Home Game Reviews Nemo’s War: Journey’s End Expansion Review

Nemo’s War: Journey’s End Expansion Review

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Nemo's War Journey's EndNemo’s War is considered one of the great solo-only games, so I’ve definitely wanted to give it a try. I’d heard that the dice-rolling made for a swingy luckfest, so I was cautious about playing it and being disappointed. When the chance to review the Journey’s End expansion presented itself, I saw this as a sign that I needed to finally check this game out. I went through several plays of the base game, only adding in the expansion once I’d had a chance to play with each motive one or more times. What did I think? Is Nemo’s War the be-all, end-all of solo gaming? Did my natural aversion to luck-dependent games sink the Nautilus, or did Captain Nemo overcome adversity and sway my allegiances? Does the expansion add anything amazing to the base game? Stay tuned, sailors, and find out.

Expansion Overview:

If you want the full ins and outs of Nemo’s War, you can read Tony’s review of the core game here. Journey’s End gives players two new motives to play, Piracy and World Order. The latter adds a new mechanism in Ally tokens, which are added to the Treasure cup. These allies are like Treasures that give you options for modifying die rolls or managing resources. The difference is that you can only use an Ally token when the Nautilus is in an ocean that has an Uprising cube. These new tokens can also be placed on the Tonnage track to fill in spaces as if you’d sunk a ship in that ocean. To give you more opportunities to make allies throughout your journey, placing a cube with a successful Incite action will let you draw a Treasure token. World Order also allows you to score two filled columns on your Tonnage track during endgame scoring, rather than the usual one.

Piracy is all about sinking non-warships, which give a +3 during endgame scoring. A little of the pressure of managing Notoriety is lessened for Pirate Nemo because he cannot suffer a Notoriety Defeat. Once you’ve reached the end of that track, the primary penalty is that you’ll have to determine Action Points using the two black dice for the rest of the game. Piracy makes it a little harder to get things accomplished because any number of hidden ships in an ocean will be counted as one warship token. This means that most rolls will get a -1 DRM.

Nemo's War Journey's End Motive
The World Order motive wants to prioritize sinking warships and making scientific discoveries.

In this expansion, you’ll also find Attribute tokens that can be assigned to the ships’ officers, adding a few more opportunities to swing fate back in your direction. Just like Treasures, these tokens will give you one-time Emergency Resource options like re-rolls or free actions.

Additionally, there’s an optional new character tile, Nadeen Dakkar, Nemo’s son. When using Nadeen, you’ll shuffle a couple of special event cards into the draw pile. These will give you the opportunity to add him part-way through the game along with some helpful characteristic tokens, which provide more Emergency Resources to utilize in a tough spot.

Aside from the above options, Journey’s End provides new Nautilus upgrades, Event cards, Treasure tokens, and Finalé cards. These are basically “more stuff” additions and give more variety to gameplay.

Finally, there’s a new rulebook. Well, make that two separate rulebooks, divided into the basic Game Rules and a Between Voyages Guide, which has game setup and scoring instructions plus rules for the gameplay variants. This includes a new 2-player competitive mode, called the Imperialist, where a second human player controls warship placement and movement on the map. The main addition in this variant is the introduction of Imperialist squadrons (those new plastic minis), which allow the Imperialist player to hunt and attack the Nautilus, or to crush dissent amongst Nemo’s supporters by removing Uprising cubes from the map.

Nemo's War Journey's End Gameplay
Much of Nemo’s War is about managing the dangerous build-up of ships in the world’s oceans.

Game Experience with the Expansion:

Much of the Journey’s End expansion gives players more options for luck mitigation. The Ally tokens for the World Order motive, the attribute tokens, and Nadeen’s characteristic tokens all provide optional additions to your game that give you more of a fighting chance when the dice just hate you. With more resources at your disposal, the overall difficulty level does decrease, but at the end of the day, players are still at the mercy of those die rolls.

Like Nemo’s other motives, Piracy and World Order provide some compelling changes to the gameplay and push players to learn how to best adjust their tactics and strategies to succeed. World Order stood out for me as particularly fun to play, due to the flexibility of the Ally tokens as well as the potential for huge rewards on the Tonnage track.

Nemo's War Journey's End Test
When you meet Nemo’s son, he may bring with him useful characteristics to help you out.

The new cards in Journey’s End give more depth to the existing storyline and gameplay options. Nemo and his valiant crew now have new adventures to undertake and even a Kraken to deal with in one of the Finalé cards. This will put a fresh coat of paint on the game for those players who enjoy the theme of Nemo’s War but have already seen it all a few times at this point.

So, how is the new Imperialist 2-player variant for this hallowed solo game? To be honest, not good. Nemo’s War is a solo game and there really was no need to slap on a clunky, dull competitive mode. There just isn’t all that much for the Imperialist player to do for a significant portion of the game. Early on, Nemo’s competitor will mostly just be rolling dice when they could negatively impact the Nautilus player. So, for things like the black Placement Phase dice, attack rolls against the Nautilus, and random resource hits, the Imperialist rolls the dice. No agency, no way to affect anything. Just rolling some dice.

Once Notoriety rises to certain levels (when the blue and green ship groups are added to the ship cup), the Imperialist player’s special squadrons are unlocked. This is where the bulk of the competitor’s action choices lie. Squadrons can chase down the Nautilus, attack, and remove cubes that Nemo has painstakingly placed on the board.

Nemo's War Journey's End Movives
Pirate Nemo gets the most out of sinking non-warships.

But really, all this boils down to for the Imperialist is moving ships around and trying to impede the Nautilus’s progress. The Nemo player is still the only one really playing a game, and the Imperialist player is simply trying to get in the way. There just isn’t a solid structure here on which to hang some semblance of a truly competitive back-and-forth between opponents possessing equal amounts of agency and gratification. So, in the end, the competitive mode doesn’t offer any appealing new avenues for experiencing Nemo’s War and players are better off sticking to the solo gameplay that it’s known for.

Lastly, a note on the two rulebooks for the game. They’re a mess. To set up a game of Nemo’s War, you’ll need to consult the Between Voyages Guide. Then, for an explanation of the game’s phases and ruleset, players will have to get out the Game Rules book. If you’d like to know how to score the game at the end, go back to the Between Voyages Guide, where you’ll also find rules for the gameplay variants (cooperative and competitive modes). It’s quite difficult remembering which rulebook will have the information you’re searching for midgame. Explanations and clarifications are peppered throughout both books, and it’s fairly time-consuming to flip back and forth between them to find what you need.

Final Thoughts:

Nemo's War Journey's End Tokens
Allies provide strong one-time abilities or may be saved for endgame scoring bonuses.

So, full disclosure: I don’t like Nemo’s War that much. It’s just not my style of game, I suppose. I really wanted to like the game, and I gave it the old college try. But at the end of the day, I don’t enjoy the slog of pushing around the Nautilus and endlessly rolling dice to see how things turn out. There’s lots of talk about the theme among fans, but for whatever reason, the theme doesn’t grab me or draw me in. And I like Jules Verne’s work. But this game fails to give me any sort of sense that I’m having adventures; it merely feels like I’m chucking dice and crossing my fingers. However, I do appreciate that the layers of strategy and tactical maneuvering required to manage resources and play your chosen motive effectively are enough to make this a standout solo experience for many.

My recommendation for the Journey’s End expansion is that, overall, it is optional. If you are a fan of Nemo’s War and love adventuring across the seas in the Nautilus, then this expansion certainly adds plenty more of what you already like. If you feel more is better or are a completionist, then you’ll likely be happy with the extra content in Journey’s End. But it’s not essential to a full experience as the base game has plenty to keep fans occupied.

However, if you don’t enjoy Nemo’s War and were hoping this expansion would add or change enough to make it worth giving the game another chance, I don’t believe there’s anything here to alter your existing opinion. Perhaps those who felt that it just needed to be a little less brutal will appreciate the added Emergency Resource options. But with Journey’s End, Nemo’s War is pretty much the same game and won’t be any more satisfying for those who already disliked it.

And for those who were hoping that Journey’s End would provide an awesome 2-player competitive experience so that you could share this game with a friend, you won’t find that here. The Imperialist variant is absolutely not worth the price of admission and I would definitely not recommend this game mode.

Expansion OptionalHits:
• Adds “more stuff” for fresh adventures
• Offers more luck mitigation options to decrease difficulty

Misses:
• Doesn’t improve the game experience for non-fans
• 2-player competitive mode is not worth it
• Two messy rulebooks

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Matt Kiser
While Matt prefers worker placements, engine builders, and heavier Euros in general, he's lately found himself drawn more and more to immersive thematic games. He does a lot of solo gaming and enjoys solo modes that feature a strong AI or bot that can effectively emulate human opponents' choices.

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