Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Fish: 100% of a balanced diet:- Nusfjord

Game: Nusfjord

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Designer: Uwe Rosenberg

Year: 2017

Nusfjord is a 1-5 player worker placement game in which you will expand your fleet of shipping boats while seeking approval of the local elders.  Unfortunately your fish are not entirely your own to work with. If you have acquired help from elders then they will expect a tribute from your catch, and if other players have bought shares in your fishing company then you'll have to give them their due as well.

Nusfjord is a worker placement game from Uwe Rosenberg, which is almost like saying it's a sports car from Lamborghini. With the track record of Agricola, Caverna, Fields of Arle and A Feast For Odin Uwe Rosenberg has a reputation for putting incredible, though rather heavy, worker placement games. Given that our Honeymoon was a cruise around Norway, we were very excited to try Nusfjord when we first heard about it.

Nusfjord is a worker placement game, on your turn you will take one of your three workers, place them on a spot on the board (blocking it for other players), perform the action of that slot and then your opponents will all do the same before you get to go again. The primary resource in the game is fish, every turn your fishing boats will come back with a haul of freshly caught fish, which you then will dish out to any elders you have hired, any shares your opponent have, any shares you have (these fish get added to your personal collection), and then place the rest into a stockpile that you can take into your personal collection as an action. In addition there is wood, which you primarily get from cutting down forests, and gold which is largely received by selling your shares on the market, or throwing a feast in honour of the elders. Good thing they like fish so much...

Nusfjord set up for a two-player game. You are going to need a large table to play this game, especially if you want to expand to 5 players!

The majority of the board are various ways to get some of these resources, there are 3 main exceptions: elders, buildings and boats. Boats are simple, they are worth victory points, and the more (and bigger) you have the more fish you will get every turn. Elders are a little more complex, when you take one you can perform their action, each elder has a unique action, but they tend to be a combination of 2. For example, you might chop down a forest for 1 wood and then build a building, usually chopping down a forest would net you 3 wood, but what you lose in wood you make up for in action economy. Once recruited you will have to feed an elder every turn, and there needs to be food at the feast to even use them, but for the rest of the game they will be a private action space that you can always rely on.

Finally there are buildings, buildings are special because they are how you make yourself unique. Buildings all have requirements to build, either in gold, wood or fish, and you need to have space at your docks to build them, so you'd better clear out that forest. Once built they usually provide you with an ongoing power, allowing you to build up some impressive combos if you get the right buildings. Other buildings are simply worth large amounts of points, these often have requirements, such as a reward for every ship you have, encouraging you to build lots of small ships rather than a fleet of the larger ones. The buildings available change as the game nears completion, with the "C" cards being worth vast number of points, if you are able to build them. There are 3 different building decks to help keep the game fresh and prevent people from always relying on the same strategy.

There are 3 different decks of buildings, each labeled conveniently with a different kind of fish. These keep the strategies fresh each game.

Nusfjord, compared to a lot of Uwe Rosenberg's others worker placements, is quick to set up and play, the actions are all very self explanatory and there is a sensible amount of choice, meaning that you don't feel you need to re-read the rules between every play. Unfortunately this has come at a cost of depth. The actions are limited, so you never feel like you are making sweeping advances, in fact it barely feels like you are making much progress at all until the final couple of rounds. You have to set up your plans far in advance to ensure that you have enough resources, so much so that one game Fi thought we were on the last turn when we were on the second from last, with a whole turn that she hadn't planned for she was able to do, pretty much nothing of note.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment is the theme and the art. That is a little harsh as the art is of good quality, there are a couple of lovely reliefs of the famous fjords... which you immediately cover in plain cards covered in text. While fishing is a perfectly valid theme for a game set in Norway, it hardly draws you in. I would have loved to see a theme about modern Norway, trying to carefully balance luring tourists with keeping the traditions alive, and everyone enjoys a good viking game, but fishing I fear lacks the same draw. Nusfjord doesn't really have a place in the gaming world, it's too complex for introducing players to worker placement games, and too simple for existing fans to really enjoy. It's not a bad game, it's even a little above average, I would happily play it again some time, but I would never choose it above any of Uwe Rosenburg's back catalogue.

6/10

Nusfjord was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £53.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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