One of Rio Grande Games' latest offerings is Loch Ness.
In Loch Ness, each of the players takes on the role of a photographer trying to get a picture of the elusive Loch Ness monster. In order to do this, they must make sure that their best cameras are positioned in the place where Nessie will (hopefully) appear. Each turn, the players will get to select a bonus for the round - improving their camera's value, moving a bonus camera, hiring an extra camera, stuffing hotdogs in their pockets to try to convince Nessie to go just a bit further (ok, officially in the game you use "Bagpipes" for this, but you tell me - I think that Nessie would respond better to hot dogs) etc. Then the first three players will select a move card; the sum of these cards will determine how far Nessie will move along the board once all of the players are situated(. Once these are selected, each player will be forced to move one of his cameras (hoping to get that great photo!) and then will have the option of moving a second camera. Finally, the move cards are revealed, and Nessie moves along the inner gameboard based on what cards were revealed. Anyone that is directly in front of Nessie gets to collect a card (or two, depending on where she lands), and is attempting to get a collection of Nessie's head, body and tail. Finally, everyone with a camera in the area that Nessie appeared (regardless of if their camera was directly facing Nessie) scores points equal to their camera's value. Also, "little Nessie" moves along the score track a number of spaces equal to how far "big Nessie" moved. Once "little Nessie" moves 65 spaces, the game is over, players turn in their cards, and whoever has the most points wins. (And then has to find a writer that is willing to claim that the Loch Ness Monster is real - maybe the photos will help!)
|"Big Nessie" and "Little Nessie"|
Secondly, I like that there is an element of bluffing involved in Loch Ness. Since nobody knows exactly how far Nessie will move, you must guess based on your opponents' actions. The first three players all know one piece of the puzzle - if I played a five, then I know that Nessie move at least seven spaces. Conversely, if I play a one, I know Nessie will not move more than eleven. What's more, if I perform the "Church" special action (this lets you look at one of the move cards), then I can even know two of the three pieces. However, I can never know exactly how far Nessie will move. Unfortunately, once I move one of my cameras, everyone else will know what I think Nessie is going to do, and (since I know more than they do in this hypothetical) they will probably try to position themselves accordingly. This leaves open the possibility of tricking your opponents - setting up a smaller camera where you know that Nessie won't go, hoping that your opponents will set their larger cameras near it, so that you can then place your larger camera in a better position. Another way of bluffing is in picking numbers - if you get the impression that your opponents think you normally pick high numbers, to go low (or vice versa). If you can do this successfully, you will often allow yourself to get situated well; assuming that you don't fall for your opponents doing the same thing.
Overall, my main con with Loch Ness is that there just isn't enough to draw me into the game, nor is there enough to make me want to keep coming back for more. The game works, and as I said before, I can see it being something fun to play with kids. However, I don't really see a strategy gaming group being eager to play it, and unfortunately, I don't even see it being used as a filler. I guess the main gist of this con is that I struggle to see who Loch Ness' target audience is. It claims to be for ages 8 and above, but I think that it would be best suited for about ages 6-12 (along with their parents). Now, to be fair, I think that it could be played easily enough with kids that were age 6 and above if their parents wanted to teach it to them (but then again, I could be horribly wrong - I don't have kids, and they really are an enigma to me).
Overall, I give Loch Ness a 7.0/10. I gave it a score this high because of it's ability to be played with kids as a game that can be used to start teaching them more advanced games (and I have convinced myself that this probably is the intention of the game). However, though there's nothing really wrong with this game, it isn't something that I really seem myself continuing to play. Whereas Rio Grande has made a ton of games that I really love (Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Ra, Princes of Florence, Dvonn, etc) this one didn't really click for me.
If you are looking for games to play with your kids, you might also consider Hey, That's My Fish!, Stomple, and Rory's Story Cubes.
I would like to thank Rio Grande Games for providing me with a review copy of Loch Ness.