In Aquatica, 1 to 4 players take on the roles of one of the Ocean Kings, vying for resources and trying to earn prosperity points. The player with the most prosperity points at the end of the game becomes known as the greatest ruler in all of Aquatica and earns all the bragging rights that contains.
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The basic gameplay of Aquatica is insanely easy. Players take turns playing cards from their hands and completing the abilities printed on them. These abilities usually provide resources, which are then used to buy or conquer locations, or buy other cards to go into your hand. Each turn players must play 1 card from their hand, which provides limited resources that can't always afford the other cards and locations available, so to help with this, players have a supply of 4 trained mantas that provide additional resources of coin and power.
The location cards are the key to Aquatica, and once purchased, they provide resources and abilities for you to exploit. Location cards slide into the player boards and have different levels on them with single-use abilities. Once a level is used, the card slides up, giving access to the ability on the next level. Once all levels have been used, the locations can be scored using a claim action on a card, which removes them from the board and allows them to be scored at the end of the game.
Once a card is played, or a manta is used, they're discarded and can't be used until an action lets you either flip over the manta again or pick up the card from your discard pile. The Matrona card lets you do this, resetting all mantas, and picking up all cards from your discard pile. Each player starts with the same hand of 6 cards, and 4 trained mantas. The only difference is that each player has a manta that provides 2 power for conquering a specific type of location group. Players also get a King card, depending on where they go in the first turn order, which balances out the advantage of going first.
Players can also score achievements as the game goes on, and the first player to score each achievement, gets the largest amount of prosperity points, with decreasing amounts for the second, third, and fourth players. Scoring an achievement requires sacrificing one of the player's mantas, and losing access to its ability. So picking the right time to score requires some planning. When a single player has scored each of the 4 achievements, the game enters the end game, and players get 1 more turn each before totaling their prosperity points. The game also enters the end phase if the central pool of location or character cards ever runs out.
For such a simple game, Aquatica provides a huge amount of fun and tactical challenge. The sequencing of cards, choices of locations to buy/conquer, and the combination use of resources and abilities from mantas and locations gives an awesome amount of strategy in such an easy package. The artwork and theme throughout is great, but other than the components themselves, there isn't a huge amount of nautical feel to the game or mechanics. The different depths to the location card sliding into the player boards is such a simple concept, but it feels extremely satisfying, and overall, Aquatica is a very rewarding game to play at all player counts.
The Bottom Line
Aquatica is an insanely simple concept, with awesome components that compliment the straight-forward mechanics perfectly. It all fits together to create a fantastic strategic game, with some very rewarding combinations. While the art and components are very on theme, the mechanics and gameplay don't feel very nautical or sub-aquatic. Aquatica is still amazing, but if you're looking for a sea-feel game, then you won't find it beyond the artwork here. Aquatica plays well with all player counts and solo-play is an enjoyable experience, even if it's only you that sees your smug look after hitting an awesome combination of actions.
Get This Game If:
- You want a simple, but incredibly rewarding game.
- You want a game that plays well with 1, 2, 3, or 4 players.
- You love combination play and finding the best sequencing strategy.
Avoid This Game If:
- You want a game that has a nautical theme beyond the components.
- You don't like sequencing or combination plays.
The copy of the Aquatica used to produce this review was provided by Arcane Wonders.