February 22, 2024

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Nunatak – review of the board game about ice temples

Nunatak – review of the board game about ice temples

As I write this, it is temporarily snowing outside and temperatures are well below freezing. This fits well with the theme of Nunatak (Cosmos), a game by Kane Klenko in which we create an ice temple.

Rules: The most important details during the process

Geologically speaking, nunatak are actually mountaintops that rise from glaciers or ice masses, but the game's instructions make them the tops of ice temples built by a forgotten civilization. We, the players, are tribesmen who contribute to building the temple. We do this by taking one of the four cards shown and placing the ice block on the floor plate showing the same card symbol.

Nunatak - Temple Building - Photography by Kosmos

Meaning of cards in Nunatak

Cards are not only used to place blocks, but also form a central mechanic of the game, the deck of sets. Most card types award more points at the end of the game the more points you have, some act as multipliers and two types have additional functions. With workers I can swap two floor tiles for free before my turn if I don't like the location of the construction site, and with elders I can have one of my two blessing cards face up. These Blessing cards always have a positive effect, and depending on the card, I can use them immediately, at some point during the game, or at the end of the game.

Otherwise, all the trades required to build the temple are represented: master builders plan the temple complex; Artisans cut blocks of ice; They bring their animals to the construction site. Ice sculptors decorate the blocks with ornaments.

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Game 23 in Essen: Nunatak - Cards - Photography by Axel Bongart
Game 23 in Essen: Nunatak – Cards – Photography by Axel Bongart

Nunatak and the tip of the iceberg

So we build block after block on the base plate until sooner or later four blocks form the cornerstone of a square on which another level must be placed. This way we build upwards. If a tribe member has the most ice blocks between the corner posts, he gets five points. Depending on the constellation, the remaining players can still get a point or two, but sometimes they come up empty-handed. Therefore, you should carefully plan your construction site so as not to provide your competitors with opportunities to do high-scoring work.

But at some point, you can't avoid doing something good for your fellow players. Finally, the free space becomes smaller and smaller. If you build on a higher floor, you get points for the number of columns of your color. This makes it all a tactical matter in fairly uncomplicated gameplay. Each player also has their own building path, where a small ice cube moves up once a row of blocks is closed (something that is often forgotten). Higher numbers on the track are important if you decide to collect cards with major game makers. Because cards are multipliers at the end of the game. If you only have one of them, the large number on the track will be of little use.

Game 23 in Essen: Nunatak - Photo by Axel Bongart
Game 23 in Essen: Nunatak – Photo by Axel Bongart

Evaluation in Nunatak

The game ends for three players once the fourth block is placed on the top level. Then the player with the most blocks built on the edge can place the top of the temple. Since this alone would not be a crowning achievement, he also received seven points for the honor.

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In a four-player game, you play with fewer ice blocks and one ice block of each color is placed next to the final card that is only used with that number of players. Here players can then enter the last two blocks that meet the condition on the card best or second best. Then it's time to evaluate the different cards. There could then be more surprises and the leading players could suddenly catch up and overtake them.

Visually beautiful and comically compelling

Nunatak is a family game in terms of its requirements, but it stands out from the crowd with its 3D look and also convinces me in terms of gameplay. The mechanics aren't really new, but they tie in well with the theme.

The material is amazing and it looks really amazing when the temple is finally built. The 3 x 3 x 3 centimeter blocks fit perfectly into the panel recesses thanks to two small baffles at the bottom, and the cross bars at the top ensure secure fixation to the corner posts. Nunatak board game - box - image of Cosmos

The instructions and card texts leave no questions unanswered, and Quanchai Moriya's illustrations are detailed and truly beautiful to look at. A single-player version of the game has even been considered, although it is difficult to play with two imaginary characters. Although I personally am not a fan of ice and snow in real life, I really enjoy traveling to the uncomfortable Antarctic region for my nunatak.