My first play of this was of the two player variety this time which is becoming less frequent. I find more players are willing to venture down the rabbit hole of a new board game now that the confidence has been established. I have taught almost my entire collection and I am not the only expert of the group anymore. This play was accompanied by my fellow heavy gamer Ramon and we dove into the heavy euro that is Nippon.
The general idea of Nippon is each player is a Zaibatsu in industrial revolution of Japan. They are responsible for bringing Japan into the 20th century by setting up factories that produce various products like paper, silk, bento, and lens. The players will take these produced goods and sell them to the people of Japan or outside the country to fulfill contracts.
This game has a boat load of game play under the hood. The choices that are available to you are limited at the core but when analyzed have loads of depth. Every turn consists of performing one of two moves which include taking a new worker and performing the associated action to which it was assigned or consolidating the work you have done in previous actions. This makes entry easier than other heavy euros that have a tendency to throw you to the wolves as it were with options that a new player will have little understanding of the outcomes. It is when a player takes a worker that the game shines in all its glory. Each action carries so much value in the end game that it becomes difficult to come to any concrete solution. The area control of the influence map mixed with the side points that you can accumulate with the other avenues of play will have any player mulling over the turns. This is the obvious downfall of this game which is the unavoidable analysis paralysis. This is a first play that will probably be hastened with future plays but that will be revealed in future plays.
My complaints will be short due to the wonderful first experience I had but the game does lose it’s narrative through play. The heavy game play has each player thinking more about the proceeding turns rather than the thematic reasons of doing these actions. Keep in mind that this is coming from a gamer that really appreciates narrative throughout so it was a bit of a disappointment to me when I had to remind myself what the theme was. This really doesn’t take away from the experience though due to its wonderfully complex and engaging game play. I would warn anyone who likes their game experience to be filled with narrative to steer clear of this one.
The two player experience is a less confrontational experience as the workers and desired influence locations rarely become contested. It seemed to be a practice of efficiency with all options open for the taking. I did have a slight issue with the timing of my moves that I didn’t initially see with the last three turns of the game. I found myself simply doing actions that yielded little as far as end game points or benefits.