[Spotlight]”Nyheim” Computer Game

A while ago my good friend Theobaldt made me aware of a computer game named “Nyheim” (I guess this is Finnish). The whole thing is best described as a one-player boardgame emulation with a post-apocalyptic theme (and  in my opinion: the game is pretty neat).

The background is that at some day (not in the far future but more like “next month”) a strange new plaque occurred. This new strain of disease did spread like a wildfire (with rats as a main carrier) and was lethal to the majority of the population. In fact, it spread and mutated so quickly that science was not able to coupe with it. To make things worse, it made the rats highly aggressive and some of them even mutated. The game is set in the the Finnish (fictional) city of Nyheim and starts when  only those people are left who are “naturally immune” to the plaque, with you in charge as you try to gather people and resources in your headquarter. It is spring time, but winter will come and if the survivors don´t organize themselves, it will be a grim one for everyone. The tale of the survivors is told from the point of view of the city of Nyheim, who acts as the narrator (a wise, parental but in itself helpless  figure that watches its “children” as they try to coupe with the situation, and wishes them well).

charactercreationThe player starts out with one character he or she creates at the start of the game. More may be added once the the player “finds” other survivors in the city (or when they come to his or her HQ). Each character has a name, an avatar picture (one from about a dozen or so options) and two eight sided “dice” that represent abilities. Each character has a (rather) individual die that is made up of a combination of six symbols: four of them represent abilities (which are needed to overcome obstacles and complete tasks), one is an “empty” (fail-)symbol and the last one is a “food” symbol. Every die has at least one empty symbol (maybe more), at least one food symbol (maybe more) and an individual combination of the other symbols.

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The game board is a simplified map of the city that features different locations (Apartments, Houses, the Zoo, the Hospital, the Park, etc.) which are linked through routes (see the pictures below), and the first “mission” of the game is to erect a headquarter in one of them (I will explain “missions” to you later). Each turn, you may move from one location to a nearby (linked) location, either to rest there or to take an action (and of course, you may stay where you are, too). All locations may be searched (to find food, items or other survivors), -may- contain a threat (mostly rats, but piles of rotting corpses or other obstacles might be threat as well) and/or may be the location where a mission may be accomplished.

Missions (and all tasks in general) are solved by a roll of the dice: each character of the group (automatically) contributes his or her dice, and you may either assign the results to the search, to threats, or to other tasks that are available. If all of the symbols needed to solve a search/threat/task are assigned to it (between one and three symbols), the party was able to do it. If it was “mission” or task, it is solved.  If it was a search, a random card from a virtual “search deck” is revealed and the player gains food, an item, a new survivor or NOTHING. And of course, a search may result in the unwanted attention of some more rats (= new threat). Talking about threats, if those are not dealt with when a location is entered, the thread will deal a number of wounds (1 to 3) that the player must assign to a character of the group. Once a character gets a second wound, he or she dies.

If multiple symbols are needed, they must be assigned “in one go”, no results are carried over into the next turn. Some threats and tasks must be “solved” multiple times to be removed, but when a “step” towards success is taken it will stay that way and threats will not cause wounds when an “instance” of them was solved. In fact, one cannot solve more than on “instance” of a task or threat in one turn.

Acquired food may be used for re-rolls (one food, = one re-roll). In addition, as soon as at least one die of the (first) roll shows a food-icon, one point of food is removed from the groups supply and the food-symbols are re-rolled once. If other food symbols come up during a re-roll, they are just treated as “empty” symbols. Gained food may  be send to the HQ in order to advance it, but when a food symbol is rolled and the team has no food with it, one character gains a “wound” that is called “Starving”. In addition, once the food has been assigned to the group or the base, it cannot be undone/removed later in the game.

Survivors may either be included into the group (up to two others at first, up to a total of five when the head quarter was leveled up) or send to the headquarter (which helps with said level-up), but once a character has been “send back to base” it cannot be included into the group later on (I guess the guy or gal pouts).

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Items may be used a limited number of times (and only once per turn) to change one symbol into the other, double a given symbol or to sacrifice a symbol for a re-roll. The only exception here are books, which must be “studied” (which is an “extended tasks”) while resting. When a character is through with a book, he or she gains a special skill similar to that of an item (see above) that may be used once per turn. One character may only hold (and use) one item at a time, the other items may be send to the HQ (to help leveling it up), but the group cannot “stash” items for later use (“make use of it or send it to the base”).

All the points mentioned above are the options (and possible results) of a move where the player “takes action”. Of course, a player may decide to have the group move and then rest instead. When the group rests, the dice are rolled aswell, but the symbols are either used to cure wounds, to study books or to finish some lengthy mission that has something to do with study, training or (de-)construction. Talking about wounds, those are something that should be dealt with quickly: they do not only threaten to kill a character but eliminate certain symbols from the dice results as well (and thereby, become a literal pain in the rectum).

And that were the basics of the game.

There are three ways to win the game: survive till winter is over (a set number of game turns), upgrade your HQ to level five or attract a certain number of survivors to your HQ. The HQ is not unimportant, as it provides further upgrades at random intervals. Those upgrades, once they are unlocked, will generate more survivors, free items, free characters or free food over a set number of turns (food, items and characters must be picked up at the HQ before they are of any use). Further benefits may be gained by solving a missions. When an upgrade is available, the player chooses one of the available options. Some generate extra food, some generate items or new characters, others lead to more (generic) populace coming to the HQ. All of them “trigger” after a set number of rounds (5, 7, 10 etc.). The player may decide to “stack” a certain type of upgrade (e. g. gardens to increase the available food), but every further instance of the upgrade triggers at an increasingly higher number of turns (so much for the efficiency of focus and concentration…).

A player loses the game when the main character dies or after five disasters have occurred. Disasters are a special type of mission that pop up all over the board at a semi-random intervals. If those are not dealt with in a set number of turnss, bad things happen (food spoils, survivors die due to accidents or illness, items break due to a lag of maintenance, etc.). So, a player will often find himself abandoning a certain cause of action to chase his or her group back over the map to take care of this or that at the other end of the town.

My Opinion & Rating:

Nyheim is not a combat game where you lead factions into an armed struggle, and  it is not a game with a (very) dark theme to it. The colors of it are light and bright, there is no “blood & gore” and it is lacking any real horror elements (besides the presence of angry, mutated rats). And it does not need any of this.

Nyheim is a turn based game about decisions and resources with a very good narrative to it. The four seasons all have a effects to them that are explained once they set in, the “missions” all build up on one another and tell you a story about a community of survivors (YOUR community of survivors) and what they do in order to put civilization back up onto its feet again. This is not the tale of grim hunters and ruthless scavengers that murder and pillage, it is a tale about the remains of humanity against the environment that was created by the collapse. This environment is not good or evil, it is what it is. The graphics are “simple but functional”, the themes and sounds are very limited, repetitive and grow a bit boring over time, and the same might be said about the artwork. There aren´t an awful lot of things to do in the game: move and do actions, plan your moves while you can and worry about what might happen if you do not make it or if your away-team runs out of food. But it gives you just enough options to keep you occupied, and the game keeps you focused. Everyone who every plaid any of of Sid Meier´s Civilization titles knows that “just-one-more-click”-spell one can fall under while making decisions that immediately show results or progress, and lead to further decisions. And that is the spell this game may put on the player as well.

As a post-apocalypse fan (…that does not sound sane, right…?) I just have the like the ideas and concepts behind the missions: all of them are hands-down activities real people in a real apocalypse are likely to do. As a roleplayer and GM, I like all the inspiration I get from the tasks. It makes one feel “at home” in the game world AND provides food for thought. The replay value might not be very high, but the game DOES offer optional set-up´s (which can be unlocked per game session, with XP that are earned in every game, win or lose).

All in all, I give “Nyheim” a 6/10 rating, and a more personal 7/10 rating that might be shared by others who (like me) have a soft spot for relaxed, turn based games that one may play on a Sunday afternoon while enjoying a mug of coffee and some cookies (or dark chocolate). I bought the title at STEAM for about 4,- EUR, but I am pretty sure that one can get it in an AppStore as well.

If you like post-apocalyptic games, do not have to have !ACTION! in every thing you do and don´t have to life on a tight budget, I suggest to buy Nyheim.

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[Spotlight]”Nyheim” Computer Game

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