Context of review: The copy of Nusfjord is the reviewers own. Review has been written after playing 6 solo games and 3 games at the 2 player count.
Surely building your fishing fleet for a sleepy Norwegian village couldn’t provide too much excitement, could it? Well, as with any Uwe Rosenberg game the answer is probably yes, given that he has somehow made farming and building a cave into some of the most interesting and complex games around. Nusfjord is definitely no exception to the Uwe rule.
General feeling of the game
Let me start by saying that there isn’t anything too exciting, interesting or novel about Nusfjord definitely nothing that you haven’t seen in other offerings from Uwe in the past. The game revolves around worker placement which helps to boost your fleet and production of fish, wood and gold. Place a worker on a centralised board, take the action and move on, that’s it. Sounds a bit like Agricola or A Feast for Odin or any other number of similar Euros, right?
But what if I said you can play a solo game in 20 minutes and a 2 player in probably less than 30 minutes? You’re in? OK, so read on…
I have A Feast for Odin and it sits on my shelf, patiently waiting to come out when I can get the time and the table space for it. I also own Raiders of the North Sea and Architects of the West Kingdom, but the thought of a 60 minute game sometime leaves me cold after a long day at work. Nusfjord therefore filled a niche that was desperately needing filling. To have a ‘dry Euro’ that has tons of strategic decisions to be able to be set up and played in 25 minutes was a definite selling point for this game.
I was tentative at first, 20 minutes is a really short time for a board game, let alone a Euro board game. Surely this is a sales tactic to try to sell some Uwe to the unsuspecting? Maybe 40 mins, then the player will be hooked and find their behaviour escalating over time, tracking down all of the promos to Agricola or hanging around in dirty alleyways waiting to jump someone for their copy of Ora et Labora?
But I was wrong, Nusfjord really does play in 20 minutes (per player).
Criticisms of Nusfjord
There are a few trade offs for the speed of the game, though. One of those is that at the lowest players counts (1-2 players) you will be always dealing the same Elders cards in the same positions. These cards allow you to have a special ability and come into consideration when distributing your fishing haul, so they have a big impact on game play. The issue here is that having the same cards out every game means that strategies are easy to apply and that the Elder card once selected is now gone from anyone else’s game, meaning that you may see the same strategies playing out over and over.
Secondly, the game is maybe one round too short (a game is 7 rounds) – so just as your engine is starting to hum along it is then time to start to consider what your final moves are going to be. Sometimes Round 7 comes around so quickly that you won’t even have planned for the endgame and all of a sudden it is there. That being said, adding more rounds makes the game longer thus negating one of it’s core strengths therefore it means that you really need to pay attention to each of your moves to make sure that you are maximising efficiency.
Having the same Elders cards come out every game does hinder replayability to some extent, however the variable set up of the Buildings deck mitigates this. The base box has 3 different decks for Buildings, meaning that you will have extended replayability for subsequent plays. There are enough cards in these decks to ensure that even within a deck you may not see the same cards twice in 2 games.
Playing solo is a ‘beat your own score’ kind of arrangement, so no Automa here to complicate things. This can lead to a bit of a bore with some games, but again this is where that play time comes to the fore. Seven rounds and you are finished, meaning that Nusfjord can even act as a filler game for a bigger solo – or consider it your calisthenics routine before diving into a game of A Feast For Odin.
Nusfjord sits in a pretty special place, as it is a complex Euro that occurs over a short period of time. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a shorter Uwe Rosenberg euro.
The similar games that I would recommend are:
- Looking for something a bit more? – A Feast for Odin, Agricola or Caverna, all great Uwe Rosenberg games BUT they all play in a significantly longer period of time than Nusfjord.
- Relatively simple worker placement? – While quite different, if you are looking for a worker placement game that is simple then check out Orleans or Architects of the West Kingdom.