Nusfjord is a worker placement game by Uwe Rosenberg so when I got may hands on a copy I was expecting good things. The game is set in the village of Nusfjord, players are operating fishing companies in and around the village. There are forests to manage in order to build ships and buildings, fish to harvest, village elders to cultivate, feasts to hold and more. There is quite a lot going on but it is all fairly simple and straightforward.
I’d put Nusfjord in the less challenging and less complex category of worker placement games, although it might initially seem a little daunting. Persist, it’s worth it. The other strong points of Nusfjord has is that it is relatively fast, a game should be no longer than 20 minutes per player, it scales well between different numbers of players and it has a huge amount of replay-ability.
I’m not going to go into detail, instead I’ll discuss game play in broad terms. As said this is a worker placement game, so players will one by one be placing a worker and taking the action associated with that worker. Unlike some worker placement games there are a fixed and limited number of possible actions, this helps to keep the game fast and avoids growing complexity.
So one by one players may choose to harvest wood, build a building, issue a share and so on, and once that action has been used by one player it cannot be used again that turn. It is a tried and tested formula, and it does feel that Uwe Rosenberg has taken a great deal of learning and applied it to this game.
Play continues one action by one action until all players have taken all their actions. Then after some admin, it’s time to collect more fish and start again. There is a rather neat mechanic for managing reserves of fish and wood, and another for turn order which ensure it shifts from player to player, and on certain turns more buildings become available which can be planned for. Similarly as Elders are taken others become available increasing options for future rounds.
As with all of these style games there is a level of economic engine. In the case of Nusfjord most of this is around the buildings and elders because these help generate more resources, income and so on. There is a very neat mechanic for moving reserves of fish and wood around, something that attention should be given to, and another for issuing shares which can become a necessary economic step.
Ultimately it is all geared towards obtaining victory points and these will decide the winner. Victory points can be obtained in a number of ways, from buildings, from ships, from harvesting fish, from wealth and so on. The game ends after seven rounds at which point victory points are counted, the player with the most is the winner with no tie breaker.
On the whole the production quality is fantastic. The boards are on really good stock and well printed, are high quality and the same can be said for pretty much everything in the box, and there is a great deal in the box. Given how good everything else is the tiny tokens representing coins are a let-down, to me next to the rest of the components they don’t fit very well.
The rules booklet is reasonably well laid out, is in colour and has loads of illustrations and examples. This said, initially set-up and play can appear confusing, it does benefit from an initial play through to learn and make sense of the rules.
There is a mass of content in the box including three different decks of cards which can be used, so increasing variety and replay-ability, though it would have helped if it were easier to identify which deck is which. Overall production quality is very high and the mass of content fills the box so you certainly get your money worth.
Currently none. A new deck of buildings is currently under development and is for release later this year. It may include options around village elders as well but we will have to wait and see. This new deck of buildings will add to replay-ability which is already high.
Nusfjord lacks the pressure and angst of other worker placement games like Agricola where there is a continual pressure and worry. Play is lighter and a great deal more relaxed which makes for an entirely different playing experience to games like Agricola, and because of the lack of pressure it tends not to suffer from decision paralysis. If there is any pressure it is around obtaining gold, gold will almost always be in short supply, but without it there is still plenty of other useful options.
Nusfjord appears to have been designed on the principle of keeping it simple. There are for example only three different resources, fish, wood and gold. These resources can be used to buy boats, construct building and acquire village elders and so on. Buildings and Elders can assist in generating more resources or in producing ships and so on. It is a limited economic engine which works very well and fits with the game.
The overall simplicity of the game fits the theme, a fishing company in a small village. Competition between the companies is fairly steep, but there is always options and possibilities to take alternate actions, all of which will lead to benefits. Interaction is around selecting actions, maybe trying to guess what action an opponent may take, but like many worker placement games it is more about development than interaction, though in the case of Nusfjord there is a competitive element to take into account whilst managing those resources growing the company.
Nusfjord lacks the complexity of say, Agricola or Fields of Arle, and plays faster. It is elegant, fairly easy to learn, does not have a massive learning curve, and is fairly forgiving. So if you are looking for a relatively simple and thematic worker placement game that is good for any number of players from two to five, with fairly quick game play and short duration, then Nusfjord may be just what you are look for.