A to Z Gaming: Near and Far

Near and Far

We went in search of the lost ruin in Near and Far, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Near and Far
Players: 2-4
Time: 90-120 Minutes
Designers: Ryan Laukat
Artists: Ryan Laukat
Publisher: Red Raven Games

Near and Far is a story-driven game where players spend time in town to get provisions and companions for their adventures in the countryside. On the way, players will construct artifacts that add to their abilities and encounter the best and worst of the local folks. Whoever is most successful on their quest wins.

The game is set up by first choosing the appropriate map from the map book (which could be random, if you are playing a one-off game) and placing it in the middle of the table with the town board next to it. A number of books are distributed randomly to locations on the map, depending on player-count. Five companions are drawn and set up in the upper-left side of the board, and a number of pack animals set out based on player count. The treasures, minor artifacts, and major artifacts decks are shuffled and placed near the board. The leader cards are laid nearby along with the resources.

Players each take a player board, standee character of their choice, tents and markers in their color, three coins, and a starting companion.

Then players are dealt two major artifact and five minor artifact cards. Players draft the minor artifacts — each choosing one from their opening hand and passing the remaining cards to the next player until each player has five cards. Before beginning the game, each player must discard at least one of their major artifacts, and may discard any number of artifacts.

On a player’s turn they can either take an action in town or move on the map. The actions in town include recruiting new adventurers (at the Saloon), trading resources, discarding an artifact, and buying reputation (Town Hall), picking up a pack animal (Sables), earn some cash and look at new artifacts (General Store), gain treasures (Mystic’s Hut), or dig for gold or gems (Mine). If the player starts their turn on the map, they can jump directly back to any space in the town; if they start in town, they move to a new space. If another player is on the spot they’d like to use, they’ll need to duel, except if they’re going to the Saloon.

If the player decides to leave down and go out on the map, they’ll reset their hearts (based on their companions) and start on the town space of the map. They have a base movement of two spaces, but pack animals, certain companions, and some artifacts can boost that number. If the player decides to keep moving once they hit an empty spot (i.e. no tent token from any player), they’ll lose a heart. If they pass over a symbol along a path, they must resolve it — these can be treasure that they take from the stack and place on a pack animal (you can only carry treasures if you have a pack animal). If it’s a threat, they need to do a skill check on their “swords” against the topmost card of the threat deck. If they don’t pass, they can’t travel that road.

The player can then activate the spot where they stop if anything is available. If there’s a book they can encounter it, which entails reading a passage from the book and doing a skill check to take one of the possible actions the passage presents. The passages let us meet the locals and see how they work together. They always present a choice, and the results can get the player banners of certain clans, plus or minus reputation, and/or gems and gold.

Finally, the player can place a camp, as long as one doesn’t already exist on that map spot and they have three hearts to pay for it. If the location shows a coin or gem, they collect coins or gems equal to the number of “eyeball” symbols they have on companions, treasures and artifacts. Some spots are just trade routes, which come into game-end scoring.

Also on their turn, players can build artifacts by paying the listed resources. Some artifacts require that the player have a certain reputation — players start at zero, and this can go up or down based on actions they take during encounters with the books or by purchasing reputation at City Hall. Artifacts give the player additional symbols or abilities and game-end points.

Play continues until a player has laid their last tent, then the current round is finished (so players have equal turns). Players then total up points from artifacts, placed camps, trade routes, left over resources, game boards and leaders. The player with the most points wins.

This is just a brief overview of the game — there are many ways to play the game with a multi-game map or character campaign or a one-off “arcade” game. Also, the images above feature things from the expansion, Amber Mines, since we no longer play the game without it.

We picked up this game after playing Above and Below, another Ryan Laukat game, with friends. We enjoyed that one so much and wanted more of the storytelling, which we heard Near and Far had.

I love this game. I’ve played through a complete map campaign and am part-way through another (we likely would have finished it this year, if not for COVID-19 quarantines). I’ve also played two character campaigns, and can’t wait to check out the stories of the characters we haven’t played yet.

How is it as a 2-player game? Near and Far works great as a 2-player game. For our first few 2-player games of it, we did find that the map doesn’t fill up fast enough (making it hard to travel to the further reaches of the map), so we found a thread on BGG that had a 2-player variant that has worked great.

How about the art and component quality? As always, Ryan Laukat’s art is amazing. We love the world he’s created and the details on the cards and characters are delightful to look at. The components are all great quality, too. I really don’t have any complaints about the game.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. We still have characters whose stories we haven’t explored and a co-op mode in the Amber Mines expansion that we haven’t tried yet. Plus we need to finish our in-progress map campaign when it’s safe to get together with our friends again.

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