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Subject: Light but fun. rss

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Merric Blackman
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Niagara is never likely to become the most popular game on BGG, but, for me, exudes a subtle charm and elegance that belies its horrible packaging.

I find the game particularly interesting because it dispenses with luck entirely, instead relying on tactical skill and the ability to read your opponents' intentions. The game plays quickly, and is easy to learn. I must protest the overwritten rulebook, which somehow makes what is a simple game much more difficult to learn - something of a drawback for a game that is aimed at ages eight and up!

The object of the game is to collect a number of crystals that lie alongside the banks of the Niagara River. The first person to return to the bank four crystals of the same colour, one crystal of each of the five colours, or seven crystals in all, wins.

Each player has two canoes with which to accomplish this task, each of which holds one crystal. A good play would involve moving down the river and picking up a gem, then return with it to the bank on the next turn. However, the game isn't so simple!



There are four complications in the game:

First is the paddle cards. Each player has seven of these cards, marked 1 to 6, with a special cloud card. A player uses one of these cards each turn to move his or her canoes a number of spaces up or down the river equal to the number shown. It costs 2 movement points to load or unload a gem. The complication here is that you can only use each card once until after the 7th turn, when you've used all of them and you get them all back.

So, as the game goes on you have diminishing options.



Second is the river itself. After everyone has moved, you look at the lowest number used and move the river along that many spaces. If someone is too close to the waterfall, then off they go - and the canoe can only be purchased back by one of the gems you've collected.



Related to this, the third complication is the river speed. Players may use their cloud card to speed up or slow down the river; a modifier of +2 to -1 that affects how much the river moves.



The fourth and final complication is the ability to steal gems from other players. If you move upstream and land on the space where a laden canoe is, you can transfer its gem to your canoe - assuming you have space, of course. Paying attention to the turn order can be very important!



Unlike a game like Chess, where each turn takes place knowing what your opponent has done, each player chooses how far their canoes can move at the same time, placing the movement card face down and hidden from the other players. Then, in turn order, each player reveals their card and moves according to what they placed.

The person who moves first changes each turn, rotating clockwise around the table.

A game of Niagara takes around 30 minutes to play. It certainly doesn't have the weight of games like Puerto Rico or Caylus, but it is an amusing game in itself. I quite enjoy it.

Although I've mentioned the inadequacies of the rulebook and the packaging, the components themselves are brilliant. The best innovation in the game itself is the board: the river is a recessed area that you place plastic discs into. These discs form the spaces of the board. When the river moves along, you slide new discs in the top, and the rest of the discs, carrying the canoes with them, move towards the falls.



Notice that the river splits at the falls: this means that the river moves more slowly at the falls, giving you a chance to pull bank from the brink - although many players haven't made it, in my experience! The construction of the board means that the discs alternate as they hit the fork. On some occasions they can become stuck, but this is easily remedied.

I believe Niagara to hold a strong attraction for younger gamers; the quality of its components aids in that, as does the interest of the waterfall! It also is a good introduction to games of skill, rather than chance. More advanced gamers will probably find it enjoyable, although of not enough weight to hold their attention indefinitely.

I personally play the game on brettspielwelt.de every so often with great pleasure, and use my physical copy with my casual gamer friends, who also enjoy it.

I think it is a much better game when played with four or five players, simply because there's a lot more going on and there's more competition for the gems. This is a delightful design, and I highly recommend it as an excellent lighter game.
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Nick Bos
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What is wrong with the packaging?

I think mine is packaged great, everything in ziplocks, great box insert etc. (except that the green cano's are missing ^_^ )

But what did you not like about the packaging?

Cheers!

Great review btw!
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Merric Blackman
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Faerun wrote:
What is wrong with the packaging?

I think mine is packaged great, everything in ziplocks, great box insert etc. (except that the green cano's are missing ^_^ )

But what did you not like about the packaging?

Cheers!

Great review btw!


The interior packaging is great. I just don't think the cover art is very good.

Cheers,
Merric
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