Game Buzz: Noria/Otys

Time to cover a couple more game from Spiel 2017.  Both games are visually striking but I wanted to delve more into how they play.  We’ll start with

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Noria is a 2-4 player game designed by Sophia Wagner and published by Edition Spielwiese (Stronghold will be releasing it in the US).  Art in the game is done by Klemens Franz and Michael Menzel, a superhero artist combination if there ever was one.  The game is set in a floating steampunk world, and is all about building your empire and political standing.

In the box, you get a double-sided game board, 24 Politician cubes, 20 Representative cylinders, 66 discs, 4 sets of action wheels, 4 pyramid bases 57 ship tokens, 90 resource tokens, 9 islands, 4 factory tableaus, 54 warehouse tokens, 16 round markers, 26 knowledge tokens, 28 factory tokens, 4 player aids, a start player tokens, and 6 letters.  You’ll use 5-7 of the islands, depending on the number of players.  These are placed face down on the game board.  You’ll also have 4-6 of each disc available in the market, and each player will receive one of each disc from the ones that weren’t used in the market.  Each player also gets a tableau, 5 Representatives, and 7 factories of their color.  4 of the Representatives will go in the Cave, while the other (your Ambassador) goes on the small island.  Your action wheel is assembled by placing the large, medium, and small ring on a pyramid base, and placing the whole wheel in the indentation on the player aid.  Your discs will be placed on the wheel – the City, Journey, and Tool discs go on indicated spots, while the Obsidian, Mycelium, and Energy discs are placed randomly (but in a different order for each player).  You’ll get a knowledge token as well as one resource (Obsidian, Mycelium, or Energy) of your choice.

image by BGG user JoergBoerg

A game will take 14-16 rounds (14 with 4 players, 15 with 3, and 16 with 2).  This is tracked by a series of tokens, the bottommost of which is removed when a round begins.  These tokens also serve as multipliers to be used when the supply starts to run out.  During a round, each player gets one turn, and these all follow the same sequence: Influence, Action, Politics, Administration.

INFLUENCE: This is an optional phase.  Here, you can influence the available actions on your wheel.  You could do a Night Shift – pay a knowledge to rotate the medium or large ring one space.  You could do a Modification – pay two knowledge to exchange discs on the wheel.  The price for each action permanently increases by one when there are six rounds remaining.  Also, you can perform multiple actions during this phase, but the cost doubles each time you do.

ACTION: Your wheel is divided into two halves – the active half (the portion that is adjacent to your player aid) and the inactive half.  In this phase, you may activate 0-3 discs that are in your active half.  Each disc must be on a different ring, and discs must be within line of sight (no other discs or spaces between).  There are seven types of discs – Energy, Mycelium, Obsidian, City, Journey, Tool, and Bonus – and each has at least one action. It is possible to upgrade your discs, which would give you two actions when you use it (either the same action twice or both action options once).  You can only use one upgraded ability per turn.  Here are your possibilities:

  • Bonus: Choose another discs.  You may use it twice this turn (three times if Bonus is upgraded).
  • Resources (Energy, Mycelium, Obsidian): For each ship of the corresponding type in your supply, take a resource.
  • City: You can take a new disc from the market.  Don’t put it on your wheel yet, just place it in the center.  You could alternately choose to move one of your Representatives up one of four paths.  You can only have one Representative on each path, and there is a cost to move.  In addition to the printed cost, you have to pay a resource for each Representative ahead of you on the same path.
  • Journey: Place your Ambassador on an island.  If not all of the islands have been revealed, draw one and place it, or place him on an already revealed island.  Pay one resource per opponent’s Ambassador that is already there.  You can then take a ship from the island and place it in your supply, or you can build a factory on the island.
  • Tool: Here, you can upgrade a disc (flip it over) or produce a good at a warehouse (which is placed in conjunction with a factory).

Instead of activating a disc, you can choose to take a knowledge instead.  You can also exchange goods for knowledge and/or knowledge for resources at the Black Market before, between or after activating discs.

POLITICS: During this phase, you may spend knowledge to move Politicans from the chambers and remove Politicians from the game.  The price doubles every time you use this action in a round.  Politicians makes the paths the Representatives are on more valuable.

ADMINISTRATION: Gain knowledge for your built factories, rotate each ring on your wheel one space clockwise, and place the discs you might have bought from the market on your wheel.

After the final round, the game ends.  Your Representatives earn you victory points, and the player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user Mouseketeer

Sophia Wagner won the Spiel des Jahres fellowship in 2015.  I’m not sure exactly what that means – maybe a grant?  In any case, this is his her first design, and it looks like a good one.  There’s a lot of moving pieces, but it all seems to boil down to getting your Representatives quickly up their tracks and try to make the tracks worth more.  The action wheel system is a really cool idea, and I look forward to seeing how it works.  I’m sure there will be complaints about the number of tokens involved (I’m sure lots of people are happy for the chance to use the old “fiddly” review), but that’s not something I’ve ever minded.  The game looks great, and I hope the play lives up to the look.

image by BGG user Libellud Team

Otys is a 2-4 player game by Claude Lucchini and published by Libellud and Pearl Games.  Art for this one is done by Paul Mafayon, who has also done art for games like Loony Quest, Bunny Kingdom, and the most recent version of Diamant.  The game is set in the mid-22nd century with the world submerged under rising sea levels.  The survivors have had to build their world up, and have to keep retrieving supplies to keep going higher.

Otys comes with a colony board, 4 player boards, 32 contract cards, 4 player markers, a first player marker, 5 double-sided sponsor tiles, 32 double-sided diver tiles, 8 technician tiles, 20 key tokens, 16 X key tokens, 24 battery tokens, 40 credits, 32 double-sided reward tokens, a bag, and 80 resource cubes.  Each player starts with a player board, 5 key tokens (numbered 1-5), a Mechanic and a Hacker (technician tiles), 8 diver tiles, a resource of each color, 3 credits, and 1 battery token.  You’ll draw two reward tiles per level on the board and place them in their spots.  The 5 sponsor tiles are randomly placed, and you’ll place 4 resource cubes (2 of 1 color, one of another and one of a third) on their spots in the store.  Draw three contracts and display them face up above the board.  Each player starts with their marker on 0 of the point track.

image by BGG user Libellud Team

During each round, players will each take a turn consisting of three steps.  The first thing you will do is choose a Key token and slide it to the right so that it touches the diver on its row.  This will allow you to use the effect of the Sponsor tile on the same level of the main board.  Sponsors will give you a credit, allow you to use a diver effect twice, return a key token, upgrade a diver, gain a battery, or other advanced effects (depending on what side the sponsor is on).

  • Instead of using one of your numbered key tokens, you can use an X token.  Place it next to the diver you want to use and shift all sponsor tokens down (5 becomes 1).  You’ll then get to use the sponsor tile now on your level.
  • During this first step, you can choose to spend a battery to move a diver up or down a number of levels equal to your movement (as determined by your Mechanic).  Shift any displaced divers to fill in gaps.

Step two of your turn is to slide the key token to the right again, pushing the diver for that row.  That diver is now activated, and you use its ability.  Divers help you find resources, buy or sell resources, draw contract cards, improve your Mechanic or Hacker, or gain reward tokens.  Divers can be upgraded to give you bonuses with their actions.

Step three of your turn is to flip the key token you used and place it on the Hacker track.  The diver you used must then resurface – move it up to level 1, shifting the divers it passes down to fill in the gaps.  If the key you place reaches the last space of the track (the Hacker), return all of your keys to their appropriate locations (neutral X keys go back to the supply).

Once you have gathered enough resources on a single level of your board, you can complete a contract card in your hand or one of the face up contracts.  These give you prestige points. If someone reaches 18 points, you finish the current round and the player with the highest score wins.

image by BGG user yaks

I didn’t know much about this game until I heard Tom Vasel talk about it on the Dice Tower Spiel preview.  Now that I’ve looked into it, I think it looks pretty good.  It’s got some great art, and the action selection method seems really cool.  The thematic idea is pretty strong, though I don’t think it matters as much to the actual gameplay.  There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of interaction, other than the race for contracts and shifting the sponsors around.  Still, it looks like a pretty good game and one I’d be happy to try out.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!



  1. I don’t covet a lot of games, and almost never suffer gamer regret. But Otys is the one game at Essen I am really sorry I missed. By the time I go to their booth, they were all sold out. *sigh*

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