Near and Far Board Game Review

Are you familiar and do you enjoy choose your own adventure books? The ones where at the end of each chapter you have to make a choice that dictated the next chapter you read? Designed to give you the feeling of being, Indiana Jones, Captain Nemo or maybe even Conan the Barbarian?

The ones which finish the chapter with things like “Do you fight the Orc? turn to page 68. Or do you run away? Turn to page 125” with titles like. Journey Under the Sea, the Lost Jewels of Nabooti, Mystery of the Maya or House of Danger? If so you will love this!

If this sounds familiar go to chapter three. Otherwise go to chapter two.

Chapter Two

At it’s very core, Near and Far is a story-telling adventure. Once you have mastered the rules, which will only take two or three play-throughs on the introduction adventure, you will find that the game play is quick and straightforward - while at the same time providing lots of choices for customising your path through the story.

Quests, Threats, Mining, Recruiting adventurers or even hiring “Pack-birds” to carry your treasure (think a cross between a Kiwi and a Donkey). Each section of the story ends after a player has placed their last tent.

Where Near and Far diverges from the one play and finished category though is that this is no “one trick pony.”In fact there are three play modes each with their own unique play system based on the core story telling ideal.

To find out more about the play modes go to chapter three. Otherwise go to chapter four.

Chapter Three

Near and Far’s multiple play-modes turn the re-playability dial right up to 10. Giving you the options of playing a full Campaign Mode. A one shot Arcade Mode or even the Characters Story Mode.

Campaign Mode.

This is a story that takes you across all the maps in the atlas. You will keep track of your experience points, talents and side quests. Some of your available quests will change based on your actions through the use of the Keyword system.

Arcade Mode.

You can freely dip into and out of any map in the atlas. Playing a single-shot game experience, lasting for 90-120 minutes depending on number of players and level of familiarity with the game. You do not need to keep track of any experience points. Your characters won’t level-up (gain talents).

Character Mode.

This is a chance to develop your character's story. Thereby adding depth and personality to your chosen character (there are eight base characters to choose from). You will pick three maps from the atlas and play those, plus the final 11th map. Keep track of your quests, experience points, talents, and keywords. Adding a level of richness and immersion to the characters that you do not often see in board games.

Both the Campaign mode and the Character mode have their own set of rules on how to play, and their own set of quests to read from the book. The quest book is big, clearly laid out and intelligently they have spiral bound it. Making it easy to read. The Arcade mode has adventure cards instead of using the quest book. This helps stop you accidentally learning spoilers to the main through arcade play.

Think it sounds like an RPG, go to chapter two. Otherwise go to chapter four.

Campaign Mode.

This is a story that takes you across all the maps in the atlas. You will keep track of your experience points, talents and side quests. Some of your available quests will change based on your actions through the use of the Keyword system.

Arcade Mode.

You can freely dip into and out of any map in the atlas. Playing a single-shot game experience, lasting for 90-120 minutes depending on number of players and level of familiarity with the game. You do not need to keep track of any experience points. Your characters won’t level-up (gain talents).

Character Mode.

This is a chance to develop your character's story. Thereby adding depth and personality to your chosen character (there are eight base characters to choose from). You will pick three maps from the atlas and play those, plus the final 11th map. Keep track of your quests, experience points, talents, and keywords. Adding a level of richness and immersion to the characters that you do not often see in board games.

Both the Campaign mode and the Character mode have their own set of rules on how to play, and their own set of quests to read from the book. The quest book is big, clearly laid out and intelligently they have spiral bound it. Making it easy to read. The Arcade mode has adventure cards instead of using the quest book. This helps stop you accidentally learning spoilers to the main through arcade play.

Think it sounds like an RPG, go to chapter two. Otherwise go to chapter four.

Chapter Four

What is this about an Atlas you ask? Ingeniously to aid in the immersion of the story based aspect of the game. Instead of just having one game board which would mean visiting the same locations again and again and again….add infinitum.

Ryan Lukat and Red Raven Games have in fact provided you with a book of maps called the Atlas. This is again Spiral bound, meaning that it opens out into a full sized game board for each map. Each one is distinct and different. Again adding to the story immersion aspect.

Alongside the Atlas you have a Town Board which is double-sided with one as dusk and one as day. Here you farm, mine, trade, recruit adventurers and gain treasure to aide you. The Town Board is the only place that player interaction really takes place. This is because usually no two players can occupy the same town location without duelling first (except for the Saloon, everyone is friendly there).

To find out about duelling go to chapter five. To find out about fighting go to chapter five (b). 

Chapter Five

Duelling, as previously mentioned is generally the only real player interaction that takes place. This area has really been stripped right back to allow them to focus on the actual story part of the game. The only options available is whether you fight “honourably” or “dishonourably."

If you choose the second option as the attacker you will get +1 to your die roll but you will lose -1 reputation if you win and you can carry out the location’s action. If however you as the attacker manage to lose the duel you “go to jail”."

All this means is that you lose the rest of your go. There is no negative aspect to being the defender except you cannot spend your Hearts to modify you die roll.

Chapter Five (B)

Fighting and Questing out on the maps in Near and Far is a very simple affair.

You roll a D6, add to this the total number of swords you have in your adventure party and on Treasure or Artefact cards for combat, or hands for skills and hey presto if your total is higher than that of the target you win.

It's as simple as that. With questing if you beat the target by +2 there will usually be a bonus as well.

To find out about Questing go to chapter six. Otherwise go to my final thoughts.

If you choose the second option as the attacker you will get +1 to your die roll but you will lose -1 reputation if you win and you can carry out the location’s action. If however you as the attacker manage to lose the duel you “go to jail”."

All this means is that you lose the rest of your go. There is no negative aspect to being the defender except you cannot spend your Hearts to modify you die roll.

Chapter Five (B)

Fighting and Questing out on the maps in Near and Far is a very simple affair.

You roll a D6, add to this the total number of swords you have in your adventure party and on Treasure or Artefact cards for combat, or hands for skills and hey presto if your total is higher than that of the target you win.

It's as simple as that. With questing if you beat the target by +2 there will usually be a bonus as well.

To find out about Questing go to chapter six. Otherwise go to my final thoughts.

Chapter Six

What is this Questing thing? For each game session you will have a certain number of quest tokens based on the number of players. These will usually be fairly randomly placed across the map (there are a very few minor restrictions). When you reach a quest location you will have the relevant quest read out to you along with two choices of action. An example of this might be

“You stumble through the undergrowth into a clearing. You spot a child crying on a tree stump. There appears to be a faint glow around him”

Do you

Approach the boy to find out if he is OK? Skill 5

Draw your sword and attack? Combat 7

Once you have made your decision you roll your D6 add on any modifiers and choose to use any of your remaining hearts to modify the roll even further the outcome result and any relevant rewards will be read out to you.

Final Thoughts on Near and Far

If you've wanted a board game like Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, then this is your game! Near and Far is a beautiful game. From the first glance you will love the artwork The component quality is top notch (I have the Kickstarter exclusive with realistic gems and metal coins).

After a quick explanation of the rules you will become immersed. Scampering about town recruiting party members and stocking up on supplies, then out into the world at large. Seeking fame and fortune. Braving untold adventure and dangers.

Will you be competing against other adventurers to secure that quest, recruit that mercenary from the saloon or dig up riches from the mines? You will laugh at some of the stories and find yourself reading them in character as you become more immersed with every play. Having a high score at the end almost feels secondary as the whole point of this game is going on quests and experiencing the stories that unfold.

While it is abundantly clear that I genuinely love this game I am not blind to its faults.

The threats you can encounter moving around the map are not difficult to beat most of the time and do not offer any real peril or threat of injury. The almost complete lack of player interaction will be a big turn off for some.

If you fail a quest you cannot “retry” next go in fact the overarching need for the story to progress means that failure of a combat, threat or quest is never harsh or even overly negative. This is a story, A journey in a world of Lizards, Robots, Mystics and Nomads. If you can immerse and accept this journey for what it is you will have a lovely time and come away smiling. Depth comes not from the mechanisms or the methods of play but from the story above all else.

Overall, I am very happy to have this game in my collection and look forward to seeing where Ryan Lukat takes us next if he chooses to revisit this world. I am not a fan of too much player interaction but even I feel this is a little light.

The Good

  • Near and Far is dripping with theme.
  • Lots of ways to score points.
  • The character’s stories are deep and immersive.
  • Game time is not overlong (per session).
  • Multiple play modes
  • Large amount of re-playability
  • Very good component quality
  • FREE Pencil!

The Bad

  • Threats too easy.
  • Some rules a little unclear in the rule book (watch a how to play video is recommended).
  • Almost non-existent player interaction will be huge turn off for some.
  • Threats not really engaging.
  • Quest choices can sometimes be a little too obvious or easy.

The Good
Near and Far is dripping with theme.
Lots of ways to score points.
The character’s stories are deep and immersive.
Game time is not overlong (per session).
Multiple play modes.
Large amount of re-playability.
Very good component quality.
FREE Pencil!

The Bad
Threats too easy.
Some rules a little unclear in the rule book (watch a how to play video is recommended).
Almost non-existent player interaction will be huge turn off for some.
Threats not really engaging.
Quest choices can sometimes be a little too obvious or easy.

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