NESSIE HUNT - Reviewed by Mike
2-5 players, 90-120 minutes
Although described as a family game, in my opinion "Nessie Hunt" is worthy of a much wider audience than that, as it provides an interesting combination of resource management, planning and luck, all packaged in a colourful and well-presented manner and gives 2 hours of fun gaming.
It will come as no surprise to readers that this is a game based upon that well-known earner for the Scottish Tourist industry, the Loch Ness Monster, and the objective of the game is to observe different 'sightings' of the monster, thereby gaining evidence cards as proof and the first player to reach the agreed number of 'proof points' is the winner.
Good quality components consist of : -
Large laminated board, showing Loch Ness split into a series of hexes plus 2 turn tracks, each containing a track for 2 players. There are also spaces marked on the board for the 6 different types of Evidence Cards.
6 sets of different types of Evidence Card, each worth variable points
2 sets of Logistics Cards, which provide both help and hindrance
4 sets of coloured transparencies in different shapes(more of which later)
4 plastic Expedition Leaders
4 plastic 'submerged' monster outlines
1 plastic monster head and neck outline
4 Summary of Play cards
1 pad of tally sheets for maintaining the score
1 Set of rules
The game is played in a series of short rounds during which players receive their income and spend it on purchasing and hiring different equipment to aid their sightings of the monster. Having placed their equipment on the Loch the position of the monster is determined and any sightings are rewarded with the appropriate evidence cards. When the total points value reaches the agreed level the game ends.
There are 6 ways of gathering evidence, each of which incurs a specific cost of initial purchase and running costs, and they provide various opportunities for sighting the monster.
The different types are : - Eye Witness, Surface Camera, Underwater Camera, Sonar, Biological Unit and Cage and they are represented by the transparencies, each of which has its own unique shape.
Only 1 piece of equipment can be purchased each turn and running costs are paid on those obtained in previous round. The running costs are deducted from the income received each round, which starts at an initial £150.
Players then place their new piece of equipment onto the Loch, attempting to cover as many hexes as possible. All transparencies except Biological Units and Cages must have one point touching the shore of the Loch and great care is needed in choosing exactly where to place. Transparencies can overlap with each other but only 2 of the same colour may do so. Readers can imagine that in the later stages of the game Loch Ness becomes a kaleidescope of colour with all these transparencies covering its surface!
Each player now throws the die and moves their expedition leader around their particular track on the board. If in doing so they land on a square with an asterisk on it they MUST take the next Logistic card from the deck and act upon it. These mainly bring benefit to the player in the form of bonus payments but there are some cards which provide the chance of a gamble and some which are quite disasterous. An example of a gamble card is as follows : -
Pay £50 and put up any Surface Camera or Underwater Camera evidence of your choice and throw the die.
1 or 2 - you lose your evidence
3 or 4 - keep your card but lose your money
5 - keep your card and take another of the same type
6 - keep your card and take 2 cards of the same type
This makes for some interesting decision making but a good dice throw could improve your position dramatically and it really depends on the points value of the cards you hold and whether you are prepared to lose them.
When all players have moved their Expedition Leader and taken any Logistic Cards the position of the monster is determined by the character on the squares the leaders now occupy. These are in the form of Upper-Case Letters A-H, numerics 1-6 and lower-case letters e-f(the fourth players track is blank). These are combined to give a reference of the current sighting of the monster e.g B5f and the head and neck monster piece is placed on this hex. On all hexes 4 positions north,south,east and west of this a 'submerged' monster outline is placed(providing they are still within the area of the Loch).
Players then claim their appropriate Evidence Cards if their transparencies cover the hexes just determined. Eye Witness and Surface Cameras can only claim cards if they match the head and neck monster outline, whereas other equipment can claim both types of sightings. On receiving their cards each player is encouraged to read it out aloud, as some of them are quite amusing. These cards contain information about a real (or imagined) sighting and are of interesting scientific content, many containing pictures in colour of the evidence. Players keep the card in front of them for later play.
The points value is marked on the Tally Sheet by the player keeping score and it is important that this is done accurately as several of the Logistic Cards refer to things like "if you have more than 200 points ...etc"
Play continues with the next lot of income (if any) and the placing of tranparencies. If income is low it may be necessary to return equipment and care must be excercised when removing these from the board.
Whilst the above description seems a little 'dry' I can assure readers that it is really good fun trying to predict where the monster will appear. By studying the current position of the Expedition Leaders on their turn tracks you can guess where the next sighting may occur and therefore place your next transparency covering as many of those 'likely' hexes as possible. For example if the first leader is on an A you might surmise that a throw of 3 or 4 by that player will mean that the monster will be in a hex starting with D or E, so you place there if you haven't already covered it. It's amazing how many times the monster appears just 1 position away from where you have just placed !!
You cannot place all your equipment at once as the running costs would be too high so that is where the resource management comes in; careful planning of where to place the next transparency could pay dividends; and of course luck plays its part with the points value of the Evidence Cards drawn plus the contents of the Logistics Cards drawn and the die rolls.
"Nessie Hunt" provides an interesting diversion for about 2 hours if treated in a light-hearted manner. It is suitable for older children who have an interest in scientific matters, or for homesick Scots.
The game was developed by Searchglen in 1986 so it may not be readily available now, but I 'made a sighting' in Westgate Games about 2 years ago and they may still have copies; also Games Corner have had it for sale within the last year so any reader interested in obtaining the game could start their search there.
Happy Hunting !!!