Nautilion: Review

Nautilion game box, with those amazing Oniverse illustrations. Z-Man Games.

Home alone, a storm crashes outside, rain pouring down so fierce it sounds like static from the TV on full volume. Winds pulling the tree roots right out of the ground. You can’t go outside, it’s just too dangerous but you want to play a board game. What do you do? There’s no one to play with. Nowhere to go.

A solo game. That’s the answer.

Does the description above fit my particular situation? Not exactly, it was super overcast though, and below seasonal temperatures, a bit nippy out. It was an excuse to play Nautilion though.

Nautilion is part of the “Oniverse” by designer Shadi Torby, but you can read about that somewhere else. I’d been looking for this game for a long time. I’ve been a fan of the Oniverse for a while, but this one was a little harder to track down. What a feeling though, when you do finally stumble upon it. Price is no object.

The Nautilion in all its glory.

If you’ve played Oniverse games before Nautilion is just as beautifully illustrated as the rest. If you’ve never played an Oniverse game before, first of all, shame on you, but second of all, they are truly some of the most beautifully illustrated and designed games ever. Works of art in their own right. You can thank Élise Plessis for that. Bravo Élise.

It’s a joy to setup, and when I say joy I mean nightmare. Harsh words, yes, but truth. Without going into the boring details you are basically laying down dozens of little cardboard circles that make a sort of, modular game board. They are small and finicky, and you gotta shuffle them up and turn them all over. It’s boring. And did I mention they’re small and finicky?

Part of the fun filled setup, with all those finicky circles.

It stopped raining now, but I already set up so there’s no going outside now. The rules are simple enough, a roll-and-move game with a couple hitches. I felt good the first couple turns, I had a goal, I had a plan, and started off with a couple strong rolls. Off I was on the road to victory. The windy, exciting, infuriating, amazing road to victory.

The take on the roll-and-move is interesting. I enjoyed rolling and assigning dice, making those decisions. As I raced toward the enemies home, while he raced to mine, I felt the tension I think the designer hoped would be there. And you know you gotta have that tension.

Making some progress.

As I played I started to notice the intricacies of the game, the choices I had to make based on what was happening in the moment and what was coming in the next few turns. I also started to understand how to effectively use the special abilities, which honestly make this a complete game. Without the abilities it’s likely your choices would be more obvious and presenting a player with tough choices, sometimes none good, is so important for any game, but especially for a solo game where there’s no opponent to counter your play and provide that push back.

I’m breezing along as I realize, “Oh, this is going to end a lot sooner than I thought, and I am not close to winning”. I was on the road to victory, but I must’ve made a wrong turn at some point. I wasn’t out of it yet, though. Nautilion does a great job of pacing itself so you’ve generally not guaranteed a win, or a loss, until the very last roll or two. My play the last few rolls was tense, to say the least. The lightening and thunder may have subsided outside, but the storm was now brewing inside. A couple bad rolls can sink you in Nautilion, and let me tell you, I had a couple bad rolls.

I was down to the wire with a final roll that was so brutal, so disheartening, I felt total anger and hatred toward the cruel dice gods. Suffice to say, I had lost in a fashion I sometimes feel only I could. There are a group of fellow gamers out there who know what I’m talking about. It wasn’t meant to be, but as the dust settled I felt I had fun no matter the outcome.

One of the expansions. Would have been a nice card to have.

It’s truly a fun little game for anyone into mini-games or solo games. A bunch of expansions are included that change the game just enough to make playthroughs feel fresh, and some gorgeous artwork to look at. So, next time a storm rages outside, and travel is far too dangerous, try your luck on the Oniverse seas on board the Nautilion.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.