Nemesis - Review
Welcome to our review of Nemesis by Rebel Studios! Have you ever seen the movie, Alien? This game is a board game version of that movie!
It is an interesting one for us as it’s a Semi-cooperative. Unfortunately, Semi-Cooperative games don’t work well with just two players.
This game also has a lot of intricate rules. If you are a fan of games with detailed rules, then Nemesis is a game for you. Other games would work better if you prefer a game with more streamlined rules.
Let’s get into what Nemesis is and what we thought of it!
In Nemesis, you play crew members who have just awakened in the hibernatorium aboard their spaceship to find it infested with alien beings.
Each player starts the game with a personal goal and a corporate goal. As soon as the first alien arrives on the ship, the players choose one of those goals as their “win goal” for the game. This game is “semi-cooperative, ” meaning all players can work together to achieve their goals until it’s convenient for them.
The ship has a bridge, 2-4 escape pods – depending on the number of players, a hibernatorium, and 3 engines. Unfortunately, when the crew awakes from their sleep, they have amnesia and forget how the rest of the ship lays out. The reality is that the board has spaces for 16 more rooms represented by hexagonal tiles. Some rooms are labeled ‘1’ and other ‘2’. The players place all the ‘1’ tiles on the board with only a few of the ‘2’ tiles used in each game. This variability keeps this game fresh with each play-through.
An essential aspect of Nemesis is ‘NOISE’ and being as quiet as possible when moving around the ship. Each time a player moves into a room without an alien or another player, they roll the noise die. Each side of the die has a number 1-4 or danger, silent symbols. Each time a player rolls a number, a noise token gets added to the corresponding hallway leading away from the room. Whenever the same hallway has an additional noise token added, that’s when the aliens arrive. The type of alien gets determined by pulling a token from the black cloth enemy bag in the game.
The goal of Nemesis is different for each player. Everyone needs to work together, but up to the point where it’s not interfering with their goal. Some goals say “Player number X can not survive” Now, players can’t kill other players directly. They can manufacture situations where the other player can not survive—for instance, locking all the doors leading away from a specific room and trapping a player. Other goals include “the player must use an escape pod to escape the ship, and the ship must not reach Mars” or “Defeat the Queen, and the player must be asleep in the hibernatorium with the ship heading for Earth.” These are all examples of goals. The good thing is that the goals get tailored to the number of players. They don’t have goals like “player x can not survive” in a two-player game.
Wow! Nemesis has some of the most impressive miniatures we’ve seen in a board game. The alien miniatures are fantastic. There are 5 different types of aliens: Larvae, Creepers, Adults (two separate models), Breeders, and a Queen. Each model is intricately detailed right down to the spines of the back of these creatures. If you are into painting miniatures, these are all grey, making it easy to choose a base color to apply. We particularly like the player miniatures and how inclusive they are. One character is in a wheelchair, which we applaud Rebel Studios for including.
The game comes with a double-sided board with the layout of the spaceship. As mentioned before, there are spaces for room tiles throughout the ship. These rooms range from Surgery, Armory, and the Comms Room. Each room provides players with a particular action they can do in the room if the room is not malfunctioning.
Additionally, the game comes with a fair number of tokens representing everything from Fire to Noise and multipurpose Status tokens. There are also loads of card decks in play that determine everything from if larvae have infected you to your end-game goals. We particularly like the contamination cards as they are only readable using the red plastic sleeve that comes with the game. We’ll discuss the rest of the components as we get into the game setup and gameplay sections below.
Do you want an easy setup game? Honestly, this is not it! Nemesis has some of the most complicated setup instructions we’ve seen. We’re not going to detail them but we’ll highlight a few of the rules so you can get the gist of the setup.
The Board Setup
After choosing which side of the board to play, players shuffle the ‘1’ tiles face down and place one on each of the 1 tile spaces. All these tiles are in every game. Next, they repeat that with the ‘2’ tiles, but only 5 are used. They then place an exploration token facedown onto each tile. These tokens and the room get revealed later as the players move around the gameboard. Then the players randomly shuffle the engine 1, 2, and 3 cards together (each engine has two cards that identify whether the engine is functioning) and place those on their respective engine spaces. Then they shuffle the A escape pods followed by the B escape pod tiles and put them on the board, identifying which pods are unlocked. Finally, they set up the bridge by choosing a random coordinate card and placing it face down this card lists the A-D locations the ship is heading towards. A tracker on the board allows a player to change the destination after secretly reading the card.
The alien bag gets set up with a specific number of each type of alien represented by tokens. This bag gets added to and removed as aliens arrive and escape on the board.
Each character has a role on the ship, so Scientist, Captain – that kind of thing. Each player chooses a role:
- The corresponding player board
- Starting weapon
- Ammo tokens (guns, for instance, start with a few rounds of ammo, these ammo tokens represent that)
- Character miniature
- Action cards
- Two player goals and two corporate goals. The players decide to keep one of each type.
Once all of these, plus other additional steps, are done, the game is finally ready to play.
In Nemesis, you play one crew member battling aliens that have taken over your ship while trying to achieve your own goal. As mentioned, this is semi-cooperative, so working together is not required, but it may be in your best interest to help your fellow player.
The game gets played over a series of rounds, and each round has two phases:
After drawing up to five cards from your action deck specific to your character, each player can take two actions. To perform an action, the player must discard additional cards from their hand. Actions include Moving (which requires a noise roll but costs less than a Careful Movement (which does not require a noise roll), Shooting, Melee attacking, Carrying an object, Trade, or Craft. Each character has additional actions they can take, which get listed on their action cards. Finally, specific rooms on the board have their actions, such as the Surgery allowing you to remove larvae safely.
We’re not going to go into details about every action type. Still, the game is mostly moving around the ship, fighting the aliens, finding where the escape pod entry room is to escape (if that’s your goal), or getting to the bridge to select a destination or the engine room to repair the engines. Every game is different, but moving and fighting are the main activities.
There are two types of movement in Nemesis, regular movement, which costs one additional card, and careful movement, which costs two additional cards from your hand. In regular movement, if the player moves into an empty room, they roll the noise die, which we explained before. With careful movement, the player does not roll the noise die. There are other rules around movement. It was easy to understand how to move our characters. When revealing a new room, the players flip over the exploration token, which determines what happens initially in that room – is it on fire, malfunctioning, silent (no noise roll), or danger – enemies in neighboring rooms move into the room you just opened.
Encounter and Combat
Encounters happen when enemies appear in a room with a player (noise roll, danger encounter token, etc.) They can make a surprise attack but only sometimes. Surprise attacks happen when the player has fewer cards in their hand than the number on the back of the token drawn from the enemy bag.
Combat happens when the player shares a room with an enemy. The player’s character can shoot if they have ammo or make a melee attack. The player rolls the red combat die, and each symbol on the die represents a different amount of damage inflicted on the enemy based on its type.
What we are not fans of in the game is how you determine if the enemy has died. If you hit larvae or egg with at least one damage, it’s dead. The other enemy types require you to draw one or two intruder cards each time you attack (after you attack), and the number in the pool of blood on the new card is the number of hits needed to defeat it. So you may hit it once and draw a card that shows a 2, then hit it again and draw another card, and it’s now up to a 5; then you hit it a third time, and the card drawn shows a 3. Now since you have three hits and the card shows three, the enemy is dead. The fact this value fluctuated annoyed us when we played. Like, why won’t this thing die? The breeders and Queen are the worst because the player draws two cards and adds the blood value together.
Additionally, enemies can escape if an arrow appears on any card drawn. Then the player draws an event card (which we’ll explain fully in a minute and moves the enemy along the hallway with the corresponding number.
After each player takes their turn in Nemesis, it’s now the turn of the enemies. The event phase starts with advancing the time track, which acts as a round marker counting down to the end of the game. Separately, there is a self-destruct time track; if it gets triggered by player action, three rounds can go by before the escape pods automatically unlock. Sometimes self-destruct is the only way to go!
Next is any enemy in the same room as a player attacks. The same deck used to determine the enemy’s injuries is used for its enemy symbols and narrative text now. If the enemy type in the room matches the card drawn, the listed effect happens to the player. This effect can be an injury or sliming, for instance. If the enemy attacking is a larvae, it automatically infests the player, and that player draws a contamination card and adds it to their action deck. When drawn into the player’s hand, these act as dead cards, but a player can spend them to do actions. They also have the red section, which gets deciphered by using the red plastic sleeve at specific points in the game.
After the enemy attacks, the players check fire damage to a room with an enemy present.
Then the group draws an event card. We referenced this card above when an enemy escapes. During this section, all enemies who match the symbol of the enemy type drawn move down the numbered hallway listed on the card
Sometimes the hallway number listed isn’t a hallway leading away from the room it is in. Instead, the number appears on the board with a red light next to it. This light is a “technical corridor” Players can not use those. Still, if an enemy gets directed to go down that corridor, it gets removed from the game, and an additional token of that enemy type gets added to the enemy bag for drawing later. The idea that aliens leave the board while still alive is an excellent mechanic and makes it feel like the enemies are diving into the vents and ducts of the ship and can reappear anywhere later.
The Event Phase’s final step is adding tokens to the enemy bag. The players draw a single token from the bag, and depending on the enemy type drawn, either the token gets removed and replaced with a more advanced enemy… Larvae become Adults, and Creepers become Breeders, or if an Adult or Breeder gets drawn, each player not in combat rolls the noise die. If the Queen gets pulled and the Nest Room is present, the Queen arrives on the board. Otherwise, an additional egg gets added to the enemy board.
Nemesis ends when either the time marker or the set destruct track reaches the red space at the end of the track. Any player who did not get on an escape pod nor put themself in hibernation dies. If any player is on the ship when it self-destructs, they also die.
The game can end when the last non-hibernating player dies, hibernates, or uses an escape pod.
The players then check to see if they have a victory. The first check is to see if two of the three engines are not damaged. If they are not, everyone on board dies.
Then the players check the coordinates card on the bridge. If the ship is not heading for Earth all players on board die.
Then each player looks at their contamination cards and sees if larvae infected them – each player infected shuffles their action deck, and if there is a contamination card in the top four, the character dies.
The final check is to see if the players completed their objective. If you pass all those checks, you win the game.
We’ve sprinkled some thoughts throughout this game explanation and review. Overall, this is definitely an impressive game, from the size of the box to the quality of the miniatures and the rest of the game components. Nemesis is hugely impressive.
Now, did we like this game? Personally, we weren’t the hugest fans of the game. It came down to how complex the mechanics are for doing different activities. Also, the rule book is not easy to comprehend or in the “Begin to play” style. It’s hard to follow, and the rules around movement, combat, and how enemies die are annoying.
The other thing is, as a semi-cooperative, this isn’t a good game for two players – It needs 3-4 because, in a two-player game, you are always watching the other player and making sure you aren’t getting stabbed in the back. It’s not a great game in that respect.
All said, looking at the game on its own merits – it is an excellent game and well done. We recommend it for gaming groups and people who love the sci-fi genre.
We also have Nemesis in our store if you want to check it out yourself. From March 2nd – March 6th, 2023, we are running an “Add to Cart to See Price Deal” We are only publicizing it via this article and the social associated with it.