Designers: Curt Covert |   Players: 3-6   |   Playtime: 45-60 minutes

When I first heard about Nevermore I got super excited. It has a lot of my favorite mechanisms all in one package. Drafting. Set Collection. Take-That. Yes please! My order was going through on Amazon before I even finished watching the review. So, was it worth it?

THEME

In Nevermore you are playing in Edgar Allan Poe’s world trying to survive before being torn apart by the Ravens and becoming one yourself. I’m not really all that well versed in Poe’s lore but I think the front of the box describes what the game is trying to do well enough.

“Keep what you need. Pass what they won’t. Be victorious or be…Nevermore.”

As far as theme goes I think it merges fairly well with the mechanisms of the game. Drafting does a good job here to tell the story. What is it you are trying to do this round? What are your foes up to? Should you go all out in battle or do you need to heal? Go for the victory or grab the special Magick spells? Yep that’s right, there’s Magick…with a ck. They may just be special actions but they add that extra bit of theme to an interesting quasi trick-taking game.

MECHANISMS

Drafting
Typically when one drafts cards he or she will select a card (locking it in) and pass the the remaining cards to the person next to them. In Nevermore you don’t have to lock in your selection. You may pass the appropriate number of cards from your entire hand.

I really enjoy this take on drafting. It allows you to have a fluid card selection based on what is coming around the table. Instead of choosing cards based on what you locked in, you can completely alter your strategy on the fly. Removes a lot of the chaos factor. It also makes it easier to collect five of something which is important to several of the mechanisms of the game.

Set Collection
In Nevermore there are different actions you can take based on the cards that you draft. You can attack, heal, acquire victory, or learn Magick. The more you collect from each particular suit increases the chance and strength of each thing you are trying to do. Generally, the more, the better.

The way this is done is by comparing the person with the most of a suit to the person with the second most. The winner subtracts second most cards from their total. Drafting plays a huge part in how you set this up. You’ll have some tough decisions to make as to which cards you pass and which you’ll need to keep.

It’s also important to note that while a full hand of ravens can be extremely powerful each raven will cancel out another card from a different suit.

Bluffing
There is a small amount of bluffing that can be done when a suit is called. Each player is allowed to put forward any number of cards facedown. If you have a card in that suit you must play it along with any ravens you wish to use for negating. The ravens can give the illusion that you are playing more than you really are which will make others second guess their choices.

In addition to that you may also put a few cards forward that are not of the suit being called to trick other players into playing/removing ravens from their hand. The wording of this was a bit confusing in the 1st edition of the rulebook but the 2nd edition clears it up by stating “you will either play ALL the cards you placed forward – or put them ALL back in your hand.” So, be aware of this if you snag an original copy of the game.

Semi-Elimination
Games that have a last man standing can be very annoying to those that get knocked out early. What I like about Nevermore is that you still get to play as a raven. Sure you can only do a limited number of things but you still get to play. And even better, you can become a human again by drafting one card of each suit or all of one suit. This is great! By providing a way for players to get back into the game keeps those knocked out involved. Excellent design that is thematic as well.

Try this game if you like:

  • Cutthroat Caverns
  • Munchkin
  • 7 Wonders
  • Biblios
  • Fairy Tale
  • Sushi Go!

Take-That!
Smirk and Dagger is pretty known for designing some mean games (Cutthroat Caverns) and this one is no different. From the drafting to the actions on the Magick cards, this game is full of mean ways to annoy your opponents and I love it!

  • Hate Drafting – Shutting someone out of a suit or dumping ravens on your neighbor is always a good time. Sure it can backfire but it feels so satisfying when you ruin their plans.
  • Card Resolution – The revealing of cards has an inherent take-that element to it by reducing the number of cards the winner gets to use when you come in second.
  • Bluffing – As mentioned above it’s fun making people second guess themselves.
  • Attacking – The more direct approach is to play a bunch of sword cards and remove other players’ health cubes until they turn into a raven.
  • Ravens – Even if you’re defeated you get to peck others’ health away after winning a hand. This is a double bonus because you deny them the winning suit action as well.
  • Magick – Light and Shadow Magick provide a variety of ways to mess with others.

Variable Player Powers
Note: The focus of this review is on the base game, however, I’ve recently purchased the Specters of Nevermore expansion and wanted to touch on what it adds to the game.

If you are looking to add a little depth to Nevermore, the Specters add several characters that give special actions unique to that character. Each one will have an action for their human form and one for their raven form. I like the additional strategy and flavor this adds to the game. Variable powers are a great way to give each person a connection to their role in the game.

PRESENTATION

Art
Overall, the art in this game is beautiful. Each card type is amazingly over the top. It’s only the Magick cards that leave a bit to be desired. It’s a shame too because next to all the other cards Magick looks like an afterthought. As if someone threw a photoshop clouds filter on the back and called it good because of a deadline. Why not make the cards look like scrolls or something? The stone look they were going for doesn’t make any sense. This was a bit of a letdown for me. Poor execution.

Graphic Design
The cards distinguish amongst themselves very well. Each card type has an obvious look to it that hints at what is trying to achieve. It would’ve been nice to have some of the special actions written on the bottom of each card because there’s quite a few and not everyone remembers them. The 2nd edition does include reference cards for this which honestly should’ve been there from the beginning. It’s a nice addition for new buyers though.

I also like how some of the Magick cards have unique special actions for those that have been converted to Ravens. This is very noticeable on the cards that have them so you shouldn’t have a problem missing anything.

Components
The cards are excellent quality with a nice linen finish. The chipboard tokens are nice and thick and the cubes are good quality too.

On a side note: If you purchase the Specters of Nevermore expansion you will get some nice plastic poker chip style tokens to replace the chipboard ones. These have a good feel and give you a nice, heavy clank when handling them.

The Rulebook
Normally I don’t talk about the rulebook in these reviews but this one had a lot of good and a few disappointedly bad things that need to be pointed out.

Let’s start with the good. I really enjoyed reading through this rulebook. Every card and phase of the game is well organized. The pictures double to help understand how it all comes together in a very simplified manner. What liked most about the rules are the purple reminder texts. These bring your attention to items that would be most questioned during gameplay. It was very easy to find rule clarifications because they were almost always in the purple text. Every publisher needs to do this! Great layout.

Now to the bad. There seems to have been a little oversight during the testing phases of Nevermore. Because of this, if you are going to play this for the first time make sure you are playing with the 2nd edition of the rules. You can download these at Smirkanddagger.com.

The most important change was the maximum health in a 5 & 6 player game which was was reduced to 4 (instead of 5) This helps tremendously reduce the length of the game. Before I heard about this change, games seemed like they were lasting 10-15 minutes too long with a full compliment of players. It’s always nice to see fixes like this. It means designers listen to their audience’s feedback. Too bad this wasn’t caught during initial testing phases.

Another problem and something that really bogged down games when I first played was the confusing bluffing explanation in the 1st edition. I’m glad it was clarified later but it was difficult to teach the game since I was always asked how it worked. Come to find out we were doing it wrong. Gameplay is so much smoother now that it all makes sense.

“If you’re looking for a unique card game to add to your collection this one certainly fits the bill.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

Like I said in the intro, I was very excited to get this to the table. So how did my experience compare to my expectation? It’s hard to say really. I want to love this game, it uses a lot of my favorite mechanisms, but I just wasn’t as enamored as I thought I’d be. That’s not to say it’s a bad game because it’s not, I still quite like the game. It just didn’t jump to the top of my favorites like I thought it would.

This is definitely not because it’s a Frankenstein game. No, the mechanisms are cohesive and make sense together. Nothing feels tacked on. Most likely, it’s because I set the bar too high. Sometimes you can hype up a game too much only to be let down when it’s not as good as you expected. The issues with the 1st edition of the rules probably had a lot to do with this as well. Even now I have a hard time letting go of the bad taste it left in my mouth.

Nevermore can sometimes last a little longer than it needs to, though the new HP limit helps. I’m finding more and more that take-that style games inherently have this problem. As someone is just about to win they become a target and so their victory gets foiled again and again dragging out the game. I do like that there are several win conditions to limit this problem and that ravens can continue to whittle down others’ health, otherwise, it’d just go on forever.

All that said, I do really enjoy many of the things this game has to offer. It is in my top 25 games after all. The drafting is a breath of fresh air and the card play is intriguing. Bluffing helps add a dash of depth but most of the strategy comes from how you draft and when to play your ravens. I give this an above average rating and a suggestion to try it before buying, mostly to make sure it fits your playstyle. However, if you’re looking for a unique card game to add to your collection this one certainly fits the bill. I definitely won’t be getting rid of it.

WHAT I LIKED

  • Cohesiveness of the mechanisms.
  • Different approach to drafting (no locked in cards).
  • Use of set collection for more than just points.
  • Being defeated doesn’t knock you out of the game completely.
  • Even though ravens are bad for your hand, having excess still provides a positive.
  • Special actions from the Magick cards.
    The layout of the rulebook and 2nd edition corrections.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKED

  • Oversights in the 1st edition of the rulebook.
  • Each suits’ special hand rules. Seems like these always have to be clarified. The Rulebook lists these out on the back page but I tend to frown up exceptions like this.
  • Magick card art.
  • Games can sometimes feel long.