Finally played Near and Far this past weekend and really enjoyed it. Played with 4, which worked well and caused what I think is a bit of necessary congestion in the town part of the game (ie: resource and party gathering) so as to trigger duels over spaces. The exploration part of the game was very satisfying, and the game feels a little more enjoyable (to my tastes) than Laukat's similar earlier game, Above and Below.
Essentially, there are two boards--the town you all start in and the landscape around the town, which you go out and explore. Each player gathers resources and party members (up to four) in the town and goes out to explore the surrounding area at any point that they feel they're ready. There are areas to explore that each present a unique small encounter scenario, and you make a choice about how you want to deal with it, then roll dice, use modifiers, etc to try and meet your stated goal (for rewards). You can also build camps, run into bandits, and find random treasure. Your "energy" is used as you move farther away from town, though, so you need to go back to town and sort of refuel as well as change your party if you want.
There are four(!) modes of play, including a campaign mode, which we're going to try progressing through and see how meaningful the character building and story aspects are. I somewhat blindly backed the Amber Mines expansion on KS and am so far glad that I did. The game already appears to have a lot of depth, paths to victory, and replay value, and the expansions looks like it will add more.
And of course, it's Laukat, so the art is beautiful (and not traced from other sources!).