Previewing: Nautilus Industries

When Captain Nemo was navigating the world’s waters in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, nothing was more mysterious or exciting than his unique submersible, the Nautilus. It was Nemo’s masterpiece, and its advanced technologies during those voyages were his closely guarded secrets.

Now those secrets have been unlocked. Enter the world of Nautilus Industries! Nemo, his ship, and his antihero ways have all come and gone, but the knowledge he left behind about the ocean depths has opened up all sorts of new possibilities for exploration, research, and of course, the ability to capitalize on the untapped mining potential under the sea.

So let’s make some money off it.

Nautilus Industries is a game of economic management, putting each player in charge of a company whose intent is to use these new advances in submarine technology to extract valuable minerals from the ocean floor. Players then leverage those minerals to accumulate valuable profit, as the victory condition is to have the most money at the end of the game.

Time is money, as they say, so let’s dive right in.


Fathoms of Fun

Each player starts off Nautilus Industries with┬áthree submarine worker units and the means to store one resource. Each round, players have three actions. Mining goods is at the heart of your money-making venture, and admittedly this is the primary action you’ll take during the game. This is done by placing a submarine atop an unclaimed mineral deposit on the mining boards. These boards are arranged horizontally; the more players you have, the more boards you use. Although each board is functionally the same, the available minerals at each location will vary as each board is randomly replenished at the end of every round with a scant five resources.

Stocks never looked so appealing. Prototype Shown

Stocks never looked so appealing.
Prototype Shown

You have a four other actions in your business portfolio as well, including raising your warehouse storage or buying stock. Stocks don’t do anything for you until the very end of the game, but unlike the real stock market, you’re almost always guaranteed a return on your investment. You never have to worry about your stock value dropping, for one.

You’ll have to be savvy purchasing them, though, since purchasing stock eats in to your cash pile. Indeed, part of the challenge in Nautillus Industries – and part of the fun – is gauging which stocks will give you the best payouts. Player actions play a large role in this, but luck plays a factor here too, as which minerals become available every round is literally luck of the draw. Still, possessing the right stock at the end of the game can easily be the difference between being the richest person…or the terrible prospect of being only the second richest.

Purple will collect two Gold. Prototype Shown

Purple’s bug-like sub will collect two Gold.
Prototype Shown

After everyone takes their actions, which generally happens pretty quickly, the second half of the round commences. Here, each mining board is resolved individually. Anyone with a submarine worker on that board will collect up to two minerals at it location.

That said, like any thrifty entrepreneur, by paying some extra money during the submarine’s placement you can upgrade that sub’s action so that you’ll potentially gain a bonus resource from that board. It can also cause resource sniping other players. Business can be a tricky thing, so pay attention to what other players are doing. It may hurt your bottom line if you don’t.

Next, players take turns deciding whether they want to (or must) sell resources. The price for each resource type varies regularly – volatile market and all. Once done, any unsold mineral type is raised by one, and the value of those that did drops equal to the number sold. You know, simple supply and demand stuff. Each mineral’s stock value also moves upward equal to the number sold.

You then you repeat this Collect-And-Sell process for each other mineral board you have.

Yes, you’re adjusting the marketplace a lot over the course of the game. (Effectively once per player per round.) It’s the one area of the game that can be a little fiddly, tracking which items sold versus which didn’t, but like the rest of the game, it isn’t all that complicated.

Iron is pretty worthless right now.... Prototype Shown

Iron is pretty worthless right now….
Prototype Shown

Moving the stock values upward also presses the game forward, as the game ends when a resource reaches the 10x column on the stock track. Players get to liquidate what resources they still have, and then it’s a simple matter of counting up stock and cash on hand to see who wins.


19th Century Business Acumen

Two things particularly stand out with Nautilus Industries. First is the ability for players to screw with the order that mineral boards resolve in. This is a game where being first player is advantageous, so to offset one player just maximizing turns when they have an early turn order, two player actions deal directly with this. One action is to swap a resource on one board with a resource on another – preferably after someone has placed a submarine.

The other action is to physically swap the physical location of two mineral boards. This can drastically change players’ strategies for the round. Timing a board swap right can be highly profitable for you and disruptive to your competition’s plans at the same time. Plus, it’s an interesting way to illustrate the unpredictability of the Poseidon’s realm – may he be merciful. There’s no guarantees in deep sea mining, and this action illustrates that thought both mechanically and thematically.

Possible board swaps. Prototype Shown.

Possible board swaps.
Prototype Shown.

The second thing is the theme itself.┬áNautilus Industries is a unique usage of Jule Verne’s sci-fi setting, dropping players into an alternate 19th century that is devoid of anything space-based or Steampunk. You’re also not inventing, fighting, or doing any of the typical things sci-fi games typically do. Instead, Nautilus Industries is a very blatant game of economic management and control. It’s like Power Grid but under water. Just as Power Grid could have been a train game but opted for something more original, Nautilus opts for a distinctive setting with a notably different vibe to it, and it makes for a unique experience.

He disapproves.

He disapproves.

That said, we can’t help but note that Captain Nemo was a man who seemingly despised unfettered capitalist tendencies, so we doubt he’d approve of the game’s premise. But as games go, we certainly do.

For fans of economic management games, Nautilus Industries will make a splash. The rules are simple, and it flows along at a decent pace. Yet even though turns are pretty straightforward, there is a whole lot of decision-making going on under the surface. It has players making calculated decisions on buying, selling, and trying to undermine other players, but it does so via control of the marketplace versus direct conflict. Nautilus has you not only focusing on your own ambitions, but it encourages you to keep an eye on the guy in the submarine next to you too.

For a game set in the water, some may ironically find it a bit dry, but if you enjoy market manipulation and Resource Management, then consider taking the plunge into Nautilus Industries. It’s setting sail right now over on Kickstarter!

[sc:Preview-Sealer ]