Session Report – 1st April 2005

Reef Encounter

Players: Mark G, Nige, Mark K, Garry

I have been meaning to play this new game by Richard Breese ever since I got back from Essen but, each time I’ve tried going through the rules, I’ve hit some kind of mental block and got terribly confused. Eventually, however, I got the majority of it figured out and decided the best thing to do was go through the rule book in detail together with the game set up. This meant quite a while was spent understanding the rules before we got down to play. Once we started, the game took a bit under two hours, which seemed ok to me. Reef Encounter is set on four rocks under the ocean. Players collect polyp tiles and play them in groups to form corals. These corals can then be expanded and, when sufficiently large, can be removed to feed your parrot fish (who likes to eat lots of coral along with the shrimps that settle on them). At the end of the game, all the polyp tiles your parrot fish has eaten get valued and the person whose parrot fish has consumed the highest value of polyp tiles wins. The value of the polyp tiles is determined by the battle for supremacy between the different types of coral. Space on the rocks is limited and, as corals expand, spaces occupied by weaker coral can be taken over by an expanding stronger coral, providing the weaker coral is not protected by a shrimp. The relative strength of the corals is shown on a display at the side of the board and this can change as the game progresses. However, players can also lock down a relationship between a pair of corals and this adds to the value of the stronger coral at the end of the game. The more of these relationships that are in the favour of corals you are feeding to your parrot fish the better. The game ends in a number of ways but normally by all ten coral relationships having been locked down or by one player’s parrot fish having been fed for a fourth time. There is lots to think about in this game but, although I understand why I had difficulty with the rules, it is not too complex. Nige was very single-minded in his approach to the game. He tried to lock down the orange coral’s superiority as often as he could and get orange polyps into his parrot fish. It nearly worked but the rest of us eventually slowed orange’s advance. I managed to establish 2 corals on the same rock and give myself room to expand one of these while protecting it from potential attack with the other. This enabled me to give my parrot fish a feast of white polyps. Mark K seemed to be building some nice positions and I felt the sooner the game ended, the better my chances. I was uncertain whether Nige’s orange was too strong but opted anyway to lock down the final coral relationship in white’s favour and end the game the next turn, taking a chunk out of Mark G’s orange coral at the same time. This just gave me enough to win but it was very close and everyone was in with a chance. Although there were some nice ideas in the game and we did, generally, enjoy it, we felt there was a bit of downtime between turns with little opportunity to assess what your best move would be until it came round to you again. This brought the ratings down just a shade but we may have to try again to see whether this changes now we know what’s going on a bit better. Result: Garry 18, Nige 16, Mark K 15, Mark G 14 Ratings: Garry 7, Nige 7, Mark K 7, Mark G 5 <strong>Gracias</strong> Players: Mark G, Nige, Mark K, Garry We just had time for a short card game so decided on this new release from Alan Moon and Richard Borg and published by Ravensburger. The game is played over a number of scoring rounds. The rules say 3 but we played 4 to match the number of players involved. In each round, there are a number of sub-rounds equal to the number of players. Cards are laid out in groups of three, two face up and one face down, with the number of groups equal to the number of players. On his turn, the player takes a group of three cards, examines the face down card and keeps this together with one of the face up cards. He then passes the remaining face up card to any of his opponents. Once everyone has selected a group, the next sub-round starts with new cards being dealt and the player to the left of the previous start player selecting the first group of three. Once the round is finished, scoring takes place. Each group of five or more cards in a particular colour is separated out and is worth 1 point. The player with the most cards remaining in each colour then has to discard those cards and then every card remaining on the table is worth 1 point each. Whoever has accumulated the most points after the final round is the winner. This is very simple and very quick. The choices are straightforward but the best play is not obvious due to the face-down cards people have collected. I quite liked it but it sits alongside a lot of other fillers I am quite happy to play at the end of an evening. Nige had a poor start but scored 11 points in the third round to share the lead with Mark K at that stage. The fourth round couldn’t separate them so they had to settle for a shared win. Nige was happy with that as he is looking for any wins he can muster at the moment.

Result: Nige=Mark K 20, Mark G=Garry 16

Ratings: Nige 5, Mark K 6, Mark G 6, Garry 6