I find as time goes on, my game collection is affected by a desire for smaller games. Going are the days of complex rules heavy titles with long set ups and longer playtimes. It’s becoming harder to be social, let alone set aside the time needed to slam something out. I’ve often found my desire for titles that are quick to teach, quick to play and little more than a deck of cards and some tokens. Filler games have garnered desired spots in my heart and on my wall. Nessos is a new contender that, upon seeing it I knew resonated with my aging game collections needs. The wonderful dark evocative artwork, the Greek mythological theme, all in tucked into a small box bluffing game. I greedily snatched it up, which is in a sense… the core mechanic of this game.
The original game it was based upon is Bakudan Takarabako (Bomb and Treasure) by Takaaki Sayama and Toshiki Arao,was recently acquired and reimagined by Iello. Gone is its piratical theme of greed and careless explosions has been replaced with one where would be Greek heroes seek to imprison mythological creatures into magical amphoras. Without of course being ushered to Hades by Charon himself for their hubris. I know, I know, it’s just a deck of cards and a tiny wooden pot but it’s somehow evocative of it’s concept. The active player will play a card from their hand and declare a value. If they played a creature card they must be honest about the value they played, however if they played a Charon card, they must lie. The artwork really captures the dark aesthetic you would see on an amphora detailing the feats of classical heroes. Each creature in the game will have a number associated with it ranging from 1 to 10 based on how impressive it is. The player when passing one of these monstrosities on must be entirely honest about it’s value. The targeted player than must choose to accept it, or without looking at it, add a card from their hand and pass both onto the next player. A real twist to this however, is having an assortment of lesser creatures the Satyr, Lion and Centaur or 1, 2 and 3. This feat earns you 10 points on it’s own. Players are trying to have an epic array of beasties to show the gods how badass they are, to a certain value dependent on the number of players or be the last player standing. However the deck also contains the dreaded Charon cards, in which the player must lie about the value when passing it off as if it were a creature card. If players feel the icy cold touch of the old man on the river 3 times, they are out of the game.
It’s hard to talk about Nessos without mentioning Jacques Zeimet Cockroach Poker from 2004. While there are similarities in the buffing they fundamentally also quite different, one is almost the antithesis of the other. Where Cockroach Poker is a reverse set collection game, with no scoring and only one loser and no theme, whereas Nessos is a set collection game with scoring and one winner and thematic as Hades for what it is. It almost feels as if with set collection of lesser creatures valued at 1, 2 and 3 there’s a greater risk and reward, amounting to deeper mind games to play with in the bluffing. While the game does contain player elimination, a quick game like this it is tolerable and even raises the stakes. Stuck with a number of Charon cards you are often you are left with biting choices… to which I would advise “Don’t play the ferryman, Don’t even fix a price, Don’t play the ferryman, Until he gets you to the other side”
A copy of Nessos was provided to the DWP for this review.