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Subject: MeepleTown Reviews: Aquaretto rss

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Derek Thompson
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In 2007, Michael Schacht’s Zooloretto won the Spiel des Jahres by appealing to the jury’s weakness for adorable pandas. The game was successful enough to warrant several expansions, and a new stand-alone game Aquaretto that can also be used as an expansion for Zooloretto. We already owned and enjoyed Zooloretto, so Aquaretto seemed like a safe bet despite its relative lack of exposure. It turns out that not only are dolphins and sea lions cuter than camels and flamingos, but Aquaretto’s mechanics were an improvement as well.

Here’s a reminder of our scoring categories:

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

Components: Most of Aquaretto consists of drawing tiles out of a bag. There are several tiles for each animal (including separate baby animal tiles), some wooden coins, meeples, and trucks, a drawstring cloth bag, and six player boards for each player (they aren’t very big and fit together). The components are minimalistic, but pretty, which is exactly how I think components should be. One of the main draws of this game is how adorable the animal illustrations are. However, the insert is completely useless, and the lack of reminder cards for money actions is a huge oversight. In addition, the amount of physical material isn’t worth the $50 MSRP price tag.

Accessibility: Although Aquaretto is supposed to be a more advanced version of Zooloretto, I actually think the rules are simpler. The basic premise of the game is still the same as the card game Coloretto, but now the tiles you gain are placed on an open-ended player board, with the restriction that different animals cannot connect. The basics of the game are quite simple and mostly the same as Zooloretto. What makes it simpler are the bonuses and the scoring. Rather than getting bonuses for filling pens, one bonus comes for every third animal of the same type, and the other for every fifth animal. This is much more straightforward than the exceptions to the rule found in Zooloretto - none of the rules in Aquaretto have exceptions (a great thing to have in a design). In addition, the animal scoring is much more simplistic: each animal tile is worth a point, end of story. People already find that Zooloretto is a light game, easy to explain, and I would say that Aquaretto is even easier.

Depth: Although the rules are simpler, Aquaretto manages to be more challenging as well. The openness of the zoo area means that you have to be more careful in planning, incorporating a geometric aspect not found in Zooloretto. In addition, tiles placed in the depot (the equivalent of the barn) are stacked upon one another, creating more difficult decisions. The coworker bonuses allow you to specialize your strategy beyond picking certain types of animals, which gives the game an extra layer of depth as well. The amount of tiles is roughly the same, but because some animals now have certain bonuses beyond fertility, there are many more things to consider when taking a truck. The improvements to the game are all minor, but they add up to a much deeper game. This is still a family game, but now the strategy feels on par with games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride instead of a step below.

Theme: Artistically, the extremely cute animals (only the alligators and hippos have arguable cuteness) certainly do a lot to bring the theme alive, and mechanically you are literally filling up a zoo. The babies and coworkers also further expand the realism of the zoo. However, the mechanics for filling up the trucks have a strong disconnect from the theme. That being said, this theme is much more about artwork than mechanics, and it does a good job exciting players and softening the importance of the actual competition of the game (which is good for a family game).

Fun: The theme makes players want to play the game, but the game actually has to be fun after you take it off the shelf. Fortunately, Aquaretto includes some interesting decisions despite its simple rules, and although there can be some screwage in placing tiles on the trucks, the strong “happy” vibe from the theme keeps the game from feeling cutthroat. Part of what makes the game fun, even though it is on the lighter side of things, is that casual gamers will find it fun as well and enjoy playing it with you.

The only person to whom I wouldn’t recommend Aquaretto is someone who only plays heavy games and has no interest in playing lighter games with friends or family. Otherwise, this is a great game, simple and light but still interesting, one that anyone can enjoy. It improves upon its predecessor in every way.

Originally posted on http://meepletown.com
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Larry Welborn
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Re: Review: Aquaretto
Do you play it as a standalone game or as an expansion to Zooloretto?
 
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Derek Thompson
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Re: Review: Aquaretto
Larry Welborn wrote:
Do you play it as a standalone game or as an expansion to Zooloretto?


I actually haven't combined the games yet - we'll have to try that and I'll add that information in. It definitely stands up on its own, though.
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Jeff Shoot
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Re: Review: Aquaretto
Larry Welborn wrote:
Do you play it as a standalone game or as an expansion to Zooloretto?


I saw that it can be combined with Zooloretto... but have I missed anyone's comment about this? I haven't seemed to be able to find a post where that has been tried, and what the effect is.

I already have Zooloretto (with no expansions though..) and was wondering what it would be like to combine it with Aquaretto if I were to get that.
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