Review: Aquatica

In Aquatica, you become one of the kings of the ocean and try to bring fame and prosperity to your kingdom.

Publisher

Arcane Wonders

40
minutes

€41
cost

1-4
players

Game explanation

The deep waters of the oceans still contain many secrets and unknown species of life. In addition to sharks, coral and fish, entire civilizations of sea people live there. Unfortunately, their resources are depleted and, as king, you must venture into the depths to seek prosperity and wealth.

To start the game, place the game board on the table. Here you will find the supply of locations and sea creatures. There are also goals that you can achieve for extra points and that will eventually get you to the end of the game. Each player is given their own player board, starting cards, 4 starting rays and a king card. Using your starting cards and rays, you can purchase new cards or buy locations. With these new cards you can buy more and better locations.

The goal of the game is to collect as many points as possible by fulfilling goals or completing locations. To do this you will need to have enough money to buy and explore that location. 

During a turn, you must play a card from your hand and perform the effects listed on it. After using the card, you put it on your discard pile. Cards allow you to buy new cards or buy, conquer or explore new locations.

Buying new cards: If a card's effect states that you may buy a new card, you may buy any of the cards in the supply, provided you have enough money for it. The money you have available is indicated with the effect. You can get more money by using rays or increasing locations. The latter will be explained later.

Buying, conquering or exploring a location: You can buy a location by paying the money indicated on the location. Like when buying a new card, you can use rays and locations for this. Locations can also be conquered using your military strength. You get this power from the card played and/or by using rays and locations to increase it. Finally, you can explore existing locations by moving 4 cards from the supply one row up and renewing the supply. This will cost you 1 less military power to conquer the 4 chosen cards. In addition, you also have a renewed supply with more choice. Purchased or conquered locations are placed in a free slot on your own player board.

Rising locations: To get more money or power to purchase cards or locations you can raise locations you have already unlocked. If you have just put a location into your game board, place it so that the top level is visible. Each time you use a location you increase it by 1 level. Sometimes a level may be empty, so you must first use a rise action from another location card. When you have explored a location to the highest level you can complete it using a the treasure action. The slot is then open again and your completed location brings points at the end of the game.

The game is over when a player completes all goals. The goals are as follows: Having unlocked 2 neutral rays, having completed 3 locations, having 10 cards in your hand or having 5 locations on your player board. Goals may be completed at any time, sometimes it may be better to wait a while as you may get more points. If you are the first to complete a goal you get the most points. At the end of the game you add up all the points from the goals, completed locations and cards in your hand. The one with the most points wins the game

Our thoughts

Aquatica surprised us very positively. We were amazed at the beautiful player boards and the nice mechanism that you can put location cards into the player boards to raise them. It's a very unique mechanism and that also makes the deckbuilding element very interesting. The cards are very well balanced and nicely designed. All the actions also fit perfectly into the theme of the game.

In terms of design, Aquatica is really beautiful. The playing field really feels like you are playing underwater. The rays are hard plastic and therefore of very good quality. The artwork on the cards and double layered playing boards looks nice and fit the theme well.

In Aquatica, you can choose several strategies. For example, you can try to finish the game as quickly as possible while your opponent tries to build up something and score as many points as possible. Every turn is important in this game, if you make the wrong choice you may lose the game. We think that the base game, without advanced rules, does lack something. In this version you can be far ahead of the other player while he can do little about it. In the advanced variant this feels much closer and it is a lot more exciting. Our advice is therefore to only use the base game to learn. There are multiple goals added to the game which make it even more challenging. This allows you to make the end of the game more difficult to achieve and a bit more varied.

If you are already familiar with deckbuilders, Aquatica is also very easy to learn. The game contains a few new and surprising elements but still speaks for itself. Especially the basics will quickly be explained to new players. Ideal if you want to try a different deckbuilder than Dominion for example! 

Aquatica is a game that should not be missing from your collection if you are a fan of deckbuilding, beautiful artwork and unique themes. We have given Aquatica a nice and well-deserved spot on our games shelf! 

Playing with 2 players

When you play Aquatica with 2 players, you can keep good track of what the other person is doing. This is very important because you need to know approximately when people finish and how many points they have. If you play with multiple players this is a lot harder to keep track of. In addition, it is always a plus for us that in a 2-player game you don't have to wait as long for your turn. Furthermore, Aquatica plays well with 2 players and there are no special rules that you should take into account. 

Pros and cons

+ Beautiful parts
Theme really adds to the gameplay
+ Unique game mechanisms

- The game can sometimes end abruptly

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This game has been kindly gifted to us for review purposes by Arcane Wonders.