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published by SEARCHGLEN LTD IN 1986

2 to 5 players, playing time 90-120 minutes

reviewed by MIKE OAKES

Although described as a family game, in my opinion Nessie Hunt is worthy of a much wider audience than that, as it provides an interesting combination of resource management, planning and luck. It will come as no surprise that this is a game based upon that well-known earner for the Scottish tourist industry, the Loch Ness Monster, and the object of the game is to observe different sightings of the monster, thereby gaining evidence cards as proof, with the first player to reach the agreed number of ``proof points'' being the winner.

The game is played in a series of short rounds during which players receive their income and spend it on purchasing and hiring different equipment to aid their sightings of the monster. Once the players have placed their equipment on the loch, the position of the monster is determined and any sightings are rewarded with the appropriate evidence cards.

There are six ways of gathering evidence, each of which incurs a specific cost to buy and to run, and each of which is represented by a transparency with its own unique shape. The different types are: eye witness, surface camera, underwater camera, sonar, biological unit and cage. Only one piece of equipment can be purchased each turn and running costs are paid on those obtained in previous rounds.

Players then place their new piece of equipment onto the loch, attempting to cover as many hexes as possible. All transparencies except biological units and cages must have one point touching the shore and great care is needed in determining their placement. Transparencies may overlap, but only if they are the same colour.

Each player now throws the die and moves their expedition leader around their particular track on the board. If in doing so they land on a square marked with an asterisk, they must take the next `logistic card' from the deck and act upon it. These mainly bring benefit to the player in the form of bonus payments, but some provide the chance for a gamble of money and equipment and others are quite disasterous. When all players have moved their expedition leader and taken any logistic cards, the position of the monster is determined by the character of the squares that the leaders now occupy. These are in the form of upper case letters, lower case letters and numerals and they combine to give a reference for the current sighting of the monster. The monster's head and neck is placed in the referenced hex and a `submerged monster' outline is placed in the surrounding hexes, provided they are still within the area of the loch.

Players then claim their appropriate evidence cards if their transparencies cover the hexes just determined. Eye witness and surface cameras can only claim cards if they match the head and neck outline, whereas other pieces of equipment can claim both types of sighting. On receiving their cards each player is encouraged to read it out aloud, as some of them are quite amusing. The cards contain information about a real (or imagined) sighting and are of interesting scientific content, many containing pictures in colour of the evidence. Players keep the cards in front of them for later play and the game then continues with the next lot of income and the placing of transparencies..

Whilst the above description seems a little dry, I can assure readers that it really is good fun trying to predict where the monster will appear. By studying the current position of the expedition leaders on their turn tracks you can guess where the next sighting may occur and place your next transparency to cover as many of the likely hexes as possible. You cannot place all your equipment at once as the running costs would be too high, so that is where the resource management comes in.

Nessie Hunt provides an interesting diversion for about two hours if treated in a light-hearted manner. It is suitable for older children who have an interest in scientific matters, or for homesick Scots. The game was developed by Searchglen in 1986 and so it may not be readily available, but I `made a sighting' in Westgate Games about two years ago and they may still have copies. Also, Games Corner have had it for sale within the last year, so any reader interested in obtaining the game could start their search there.

Mike Oakes

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Stuart Dagger