The Nebula Valley – covered in fog and with monsters lurking, needs you! You’re needed to rebuild it to its former glory.
In Via Nebula from Martin Wallace, your goal is to accumulate points by making use of exploitations, completing contracts and creating routes by uncovering fog.
On a players turn you get two actions to perform and can perform the following actions:-
- Place a craftsman on an exploitation – this gives you victory points from the card and places the number of resources shown on the card on to the board
- Place a building site – with 3 or more players you’ll need to place two in order to construct a building.
- Explore a fog space – use your meadow tiles from your guild board to place on fog spots
- Explore a petrified forest (this costs two actions) – works the same as exploring fog
- Transport a resource to one of your building sites – If you have a clear path from an exploitation to a building site you can transport a resource to it
- Construct a building – Once you have all the resources required to complete the construction you can place you building and reclaim your building sites.
At the start of the game you’re given two contracts to complete. They display a number of resources along the top of the card and these are the resources you’ll need in order to build a building. You will need to transport them from exploitations to the building site via meadows that have been opened up by you or other players.
There is also a deck of contract cards placed on the board, with three face up; these can be completed by you at any time providing you have the resources on your building site to finish them. Completing contracts gives you victory points and also provides you with a bonus to use which is written on the bottom of the card, you don’t have to use it, but you can only use it as soon as you complete the contract. The bonuses can be things like being able to place a meadow tile on a ‘forbidden’ area or performing an additional action.
Each player has a total of five buildings and once one player has built all five the game effectively ends. As mentioned above you’ll need to place two building sites in order to be able to complete a construction, but, if you only place one then another player could place one on the same tile meaning that you could both place a building. This leads to some pretty interesting scenarios where you either have a standoff with transporting resources or a race to get the building finished.
Once a site has had its resources depleted you can claim back your craftsman and place them on another site if you wish. Other players are free to use any resource regardless of which players sits on the exploitation. It’s therefore a good idea to try and think strategically about where to use them – if you think another player needs certain resources then place your craftsman on a site that offers them, that way you’ll get the victory points and are more likely to get the craftsman back sooner meaning you can place him sooner and get more points!
When I first read about the game and checked out the rules it did sound a little complicated, but actually once we got in to it we found it wasn’t half as bad as I first thought. Once we were on a roll it was great fun and we started to develop our own little strategies and have mini battles and standoffs for buildings. We did find that towards the end you might not be able to use up all your own buildings as there won’t be any free spaces, but you can still earn points by placing meadow tiles and clearing your stocks of them on your guild boards. You can also still claim exploitation cards to claim to the points they offer.
The rules vary slightly if you’re playing with two players with the main difference being the number of resources placed on an exploitation and the use of building sites. Each guild board card has two sides to it and depending on how many people play will depend which side you use. The board itself also has two sides to it – beginner side and expert side, the expert side just has less tiles to to build on and more forbidden tiles…
One thing you can’t help but notice about the game is the design of it. With it’s bright colours and great art style it looks really, really nice – it actually reminds me a lot of Takenoko in terms of how it looks. It also has really good build quality with most of the pieces being made from wood meaning it will really take a lot to damage them. The cardboard pieces also feel nice and sturdy too. A special mention must also go to the design of the box, everything fits so snugly inside it, even if you’re carting it around it’s safe to assume that everything will remain where it should!
Via Nebula is a great game that offers a nice balance of accessibility, casual play and strategy. It will make you think about what you’re doing, but not so much that you end up with a tired brain at the end of it.
You can track down your copy of via Nebula here.