Disease has ravaged the world and only you can lead the survivors to a better life. Best start praying to RNGesus…
I’m quite the fan of board games. Miniatures, dice rolling, card playing, and everything else in between. And whilst components are a great aspect of physical games (I’m very excited to see the Dark Souls board game components), a digital game that handles all the cards, dice and point counting for you can be really rather appealing. Here for your consideration is Nyheim, a digital only, single player board game.
In Nyheim, we take on the role of the leader of a band of survivors in the titular city after the world has nigh-on ended due to a rat-borne plague. During the adventure, the settlement will grow, the party will expand, and projects will be completed to help us on our way to victory. Success comes in the form of expanding the settlement to a certain size, completing all the projects or surviving through the winter. Failure, which was much more common in my experience, is the result of the leader dying or failure to manage the various crises that crop up from time to time.
I’ll get this out of the way fairly early, if you don’t like random number generator (RNG) aspects in a game, then this is absolutely not for you. The game’s core gameplay mechanic is dice throwing to resolve events, be they enemies, searching the environment, or treating wounds. If the randomness of dice rolling is something of a turn off for you, run away now and don’t look back. Your initial character has two dice (all subsequent characters in your party have one) with different symbols that will either resolve events or use up food. At each location on the map you will roll all your character dice to decide what events you will resolve. Dice can be re-rolled at the cost of one food, which adds a nice risk/reward element as running out of food can lead to your party suffering injuries and eventually dying.
An example of an encounter might be you trying to set up a farming operation on a…well…farm. Your party consists of your leader and two party members, one of whom is injured. Four dice are rolled and one gets used up due to the injury whilst another lands on food, using one resource and being re-rolled. You need to set up the farm, defeat a rat swarm, and maybe you’d like to search for food items. Unfortunately the remaining dice will only allow you to set up the farm or defeat the rats. Do you waste a turn (and potentially food) by defeating the rat and come back to deal with the farm? Or set up the farm and allow a party member to suffer another injury? Perhaps spending food to re-roll and hope for better results is the best move? For most of the game these are the decisions you have to make each turn and I very much enjoyed this. Deciding whether or not I could get away with using up my food in the hopes of picking up more from HQ or searches before going to handle a crisis was quite nerve wracking at times.
Speaking of crises, each turn that passes increases the chance of a crisis card being drawn. Crises have a turn timer before they activate, setting off a negative effect for your party and taking you one step closer to failure. Sometimes you’ll find yourself ignoring the hunt for food and rushing off to resolve a crisis in the nick of time which can be really rather satisfying if you manage to get the rolls you need.
And this is the problem here, you are almost always at the mercy of the dice. Whilst you can spend food, or use acquired items to offset bad rolls, at the end of the day you have to rely on the results you get. A good spread of characters with different icons (there are 4 in total) across the range combined with decent equipment that allows you to change the results are essential, but sometimes you just don’t get what you need. No amount of strategy can save you from that. If you can accept that fact though, you can have fun here. However, when you’re given a small chance and manage to come out on top, it’s a great feeling.
The graphics and sound are fine for the game. The art is cartoon-y, but keeps the rats, dogs and tigers (yes, tigers) intimidating on their respective cards. The music is there and sounds nice enough but after a while I stopped noticing it whilst the dice rolling sounds are exactly what you’d expect. In all fairness, the graphics and sound aren’t really a huge factor in a game of this style. The controls are a touch (pun!) irritating due to the games obvious mobile origins. The map is moved by clicking and dragging rather than by moving the cursor to the edge and the arrow keys cannot be used either. When it comes to a PC port from a mobile game, some simple changes like these are something I would expect to be made and it’s disappointing they’re missing here.
In spite of those slight technical shortcomings, I enjoyed my time plating Nyheim. It took me a few runs to claim my first victory (by having enough people join my enclave if you were wondering) which made that victory all the sweeter. If you’re looking for something a little different in your gaming and have a liking for board games, then you could do far worse than this. It’s well priced (£2.79 on Steam at the time of writing, which is cheaper than the mobile version) and the modifiers that you can earn as you play will keep you coming back for a few more games once you’ve been lucky enough to survive the plague. IF you’ve been lucky enough…