Nemesis – The unofficial Alien Boardgame Review

Nemesis was another of my Kickstarter “investments” that I jumped on without hesitation as it was a Sci-Fi game playing on a Spaceship that had Alien activity on board with players trying to escape the ship alive. If that wasn’t a perfect match to the theme of the first movie of the Alien franchise…

What I couldn’t know at the time I backed this game was how great this game would be. This was without a doubt one of the really lucky hits on Kickstarter.

So what is “Nemesis” all about?

The Nemesis is a spaceship that in en route to Earth and the crew is suspended in Cryo-Sleep. The ships computer decides to wake the crew up because these are damages to the ship. As the crew wakes up they are all suffering from partial amnesia, which is a side effect of the Cryo-Sleep. All they know is that there is a Bridge with the Navigational Computer on one end of the Ship and three Engines on the other end. They have to check in the Navigation is still set to Earth and in at least two of the three Engines are intact so they can reach their destination. The maze of corridors leading to those vital parts of the ship connects a number of rooms where the crew has no real memories of what they are. And to make things worse they find one of their crew members is dead, obviously killed by outside effects. And Crew Members cannot directly harm other Crew Members by a behavioural chip they have installed, so there must be someone or something on the ship that has killed him…

And while they start to explore the ship they hear strange noises coming from the corridors and the maintenance shafts. They are clearly not alone…

How does it work?

Setting up the Game

Nemesis is a round based game semi-cooperative game for 1-5 players, there is also a fully cooperative mode for the game. At the beginning of the game the ship gets set up by placing two different sets of rooms randomly on the matchings spots – one type of required rooms will be present at each game and the other set contains optional rooms and not all of them will be placed to create a different setup for each game. The players won’t know all rooms that will be in the game and where they are. Each room get an additional random element, the so called Exploration Tokens with various effects which are activated when the rooms are entered the first time. The a random location card is drawn for determining the current target destination of the Nemesis, the three engines get an Engine token each stating if they are working or if they are damaged – all of those things are also hidden from the players at this point. Lastly a number of locked escape pods are placed in the corresponding sections on the ship, with the entry to those being hidden in the rooms and unknown to the players at this stage, too.

Now it is time to set up the crew. Let’s focus on the semi cooperative game mode as this is the mode that creates the most tension and fun for the game. Each player draws two Objective cards, one personal goal and one corporate goal. At a later point each player will have to decide which Objective they will try to achieve to win the game. These are to be kept secret, of course. At the next step each player randomly draws two characters to choose with actual character from. Once the choice is made each players gets the Character Board, miniature, Action Card Deck, starting Item Card (a weapon and the listed number of ammunition markers) and two Quest Item cards. All these are different for the individual characters and heavily impact how the game will be played for that player. The available Characters are Captain, Pilot, Soldier, Mechanic, Scout and Scientist – more were available to backers of the game like Medic, CEO and more.

Playing the Game

Now the game is ready to start. Each players randomly draws 5 cards of their own Action Card Deck and places their miniature in the middle of the Game Board in the Hibernatorium where they leave their Cryo Sleep Chambers and find the Corpse of their crewmate (blue Character Corpse token).

Starting with the Starting Player each player has the option to make two actions before passing the game to the next player. Possible basic actions are listed on the Character Board with their Action Card cost in brackets.

  • Movement (1)
  • Careful Movement (2) – not usable in Combat
  • Shoot (1) – Ranged Weapon an Ammo required
  • Melee Attack (1) – No, you don’t want to do that!
  • Pick up Heavy Object (1)
  • Trade (1)
  • Craft Item (1) – two fitting Item cards required

Additional Action choices may be available from:

  • Action Deck Cards (0-2)
  • Item Cards (typically 1 or 2)
  • Room Descriptions (2)

At the beginning the only real options are to use Movement, Careful Movement or Pick up Heavy Object (taking the Corpse, I’ll leave the possible causes for that for you to explore in the real game).

Let’s move to the next room which will cost 1 Action Card. This means the Player has to choose one of his Actions Cards from his hand and discard the card without using that cards own effect. Then the miniature can move to the adjacent room. If the room is still unexplored the Room Tile as well as the Exploration Token will be unveiled. The token will show how many possible Item Cards may be found in the room (needing one Search Action Card for each) as well as a special one time effect:

  • Silence – no Noise Roll needed, you lucky bastard!
  • Danger – attract all Intruders from adjacent rooms or place Noise Marker in all connecting corridors.
  • Slime – oops, you are covered in Slime that make noice when you move (Silence effects from token or dice rolls are Danger instead)
  • Fire – place a Fire Marker in the Room
  • Malfunction – place a Malfunction Marker in the Room, the Rooms Action cannot be used
  • Doors – a doors closes itself behind you

After entering a room (newly unveiled or not) without another Miniature in it you have to make a Noise Roll which will show a number between one and four, a Silence or a Danger Icon. Silence and Danger correspond to the above Exploration Tokens. The number means you put a Noice Marker in the Corridor of that number. If there is a marker in the corridor and you would place a second one you remove all Noise Markers from connecting corridors and draw a token from the Intruder bag – meaning an Intruder will appear in your Room.

Simplified, this is all that will happen in the game. There are some more complications, of course. With each placed Noise Token the possibility for Intruders appearing increases. You might be lucky and see no Intruders for several turns or you might see the Intruder Queen in Round 1. Intruders might appear and block your way to important rooms. You might flee from Intruders who will chase you all the long or just stay where they are. An Intruder might drop dead after a lucky hit from your Shotgun or survive the soldiers hits until his ammo is out.

You might find the crucial Rooms very early in the Game of you might search for ages to find the Room you might need for your Quest Items or your Objective.

Two Crew Members fight against an Adult, a Breeder and a Queen

Time is ticking…

An important part of the game is the time progression. The Nemesis will jump to hyperspace within 15 turns. If you are not back in the Cryo Sleep Chambers by then or have left the ship in an Escape Pod you are dead meat. You don’t have the time to make Careful Movement and stay together as a Group all the time, which would basically improve your chances of not getting an Intruder encounter. But to be true I have rarely seen players cooperating even at the beginning of the game. In addition you draw Intruder Tokens each turn to see how they evolve. This might add additional Intruders of various stages to the Token Bag which represent the Intruders that may appear on each encounter.

And this leads us to one of the real fun parts of the game: Reaching your Objectives while you betray you fellow Crew Members. Even if you are not actively playing against the other players most of the time there will be opportunities where you may find ways to put them in a tight spot to help you survive. The Captain may order someone to enter a Room with an Intruder so he may enter the Escape Pod as the Intruder fights that Crew Member. Or you might close a door to block the Intruder from you room – trapping a fellow in the room with it that may even be on fire. Or your goal is to destroy the Nemesis and you simply lied to the others that you just repaired the second engine – and while they are entering the Hibernatorium you are taking the Escape Pod.

And by the way, if an Intruder attacks you he might also force you to draw Contamination Cards that might lead to an infection that can kill you in untreated even after you have successfully reached the Escape Pod or enter Cryp Sleep…

Is “Nemesis” a good game?

It takes a moment to get into the game, in the first games you most likely will not know which Character to take to possibly fulfil your objective. But if you like the suspense of Aliens or similar movies, the overwhelming forces of the Intruders and the narrative qualities of the game then you will be loving this game. If you are on the other hand loving to play overpowered Heroes who can cope with anything you might hate this game.

The deployability of this game in immense. This is the most played game in my Game Sessions (outside of my family) and no game has been the same. Even after playing some fully cooperative games we have never seen two games that were even remotely comparable.

And even when we have hardly won even half of the games (meaning NOONE has won those games) we had lots of fun playing the game. It plays more like a movie than a game. And as each game last about 90-120 minutes you are not heavily time invested into the game and might be able to play more than one game on one Game Evening.

Summing it up

To make the long story short: If you find the Story of the Game interesting you should really take a deeper look at Nemesis. This is one of my favourite games of all times. And I haven’t even played with this additional Characters that came with my Kickstarter Pledge, used one of the additional Alien Races or played Aftermath (additional game after a main game of Nemesis when the ship has arrived at the Earth) or the Campaign with Comic Book Storyboard.

Title: Nemesis
Designer: Adam Kwapiński
Publisher: Awaken Realms
Players: 1-5 Players of Age 12+
Link: BoardGameGeek
Link: Boardgame Replay

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