Necreaux Second Edition: Do the Impossible

A gentleman by the name of "Mike O." had the interesting distinction of being the first person to back the Kickstarter campaign for The Island of Doctor Necreaux: Second Edition. To recognize this we gave him the opportunity to ask us any question he wanted to about the game – mechanics, story, production... Anything at all. His question was so good and prompted such an interesting answer, we got permission from him to share it – and our answer – with y'all. Here it is:

"Board games can be remembered for a mechanic, development story, theme, component, or any other possible characteristic. Years from now, what would you hope that The Island of Doctor Necreaux: Second Edition is remembered for, that's specifically distinct from the first edition? I guess a second way of thinking about it would be what do you think defines the second edition of the game from the first one most distinctly?" – Mike O.

Here's how I (Jonathan) responded:

Wow. That’s a tremendously challenging question.

The most overt difference between the first and second edition is re-tooling almost all of the conflict resolution to use 2d6 instead of 1d6. This has the great effect of “normalizing” all results around 7, which increases predictability and makes the game feel a lot less random. If you wanna hear me wax on about this, check out the nifty blog entry on dice Desirée and I co-worote. However: The shift to 2d6 is not the greatest distinguishing difference between 1st Ed and 2nd Ed.

The greatest difference between 1st Ed and 2nd Ed is the average number of skill cards you get to play with in any given game (Funny: I wanted to write “episode” instead of “game.”) of TIoDN. The second edition gives you many more opportunities to gain new skill cards than the first edition did. Every 2nd Ed event with a trait test offers a new skill card as a reward (The 1st Ed offered significantly smaller rewards.). On top of that, there’s the new XP mechanic: You gain 1 XP each time you retreat from a monster or fail (certain types of) trap rolls. At the start of a turn, you can spend XP equal to twice the number of skills your agent has to gain a new skill. This makes it easy for agents who’ve lost skills to gain new skills. Both of these mechanics cycle more skill cards into play. This gives players the opportunity to experience and explore more skill interactions/combos than they could in a 1st ed game.

(Side note: I believe the skill cards and their interactions are what really “bring the fun” in Necreaux (both editions). The monsters, traps, cultural allusions, and art are fun – but playing with your skills is what really engages the typical player. That makes perfect sense. After all, the skills create your agent – your avatar in the game-world. They’re also your primary (only) tools for influencing what happens in the game-world. It only makes sense for them to be your focal point. As such, they need to be the most engaging part of play. They *need* to bring the fun.)

And this leads me to what I’d like The Island of Doctor Necreaux: Second Edition to be remembered for that’s most distinct from the first edition: You get to do the impossible.

Desirée and I played TIoDN:2e with a new friend of hers from yoga class. Her friend is an “old school” gamer – she talked about how much she loves Talisman. As I set up the game, I showed her the adventure deck, explained the relationship between speed and card draw, and showed her roughly where the Scientists and Escape Shuttle were in the Adventure Deck. Then I put our countdown marker on 9 (I’m pretty sure that’s the starting point for 3 players). She asked how many cards were in the deck. “Oh, about 78. Ah, plus the two Secret Caches – that’s 80,” I replied. Her response: “What? That’s impossible!”

That’s the thing I love most about The Island of Doctor Necreaux. It’s a game where – at the start – you look at your agent(s) and think, “I’m cool. We’re cool! Yeah, we’re a kick-butt team.” Then you look at the deck of cards and the number of turns you have to get through them and you think, “Holy cow. We’re in trouble.” Players look at the speed track, see the numbers 11 and above printed on it and say, “There’s no way we’re picking a speed that high. That’s just impossible.” ...And almost invariably, at some point in the game, you find yourself drawing your 13th card of the turn while running at a speed of 15. You’re feeling a little stressed and exhilarated at the same time. And somehow – seemingly against all odds – you make it through. Whether you do it consciously or not, there’s some part of you that recognizes that you just did something that only minutes earlier you said could not be done. And that makes you mighty. It feels momentous; it feels heroic. That feeling of doing the impossible draws you into the game-world and helps immerse you in your agent.

The first edition let you accomplish the impossible, but less often. First edition Necreaux was too “swingy” and it wasn’t as generous with skills. As such, you relied on getting enough items to help you power through – and getting items was a challenge in itself. As such, first edition Necreaux was a little harsh: All too often, it would dangle the carrot of heroic accomplishment above you, only to yank it away and smack you on the nose with the reprimand of, “You’re not worthy! You failed!” Second edition Necreaux lets you grab the carrot significantly more often. If you ask me, that’s a feature - not a bug.

...and there you have it. And it's 100% accurate. That's exactly what distinguishes the Second Edition – not only from the First Edition, but from many games on the market. We've carefully crafted it to give you exciting and exhilarating experiences. It's a sci-fi pulp action movie where you're the hero trying to make the last-minute save.

It's a special experience. We really look forward to sharing it with y'all.