As the production rates on Lovecraft themed board games reaches peak critical mass the hunt is on for a new literature classic, that everyone knows the basics of without having to have read it. Nathaniel Levan hopes to have hit upon the answer with his Moby Dick inspired……………………
Okay so it’s not that linked to the novel in question but more to the same era and location indeed based around the New England town and the job of whale hunting. Now a game of whale hunting may have you thinking of those red neck hunting sims you find occasionally slipping into discount bins for your console or computer but I think locking it down to the 1800’s manages to earn it some grace as more a game of history than hunting. So now that we’ve escaped the wrath of the PC brigade lets look at the game itself.
It’s a small two player game where you race to build up the titular town and hunt whales for money to do so. All of these things will cost money and earn money though some are more of a risk than others. The money in question is possibly the weakest part of the game with so many little niggles that I have to address them as they are such a huge part of the game. First contrary to every rpg everywhere the copper is worth more than the silver. Second is that you shall be using this money to mark your presence on the board with one player heads and the other tails. The problem being that one of the coins bears the picture of a head while the other bears the picture of a tail meaning it feels important to stress that despite the rules one player is picture and the other numbers. Finally due to them being such a huge component of the game it would have been nice for a few plastic pieces instead of the pop out cardboard we got. I understand this probably cut the costs allowing them to get into production easier and mean you can pick it up in your local game store for under a tenner but in the same way that Timeline needs bigger cards this could do with a slight upgrade to the cardboard coin.
The only other part of the game is a selection of boards for which you can choose two, each double sided, to make your town. These you purchase or use on your turn to either launch your ships, activate special abilities or just plain get extra points for when the end of the game hits. Once you have gone through the whole building phase you get to play with said ships. Now there are no funky model ships in this box instead they are represented by simply sending your money out to sea. The boat made of the most money goes first, because the rich always do, and you then shake your boat to pieces to see what you get. I’m not sure if this is trying to say something on the nature of whaling itself or is simply a fun mechanic from a game that at best only has two resources to keep track of; silver and copper coins. The number of heads and or tails on each tells you what you can catch that turn. Said money is then added to your pool along with the part of your boat you used to make said catch. This is a fairly fun mechanic that uses the lack of resources to its advantage as you must choose between using your coins to build buildings or make ships trying to weigh up which is the better investment.
The game carries on until all the copper is gone, the houses are all built or you are simply sick of your opponent speaking in a dodgy fisherman accent and telling you that they’re having “a whale of a time!”
If this sounds complicated I can assure you it’s not. Nantucket is a fairly unique, at least in my experience, worker placement, small easy to learn game which can be picked up fairly quickly and run in half an hour or so. The boards add a deal of replay-ability to the game stopping it getting too samey as you hunt harmless marine mammals to extinction and is surprisingly fun as you shake handfuls of money and splash them across the table like Scrooge Mcduck, pop into gambling dens, churches and school houses all while hunting the great white whale. Nantucket is a micro game adaptation of the much bigger and slightly more expensive New Bedford and while I haven’t played that one this one stands fairly well on its own as a fun two player pocket sized game.