Nemesis Board Game Cover

Nemesis Get away from her you B1TCH!

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Nemesis begins with you waking up from hibernation with a sort of temporary amnesia. You know your name, what your job was and that you were in space but you cannot remember the layout of the ship or whose turn it was to make the coffee.

Agreeing it was not my turn we look around the room only to see our crewmate dead. We don’t remember his name so instinctively called him Sandra Bergstein, my arch nemesis and from there the game begins.

So, the big question is, have you seen Aliens? Good, you can stop reading about Nemesis now because this is Aliens the board game. I know Aliens Colonial Marines is actually Aliens but this game, Nemesis, is actually Aliens, seriously even the first player token is a cat.

Nemesis is a cooperative survival horror game with a good dose of hand management and a fantastic traitor mechanic that means you cannot trust anyone, although, you will probably want to stick together for safety but also spread out to cover the ship faster.

Social deduction aside you will need to explore the Nemesis if you hope to make it home and this is when all your troubles will begin.

Nemesis table ready

Each player will use two actions each turn paid for using your cards from your hand of five cards. This means managing your deck is a serious undertaking. Without the right card on your next turn, you might not be able to reload but right now you need to do something else so what do you discard now that you are sure you won’t need soon?   

Initially, your turn consists of you moving into an unexplored room (remember you forgot the layout of the Nemesis, remember?) revealing what room it is, rolling for noise and setting the room to the correct number of items so you can have a lovely little search.

Next, you might be joined by someone, luckily, they don’t need to roll for noise because you are already in the room but what happens when you leave, or worse, they leave and make noise?

If you have to place a noise token where there already is one you clear the noise attached to that room and grab the ‘Alien Bag’ and draw a token. The tokens have little symbols, alien writing maybe, that signify which dreadful encounter you are about to have.  

After your first encounter, you need to choose which personal goal you will be undertaking. A corporate or personal mission.

So before I talk about each player’s personal goal and what that means for the game let’s find out what you get in the box and how to set up the board and players which will hopefully give you an insight for later, when we can dig deeper into the gameplay in Nemesis.

What’s in the Box?

Nemesis does not come in a little box. When my copy was delivered I saw tears in the postman’s eyes from the strain.

There are character boards an alien board, the double-sided game board room tiles, cardboard counters, plastic counters, rule books, twenty-six miniatures, plastic card holders, four dice, a rule book and over three hundred high-quality cards. Some of the miniatures are huge too and the sculpts are very detailed, there was clearly a lot of thought going into the design.

One cool touch in my copy of Nemesis was a cardboard stand that you can use to display the box at an angle. The word Nemesis is printed on the bottom of the stand in case you forget what the box is. The box has Nemesis printed on the front and all four sides but you might have forgotten to look at the box!

Talking of quality everything in the Nemesis box is exceptional, from the sculpts of all the figures to the card stock used to create the cards. Printing is crisp and sharp with incredibly evocative artwork that screams of high production values.

Nemesis official image


This is a long and multistep process. If you have the funds check out my review of the Laserox Nemesis Insert, which will save you some serious time.

If you don’t have a great organisation system and are using baggies then you will be looking at 30 minutes plus of set up time.

Choose which side of the board you will be playing on, the basic side has red arrows on it and it is HIGHLY recommended that you use this side for at least your first few plays.

Next, take the room tiles with the number two printed on the back and shuffle them and without looking, place them on the board in the locations with the number two, there will be some leftovers, do not look at them and place them back in the box. Do the same for room one tiles.

Now shuffle the exploration tokens as best as you can. I don’t like to place them face down and drag them around and I haven’t found any hexagonal coin cases yet so I currently make piles face down and mix them up by cutting and moving.

Add an exploration token to each room face down and put the remaining tokens back in the box without looking.

Shuffle the coordinate cards and place one face down onto the location marked near the cockpit and put a glass-type bead on the B marker in the cockpit itself.

Depending on how many players you will now add the escape pods, two for one or two players, three for three or four players and four for five players.

Next, it’s time for the engines. There are three in total aboard the Nemesis and each has a working/not working state.

Shuffle each pair and place them in their respective engine location. The top card is the current state of the engine.

Official Nemesis from Kickstarter

Then place the intruder board near the main board and add 5 egg tokens and 3 random intruder weakness cards on the board, one for each way of discovery, character corpse, intruder egg and intruder carcass.

Look, I want to point out that whilst I say intruder, I am really saying Alien from the film Alien because Nemesis is Alien. I just realised Nostromo starts with N, Nemesis starts with N!

Then you create the intruder bag. Starting with 1 blank, 4 lava, 3 adults + 1 adult token for each player, 1 creeper and the Queen.

The Nemesis bag will evolve as the game progresses and larvae will turn into adults etc but it doesn’t matter because when you draw a token from the bag it’s always the bloody Queen.

Now it’s time for all those cards, you will place the three item decks and Crafted item deck, the Event, Intruder Attack, Contamination and Serious wound decks making sure you keep the scanner to hand. It’s just a red sheet of acetate but reveals the text on the infection cards.

Create pools of the various tokens, noise, malfunction, fire and ammo, doors, status tokens, corpse markers and others I am sure I am forgetting.

Add a status marker to the round tracker on the green ‘15’ spot and the board is ready for use.

However, the setup isn’t over yet because Nemesis has another type of setup too.

Character setup   

Once the board is complete you will need to set up each character. First, use the help cards and deal them out one for each player which will determine their character number.

Each person takes the corresponding card holder and then you determine which character you will play.

Deal a corporate objective and personal objective to each player, these are kept secret and then then the character draught starts.

Player one draws two cards from the draught deck and chooses their character. Player two then repeats the process and this continues until everyone has a character.

Take your character board, character deck, starting item and the two quest item cards, which are not revealed yet. Then place ammo markers on your starting item and place your miniature in the Hibernatorium near the middle of the board (it’s the room with the sleeping pods) and add the blue corpse token there too.

Finally, after all that time you are ready to play. This is a big game with a massive table presence, it’s also a table hog so be organised. I would highly recommend an insert and I think the best on the market is the Laserox insert I reviewed some time ago. It will shave so much time off of set up and break down and it makes the table tidier and it’s so much easier to play this sprawling game with a few trays on the table rather than pools of tokens and cards everywhere.

Gameplay Mechanics

As I mentioned before Nemesis plays in phases. First, it’s the player’s phase. The player’s phase has four steps.

  • 1 Draw five cards from your action deck.
  • 2 First player token is passed to the left unless it’s the very first turn.
  • 3 Player actions. Players can perform two actions, one action and pass or just pass. Actions can be basic actions which generally cost one card. Basic actions are Move, Careful move, pick up a heavy object, trade, craft, shoot or melee attacks. Outside of combat, you may want to attack or shoot an egg. Permissible as long as no one is carrying it and I will explain combat later. Either way, all of those actions have a cost of one except for careful movement which will cost you two.

Before step 4 you need to understand passing. A player passes if they do not perform two actions. This means if you perform one action and then choose not to perform the second action you have passed. Passing means, you will take no more actions during this round.

  • 4 Continuing the player phases until everyone has passed.

Now it’s on to phase two, the Event phase.

The event phase is the time for the intruders to spoil your day, it begins with:

  • 1 Moving the status marker down the time track. If the self-destruct has been activated you would also move a status marker down as well.
  • 2 Intruders attack in each room they share with a player, more on combat shortly.
  • 3 Damage players in rooms on fire by giving them a damage marker.
  • 4 Draw an event card from the event deck and resolve it.
  • 5 Develop the intruder bag by drawing a token. Each token will have a different effect, for example, if you draw lava, you remove it from the bag and instead replace it with an adult or you could draw the Queen in which case you would place the Queen in the Nest Room. Each token drawn from the bag is primarily negative and but if you are lucky you might escape danger, this time!
They are from Nemesis

The Crew of the Nemesis

There are six possible crew mates who will be attempting to help or hinder your efforts. In no particular order they are:

The Captain:

Starting item is the Six Shooter, it’s a pistol with six rounds. That’s a lot of shooty shoots but it can’t be reloaded easily.

Quest item 1

Log Key it’s a one-time use but will let you look at one of another player’s objective cards.

Quest item 2

Intercom lets you force another player in a room with a computer terminal to perform an action. Handy if that action would lead to their death!

The Captain from Nemesis

The Mechanic:

Starting item is the sawed-off shotgun. An excellent weapon that means you deal two damage on a single damage roll.

Quest item 1 is the Flashlight. It will allow you to perform a search action and is sort of Meh as cards go.

Quest item 2 is the plasma torch which is good for opening and closing doors that you are connected to.

The Mechanic from Nemesis with its playercard and Miniature

The Soldier:

Starting item Assault Rifle which starts with 5 ammo and has the added benefit that if you deal an injury, you deal an additional injury. That means you can take down a three-endurance intruder in one go.

Quest Item 1 Armor is a one-use item that allows you to ignore an intruder attack. Often required on the turn you acquire it!

Quest item 2 Auto Loader which gives your assault rifle a plus one ammo capacity which means you pay nothing to load using the energy charge item.

Nemesis, the Soldier

The Scout:

Starting item is the Rifle. An energy weapon that has 4 ammo so is pretty useful.

Quest item 1 is the motion scanner which lets you reroll the result of a noise roll. It will cost a discard but can be very useful.

Quest item 2 Security key which can be great for escaping or causing a little death because you can close or open doors to any room. It’s single-use but how often will you need to kill someone?

The Scout from Nemesis

The Pilot:

Starting item is a Shotgun is probably my favourite weapon in-game because every time you deal an injury you deal a second injury

Both quest items are single use

Quest item 1 Orbital Maneuvering System. Each player must pass and you move to the event phase but skip the Intruder attack phase. Handy if you are stuck in a room with an intruder.

Quest item 2 Evacuation Key lets you unlock the escape pod connected to it or if you are making sure someone dies, you might want to lock it!

The Pilot Character from Nemesis

The Scientist:

Starting item is the Pistol. It’s an energy weapon that will treat unmodified rolls of the double injury as a single injury which makes it naff in my opinion

Quest item 1 Holo computer. Use the Intranet from anywhere on the ship.

Quest item 2 Lab Equipment (single use) but lets you use any room with a carcass, corpse or egg to discover an alien weakness.

Nemesis Scientist


Combat is handled using dice and cards. Firstly, when an intruder enters your space you draw an intruder attack card and, if the intruder’s endurance is higher than the number of cards in the player’s hand, it’s considered a surprise and they are immediately attacked.

Intruder attack cards have symbols on them that represent the various types of intruders. If the specific intruder is not shown on the card, their attack misses. If not, the effect on the card takes place.

When you attack the intruder with a ranged weapon you roll the attack dice and deal damage accordingly. These attacks can often be modified with a card action or by your character’s specific text.

Nemesis Combat Dice

If a player happens to die during the game the Nemesis life pods immediately unlock and the sleeping pods open, that player sits at the table sulking until the end of the game because there is nothing for them to do. Other players may use phrases like “Git Gud” and “HA, Loser” but they should not reveal their personal mission. You may want to house rule so they can play as the Intruder as I don’t think the cooperative game, a mode where they could be revived is really in keeping with the spirit of Nemesis.

Playing the game

Given what I wrote before you will be surprised at the pace of Nemesis. It’s not rapid but there is very little waiting around for your turn, well at least it feels like that.

You see there is one mechanic, of many, that helps make Nemesis one of the best games I have ever played and it’s the way they implemented each player having a different win condition.  

Each person has two secret personal objective cards, one corporate and one personal.

The corporate objective tends to be more selfish and often involves killing a specific survivor, discovering a weakness or obtaining an egg sample.

The personal objectives usually but not always are to end up on earth or mars, to kill the nest or destroy the ship ending up in a life pod.

The first time you encounter an alien you need to choose which you will pursue and place the other back in the deck.

This asymmetrical mechanic is something that puts Nemesis on another level in terms of analysing other players’ actions. Not only that but you may also be up to no good and trying to make it look like your intentions were pure, this has you guessing why someone is taking the actions they are and means you often don’t trust anyone.

Player Set up Nemesis

A player is as likely to run away and leave you to fight an alien alone as they are to help you fight. I have been left to fight alone on more than one occasion. Equally, I have left people to die and may have even locked them in.

Sometimes players have made me think our goals were aligned only to lock the escape pods and leave me to die in a soon-to-be-destroyed ship.

It creates a delicious tension, often eyeing another player with a quizzical look when they take an action that you think they shouldn’t have.

Such a glorious feeling to get one over on someone who was trying to kill you. I blew my son out of an airlock after he left me to die, covered in slime fighting an alien with only two rounds of ammunition.

After the game, we discussed what happened and we had both chosen the corporate objective and were pitted against each other. He was rightly annoyed but as I told him, ~I don’t even feel guilty”.

Not perfect

No game is 100% perfect and Nemesis does have flaws. Leading on from my last point of killing or allowing a fellow player to be killed is the issue that once you die, you are out of the game. It adds tension and ensures you will try and keep your character alive but the flip side of that is during a game of Nemesis that has a play time of one and a half to two hours, dying an hour in can leave people feeling pretty frustrated.

Combat could be better. I understand the tension of having danger around every corner and limited ammunition is a definitive factor in creating the real and genuine fear you feel every time you enter a room but giving the only real option when facing a Queen is to run.

I like combat in board games and I don’t have an issue with rolling dice to fight as I think the unpredictable nature of dice mimics the unpredictable nature of combat.

 The gameplay can be a little slow, to start. By that I mean the best part of Nemesis is definitely the juxtaposition between your goals and other players’ goals and it takes a little while for potential motives to rear their heads.

Crafted item Cards Nemesis

In Summary

Nemesis may have some flaws but those flaws are far outweighed by the experiences you will have. The tension that you feel as you enter a room for the first time and the suspicious way you will view everything your crewmates do causes riotous fun.

Something simple like making a joke about what you are doing can cause twenty minutes of arguing and hilarity as you get called out for hiding your intentions with humour.

There are some moments we have had playing Nemesis that literally changed how I view certain people and the way they think.

The build-up of tension is palpable and looking at your friends pretending to get along, knowing that at some point one of you will have to break and go for broke to achieve your goal is the reason Nemesis will always be one of my favourite games.

The cost of entry is high, expect to pay over £100 for the core box and I would also budget for an insert because I think Nemesis is one of those games that absolutely needs it. Budget for £150 and you should be good to go but let me be very clear, you will get your money’s worth from your investment. You will play Nemesis multiple times and I can almost guarantee that every time you play, you will have a new experience.

They say that in space, no one can hear you scream but the fact is, in the dining room, everyone can hear you laugh and have a great time with your friends and family.