So, long ago I wrote about a game called Above and Below. It’s a game we all really liked, because it has this fun mechanic for going on adventures that the girls really liked to do whenever we played – sometimes to the exclusion of the “town-building” that is the core of that game. So when the creators came out with a sequel, aptly titled “Near and Far”, I quickly backed the game on Kickstarter, and looked forward to playing with the family.
The game has similar mechanics to the original, but the twist being that each game you start in town, collect resources, and then use those resources to go out exploring, and potentially gain even more resources. Unfortunately, the number of adventures available per game session are limited by spaces on a map, and if you have children whose main goal is to do adventures, the possibility of generous adults not getting to do ANY adventures is high.
Fortunately, there’s a built-in way that theoretically should counteract this – and it’s the fact that this is a campaign game. Focusing your game on going on adventures isn’t necessarily the best way to build up points, and while each session is self contained, the final point totals carry throughout the game. In contrast, by completing adventures you gain experience, which when sufficiently built up can earn you additional skills. Another cool feature, but again, one that makes it more appealing for younger minds to focus on these adventures.
The game builds in side quests, special keywords that can unlock adventures, party-building that changes from game to game, and many other ways to build up points through the end of the game. You can also play it as a one-off game like Above and Below, or in “arcade mode”. We’ve had the game for more than a year now, and because of the complications of playing a fiddly game like this with a baby, and also scheduling around the busy lives of children and shared weekends – have only managed to finish about half the game in the campaign mode. I admit that the boy and I are probably a little salty about not being able to play the game as fully as we would do if we were on our own.
But because the games are a “choose your own adventure” type of scenario, and because the boards allow for more adventure spaces than adventures per game, it’s possible that this is a game we will replay in campaign mode. I can see this as the kind of thing that in the future we might try and designate one night per week for a few months in a row and say, “We will play this as a two player game, and play it in the most strategic way” instead of how we have been doing it with the big girls. It will be a different kind of game, and one I look forward to playing…maybe (because who has time?). But in any case, there’s also an expansion that has been released, and I have a feeling that may appear somewhere under a Christmas tree this year.