Designers: Takaaki Sayama & Toshiki Arao
Duration: 20 min.
You look across the table… you look at our hand. You see the heroes of Greek Mythology, and you want them for yourself to get your honour. But… there is also Charon, the ferryman of the dead. You know he only brings you closer to defeat, but you know you can pass him to others, but the risk is they will reject him and only pass him back to you.
Nessos is a bluffing game for 3-6 players, where you are trying to collect cards of the heroes of Greek mythology, and collect their points to win the game. You must tell the truth about the number cards, but Charon the ferryman is in their midst, but he is deceptive and can lie. Will you collect enough points, or fall to the ferryman of the dead and be out of the game?
What’s in the box?
Inside the box, there is a wooden first player pawn, and a deck of 55 cards. There are 4 of each cards numbered 1-10, and 15 Charon Cards. The art on the cards is awesome, by the extremely talented Miguel Coimbra (who did Fairy Tile and 7 Wonders) and continues to impress. The starting player token is a wooden vase, and while its not finished or painted, it works fine. For just a deck of cards, the components are solid and the art, looks great.
So how do you play?
In a 3 and 4 player game, some cards will be removed but in 5 or 6 use all 55 cards. Shuffle them well, and deal 5 out to each player. then randomly select a start player and get ready to start! The game will be player until one player has reached a certain amount of points, or all but one player is eliminated.
Nessos is a bluffing game, and the starting player will begin by taking one of the cards in their hand, putting it face down in front of them and passing it to another player. If the starting player has put down a number card, they MUST state the number on the card (without revealing it), but if they played a Charon card, they must lie about the number as they have no number. The player they pass it to has 3 options:
- They can reveal the card and place it face up in front of them. If it’s a number card, it counts as points. If its a Charon card, it counts against them.
- They can decline, sending it back to the starting player, which must reveal it and place it up in front of them.
- They can add another face down card, and pass both face down cards to another player, stating the number of the card they just played (or lying about the Charon). They cannot pass 2 cards back to the player who passed them the first card.
Now the next player has the same options: Pick up both cards, send back both cards to the player who offered them, or add a 3rd face down card and pass it another player. The player they pass to cant be a player who has already been offered cards or the starting player. Now the player who has been offered 3 cards only has 2 choices: reveal them all and keep them, or pass them back to the player who offered them and make them keep the cards. If it’s all points, that’s awesome! If there are any Charons, thats not good but you might still be surviving. Now every player who played cards draws so they have 5 in their hand, and then the first player token gets passed to the next player.
So what’s the deal with the Charon cards? Well… if you ever collect 3 of them in front of you, it’s over for you: you are eliminated and out of the game. Everyone else continues until one of the end game conditions are met:
- Someone surpassed the total number of required points (40 in a 3 & 4 player game, 35 in a 5 player game and 30 in a 6 player game) and that person is decelerated the winner
- All but one player is eliminated, then that player is the survivor and the winner
- 9 Charon cards are face up, which triggers the end game, and the player with the most current points is the winner.
It’s also worth nothing that a set of 1, 2 and 3 cards amount to 10 points instead of 6, which can make the lower value cards a little more valuable.
Is it any good?
Nessos is one of those micro-games that seem to be popular, due to their quick playtime and ease of rules. There’s a lot of them out there, but this one really stands out to me, especially with the controlled bluffing. By which I mean, I like that you can’t lie about the numbers, but just the Charon cards. It’s so hard to say no when someone passes you a 10, but at the same time that’s what makes it so tempting, which is why someone would easily pass you a Charon and call it a 10. Or… pass a 10 and make the person think you’re lying so they send it back to you. And then adding a card… its a huge risk sending 2 cards out when you only really know the value of the one you added, but the reward can be great as well.
This game is so easy to teach and to play, its made its permanent place in my go to bag when taking games to coffee shop or the brewery, or to bring out at social functions because its so much fun. Everyone usually wants to play multiple rounds, which is a sign of a great game. Even players who aren’t good a bluffing have enjoyed this game, and it’s one of the most accessible card games I own.
There’s only one thing I would change about this game. While the art is great and looks good… the theme doesn’t really come through. It doesn’t feel like a game about greek monsters or heroes, and it feels really pasted on. It’s a real shame, because this game was designed and released a few years back in Japan, with a theme of pirates with treasure instead of creature cards, and bombs instead of Charon cards. Now I feel that theme makes more sense in a game like this (maybe I’m just biased because I like pirates), but that would have made the game more enjoyable for me. Not that I don’t like the game… I love it. But a better theme would have made it even more accessible to learn and to play.
Aside from that, this is a really great game thats easy to learn and play, with great art and solid mechanics. The theme may be out of place, but everything else isn’t. I’ve played it at all player counts, and while its better at higher counts its fun at 3 and 4 as well. If anyone asks to play it, I will almost always say yes. I can’t think of a better way to fill 10-20 minutes with a group of friends than by playing Nessos.
- Great bluffing mechanics.
- Quick playtime, and the downtime negates the player elimination
- Easy to teach and learn, and very portable.
- Great art on the cards, especially for fans of Greek mythology
- While the art is great, the theme doesn’t tie very well into the gameplay, and could have been better by just keeping the original theme or something tying in the gameplay a little better.
*Thank you to Iello for supplying a copy of Nessos for this review. You can find out more about them and their amazing games by clicking here *