the threat spaces, you don’t land on these as much as you do cross them. When you cross one, draw a treasure card like you would for the Mystic’s Hut, following all normal rules.

If both sides of a treasure space have a camp on them, the treasure space is also neutralized. For treasure purposes, the town space is considered to have a camp on it.

That’s about all there is to adventuring.

Game End

When one player has placed their 14th camp, the endgame begins. That player’s turn may continue (you can use your 14th camp on a threat and still have more to do on a turn) and then turns continue until every player has taken the same number of turns. After that, tally your points as follows:

Player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

The major differences are that at two players you have that extra character consistently blocking the Town Hall, so it incentivizes you to return to town with a few extra hearts, just in case. Other than that, you’ll generally see the game spread a bit further since there are more players with more camps, but you can also go further since with more camps on the board you’ll spend fewer hearts. I think it’s an incredible two-player game but I don’t dislike it at any player count, honestly.

Strategy

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

Mehs

Cons

Overall: 9.5 / 10

Overall, Near and Far is incredible, in my opinion. I think it managed to fix everything I didn’t like about Above and Below and synthesize in Islebound (which I will review eventually) into a near-perfect game for me. I worry somewhat that so many of my favorite games are starting to become longer titles (Millennium Blades sitting at the top is… concerning), but honestly, I think Near and Far is a great game. I would happily buy expansions that add extra maps or new character or new quests, and I hope that this format is extended (or maybe even improved!) in future iterations in the series. If you enjoy games with a bit of story and a sense of adventure, I’d highly recommend checking it out.