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NOCTURION
A kickstarter game for 2-4 Players that delivered all that it promised and more.
Designed by George Skourtis.  Illustrated by Damien Mammoliti
Lore & Story Background by Mark Alexander
Published by VESUVIUS MEDIA for young teens and upward.

If you purchase the base game it is an excellently produced game with several, heavy, cardboard pieces; Board, Cards, Markers, Tokens etc and these are perfectly viable for the game play.
If you paid a little more to get the elite version you get all the same card pieces, but your Tokens and Markers are now beautifully sculpted game miniatures including metal Coins, a Sacred Chalice, a Guildmaster's Token (very much like Mjölner, Thor's Hammer) a different Season Tracker and a Golden Crown of Authority.

Although these pieces add nothing except visual content to the game, it is well worth spending the extra few quid to have them because they blend in so neatly with the fantasy/historical theme, and give the players objects they can actually touch when activating them rather than just picking up a piece of illustrated card . I wouldn't recommend you buying the extra elite pieces if you have young children, as babies/youngsters mouths and shiny toys often end up together at the hospital. 
Note: you ALSO get the cardboard tokens as well as the metal, plastic or resin ones.

The Evergreen Empire is dying and the Emperor, Alexius, has called for the Heads of the Great Houses to bond together and help prevent its death. However, and especially with the honour of becoming Steward of the Capital, the Heads cannot forget all of the previous rucks between them and so it becomes a battle within a war with the players in the centre trying to fight off the oncoming hordes of beasts whilst gaining enough favour with the Emperor so that he chooses you to be the Steward. With the field (board) laid out, the locations in place, and the Curses, Quests and the Beasts ready to be discovered it's time to play.

 

The board, without the game markings, would make a superb framed picture to adorn your den's wall. With the markings it makes a picturesque scene on which to play out your adventure. There are four sides of the board, North, East, South and West, but for author-only-known reasons, the edge that most players would expect to be North (with the board text facing you it is reasonably natural to say that the edge closest to you is South and therefore the edge opposite is North) however the expected 'North' is actually the 'Eastern Liberation'. To the South (the expected East) you will find the Scarlet Ring and the 'expected West but actually North is the Old Empire. What I would call South (actually West) there is no name for the District.

In each of these four Districts there are three square fields lightly bordered so they are visible without totally impairing the beauty of the board's design. These fields are where the Location Tiles are randomly placed for each game, ensuring that there is always a shake-up as to where the locations are located for every game. Also in these Districts there is a static pair of dice printed on the board so these are always in the same position no matter what Locations are there. These are 6 / 1 for East and West, 4 / 2 for North and 5 / 3 for South.

Page 4 of the rules booklet is a 16 point glossary for the illustrated board and pieces on page 5. It is worth taking note of these because if you can remember them it saves a lot of page flipping while you continue to read the rules.

NOCTURION is about choosing and using the dice that are rolled each Round and activating actions that are available to them or going on a Quest. The First player rolls a number of dice equal to the number of players and in turn order each player selects one of them and places it on their board ensuring the result is not altered; these dice are used during play although one can be saved for the following turn/s.

Each personal player board is slightly differentwhen it comes to Set Bonuses that you gain when you add your family Heirlooms to it. The Heirlooms are the pieces of the family armour, comprising of,  Helmet, Breastplate and lower Torso and Leg protection. You get different bonuses as you collect your set pieces. All character boards have the same 'No Bonus' ability if you own just 1 of the 3, they also all have the same ability 'Roll One Extra Die Every Turn' when they have collected all 3 of the 3 Heirloom pieces, but it is when players have 2 of the 3 Heirlooms that their abilities differ.

 Auxentius (Red) Can exchange one resource for another; Caerys (Yellow) When gathering a resource may take two; Yaris (Green) May refresh a Beast; Zelar (Blue) Change a Die result to any number.

 

Nocturion is played in Rounds with each Round consisting of three Phases. First player in the First Round is chosen randomly - there are dice in the game so a simple die-roll will suffice - and for future Rounds the First player is the one holding the Guildmaster's Token (the Hammer), collected from the Lumber Mill by using that Location's Special Ability.

Six of the 12 Locations have Special Abilities that are unique, the other six Locations all have the same Ability which is 'Summon a Beast (from hand) or Search for one in the Beast deck. The unique Special Abilities are: Exchange one Resource, Refresh/Exhaust a summoned Beast in play, Remove a Curse, Roll a Die and Reserve its result, Draw a Curse and play it and Take the Hammer. You may take the Sacred Chalice piece if you do not have a Curse when using the Ability of the Monastery, the Hammer you get as already noted, and the Reserved die is placed on your board (or you take a free Resource from supply if you have a saved die already that you wish to keep - you may exchange reserved dice.

 

The game is good but the play probably isn't what could be expected by the visual representation on the box, although it does state clearly it is a 'Worker Placement' game. It is of the genre where you visit a Location, activate the ability, summoning Beasts, and going on Quests etc. Despite sounding exciting this is more of a resource management game than an adventure; there is no combat, either between player characters or player's characters and Beasts. To summon a Beast you have to be able to meet the resource requirement and be on a Location with the Portal [Ring] symbol. The Beast you have summoned is placed on your character board in the Menagerie section (4 x Dragon on a plinth) and you gain Prestige equal to the amount shown on the Beast's card. In the same situation a player can, instead of summoning a Beast from their hand, take a chance and select one Beast from the top three of the stack of Beasts, hoping to get one with more Prestige but having to keep one of those searched, you cannot go back to the card in your hand you were thinking of.

The main interaction between players is the playing of Curses on each other. A player may have up to three curses in front of them and they can do such things as lose a player an Active Beast or lose them Prestige. Curses are fun to play but nasty to receive, just as they should be.

 

The central area of the board is a Calendar with a Resource track framing it, the Season Tracker is placed on this for the first time according to the resource shown on the Location in the Winter section that the First player selects. After this it moves round the board, through the seasons and resources, moving to the next available resource shown on the Location chosen by each player. This means each 'year' can move at various speeds and to an extent the players can decide on the speed it moves. If you have bought some of the extra pieces you might have bought the 'advanced' season tracker. Of all the extra pieces this is the only disappointing one. It does its job okay but it looks like an afterthought rather than anything 'special'. I quite like the idea of using a black wooden block as the ventral connector that allows the Wagon [season tracker] and the X2 icons to move round the resource track, it fits in with the dour, pastel colouring of the 'seasons' shown as split quarters on the square card. I do wish that something other than another black wooden block had been used as the marker that keeps note of the number of years, a small pyramid shape would have looked nicer and not been as easy to dislodge - our 'fat' fingers kept knocking the wooden block off the tracker until I found a tiny D4 from an old fun-size dice set and used that instead.

The aforementioned beautiful 3D pieces are mostly the Resources used for completing Quests - Quest cards grant Prestige and Immediate rewards. Along the right side of each Quest card the icons are shown that refer to the required resources. Resources required to complete Quests have to be discarded not just owned. Before activating a Quest card the player has to have the necessary Heirlooms in place; one Heirloom for Level One Quests, two Heirlooms for Level Two Quests and, of course, three Heirlooms for Level Three Quests. Each player begins the game with the three heirloom cards. As they are collected they open the respective Abilities as shown on the Player Boards and as just mentioned, the possibilities of going on Quests. Players need to discard the resources required to equip an Heirloom; the Heirlooms can be equipped in any order, Prestige is gained by equipping them. Highest amount of Prestige wins the game.

There is a Quick reference guide on the back page of the rules, though for a 2-4 player game it would have been nicer to also have a spare copy of this so there could be one on either side of the table (if you site side by side and opposites as our table is best suited for) or between two players if all four people site at the table's edges.

 

With Bows, Swords, a Hammer, Curses and a Golden Chalice along with armour pieces (Helm, Breastplate and Leggings), Beasts, and an illustration of a fire-breathing Dragon attacking a Castle in the dead of night, the first impression is that this is a game of medieval/fantasy combat with land control as its base, but all of that only creates but an illusion to cover the fact that this is a beautifully made, in the main, resource management game. As such this is a game that regular players of the management style will find as good as many other games of this genre, but visually a lot prettier and eye-catching.

NOCTURION boardgame was published via Kickstarter and is (sort of) based on an MMO style computer game by VESUVIUS MEDIA, the same company responsible for both versions.
The computer version has a number of things that do not appear in the board game version.

     

There are three videos on YouTube that show how the computer game plays

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=MQNKOoP7Wf8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQYtIlOhDn4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxDj4-oiibM

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015