At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Feature

At the Café #8: We Playthrough Nemesis the Board Game

Welcome to our eighth edition of At the Café. In this series we share our playthroughs and experiences trying games at our local board game café. You will hear about our first impressions of games and hopefully get an insight into whether they are worth trying for your family. In this edition my teen son (14) and I share our playthrough of the board game Nemesis from designer Adam Kwapiński and publisher Awaken Realms.

We got some great news this year, our local board game café had scheduled something they like to call a ‘chunky games night’. This is a night they set aside for people to sign up to play games that can be quite lengthy. The great thing about it is that not only do you get to try a new game you might not otherwise get to try, but you also meet some great people who are keen on trying the same game.

This was the first chunky games night for my son and I, after some careful thought we decided to sign up for a game called Nemesis. I had heard great things about this game and thought the hidden objectives would appeal to my son as he is a huge fan of social deduction games like Blood on the Clocktower. Nemesis is by publisher Awaken Realms, and we have had a taste of their work already as we own Lords of Hellas, so we knew the game was likely to look amazing on the table, but we were also hoping the gameplay would match the aesthetics. Read on to find out if that was the case.

What You Will Find in Our Nemesis Playthrough

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Nemesis Game Overview

Play Time: 90-180 Min / Players: 1-5 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 12+ / Publisher: Awaken Realms / Designer: Adam Kwapiński

In Nemesis, you find yourself waking up from cryo-sleep on the spaceship Nemesis. You have no recollection of anything really, not even the layout of the ship. A dead shipmate’s body hints at the horror awaiting you onboard.

In Nemesis players each receive two objective cards. One is a corporate objective (usually quite sinister and may require you to sabotage your crewmates), one is a personal objective (usually more positive). Once the first alien, known as an intruder in this game, appears on the ship you need to decide which one you will keep and discard the other. Kind of like choosing between the dark side and the light side of the force.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Character Figures and Reference Boards
The six characters available in Nemesis all have a unique deck of cards with special abilities that can be acquired by completing objectives in the game.

As well as each player having unique objectives, they also have a unique role and deck of action cards associated with that role. The cards are important as they serve two purposes, one is that they provide an action that can be performed when played, the other is they can be used to pay for actions that have a cost to perform. The cost to perform basic actions is on your player board and each card has its cost to perform in an icon on the card.

The layout of the ship is randomised and while the rooms labelled with the number ‘1’ are definitely going to be somewhere on the ship, the rooms with ‘2’ on them are not all used, so you don’t know for sure which ones you will end up seeing on the ship.

All the rooms are placed face down before the game starts and as you explore them, they are flipped to reveal the room and there is also a small exploration token flipped which determines some sort of effect. The token may reveal the room is damaged, or on fire, for example among other effects.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Board Setup
The game board set up looks so cool and ominous. You have no idea what each room contains or what condition it’s in until you explore it.

All the hidden information adds to the sense of tension and uncertainty as you really don’t know much at all about the ship other than where the cockpit and the engines are. Even then you don’t have a clue whether the ship is headed back to earth or into the depths of space or even if the engines are working at all.

Each room revealed has a function which allows you to perform a special action while you are in the room, they also offer the opportunity to search for valuable loot. You could discover new weapons, tools, crafting materials or medical supplies.

As you travel throughout the ship you must carefully manage the cost of your actions and the noise you create. Each movement you make can create noise unless you pay an extra card to move silently which constrains your ability to do other actions. Noise is important because if you ever place two noise tokens in the same corridor you will trigger the attention of the aliens lurking in the ship.

Exactly which alien emerges is the luck of the draw and is determined by pulling a token out of a bag. If you are lucky, it may be blank, or at the other end of the spectrum you might encounter the queen. The number of each type of alien token in the bag varies depending on player count and each round the composition of aliens in the bag may change. I guess this is designed to simulate the aliens maturing and breeding on the ship, delightful.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Intruder Aliens and Intruder Weakness
The intruder minis look amazing. There are different types from larvae through to a formidable queen intruder.

Aside from intruders/aliens there are other calamities you are likely to face as you explore the ship such as damaged rooms and fire. If you have too much damage or too much of the ship is on fire the ship could explode killing everyone remaining on board.

As if fire, destruction, and hostile aliens weren’t enough to make you curse your stay on the Nemesis there is another way your trip can end in disaster. If you remain on the ship until the bitter end and are still alive you will only survive if the ship’s coordinates are set for Earth. If they happen to be set for Mars, Venus, or Deep Space you won’t survive. Worst still, you can only be certain of where you are headed if you check the coordinates, if you rely on someone else to do this you can’t be sure they are telling you the truth.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Wound Cards
If you get contaminated by an intruder during the game the effect could be serious and possibly kill the character.

The game can end in one of three ways; the turn marker moves to the final red space, the self-destruct marker moves to its final space destroying the ship, or the last person alive and not hibernating leaves the ship using an escape pod or dies. Then any players left alive check their objectives to see if they have completed them. Multiple players can win provided they have achieved their objectives, equally it’s possible for no player to have achieved their objectives. You can’t win if you were killed. Hopefully this gives you enough context to understand how the game works at a high level.

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How Our Nemesis Playthrough Went

Early Game

Once we ordered some food, we had a look around the café at some of the games being prepared, it was a great selection, with Ark Nova, On Mars and Twilight Imperium to name a few. All games I really would love to try, but when we arrived at our table, I quickly forgot that thought as I caught sight of Nemesis on the table. I expected some great components given our experience with Lords of Hellas but the whole package laid out on the table was just amazing. The vast ship with its grim and dark artwork, the beautifully detailed minis with various aliens and crew members and the beautifully illustrated cards all seemed to fit the theme just right.

As I chatted to our host, he started to explain at a high level how the game works and how unpredictable it could be. Although there is a lot to take in here, he assured me that with the end of round admin taken care of by him, the player phase we would have to wrap our head around would be straight forward.

The first thing we needed to do was select a character. There were four of us with my son as the pilot, me as the scout, our host as the captain and our final player taking on the role of the mechanic. Once that was sorted, we grabbed our player boards and personalised decks. The final thing we received was two objectives each.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Scout Player Board
My character, the scout. I didn’t start with the flamethrower but acquired that later much to my delight.

Both my objectives were poles apart as I expected them to be. On the one hand I could play the part of a virtuous member of the crew in which case my aim was to save myself and at least one other crew member. On the other hand, I could choose to go corporate, and my aim would be to kill player 3 who happened to be the captain and our host teaching us the game. I had some time before I had to choose which was helpful as I had no idea how challenging either of those things would be to achieve.

It strikes me that the experience can change significantly depending on what path players go down, be it corporate or personal objective.  I think this would change the feel of each game quite a bit and probably your chances of success.

Only the captain had played Nemesis before, so at first, we leaned heavily on his advice. The first few rounds were spent exploring nearby rooms, getting a sense of what we had access to nearby and familiarising ourselves with the cards in our deck. My first round was a shocker, I spent all my cards early not realising that meant I would have to pass after having only done a few things. My crewmates were far more productive and had managed to snag a little bit of loot as well.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Board First Few Turns
Our initial exploration of the ship revealed a damaged monitoring room and some cabins. Thankfully no intruders yet.

Early in the game we hadn’t made much noise so we could afford to travel without much care. As the noise tokens started to fill the corridors, we realised that we would have to change tack and start to travel more carefully, which required us to spend two cards for each move instead of one, slowing us down a little.

Our steady progress exploring, and snagging loot was abruptly interrupted when our mechanic attracted the first alien in a storage room, and unfortunately it was an adult which can be quite formidable. Seeing the first alien on the board not only created panic but also triggered our first big decision of the game. We had to decide which of our two objectives we would hang on to. I decided that trying to take out our most experienced player, the captain, would be too challenging for me. So, I opted for the more virtuous objective which required me and at least one other crew member to survive by the end of the game.

With that out of the way we set about planning what we would do about our first encounter with the aliens/intruders on our ship. Our mechanic seemed confident and declared that she would have it sorted out before the end of the round so we didn’t come to her aid. It turns out her aim was about as accurate as a team of storm troopers at close range and as a result of some poor dice rolls had inflicted minimal damage. Our alien by this stage was looking a little more daunting and our mechanic’s confidence had disappeared.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Board First Intruder
The arrival of our first intruder required us to decide on our objectives.

The pilot and I were close enough to lend a hand, surely three to one would tip the scales in our favour, right? Well, we had some shocking rolls of the dice and we even joked that if the alien perished it would be from boredom but eventually, we did manage to dispatch it. With our first battle under our belts, we felt like veterans, the aliens on the ship weren’t dealing with rookies anymore they were dealing with seasoned pros, we began to think we might all make it out alive after all.

Mid Game

Once we dealt with our initial alien encounter, we then went our separate ways exploring more of the ship. By this stage our captain had split off from the rest of us and started to move further back of the ship exploring rooms. The mechanic hung around the mid-section of the ship gathering loot and carrying the body of our dead alien in the hopes of researching a weakness once we discovered the appropriate room.

The big news was what was unfolding in the cockpit between the pilot (my son) and the scout (me). The pilot had checked our destination and assured us we were on track for earth. Everyone believed him, even me at first. Something was just nagging me though, should I double check and potentially waste a turn? At first, I thought it wasn’t worth it, but the problem is, my son is able to weave a pretty convincing story without a lick of truth in it. Sounds terrible but he is actually a good kid, really! You see both of us have played a lot of social deduction games and we are both now very suspicious of each other as a result when we play games where one of us has an opportunity to lie.

Anyways to cut to the chase I ended up checking the coordinates just to be sure. Turns out we were flying out to deep space and our demise. When I shared this with the rest of the crew obviously my son called me a liar, which by the way is what I would do too. So, it was his word against mine. The crew sided with him, so I was in trouble. At that point he did something very clever, he declared he didn’t trust me not to steer us towards oblivion, so he damaged the cockpit to prevent me from changing course, everyone lapped that up and thought he was saving us all. He was a hero, or so the crew thought.

Once he left the cockpit, I managed to get a card allowing me to fix the cockpit and change course back to earth. Disaster averted right? Well…for now, there are multiple ways to destroy this ship and I just sorted one of them. The thing that nagged me though was why he wanted the ship destroyed, what good would that do? How would that help anyone? We all want to survive, right? Well, I guess there are escape pods. I now knew he was a rotten egg but not what he was trying to achieve, worst of all the rest of the crew were more suspicious of me than him.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Board Captain Intruder Battle Canteen
Our captain picking a fight with two intruders.

Once the shenanigans in the cockpit had concluded, my son continued to rapidly explore the left side of the ship and by the way was making no effort to be quiet, generating noise tokens everywhere he went. As he explored, he discovered some rooms were on fire and some were damaged, which is to be expected on a ship infested with aliens, I guess.

Our captain meanwhile had thoroughly explored the rear right of the ship and managed to pick a fight with two aliens in the canteen. Our mechanic by this stage was nearby and was able to assist with a nicely lobbed grenade. Between that and our captain’s handy gun slinging we had another two aliens down. He had also managed to discover the laboratory, so he grabbed our dead crewmate that we discovered at the beginning of the game and with our mechanics dead alien they were able to discover two alien weaknesses. This gave us a much-needed edge over the aliens in combat.

The next few rounds progressed without incident. We had no aliens on the ship, I had managed to put out all the fires, we repaired the one engine that was damaged and to be honest I was starting to wonder if the game was going to end with a bit of an anti-climax. In fact, there was one turn where I had to ask ‘is there anything else we need to do on this ship? I feel like we are just hanging around waiting for the clock to run down.’ That feeling didn’t last long, things were about to get a little crazy.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Board Generator Room Discovery
The generator room can trigger the self-destruct sequence on the ship. It turns out this would be a key location in our game.

End Game

At this stage of the game, we had a major turning point. The captain gained and used a very powerful one-off ability which allowed him to see another players objective. He was most suspicious of me, so he asked to see mine. Finally, my son would be exposed, and I would be a trusted member of the crew again! When the captain realised, I was trying to save crew members, not sabotage them, he understood the underhanded game my son had been playing. Might I add he had been doing this impeccably so far.

So, the crew now knew they could trust me, but they still weren’t certain what my son was trying to achieve, all they knew was he had tried to doom us all by sending our ship to the depths of space instead of Earth. This is the point of the game I have mixed feelings about, for me everything became easier, I was the trusted crew member again and it was beyond doubt. However, I think this ability the captain has may be too powerful in some situations. In this case my son’s cover had been blown, no one else on the ship appeared to have chosen a nefarious objective so he was on his own and exposed. His options became extremely limited, and I think as a result he felt quite hard done by.

At this point everything started to get quite tense, my son was lurking by the generator room, which by the way can trigger the ships self-destruct sequence and there were a lot of noise tokens scattered around the corridors.

The captain and mechanic had agreed to make their way quickly to a nearby escape pod and leave my son and I to it.  As much as I felt hard done by, I couldn’t blame them for wanting to get away while they could, the other escape pod near me was damaged so I couldn’t do the same. At this point it is worth pointing out that as long as you have completed your objective, survival is the only thing that matters.

Meanwhile my son began the self-destruct sequence announcing he was doing his bit to save the crew by making the escape pods available. This is one of the ways the escape pods can be unlocked. None of us bought his explanation though and luckily, I had a card to cancel his action, which I used much to the relief of the rest of the crew.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Self Destruct Key
Some of the loot I had gathered in my travels throughout the ship. The self-destruct key turned out to be quite useful.

On my sons next turn, he announced ‘I don’t care anymore, the ship is going down!’ which was basically his way of saying ‘my cover is blown, yes, I am a dirty corporate weasel deal with it.’ He then activated the self-destruct. Well not quite, I had a card that allowed me to reset it, but that was my final trick, and I had no other options. On his third attempt he was able to set the self-destruct for once and for all, it was now irreversible.

Meanwhile the captain had been double crossed by the mechanic who got into the only undamaged escape pod once the self-destruct sequence unlocked it and left without waiting for him. Leaving the captain, no choice but to help me deal with our saboteur.

The ship was now doomed so the only thing for it was for the last remaining escape pod to be repaired and somehow be the first one to get to it. The captain made as much noise as possible near the generator room spawning an alien and then left my son to it. He did the same in the next room leading to the final escape pod. One of his abilities allows him to be able to get away from a room infested by aliens without any risk of harm, which is something the rest of us can’t do.

Meanwhile I had repaired the final escape pod and was planning on making a quick escape the following turn. My son had other ideas, he had managed to catch up with us although slightly injured and in the process attracted another alien to the escape pod room. You can’t enter an escape pod with an alien present. We had a delicate balancing act of trying to defeat the alien with an action remaining so we could attempt to use our final action to escape the ship.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Final Battle in Escape Pod Room
The final battle in the escape pod bay. This part of the game felt so tense and thematic.

The battle with the alien was a mix of attack and restraint as no one wanted to kill the alien after exhausting both their actions only to have the next player benefit. In the end the captain scored the final kill shot on the alien but was unable to enter the escape pod. My turn was next, I had a shot at escaping this whole mess. The catch is when you enter an escape pod you must do a noise roll and place noise tokens in a corridor according to the roll. My only clear corridor required a roll of 2 or 3, which meant the odds weren’t quite in my favour. If I attracted another alien through making noise, I wouldn’t be able to get to the escape pod, worse still the timer was ticking down to the destruction of the ship. My dice roll revealed a 2 and I couldn’t believe my luck. I quickly launched the final escape pod, leaving the Captain and the Pilot to go down with the ship and ending the game.

At the Cafe 8 - Nemesis Board Final Situation End Game
The ship after I had just escaped, the captain and the pilot were left to go down with the ship.

Outcome Summary

Captain – Failed objective and went down with the ship, that’s sort of what’s meant to happen right?

Pilot – Failed objective, was exposed as a traitor and crashed with the ship. Did not fulfil his mission of killing player 4 – me. Still good so far.

Mechanic – Completed objective to research alien weakness and survived by selfishly launching a half full escape pod.

Scout – Completed objective to save myself and one other crew member. Safe in the knowledge that one other crew member had survived, I launched a half full escape pod to save myself. I imagine the captain was yelling obscenities at me for being the second person to leave him behind.

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Our Thoughts on Nemesis

Teen Perspective

My son enjoyed Nemesis for the most part right up until the captain was able to confirm that I was trustworthy and by inference my son was not. That blew his cover and left him feeling quite deflated about his prospects.

I personally think my son played it really well and managed to create a lot of doubt and even deflect suspicion towards me. I can sympathise with him on this one, the way it ended for him felt a little harsh. I do wonder whether the captain’s ability is too powerful in some instances but don’t know the game well enough to say for sure.

Other than that, this game has so many elements my son enjoys, cool sci-fi theme, social deduction, upgrades, unique characters and abilities, and some great tension. He would play again.

Parent’s Perspective

I loved this game and if anyone was interested in playing a game the conversation would probably go something like this:

‘Do you wanna play Neme’…’Sure can we play now?’

I think there is so much variability in the game set up, objectives, characters, and threats that each game is likely to play out differently. I love that the information you discover isn’t readily available for all the crew, for example the ship’s destination. You could check it and claim it’s all fine like my son did, but no one else knows for sure. Someone else of course can check as well but that’s a trade off as it wastes turns you could be using for something else.

The objectives in particular tie in so well thematically. Who can you really trust in your crew? Can your crew trust you? The great thing is you can decide whether you want to play the good guy trying to do the right thing or whether you want to throw your allegiance behind corporate headquarters and be the corporate weasel on the ship. It’s just such a cool experience. I would really like to see what happens when most/all crew members go corporate and the chaos that might create.

There are some potential situations where I can see people may have a bad experience. One I have noted above is my son’s situation where he was effectively exposed at a key point in the game. The other thing I can see is if you happen to die early, there is player elimination here so effectively you are out of the game. You may have an interest in seeing what the outcome is for the rest of the crew, but it is a long game. In our case over 3 hours. There is an option however, for a player who has died early to take control of the intruders which can be a great way to keep that player involved, albeit without their character in the game.

On balance though, I had a blast playing Nemesis and would absolutely love to play again.

Hit or Miss?   1 Hit, 1 Almost Hit

We hope you enjoyed our Nemesis playthrough article. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

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