2-4 players, Competitive, Story-Based, Worker Placement-ish
Designer: Ryan Laukat
Artwork: Ryan Laukat
Publisher: Red Raven Games
Overview of Gameplay
Near and Far is a unique game in that it combines a few different game mechanics into this one beautiful package. This game is from Ryan Laukat of Red Raven Games who creates both the artwork and game design. If you’re familiar with his games then you will have some idea of what you are getting into here and if not then read on!
Oh man where to begin. In Near and Far there are a myriad of things to do on multiple fronts. On one hand you can venture into the town board and place your little standee at specific buildings to take the action there such as gaining food or gaining more members to add to your party. On another hand you can place your standee on the adventure book map to move around on the trails to go on quests or slap down camps to collect even more resources.
Basically the general idea of gameplay is that you spend time on the town board hitting up locals to “prepare” yourself to be able to adventure on the book map for longer and easier. But of course since you are playing against other people you want to be able to get to those lucrative one-time quest markers before other players. As such these quests not only give some pretty decent rewards such as more resources or other benefits but also if playing the campaign game, experience points. You will utilize these experience points to add new abilities to your character that will, overtime, differentiate them from others.
Now this is of course assuming you are playing the campaign or character development game which has players going through many completely different maps one after the other, adding up your individual scores at the end of each map. Eventually culminating in a final hoorah in which everyone adds up all their scores to see who the final victor is. You can also just play the arcade mode which has a whole ‘nother slew of cards that are used if you just want to play a one and done game on any map. Either way whoever has accumulated the most points (from a rather large variety of means) by the time one person has laid their last camp token is the winner.
Excellent quality components found within. There are little red plastic rubies and the dice are a custom color and look great. There are more tokens for the coins, food and banners but these are all just your typical cardboard pieces, nothing fancy there. If there is one thing I’ve noticed about Red Raven Games it seems they always toss in one super decked out batch of components and the rest are cardboard. I assume to keep costs down, in any case no complaints component-wise.
The boards are also excellent although the main adventure map is a book and not a board at all. Each page you turn has a new map bringing with it a whole new “board” to play on. The pages are thick and overall it’s super high quality. The town board is also thick and double sided with a slight variant “day” side that changes up the play style a tad which is awesome. It’s not overly complicated so you can easily flip back and forth between the day and dusk sides between campaign games to shake things up.
The last bit of boards in the game are the player boards. These are a nice cardboard as well and do a pretty good job of making the game easy to play and understand. On these you will keep your stash of 14 wooden camp tokens which look like teeny tents. Over time you will be removing these one by one placing them on the adventure book map gaining you resources galore. As you remove them you might uncover even MORE resources hidden beneath. There are also spots to place treasure cards you gain and other members of your adventure party.
OH! And I don’t want to fail to mention the gigantic adventure story book. This thing is pretty mammoth with all kinds of little story snippets that are read as players take part in the many quests littered about the adventure maps. There are tons of potential quest locations on each map but only a few spots that can be accessed each time played and there are stories for each one. Very impressed overall with components and game boards with this one.
Nothing fancy about the box other than the lovely artwork on the outside. You will want to bag up everything into little baggies for storage to keep everything organized. Would have vastly preferred a good storage solution but it is what it is. The box does look really nice on the shelf though with the colors and art.
Visual Appeal /Theme
This is where the game just knocks it out of the park. Visually the game is a stunning work of art. From the box to the adventure map book everything is just gorgeous. Every page you turn in the map book assaults you with extremely beautiful artwork that is a delight to behold. The artwork on the adventurer tokens are great and each one is a little different from the next. The theme works well here and I love how the artwork blends in with the story. For example during your adventures you may stumbled upon an intricately display of stones. This will be directly conveyed through the possible story quest that you embark on. I love how you can glimpse the map and kinda get an idea of what to expect, although you never really know what will happen.
SO the rulebook isn’t BAD persay but man I have had to reference that thing more times than I care to count. Just last night I was playing the game and found an artifact card that said something about “+1 point for every outlaw you collect”. I was like…outlaw..I collect? Instantly I thought it meant the threat cards you come across on the map. Of course I wasn’t certain so I scoured that rulebook for about 20 minutes re-reading everything trying to find out what an outlaw was. Eventually I found it….not in the rulebook at all but on the back of the player aid cards lol. I feel like that should be IN the rulebook as well. There are little things here and there that are kinda scattered about the rules so you will end up flipping around more than you should to find them as well. Another thing that was omitted was the campaign cleanup. After you complete one campaign game do you keep all your gathered stuff onto the next map? If not what do you discard? Never could find that info in the book, had to take to the internet for that little tid-bit.
So even after all that I wouldn’t call the rulebook bad, I have seen some truly horrific representations of rulebooks and this far and away exceeds those. However I will say this rulebook is below average. It could have explained things in a more fluid way and had more picture examples.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
The table talk is interesting in this game. Even though the game is competitive, this isn’t what generates the table talk most of the time. The typical game play has players placing their standees all over the place in town or on the map but it’s more an optimization race than anything. Whoever places in a spot first gets first choice and even then, other players can still place there (in town) but just have to go through this “duel”. The duel is basically whoever rolls highest wins (there are a couple other mechanics here but that’s the gist) If the attacker wins, they can go there and do the action. If the attacker loses they have to go to jail for that turn which basically means they wasted a turn. Nothing at all happens to the defender regardless of the outcome. It’s a strange little mechanic that could deter players from jumping on a spot inhabited by other players but it works.
Other than that most of the time all the players will be carrying out their own plans oblivious to everyone else. The only REAL table talk comes from the storybook adventures. When a person happens upon a quest, the person next to them gets to read the quest passage and unleash the choices on the player questing. The player having no idea what rewards are awaiting for either choice until after they make their choice of which skill or combat challenge they want to attempt. This is a fun little get away from the simple worker placement mechanics and I have enjoyed the story snippets very much.
That said the worker placement stuff is really fun too! It’s really cool to move around the town board preparing your adventure party and then finally be like, “alrighty time to quest the lands!” Moving your party out to the map book and seeing just how far you can go before having to return to town and resupply. The key here is to prepare but don’t over prepare. You spend too much time in town preparing and everyone else will be running amok grabbing up all those luscious quests before you even hit the road.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
The more players you have, the more quest tokens there are scattered about which means there are potentially more story snippets that can be discovered per game. HOWEVER I don’t think I can recommend this at 4 players. The lack of player interaction can make this game drag while you wait for your turn to come around the table again. At most I would play at 3 players which at least creates a bit of an interesting dynamic when placing your standee in town. Otherwise 2 player works out fine as well and since you only have to wait for one other person to play the downtime is not bad at all. Unfortunately there is no official solo mode but you could play with two characters pretty easily, but you just have to be careful not to look at the rewards section of the quest stories when you make those decisions.
Replayability is super high here. I mentioned earlier how the quest tokens are only scattered on SOME of the available spaces. This means that each game you play you could pop these tokens on different spots and get entirely different story snips. Not only that but the game is packed with all kinda of different modes and variables to play. As far as the game itself goes you can do a campaign game going through each map until you reach the epic finale. There is a character mode that focuses entirely on improving your character and there is an arcade mode that just allows you to jump into any map and play a simple game if you so choose. On top of all that there are variables that can be changed for each game. The town board has a day side and a dusk side which changes a few things around like adding a turtle companion instead of the typical pack bird. There is a platypus animal party member that can be added as well as a kind of “catch-up” mechanic for players that are falling behind.
The ONLY thing in the game I wish there was more of are the artifact cards. Players start with 5 or 6 of these at the beginning and you have to build them to use them but during a campaign game you can easily cycle through all these.
Positive Final Thoughts
You know it’s actually funny that I like this game so much as I am not that big of fan of “point victory” games. This game though just doesn’t feel like a victory point style game at all. I mean you are questing and reading snips of adventures and placing camps down on this map. Building a party of adventurers to accompany you and collecting gems and food. There are so many things going on here you can easily forget that, “oh crap! I should be putting MORE camps down if I want to win!” Just go in, build up your party and get lost in a quest or two and have the time of your life doing it.
Negative Final Thoughts
BUT that makes this game a kinda annoyance for players that are super competitive. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of ways to maximize your victory points and you can easily figure out a decent system of doing just that, but, playing this way the story just gets in your way. You will see that the story elements are just flavor covering some meager rewards in which you will eventually just be like, “tell me what skill check I have to do” and forget the story. Because of this, I think this game will for sure interest those players that are into story and theme but not so much those super competitive types.