Finding Nessie is one of those games built around a theme that draws me in – the Loch Ness Monster. The colorful cover sports an adorable cartoon Nessie that almost begs to be played. So does the game live up to the promise?
Components: Finding Nessie uses common components (cardboard tokens) in ingenious new ways. First, you play in the box, with a specially designed double layered loch to hold the tokens. Then, you put the tokens in the lake and cover them with another layer, essentially covering them with water. Except the water itself has cutout windows for you to get a peak at what lies beneath the surface. It’s a clever system that I’ve never seen used before. The cardboard itself is a very thick stock with a nice heft to it. There are also four wooden meeples of divers (man I would have killed for Nessie meeples (Nesseeples?) but that wouldn’t have made sense with the theme.
Gameplay: You are basically looking for tokens that show different pieces of Nessie. Once you get a picture of all of Nessie’s parts, you win. Sprinkled in are some sea creatures with different powers, which are colored green as a great misdirection (since you can sometimes see some of the color through the window). Once you open a window to see what is underneath, you clear that area by sliding the tokens around, which means the sea changes every turn. This reduces the need for memory skills and introduces a bit of randomness to the game. This is a casual game that younger children can play, so don’t expect a ton of strategy. There are some strategic opportunities that result from the sea creature tokens and the ability to move the tokens around to mess with someone’s next move, but this isn’t the type of game where you figure out the way to beat it and have an advantage over new players. There is a lot of luck in this game, but when you pick up a lake piece and find a Nessie piece you need, there is a gratifying sense of glee (in part because Nessie is so cute). The gameplay fits the theme very well, as you are searching for a glimpse of an elusive underwater creature. The moving tokens do a great job of simulating movement under the sea – Nessie doesn’t stay still after all. Our games took about 20 minutes, which seems about right given the likely attention span of the target audience.
Instructions and Set Up: The game is pretty easy to set up once you get the pieces punched out. Having built the lake, I stored the game as is, meaning there will be negligible set up next time. The rules are pretty simple and can be taught in five minutes. There was one area we were confused about. In one place, the manual said not to remove tokens, but on another page it said to “try to pull it out without tilting or shaking the box.” We tried both methods. Having more pieces in the loch moved things around more after each turn, but it felt a bit easier to make space when we took a few out. We settled on a house rule where the bonus fish would come out, but the Nessie tokens and other pieces stayed in.
Target Audience: The box recommends ages 6 and up, but my wife and I agreed this could be played with younger children, as long as you aren’t worried about the dime sized tokens being eaten. This is a very tactile game where a lot of the fun is in picking up a window and seeing what is beneath the surface. I don’t think kids will get frustrated, because they’ll eventually find something by sheer luck. It has just enough strategy to make you feel like your decisions matter, making it a fun family game for adults. The game can be played with 2-4 players, and I don’t think there is a noticeable difference in player counts. This is because the board is constantly changing, so you don’t necessarily get an advantage depending on which player you go after (Going after someone who doesn’t understand the strategy of a game like Scrabble can be a real unfair advantage).
Conclusion: Finding Nessie is a fun light casual game that is perfect for families. There isn’t a lot to it that would disadvantage younger players and there isn’t a game breaking winning strategy. The components are well made (for cardboard) and the playing area inside the box is unique (one more plug for Nessieeples!). The slight confusion over the rules didn’t impact our overall fun. Hardcore gamers who want a lot of depth and strategy won’t gravitate towards this one.
Thank you to Goliath Games for providing a review copy of Finding Nessie.
Finding Nessie is now available at various retailers including Amazon.