Game Buzz: Nevada City

I was fortunate to be in a game group with Alan Ernstein for a while. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about games, and has designed some good ones. So I’m always excited to see what he’s got coming out next, and right now, that’s

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Nevada City is the latest from Alan Ernstein and Rio Grande Games. It’s a 2-4 player worker placement game where you’re building up your homestead over the course of four game years. The game has already gotten some pretty good buzz, so let’s take a look.

The game comes with a long board representing available space in Nevada City. Players also have mats they use to represent their own personal property. Additionally, players have ranch gates, a random goal card (which is selected from two possibilities), a set of family cards, and any property tiles listed on their mat.

image by BGG user RGG_Ken

The game starts in 1855, and lasts four years (or five if you’re playing with two players, but I’m not going to describe that today). During each year, there are three phases: preparation for the new year, actions rounds, and clean up.

PREPARE FOR THE NEW YEAR: The first thing that happens here is that event cards are played out in spaces marked with the current year. This is all six spaces in 1855. The current year’s buildings are added to the available supply. Any unused workers from the previous year are discarded, and new workers equal to the number of players plus one are revealed.

ACTION ROUNDS: In an action round, all players take actions. At the start of each action round, you’ll first reveal and resolve one of the event cards if there is one. Then, beginning with the Sheriff, each player uses all of the action markers on one of their characters, either a family member or worker. Action rounds will continue as long as at least one player has at least one character with action markers. If you want to pass taking the actions of a character, just take their action markers off.

Following are the actions you can take:

  • Farm. One action can activate a farm tile, placing the marker there to indicate you can’t do it again this year. You then take the crops (cubes) from the supply that the farm produces and place them on the tile. Having farming ability icon allows you to farm additional tiles with this one action, using surplus markers to mark the extra farms.
  • Ranch. One action can activate a ranch tile. This works much like farming, except you’re producing livestock.
  • Mine. One action can activate a mine tile, which again is like farming, except you’re producing silver.
  • Use a Building. Place an action marker on an empty space on a building. You may need to pay a fee to that building’s owner. A character can only use a building once, but future characters may still use it.
  • Use City Hall to Claim a Building or Property. This is a special version of the “Use a Building” action, and works the same, except you’re using it to claim stuff. If you take a building, you’ll take a building card from the deck and place it on the main board so that its construction cost is showing. Don’t forget to mark that you own it. If you take property, pay for it and place it next to your homestead.
  • Construction. Use an action marker to start or continue construction on a building. Use materials stored at your homestead and materials provided by different skills (iron from Blacksmithing, lumber from Carpentry, brick from Masonry) towards the building’s construction. When there are enough of the required tokens there, it is completed and flipped over and you score points.
  • Reserve a Contract. Use an action marker on a building that allows you to reserve a contract from the side of the board. The space you place on tells you what color contract you can reserve. You can only reserve, work on, and complete one contract per year.
  • Work on a Reserved Contract. Use an action marker to place any goods required on a contract you have reserved. If this completes the contract, score it. If not, leave the goods there.
  • Complete a Contract. Use an action to turn in all goods required for a contract and score it.

CLEAN UP: When there are no more actions to take, the year is almost over. See if there are any buildings with end of year abilities and discard any remaining event cards. Also, check to see if the game is over – if all plots have buildings on them, even unconstructed, the game ends. If not, reset production and market value markers, reset the start player, and return action markers to their characters. Any current workers you have either need to be released or married into the family, which can happen if there’s a single son or daughter.

If you make it to the end of the fourth year (i.e. all building spots aren’t taken), the game is over. Score goals, then see who has the highest score – they win.

image by BGG user RGG_Ken

So, this is a big game, as you can see from the picture. I really like the sound of the action selection method, and the whole thing seems like a pretty clean system. The Old West is not a theme that particularly appeals to me, but I am happier to see a game that is more about building up that part of the country instead of cowboys strolling into town and having a shootout in the middle of Main Street. This is a game I look forward to trying out sometime.

That’s it for today – thanks for reading!

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