Nusfjord is a special game for me, it’s the first game I bought after returning to the hobby after a seven-year hiatus. That in itself doesn’t make it a good game, of course, but the good news is that it is a good game. In fact, it’s a great game.
Nusfjord sees players running a fishing village in Norway, and the aim of the game is to amass victory points through growing your fishing fleet, adding buildings to your village, winning the favour of the village elders, and earning some lovely, shiny gold. They do this through liberal use of my own personal favourite board game mechanic: worker placement. Players vie to claim action spots on the main boards (plural, I’ll come back to that) which let them do various things, such as build a building, chop down their forests, feed the elders, and so on.
Each round consists of each player placing one of their three workers, then the next player, then the next, until everyone has placed all their discs. Then the round ends, the workers come back to your supply, and the next player gets to place first. In two of the rounds, some new buildings become available and there’s plenty of 2ooh, now I could do that…”, but otherwise play continues like this for seven rounds, and then scores are tallied and a winner crowned.
What’s In The Box?
Nusfjord comes in a smaller box than most of the big games, but there’s a lot of game in there, and it will definitely fill up your table. “But how? You just said it was a small box!” I hear you say. It’s because this game is like designer Uwe Rosenberg’s other recent game, A Feast For Odin, in so much that it has modular boards. So while the instruction manual shows you how to set it up in a configuration which is over one metre/three feet across, you can move things around to suit.
And you might need to, there are a lot of boards. There’s a main action board, a small copy-an-action board, an elder board, an ‘A’ buildings board, a ‘B’ buildings board, and a plates board for serving fish. On top of that every player has their own player board, an elders board, and finally, a small personal supply board. Phew, that’s a lot of cardboard.
It’s made of really nice cardstock, and the components are nicely made wooden pieces, including some gorgeous little fish.
How Does It Play?
Nusfjord is a great worker placement game in my opinion. I’d put it at the higher end of medium in terms of weight, as it’s quite simple to play, but developing a strategy is quite hard, but essential for a good score. The synergies between the buildings available, your resources, and the various elders are what make good scores possible. There are lots of tricky decisions to make as resources are hard to earn. You very rarely have a surplus of things to spend.
Each round is broken into a few discrete phases. First you bring your catch back, and the more boats you have, the more fish you get. These get distributed in a certain order, so you give them to your elders first, then the share holders (you can buy and sell shares in each others’ businesses)and then you get to keep what’s left over. Those fish along with wood gained primarily by cutting down trees on your board, and any gold you’ve earned, are what you can spend on buildings and boats. Players then do the action phase and use their workers to gain elders, build buildings and boats, buy and sell share, chop down or add forests, or use the powers on their claimed elders. Once everyone’s played all their workers they reclaim them all, move the first player marker around, and in rounds four and six add some ‘C’ buildings to the table, which usually cost more but can be worth a lot of victory points at the end.
You’ll have constant conversations with yourself in your head like “Now, I could spend this wood on that bigger boat, which means I’ll have more fish next round, and I could serve them to the elders and get one gold each time. Or should I get that building which rewards me for more workers at the end. Oh but look, that player has a load of shares available and a large haul size, I could buy those for more VPs at the end and free fish, hmmmmmm”.
I love this game. In each game you only use half of each of the type of buildings, drawn at random, and in the box there are three different decks, so the replayability is really good, and you can’t go into the game with a strategy before you see what’s available. Every game is different and resources are really tight, so I probably wouldn’t introduce someone to the genre with this one though, I’d always pick Stone Age for that.
If you like Eurogames though, and you like worker placement and resource management, I really recommend Nusfjord. The theme is gorgeous, the game plays smoothly with minimal interaction, and it’s always interesting to see how all the different strategies play out when it comes to final scoring.
On top of all of that, it has an excellent solo mode out-of-the box, with a full ‘campaign’ mode which really tests your strategy.