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Reef Encounter of the Second Kind» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Breakin' The Rules With More Shrimp and Coral rss

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Eric Summerer
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Writing a review of a game expansion is a bit of an odd thing to approach. Obviously, if you're even considering the expansion, you've played the original game, and you probably have it in your collection. So, what you're really looking for from this review is whether or not it's worth spending the money (fairly considerable if you're not picking this up at Essen) to add the new rules and components to the game. Does the expansion add enough to warrant the expense?

Well, I guess I'll just come out and say it: Yes, it's a significant difference from the original, and if you're looking for some more variety in your Reef Encounter play, it's worth the purchase. However, and this is important, the expansion adds a substantial amount of chaos to the game. If this isn't your thing, you might want to tread with caution.

Again, I'm guessing that you're familiar with the basic game, so I won't go into that element of the gameplay.

So what do you get in the expansion? First, there's a set of action cards (two sets, actually, in both English and German) that allow you to break some of the game rules. For example, one card lets you perform a (limited) coral expansion before you eat a coral at the start of your turn. Another lets you unlock a locked coral tile on the open sea board, and others add bonuses for specific coral colors at the end of the game. You can buy one card per turn at the cost of a coral tile or a larva cube. Though you can purchase only one card per turn, and you can only hold three in your hand, you can play as many as you want.

Most of the action cards have a little blue shrimp in the corner, which brings me to the other major element to the expansion: four blue shrimp that can be summoned to help protect your coral. Playing a card with the shrimp symbol allows you to place one of the little blue guys on your coral, instead of using the ability on the text of the card. The blue shrimp aren't as powerful as your own, though. They only protect the tile they're on (rather than the cross pattern for the standard shrimp), and if enough blue shrimp are on the board, your blue shrimp could be lured away when somebody plays a shrimp card. Some of the action cards move the shrimp around as well. In other words, they're useful, but not foolproof.

Finally, the expansion adds a bunch of new tiles to the game:

x2 Tiles - They take up only one space, but they act as 2 coral tiles.

1/2 Tiles - They count as a full coral for scoring, but only two edges have coral on them. The other two are bare rock, so the coral can't be attacked from those edges. They act as a sort of shield.

Hybrid Tiles - Different on either side of the tile, they can be played to the board as either color. They stay static on the board, but once eaten, they can act as either color (as consumed or scored tiles.

Blue Shrimp Tiles - Just like regular coral tiles, but they come with a blue shrimp perminantly attached to them.

Deep Water Tiles - Turn a rock space into a water space! Played to the board for free.

Bare Rock Tiles - Turn a water space into a rock space! Played to the board for free.

And last but not least, Crown of Thorns Starfish Titles - These little buggers get played to the board for free, and on subsequent turns, they try to eat ajacent coral tiles. At the start of your turn, it will eat one of your coral tiles (before you get to eat anything). If it can't eat your coral, it'll eat unowned coral, but it won't eat coral owned by other players (until their turn, that is). If it's ever not next to coral tiles, it dies, and is removed from the game.

The quality of the components is up to par with the original. Tiles feel exactly the same when you shuffle them in the bag, and the new shrimp are just as cute as the other colors. My only complaint is with the player aids, which detail the revised set of actions that can be taken on a player's turn. Rather than the thick cardboard and detailed design of the original player aid, these are just a list of the actions printed on the same cards as the action deck. However, a more detailed player aid, in the style of the original, is printed on both the rule book and the expansion box, so it's not that big a gripe.

As for the gameplay, things get a lot deeper thanks to the shrimp, cards, and new tiles. There are just a bunch more options available to you. Nearly every one of the "safe" strategies from the basic game (securing yourself a corner of a rock, for example) can be counteracted with a lucky card or tile draw, or careful placement of an evil starfish.

The new tiles make the decision of what tiles to grab at the end of your turn that much more difficult. Grabbing a single hybrid tile may be better than three standard ones under the right circumstances. The blue shrimp, open water, and 1/2 tiles provide new ways to protect your growths.

The action cards are vastly important, for both the blue shrimp ability and the specific powers of the cards. In both the 2 and 3 player games I've played, each of us purchased a card on nearly every turn. They're just too powerful to ignore. Obviously, luck of the draw plays a big part here, as some cards can be far more useful than others in the right circumstances. I mean, who wouldn't want the ability to change a low-scoring tile for a top scoring one at the end of the game?

Most powerful, though, is that dreaded starfish. If a player's lucky enough to get one of those tiles, he or she can cause all sorts of chaos on the board, sending the starfish to worm its way through the other player's coral growths. I'd highly recommend playing with the published variant, which gives one starfish tile to each player at the start of the game. It evens out the luck of the draw just a bit.

One gaming buddy has even suggested playing with the new tiles, but not the action cards. I imagine that would be one way to cut down on the chaos while still keeping many new elements. I'm just not quite convinced that the randomness is a bad thing.

So, to sum up, the expansion adds a lot to the game. New strategies, new components, new possibilites. I'm glad we own it. Was it worth nearly the price of the original game? Maybe. As long as you know that the game with the expansion is going to be a lot more crazy than the game without it, I would recommend the purchase. If, however, it will drive you crazy if your perfect strategy will be ruined by a perfect card draw, you might want to stay away.
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Scott Nelson
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better watch out, the PC police might get on you too, for giving a non-review in the review section. I deleted mine - a similar bout of what is new, and how it affects normal gameplay - causing a lot of flac that I gave up caring about, and removed the post. Happily, some readers used it for what it was: to see if it was worth justifying the costs, especially USA postage and Euro costs compared to the dollar exchange rates. Good luck on not getting the same annoyance I received. And, good job on the review. Hope it helps everyone figure if it is worth the cost.
 
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Eric Summerer
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Oh, but I have played it, as mentioned above, in both 2 and 3 player games. In both circumstances, all players purchased cards nearly every turn, as the abilities of the cards are just too powerful to ignore. Also, there was a bit more love for the new tiles rather than the card abilities and the blue shrimp. I'm not sure what more I could add. Getting into too many more specifics would put this into a Session Report category.

What element of a Review am I missing here?
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Scott Nelson
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I don't know what you are missing, nothing that I know of, but I got flamed for nearly the same review, so I thought I might mention that some don't think that, that is a review. I think they want more along the lines of a Tom Vasel review with bold-faced titles and components separated from the rest, and each individual thing reviewed separately, and then the fun-factor at the bottom with various likes and dislikes, etc. But, it is an expansion, and thus is not a complete game in itself, so what you have written is about all you can do without reviewing RE base-game as well. I'm guessing no one has complained, then you're safe.
 
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David G. Cox Esq.
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AmazingIntern wrote:

What element of a Review am I missing here?


I echo your sentiment. I find the comment that you are referring to quite bizarre.

I think that you have written an excellent review and should be commended.

arrrh
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Richard Pomeroy
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Thanks for the great review. I think I need to go out and get the expansion.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I enjoyed your review as well, Eric. It gave me a very solid idea of what I would find if I bought the expansion.

As for the threadjack, it sounds like Scott had a bad response to something he wrote elsewhere, and it still haunts him. I think that if he has more to say about that, it would make more sense to post his thoughts in the thread where it occurred.
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