Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
When I was five years old, I discovered The Legend of Zelda on my cousin’s state-of-the-art Nintendo Entertainment System. It was unlike anything I’d played before. Where other games laid down unambiguous missions and linear levels, this one handed me a sword and a handful of hit points, then asked: “So what are you going to do?”
I’ve appreciated that sandbox sense of freedom in games ever since, and it’s something that Near And Far, a campaign-driven board game from designer Ryan Laukat, strives to emulate. A sequel to his 2015 release Above and Below, Near and Far casts players as heroes embarking on perilous quests across a series of fantasy realms. While that might sound like the premise for at least a million other tabletop adventure games, Near and Far comes with a level of style, imagination, and originality that elevates it above the generic orc-stomping titles on the market.