Nanuk – Beware the Bear
Submitted by Willard Watts
Number of Players: 5-8
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
Cost: $23 on Amazon
Ease of Play:
Nanuk is a game of boasting and bluffing. You play as Inuit hunters in the Artic and make points on whether you have a good hunt or whether you’ve bet against the boastful claims of your fellow hunters. Each round there are four phases: boasting, choosing sides, planning the hunt and, finishing the hunt.
- Boasting – The first player makes a boast, which is a bid, about how many animals the hunt will garner and how long the hunters will brave the wilderness. The minimum first bid is “one animal, one day.” The next player must then increase the bid by raising the number of animals and/or the number of days. If the player doesn’t wish to increase the bid then they call the hunt “Doomed” betting that the hunt will fail. At this point only two players are committed, the player who made the last boast, who now becomes the hunt leader and the one who called doom on the hunt, who becomes the doom leader. This takes us to the next phase.
- Choosing Sides – The rest of the players must then choose sides to either join the hunt to try and make it successful or become one of the doomsayers betting that the hunt will fail. There are two ways that a hunt can fail, not getting enough game in the allotted number of days or if the hunt runs into Nanuk, the dreaded and terrible polar bear of the Arctic. If the hunt succeeds the hunters divide the spoils of the hunt. If the hunt fails, the doomsayers divide whatever game was taken.
- Planning the Hunt – Starting with the first hunter to left of the hunt leader, all hunters contribute at least one card face down to the hunt. (all players are holding three cards at this time.) The hunt leader, who is the last to contribute, then takes the face down cards, mixes them up and reveals them to see how the hunt starts off.
- Finishing the Hunt – The hunt leader then starts drawing cards from the top of the deck and revealing them. He draws one card for every day of the hunt. The hunt is over when you’ve either drawn cards up to the number of days in the boast or you’ve run into the dread Nanuk without a corresponding Inuksuk to cancel it. The hunt is successful if the amount of game is collected in the number of days named in the boast and no Nanuks were encountered that weren’t canceled by Inuksuk cards.
All hunters of a successful hunt divide the garnered game for points. The doomsayers get to divide the spoils of an unsuccessful hunt. There is a bit of strategy in dividing the spoils as points are based on melds and runs of the different types of animals. The game is over when you run out of cards to draw and the person with the most points is the winner.
I really like the mind-games type of interaction in this game with the bidding and the bargaining. The game instructions fully recognize and even encourage the trash talking/wheedling that will go on while the players are trying to make up their minds on whether they’re going on the hunt or betting on its doom. It plays fast and has a lot of decisions to make about what to boast, what side to choose and what animals to take. In my opinion, the only downside to this game is that you need at least five players to make it work. But it can play up to eight, which great fun with a largish group.