What're you looking at!
My wife and I now have 19 of the Kosmos two-player games, and while The Reef is not the strongest of them, we have had some pretty close matches in the seven times we have played it.
Essentialy you build a coral reef, attract fish to it and have them breed. The breeding male and female have to match the colours of their offspring. For example, you would need blue and green parents to get blue and green offspring. The currency in this game is worms, which are used to buy everything from coral, to fish, to sharks (useful for eating unwanted coral or fish), and pearls (wildcards).
At the beginning of this match, pickings were mighty slim. None of the appropriately coloured parent fish were out, but there was plenty of coral, which you have to have for your fish to breed, so we bought that up. There were no sharks to clear out the unwanted fish, so I bought two more boats in the early part of the game.
There are eight rows of cards--some face-up and some face-down--so more boats gives you access to more rows.
By the time I had four boats, and we both had four coral, there were still no offspring, although I did have my eye on a yellow female I needed. But my wife bought two yellow parents to get the first offspring: solid yellow. She had to spend five worms to get the two fish and another three on her third boat, so she spent all her capital, and I was left with a yellow male, all alone on his coral.
We both now had our maximum amount of coral (5), but there were lots more clogging up the flow of cards in the middle, face-down, rows. The face-up rows were filled with open water, with no sharks in sight. Nevertheless we managed to produce some offspring over the next few rounds and it was all tied up.
My side of the reef had fish I didn't need holding up the flow of cards, but still no sharks in sight. I had five boats to Penny's four, but she had more fish on her coral, and now had four sets of offspring, needing only one more to win the game.
The reef, however, was stagnant. None of the right fish were out. Finally, I managed to tie the game at 4-4, and a set of purple and orange (neon) offspring appeared.
There was lots of purple and orange parents out on the reef because they were not in demand until now!
I saw exactly the two fish I needed to buy to win the game, and I had all the worms I needed. Then I looked at my last remaining coral and there as Mr. Lonely Yellow Fish still sitting there from the beginning of the game!
I bought a shark, ate him, but then was one worm short to buy the fish I needed, so my wife won the very next turn.
We have found most of our matches to be very close, but this was definitely the closest.