Reef Encounter – Review
(Originally posted on BoardGame-Reviews.com)
Reef Encounter was published in 2004 and is designed by Richard Breese and is currently published by Z-Man Games.
* Designed by: Richard Breese
* Published by: Z-Man Games
* Number of players: 2-4
* Playing time: 90 min
* Player ages: 12+
A Quick Overview
Imagine yourself as a parrotfish with a crew of 4 shrimp who help you to manoeuvre around the reef to feed your appetite for coral!
Well, that’s Reef Encounter for you! It’s a challenging game and requires careful and strategic management and placement of shrimp to guard coral, larva to instigate coral growth, polyps to grow coral, and algae to manipulate ocean conditions to favour one type of coral over another.
The winner of the game is the one (parrotfish) who has consumed the most valuable coral in the ocean.
The goal of the game is to grow coral as large as it can be and then to eat it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is but game play is a bit trickier in how you accomplish the goal.
On a player’s turn, there are available ten possible actions; some which can be played multiple times and some which can be played once.
At the beginning of a turn (1st action), if you are able to, your parrotfish can eat a coral and its guardian shrimp.
At the end of the turn (10th action), you then replenish a set of tiles and larva cube from the ocean board.
In between the 1st and the 10th actions, you can:
* Grow coral
* Attack coral
* Change ocean conditions
* Move your shrimp
* Introduce a shrimp
* And other actions
Growing coral and attacking coral form a lot of your actions. How you do so affects the nature of the game and therein lies the skill in playing Reef Encounter!
I like Reef Encounter but, unfortunately, it doesn’t get played as much. This is because the game is very involved!
On your turn you decide whether to eat, create up to two new coral chains, introduce a single shrimp, (re)move shrimp and so on…
…There are many things going on and it takes a number of plays to wrap your head fully on the consequences of your actions.
Though there are “only” 10 possible actions you have to choose from, the way the actions interact have a great impact on how you make strategic decisions. This is how the game becomes “involved”.
Should I eat my shrimp now? Or should I wait to grow my coral a bit?
Should I lock the ocean tile now and ensure dominance or do something else?
Should I defend this coral and grow it or should I use another player’s coral as a temporary shield?
The answer to all these questions is: “It depends.”
Reef Encounter is a strategy game but you should also be noticing how other players are playing. In some ways the balance between strategic moves and tactical moves shifts during player turns.
Do you sacrifice that bit now and play to your overall strategy or do you cause a bit of a scare and respond to the threat?
I have played this game with 2, 3 and 4 players. The more players you add, the greater the time between turns (and not in a linear sense). If this is something that turns you off a game, please give this one a wide berth.
Is this a satisfying game? Most definitely yes! Try it over several games and come back to it every once in a while.
- Last edited Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:41 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Feb 25, 2010 12:50 am
Ka Mate Ka Mate
Ka Ora Ka Ora
Re: [BGR] Reef Encounter
A wonderfully designed game with - as you pointed out- many meaningful decisions and tactical variations.
However it hardly ever sees the table because quite honestly in the end it feels aq bit too much like work and not enough fun...
Re: [BGR] Reef Encounter
quite honestly in the end it feels aq bit too much like work and not enough fun...
I felt the same way for the first few games and I guess I haven't really recovered.
It is a lot of work mentally and the end result seems so abrupt and not quite fun.
However, the game ebbs and flows much as an ocean wave; the sudden onrush toward the end feels overly forced.
Perhaps I am playing it wrong...
Thanks for the comment.