What is this game about?
Nautilion is an Oniverse game, and it is Shady Torbey's attempt to make roll and move into an interesting board game mechanism. In Nautilion, you are in a race against the Phantom, an evil ship that is headed towards your happy island home. Your goal is to gather a complete crew and reach the Abyss to confront evil before the enemy reaches your island. You and Phantom will even pass each other on the way!
To set up the game, you place crew tokens to form a path from your island to the Abyss. On each turn, you will roll three dice, and you will assign one to yourself, one to the Phantom, and one to a more distant evil called the Dark House. You and the Phantom will each move the number of pips on your assigned dice. You'll have a chance to either hire the crew you land on or convert it into a token to use later. These tokens are typically used on spells that allow you to manipulate the dice or the path ahead of you to get the crew members you need. When the Phantom moves, it will gobble up whatever potential crew member it lands on, removing it from the game. And if you assign a die with a value of 3 or 4 to the Dark House, it will either consume one of your tokens or remove a crew member from your game board. You will either make it to the Abyss with a complete crew before the Phantom arrives in your homeland, or you lose the game.
To add to the challenge, you can't just hire any old crew member—you need to collect members 1–9, and once you have placed someone on your player mat, you can only put new crew in adjoining spaces. There are several different ship boards you can play with, some of which are more challenging than others.
Nautilion also comes with a number of expansions to enhance the base game. You will end up consistently playing with the Mages, who add another element to your crew collection efforts but who also help you with their magic. The others add fun challenges such as a reef that impedes movement, or "mercenaries" who allow you and the Phantom to fight it out when you meet partway across the sea. You can also give yourself and the Dark House special powers that change the game in interesting ways.
How does it pay solo?
Nautilion is technically for 1–2 players, but it's very much designed for solo play. Enjoy!
Shady Torbey designed Nautilion as a way to make roll and move into something fun, and I would say that he has succeeded. Depending on what you roll, deciding what dice to assign to whom can be surprisingly nerve wracking. If you move too conservatively, the Phantom might end up making bigger moves and beating you to its goal space. But if you assign high-value dice to yourself, you might end up skipping over crew members you really need. And you certainly don't want to assign high-value dice to the Dark House, especially if you're at the point where it will force you to lose crew members.
Nautilion is also very easy to learn and quick to play, which makes it ideal for a relaxing afternoon or evening of solo gaming. While the base game will quickly become a bit vanilla, the expansions—particularly Mages—are worthy additions to the game that make it more interesting.
A quick word of warning, though: Nautilion does involve some interesting decisions, but it is still a dice game, and it's possible to get very unlucky. If you're thinking about picking it up, be aware that luck will be a major factor in the game.
My main quibble with Nautilion, however, is the fact that you make a path out of the crew tokens instead of having an actual game board. Chunks of your path will disappear throughout the game as both you and the Phantom pick up crew tokens, and because your path will curve, it's possible to get mixed up, especially if you're as messy as I am. (No beautiful, perfectly-aligned spiral pathways for me!) All those separate crew tokens also mean that Nautilion is mildly annoying to set up, which makes me less likely to play it multiple times in a row.
Do I recommend it?
If you're looking for an interesting small box solitaire game, then yes! You really can't go wrong with the Oniverse.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.