Now or Never
Red Raven Games
Playtime: 2-3 Hours
As massive fans of comic books, tv, video games, and all of the other major storytelling mediums, we love to see how different mediums can tell groundbreaking new stories. Every medium has significant strengths that others don’t, and humanity is constantly finding new ways to break new ground in storytelling.
Board games aren’t often thought of when people think of conduits for stories unless people are referring to RPGs or dungeon crawlers. Red Raven Games has always had a different approach though, with the majority of their games being intimately tied together by setting and narrative. It’s the third game in the Arzium storybook series that started with Above and Below and Near and Far.
A Brief How To Play
After punching an insane amount of cardboard, setup can begin. The massive board and season board get placed on the table, and the rest of the tokens all go in their designated spots. Each player gets their own buildings, dice, and markers, then a shared market is placed. Players then get their own boards and characters. Finally, the coins are placed.
I won’t go too deep into detail here because this is a deep game and the excellent rulebook is already available for players to see online. There are two different modes of play in Now of Never – the standard evergreen mode and a story mode that plays as a short legacy game. The standard mode involves building a settlement with tons of interaction with other players and the game itself. Players can hire the units of players to benefit both, or brave the world and handle dangerous enemies. Players can explore, rescue NPCs, complete quests, and of course, build.
Meanwhile, the story mode has everything mentioned before, but the characters that players choose come with their own backstories and a narrative that can be shaped by the player’s decisions. Everything from their character’s motivations to the plot itself will change over six sessions based on locations visited and player interactions.
Pacing and Interactivity
If players aren’t familiar with the pieces, the setup can be rather lengthy, and the game can potentially feel long before it even starts. Good box organization is the key to making this game one that players will want to consistently take out and play. Once you get past this potentially lengthy obstacle, the game’s pacing is excellent. It’s a heavy almost euro-style game, so it will be slower than most games, but it never drags. A game of Now or Never can easily take nearly 3 hours to play, but it never really feels this way if all of the players can get into the thick of everything. It’s a truly riveting experience that will challenge and entertain any fan willing to take the time to learn all of its intricacies.
Players will interact heavily with each other, but this isn’t really a mean-spirited game. Markets will cycle, thus resulting in some players getting locked out of something they desire before they even get the opportunity. It can feel bad, but not as bad as games like Unfair or Food Chain Magnate can make players feel. Basically, there is enough interaction here to force players to keep tabs on each other for planning purposes, but that’s it.
Theme and Components
I shouldn’t have to say this because the pictures before the sentence have already made this clear, but this game is gorgeous. Ryan Laukat’s art continues to be some of the best that can be found in the entire medium. The style has storybook colors and exceptional character designs. The settings are memorable and unique. The colors are insanely vivid, with tons of imagination present in every inch of this game.
The cards are all of good quality, and the rest of the components themselves look fantastic. Everything is made well and feels like it is built to last. It’s the kind of game where players love to look at it, so it’s nice to have components that will stand many playthroughs.
It’s an open-ended game that leaves tons of opportunities for unique playstyles. The standard game feels like it can be played a limitless amount of times, with tons of market cards and playstyles to explore. Then, when you add the narrative in, the game feels like it reaches its full potential in terms of value. While Now or Never is pricy, it never feels like it isn’t worth it.
Now or Never Is Great For Fans Of…
The obvious target demographic here is fans of Red Raven’s previous games. This has the same energy and art direction as its predecessors. It feels like a fully realized culmination of everything that came before it. Fans of deep euro games with tons of decision-making will also enjoy this game.
Finally, fans of great stories will want Now or Never on their tables. It’s a compelling story that the characters get to mold in a way that most games or stories don’t typically allow.
Now or Never
Now or Never is the magnum opus of Red Raven Games. It's everything that has built up to it and more.