What does the Nevermore card game have to do with Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “The Raven”? Good question! The ever-present burden of memory? Nope. The terrible knowledge that we already know the answers to every single one of our most pressing questions, it’s just that we don’t like those answers? Not at all. The uncomprehending universe to which we pose our—
Okay, enough of that. The correct answer is “Ravens. Just ravens.”
Alright, so Nevermore very much wants to conjure up passages from one of the most famous American poems of all time, but it doesn’t really succeed other than by having ravens and magic in it and bearing the poem’s famous repeated catchword as its title.
Then again, this doesn’t matter one bit, because Nevermore is one Plutonian shore of a good drafting game.
For anyone who’s played a drafting game before, the concept will be instantly familiar. Each round gives you a hand of cards spread across five suits. From there, you’ll claim some and pass others, cards circulating around the table until everyone has assembled a final hand. Simple enough.
The thing is, Nevermore is a little trickier than that. For one thing, this is what’s often referred to as a “hate draft,” because instead of just picking up the cards that will give you the best outcome later on, you’re also trying to fill your neighbor’s hand with a slick of pond scum. Each of the suits provides a simple effect — swords let you deal damage to another player, hearts remove damage, cups gain victory points, and swirly-blues pick up special magick cards that bend the rules in all sorts of ways. However, only the player with the most of any suit gains its effect, to the tune of the difference between their score and whoever had second place in that suit. Paying attention to what’s being passed around the table can give you a sense for what your neighbors are plotting, and passing them the right (or better yet, wrong) cards can mess up their plans big time.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger your set of matching cards, the better. If you have enough of a set, you even get a special bonus. Reveal enough swords, for example, and you can damage everybody at the table and pick up a couple victory points. Reveal a full hand of swirly-blues and you’ll heal yourself, gain points, and draw magick cards all at once.
The best example of how big sets of cards can totally change the outcome of a hand is the fifth suit, the raven. Normally these are the game’s “take that!” option, as having one or two can ruin an entire hand by forcing you to sacrifice your other cards. But ending the round with more than a couple can actually be a powerful choice in its own right. For one thing, any ravens that haven’t consumed your other suits by the end of the round will give you shadow magick cards. These are more powerful than the usual swirly-blue magick cards. A regular one might give you an extra card to work with, or discard a couple stinkers and draw replacements at random, or turn someone’s attempted attack into a super-friends healing-blade. It’s powerful stuff, and can entirely change the course of the game when played at the right moment.
And they still don’t compare to shadow magick cards. These are the suckers that make enemy players pay damage in victory points rather than health, or rearrange the resolution tokens to ensure your attack happens before an enemy gets a chance to heal, or trade your potato dumpling of a hand for the plush set of cards your neighbor was just grinning about. Regular magick cards are sort of dickish; shadow magick are the tradecraft of the wicked.
Raven cards get even more powerful if you end the draft with a full hand of them. Then, before anyone else gets a chance to do anything at all, you reveal them and totally wreck the table. All at once you deal damage to everybody, pick up a shadow magick card, gain a victory point, and — best of all — end the round.
That’s right. You end the round. Before anybody has a chance to reveal their tricks, you cut them off like a chicken at the chopping block. All that drafting, all their planned card combos, gone. You can bet they’ll be more careful about handing off ravens in the future.
If it isn’t already apparent, Nevermore is a mean game. It’s all about dragging other people down, stomping on them when they’re vulnerable, and being as petty as a wealthy middle schooler. Getting ahead with early points might feel like success, but it’s just another way of putting a target on your back. And unlike most modern games, players can die. Which isn’t to say they get knocked out of the game entirely; rather, they’re transformed into ravens, pesky creatures bent on getting back at the person who killed them. In a way it’s liberating to shed this mortal coil and dedicate yourself to a spectral existence of vengeance against the living. The downside is that ravens can’t win, at least not unless they’re clever enough to transform back into a human first.
Man, I dig this game so much.
Owing to its cruel nature, Nevermore isn’t going to appeal to the fluffy’n’happy crowd. This isn’t the sort of drafting game that can be played with your head down, studying your own private set of cards and goals, not particularly bothered by what your friends are up to. Here, the other players aren’t merely playing the same game as you; they’re targets, meat to be hunted down and slung from a hook. They’re the overachievers who are running too far ahead and must be cut off at the knees.
When it happens to you, it stings. So be clever, hoard your points like pretty glittering things, play those magick cards carefully, and never give an inch. That’s the way of the raven, maybe. I dunno. Probably.