Aug 07

Nautilus Industries: Description and Review

  Nautilus Industries, by Leif Steiestol, is game in which 2-6 players take on the role of businessmen seeking to exploit Nemo’s technological legacy, the vast mineral resources of the ocean floor, and the immense profits that can be earned in the stock market!  The player most successful at all three will win the greatest fortune and the game!

Game Overview

Each player takes a player board, a set of submarines, and a dice set to the “1” to denote warehouse capacity.

20140806_190104_6_bestshotNext, place ocean floor mining zones in the center of the table equal to the number of players.  For each tile, draw five random minerals from the bag and place them on the corresponding location.

20140806_185639_1_bestshotPlace the market board at one end of the row of mining zone tiles .  Take one gem of each color and place it on the zero column of the stock chart.  Next, determine the starting commodity value of the minerals based on scarcity.  The least common mineral is initially valued at six dollars each with each mineral valued one less as they become more common.  In the event that more than one mineral has the same commonality, they are valued the same.

20140806_184437_7_bestshotLastly, determine starting player by whatever method your group employs, and get started!

The game is played over a course of rounds made up of three phases:  Action, Market, and Upkeep.  The rounds continue until a company’s stock reaches the x 10 column on the board.  Players then determine the value of their stock holdings and cash with the highest total winning.

Action Phase

During the action phase each player will take one action at a time until all players have taken three total.  The actions that a player may take are as follows:

Place Submarine

A player may place one submarine on any available mineral location on a mining zone tile of his choice.  This is done with the intention of collecting up to two minerals if that many or more remain during the market phase.  (An optional rule allows players to pay an extra $5 when placing a sub, add a mineral of their choice from the bag, and collect one of that color as well.  This upgrade only lasts for the current turn)

Upgrade Warehouse Capacity

This action allows a player to increase the storage capacity of his warehouse by one, up to a maximum of six, by turning the indicator die to the next highest face.  During the sell/hold segment of the Market Phase a player must sell all minerals in his possession, but may choose to store any number less than or equal to the current capacity of his warehouse.

Switch Two Cubes

This action allows a player to move one mineral “cube” from its position on a tile to the appropriate position on another while taking one from the new tile and moving it to the previous one.

Switch Mining Order

A player may choose two of the mining zone tiles and exchange their position in the order.  Any tile that is moved is left slightly cocked and may not be moved again during this Action Phase.

Purchase Company Stock

A player may purchase one available stock certificate from any company.  The certificates range from one to six in number of shares.  The lower the number of shares the cheaper the price per share.



After all players have taken three actions, the round moves into the Market Phase.

The Market Phase

There are three steps in the market phase:  Collect Resources, Sell/Hold Resources, and Adjust Stock and Commodity Values. Each of these are repeated for every mining zone tile one at a time in order, leading away from the market board. This last part is crucially important as I missed it in my first couple of games and it makes a huge difference in how the game is played.

Collect Resources

On the mining tile currently being resolved, beginning at the gold zone and proceeding clockwise, players take up to two minerals from each location that they have placed a submarine.

Sell/Hold Resources

During this step, each player, in turn order, sells all the mineral gems in their possession, but may choose to hold back a number less than or equal to their current warehouse capacity.  These minerals are sold at the current value on the commodity track.

Adjust Stock and Commodity Values

Once all players have sold their gems, commodities are moved down in value equal to the number of their type that were sold.  Any that were not sold are increased in value by one.

Next, the stock value of each is increased by one for every gem of its type that was sold.  However, if its stock value began in the yellow section of the board it moves one less and two less if it began in the green.

Upon completing these three steps for the first mining zone, it is then repeated for each zone.  Once the last tile has been resolved, the Market Phase is over.

Upkeep Phase

The Upkeep Phase simply involves drawing five more minerals from the bag for each mining zone, straightening any mining zones that were moved during the round, and passing the starting player token to the left.

Game End

This process is repeated until the value of at least one stock reaches the x 10 position on the Stock Chart.  At this point, the value of all commodities and stocks are frozen, players collect all minerals they would mine from the remaining tiles, and sell all minerals in their possession at the current price.  Total the value of each player’s stock holdings by multiplying the number of shares held by the factor below the column where it ended and add this to their cash on hand.  The player with the highest total is the winner.

My Review

Nautilus Industries, while reminiscent of Navegador, Imperial, and Acquire is a game that manages to stand on its own as a unique creation worthy of being compared to those well-respected titles!  I give it a rating of 8.0 out of a possible 10, which will see it entered solidly in the Life in Games Top 50 Games when I next update the list.

Normally when I am provided with a review copy, my article comes with a disclaimer that the components and graphic design should not be judged as they are not final and will likely improve in the real version.  However, Nautilus Industries requires no such warning as even my review copy is a beautiful game!  The artwork by John Ariosa and Peter Wocken manages to be gorgeous while powerfully evoking the feel of the Jules Verne era.

While being nice to look at, Nautilus Industries is much more than just another pretty face!  It is a well designed market simulation that forces players to deal with elements of supply and demand as well as speculate on future outcomes over which their direct control is limited to a certain degree by the actions of the other players.  They are forced to think both long-term when considering their potential stock purchase and short-term when seeking ways to opportunistically cash in on minerals that are currently selling for top dollar or are important to their competition.  While lacking the direct conflict of some games, there is plenty of interaction as players may purchase a majority of the shares in a company that others have grown, use the cube switching action to reduce the effectiveness of another player’s mining efforts, change the mining zone order to drastically alter the face of the coming market phase, and use their warehouse storage capabilities to manipulate both the commodity value of a mineral and stifle the advancement of a stock.  As the endgame approaches, these tactics become even more important as players scramble to see to it their desired stock comes out on top!

Another positive feature that everyone I played Nautilus Industries agreed on was how briskly the game moves.  The action phase whizzes by and then the players team up to quickly resolve the market phase.  None of us ever felt that the game was dragging or running out of steam.  Admittedly the two player games that I played did slow down towards the end as we jockeyed for position and some players may find this tedious but my opponent and I enjoyed the intensity it brought to the conclusion of the game!  While my other plays were three player games, and we did not face any drag issues, I can not speak with certainty that the game would not slow down somewhat as the player count creeps higher, but it is fair to assume that would at least to a degree.

While Nautilus Industries appears on the surface to be a game solely about picking the stocks that will win and then driving value and buying up shares this can be a little misleading.  This is only one feature of the game as tremendous amounts of money can be made selling commodities at the right time.  In one of the two player games, I dominated the most valuable stocks but lost by $3 in the final score as my opponent focused on selling high dollar commodities when the price was right.  Remember, the player with the most money wins regardless of how it is obtained.  I was pleased to see that this represented, at least to some extent, an alternate strategy which always makes games more interesting to explore.

I thoroughly enjoyed Nautilus Industries, as did everyone with whom I played, but there were a few issues worth noting that could be considered negatives by some.  The stocks only go up in value, so the only question is how much.  Theoretically it would be possible for a stock not to reach the x 5 value column, but this seems unlikely as a lack of sales will drive the commodity value up and thus incentivize players to sell it, there by increasing the value of its stock.  While this is not necessarily a bad thing, some of us felt it removed an element of risk from the game.  Another concern on the stock front is that there is no form of dividend paid or income to be earned from the ownership of stock.  Once the money is spent there will be no return on that investment until the end of the game.  Some of the games that I compared Nautilus Industries to, Acquire and Imperial, contain this element as a way of providing investors rewards during the game for savvy investments.  That being said, overall I prefer Nautilus Industries to Acquire as it is far less dependent on luck.

Some potential players may also be driven away by the mathy nature of Nautilus Industries as there are countless computations to be made over the course of the game.  While it is beautiful graphically, it is essentially a math based abstract and some gamers will not be fans.  However, my wife and step-son who are not the greatest lovers of math, had no complaints in this regard.

Lastly, Nautilus Industries says that it supports up to six players and I have only played it with two and three.  I cannot vouch for how well it supports the larger groups of players.  I admit that I fear a group of six hardcore gamers could have serious potential for king-making.  There are enough opportunities to pile on the leader and make it very difficult for the player to overcome the combined efforts of the other players to thwart his plans.  I do think the optional mining rule could help with this issue, and may even be the primary reasons for its creation, but this is definitely something to consider if you plan to play with larger groups.

In Conclusion

Nautilus Industries is a high quality design, both mechanically and graphically, that provides a complete gaming experience from top to bottom.  It was popular with hardcore and casual gamers alike ranging in age from 14 to 38 with all agreeing that it was challenging and fun to play!  While it can be played at a highly competitive level, the simple rules and set-up make Nautilus Industries accessable to the entire group/family.  Channel the adventurous spirit of Captain Nemo and find out what treasures lie in the depths beneath the lid of the Nautilus Industries box.  You will not be disappointed!


The Kickstarter for Nautilus Industries starts August 7th.  While I have no stake in this project in anyway, I would strongly recommend checking out the campaign!



Let it be known to all readers and government officials alike, that Life in Games received a free copy of this game for the purpose of providing an objective review.  No further compensation of any sort changed hands between myself and the publisher.


1 comment

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