The storytelling adventure board game Near and Far is fun. From two to four players travel through 11 different maps on an epic quest to find the Lost Ruin. There's character development, maps to explore, skill tests and story choices to make.
The first thing to know about Near and Far is that there are four ways to play it.
Beginner mode lets everyone play a well-written tutorial that explains the rules as players work through a specific map and scenarios.
Character mode focuses on developing one of eight unique characters by going on an epic journey to find the Lost Ruin.
Arcade mode is a short game with fast-paced choices that doesn't have any campaign elements.
Campaign mode is the whole enchilada with a far-reaching story covering 10 maps, a quest, character cards, talent development and side quests.
It's amazing that Red Raven Games would go through the amount of development work needed to create four modes of play. It would have been much easier to confine the rules to one mode and make players fit that model. But this type of detail is common for Red Raven Games. They always have well-written rules and detailed examples of gameplay. It's one of the many things that sets Red Raven Games apart from other game companies.
It's no big secret that Near and Far is a huge game containing multiple elements of play. It will take several sessions to complete a campaign game and a couple hours for a game in arcade mode. There's a lot going on, so here are some of the highlights.
The first thing to mention is the innovative atlas map book. Traditional board games come with a solitary board that shows important parts of the game. In the game Near and Far, there is no traditional board. Instead there is a large spiral bound atlas that opens and becomes the board. Each flip of the page shows a different map. So gamers will get 11 different boards to play on each with its own set of locations and encounters.
Be aware that wandering the map atlas can be dangerous. There are threats from villainous monsters, and the more monsters get beaten, the tougher the threats become. Defeated threat cards are worth points at the end of the game.
Secondly, there is the story book. During the game, players will travel to different quest locations on the atlas board and trigger adventures that are read from the story book. An opposing player opens the story book to a specified passage and reads the adventure. Stories have fun flavor text and present a situation that the active player needs to deal with by performing a skill test. If the skill test is passed, rewards are given.
The stories really make this game shine. It's a blast to read the different situations presented and even more fun to be the one who makes the decisions. It hearkens back to the old choose your own adventure books of the past.
Stories are nice, but a great game needs more than creative prose to be a hit. And its safe to say that Near and Far delivers. The game comes with an entire town that players can visit. There are multiple shops and locations to explore, each containing different resources such as food, treasures, coins and gems. There are even player duels that occur when the characters of two different players end up at the same spot in town. Victors increase their reputations.
What adventure game is complete without magical artifacts? In Near and Far, players start the game with five basic and one advanced magical artifact. But the caveat is that the artifacts can't be activated until certain requirements are met. A side goal players have in the game is to activate these artifacts. They each have a unique power and are worth points at the end of the game.
Don't worry about treasures, either. There are plenty of them. Treasures can be gathered at different locations on the atlas map as well as from the mystic's hut in town. These treasures are magical and can help give players special advantages in the game.
Another thing worth mentioning is a player's reputation in the game. Reputations get better when players perform heroic tasks and fight fair in duels. Reputations get worse when making corrupt adventure decisions and fighting dirty in duels. Reputations affect a variety of things in the game, including which artifacts can be used.
But that's not all. There are native chiefs, clan factions, animal companions, talents, camps and trade routes. Gamers who like big, story-driven campaign games will get the most out of Near and Far. But even casual gamers and families who want a two-hour, nicely developed adventure game will be happy. This is one of the few games out there that can satisfy all kinds of gamers. The emphasis overall is on adventure.
Near and Far is one of the best games I have ever played. If thematic storytelling adventure games appeal to you, this game is one of the best. Stop reading now and purchase a copy. It delivers greatness on many levels and is extremely fun to play. It receives this reviewer's highest recommendation. The icing on the cake is that it was designed by Utah game designer Ryan Laukat. Find out more at RedRavenGames.com.