The Aquicorn Cove Board Game Review

The Aquicorn Cove Board Game is a game by Ben Eisner, Tim Eisner, Tyler Tinsley and Steve Ellis, published by Renegade Game Studios. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of one of the members of a small fishing village, as they try to feed and grow the village while maintaining a healthy balance with the ocean and all it’s sea life. Of course they’ll have to be careful as winter brings harsh storms that can destroy all that they worked for. In the end, if the village is able to find that balance between growing itself and maintaining a healthy ecosystem, there story will be a winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. Three food tokens are placed in the Village supply. The rest of the food tokens are placed next to the board. Four spaces in the boat are covered with the four boat tiles. The North and South Village Building tiles are placed on their starting locations on the board with the damaged side face up. In a 2-3 player game, the North Village is flipped over to it’s intact side. The Building tiles are shuffled together and placed in a stack next to the board. The top three tiles are drawn and placed in a row beside the stack to form the market. All the Fish tiles, Empty Net tiles and one Aquicorn tile are placed into the Fishing Bag. The remaining Aquicorn tiles are placed in the bay. The Pollution tiles are placed next to the board. A number of these tiles are placed into the Fishing Bag based on the desired difficulty level that players choose to play. For an easy game, 1 tile is placed into the bag. For the hardest difficulty level, 3 tiles are placed into the bag. An Aquicorn meeple is placed on each of the start positions for the Season, Reef Health and Village Prosperity tracks. The Event cards are shuffled and placed next to the board. The The Aquicorn deck and the Villager deck are also shuffled and placed next to the board. Players choose a character and take the corresponding Player Aid card and Starting deck. Each player shuffles their deck and draws the top three cards. In a 2 player game, any unused Starting decks are shuffled together to create a Helper deck. The first player is chosen and is given the Fishing Bag and the Boat, making them the Head Fisher. Play now begins.

The game is played over two years and an Epilogue. Each year consists of 3 rounds of play that represent Spring, Summer and Fall, followed by a Winter Storm. Each round consists of 7 phases. In the first phase, players will reveal the Event and play Character cards. To do these actions, first the top card of the Event deck is drawn. If the card has any Pollution numbers in the top right corner, then that many Pollution tiles are placed into the bag. The Event card is then placed on the Action track at the bottom of the board, in the phase that is shown on the card. Players will then choose a card from their hand to play. Some cards will provide more than one action to take. Players must decide which one to choose. It should be noted that players are allowed to discuss their options before making a decision. Once everyone has chosen a card, players in turn order will place their card on the Action track starting with the Head Fisher. When placing the card, it is placed on the phase matching the option they chose. Once all players have placed their chosen card, play moves to the next phase.

The second phase is the Village Fishing phase. In this phase, the Head Fisher will draw Ocean tiles from the Fishing Bag until they choose to stop or all of the empty spaces on the Fishing Boat have been filled. Fish tiles will be converted to food at the end of the phase. However there are more than just fish tiles. Players can draw empty nets that take up a space in the boat, pollution that lowers the Reef Health by 1 and is placed in an empty space in the bay or Aquicorns that are also placed in the bay. When a Pollution tile is placed in the bay, if either of the columns are full then that whole column of Pollution tiles are placed into the bag. When an Aquicorn tile is drawn, then an Aquicorn card i drawn and placed on the Action Track. Once the Head Fisher is done with fishing, the Village gains food equal to the total value of each fish in the boat. The fish are then returned to the bag. However if there are multiple fish of the same type, then only 1 fish of that type is returned to the bag and the other of the same type are removed from the game due to overfishing. Once all this has been completed, play moves to the next phase.

The third phase is the Gather and Clean phase. In this phase, players can gain food from the supply to feed the village and remove a Pollution tile from the bay, returning it to the Pollution supply. If at the end of this phase there are not Pollution tiles in the bay, then the Reef Health is increased by 1 and 1 Aquicorn is returned to the bag.

The fourth phase is the Farming phase. In this phase, players can plant a food from the supply to an empty farm space. If at least one player plants food in the farm, then the Village will plant bonus food equal to the season bonus located beneath the current location on the Season track.

The fifth phase is the Village phase. In this phase, food is harvested from the farm and the Village must be fed. During the Fall and in the Epilogue, the players take food from the Farm and place it into the Village supply. Next the Village is fed by checking the current position on the Prosperity track, the amount required to feed the Village is equal to the number of this position. If the Village can’t be fully fed, then what food is available is spent and the Aquicorn meeple is moved down one space on the track.

The sixth phase is the Building phase. In this phase, players help the Village to recover by repairing buildings and building new ones. Players can repair a building, flipping it over to it’s intact side. They can also choose to build new buildings by choosing one of the available buildings and paying it’s cost in food or building supplies. The new building is then placed in the Village on the intact side. Players are also able to gain building supplies during this phase. When a new building is placed, it must be placed to the right of an intact building or next to the shore. It should be noted that when placing a new building, the left fence on the bottom left corner of the tile must connect to a fence of the same color on the right of either the shore or the intact building tile already placed. Once a building is placed, a new tile is drawn from the stack and added to the market and the Aquicorn meeple is moved up on the Prosperity track one space. If the meeple moves onto a space showing the shell icon, then each player draws a card from the Villager deck and places it on top of their Character deck without looking at it. It should also be noted that if all 4 tiles can not be legally placed, then they are removed from the market and placed on the bottom of the stack. Four new tiles are then drawn to replace them.

The last phase is the End of Round phase. In this phase, players will collect Building income, store food and prepare for the next round. For each intact building that has a special income icon on the left side of the tile, the player will gain food, building supplies or income of any type. They might also be able to remove a Pollution tile or remove a Boat tile from the Fishing Boat. Next the Village is allowed to store up to 4 food for the next round, but any food over that must be returned to the supply. Finally the players will prepare for the next round by discarding all cards from the Action Track and advancing the Round Marker on the Seasons Track. The Head Fisher will then pass the Fishing Bag and the Board to the next player in turn order. Each player will then draw a card from their deck.

At the end of each year, there is a Winter storm. At this time, the Head Fisher must roll dice equal to the number above the Aquicorn meeple on the Reef track. Once each die is rolled, the player must find the row with the yellow warning sign that matches the symbol on the die. The die is then placed in that row, on the tile or space closest to the shore that does not already have a die on it. Once all the dice have been rolled for the storm, the storm effects are resolved for each die. If the die is on a space with no building, then it is simply removed with no effect. If the die is on an intact building, then it is flipped over to it’s damaged side. If the die was on a building tile that was already damaged, then 2 Pollution tiles are added to the bay. Once all the storm dice are resolved, the Season tracker is advanced to the next Season.

After the second year’s Winter storm, there is an Epilogue that allows players to rebuild the Village. During this special final round of play, the 7 phases are followed with a bonus. In this special round, there is a Farming bonus of +2 for planting food. The players are allowed to harvest just like they would in Fall and there is no storm to further cause damage. Once the Epilogue ends, the game ends.

Once the game has ended, players must determine their final Prosperity and Reef Health. To find the final Prosperity, players must reduce the Prosperity by one for every 2 damaged buildings, rounded up. Next for the Reef Health, this score is reduced by one for every 3 Pollution in the bag, rounded up. It’s further reduced by one for every 2 overfished Fish tiles, rounded up. Players will then take their final scores for both the Prosperity track and the Reef Health track and compare then to the charts in the back of the rulebook. The ending that matches the score for each is then read aloud from this chart. This tells the players how their story ends.

COMPONENTS
This is a very fun and beautiful looking game. There are so many adorable pieces and parts to this one that overloads the senses on cuteness. Let’s start with the board, it’s brightly colored with short explanations of each of the different phases at the bottom of the board. Some of the artwork on the board makes me think of the buildings in Machi Koro, another game that I really like the artwork for. The building tiles are thick cardboard and also carry this same style of look and feel as the main board does.

Next there is the fishing boat, this board is thick cardboard and is shaped like an old wooden rowboat with artwork to match. There are outlined spaces on the boat for the different tiles that are drawn from the bag. Each of these draw tiles have a name on one side and an illustration on the other. The fish tiles have the type of fish on one side and a number and picture of the fish on the other. The Aquicorn has a picture of the mystic animal on one side along with a reminder to draw an Aquicorn card from the deck. Empty net tiles look simply like an empty net with the words on the back. Pollution is the same way, pollution art on one side words on the back. The remaining cardboard pieces are the food tokens and the building supply tokens. These are both round and come in smaller and larger sizes. The smaller food tokens are for 1 food and show a pumpkin and a 1 on them, while the small building supply token is just a 1 on a golden coin. The larger food tokens show a stack of fish and a 3 on them, while the large building supply token is the number 3 on a golden coin. I will say, if the game was going to call them building supply tokens, then they should have looked like wood or some other building material, not just a gold coin. Of course that’s just a minor nitpick from me. The bad part about these tokens is that most of the design for the big ones is not centered. As you’ll be able to see in the picture above. I will probably replace these with metal coins or more thematic resource tokens.

Now comes all the really fun looking pieces, like the Aquicorn meeples. These are SO cute. They look like a dragon and a seahorse mixed together. My daughter melted from the cuteness of these meeples. Next there’s the velvety soft fishing bag that has an embroidered Aquicorn and the words, Aquicorn Cove on it. This is a very high quality bag that looks amazing. I really like this piece. The game also comes with 4 engraved storm dice. These are almost a marbleized black with white symbols for the different storms that they represent. These icons match the yellow signs on the building spaces of the board. These are really great quality and look great on the board. Finally there are the cards. If you ever seen one of Katie O’Neill’s graphic novels or webcomics, or if you’ve ever played the Tea Dragon Society Card Game, then you’ll recognize the beautiful and fun art style that is present on these. Each one contains some really amazing looking pieces of art that bring the game and the story to life. I have to say, I’m really impressed with the overall look and feel of everything here. My daughter and I both love the fun and beauty that each piece contains. This is definitely one of the best looking games that I’ve seen.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is a bright and colorful piece of beauty as well. Each page contains some great pictures of the game or the components. There are tons of great examples throughout the book as well that really help players understand the different aspects of the game. Each phase and each component, from cards to tiles, are explained in great detail. The last page of the book contains the prosperity and reef health endings that help players to understand how well they did. The back cover of the rulebook has a handy reference guide to the different icons and phases of the game, as well as how storms work. This is a really nice addition that is very helpful. With this being a cooperative game, I’m sure that the game could easily be played solo, but some solo rules would have been nice as well. As it is, the rulebook looks great and does a great job of explaining everything in an easy to understand and concise way. I’m very pleased with it all.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
So if you’ve read through the overview, then you’ve already realized one thing. There is no winners or losers with this game. It’s all about finding a balance between growing the village and keeping the reef clean and healthy. If you’re able to do those things, then you’ll get a more positive ending. If not, then your ending will be less desirable. That’s not to say that you can’t play a kind of beat your high score with this game. You can easily do that. What this game does though is really tell the story of this village beside the ocean. Ok, so some players will not be thrilled with this way of playing. I can’t say that I blame you. I’m not one to go for this particular style of gameplay either. I like a definitive winner or loser type scenario. That’s one thing that I don’t like about a lot of solo style games is that they’re a beat your high score type of play. Normally I find that to be quite boring and a bit of a let down after an hour or so of playing a game. The thing that I found different about this game is that you find yourself caring about what happens to the village and the reef. Each time you put an Aquicorn back into the bag, it’s like you’ve just released an endangered species back into the wild. Every time you rebuild a damaged building, it’s like you’re working with Habitat for Humanity. It’s these types of decisions and choices that you make that feel like everything you do matters. For my daughter, she really cared about taking care of the village and the ocean. She cared about the Aquicorns. Her eyes simply lit up every time she drew one from the bag. It’s so amazing to see a board game bring out that childlike wonder in her that you don’t get to see very often these days. This game does that. It makes you care. This game is family friendly and is a great game to play with the kids. They’ll love it. This is one that I think fans of the Tea Dragon Society card game or any of Katie O’Neill’s books will enjoy. Is this a game for everyone, I doubt it. However for me and my family, this was a sweet and fun game that we really enjoyed a lot. This is one that I would definitely recommend for families or players that like working together to make a better world.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
The Aquicorn Cove Board game is a fun and gorgeous looking game about a village that’s struggling to survive beside the ocean. The game isn’t an overly long one. Most game sessions are only about an hour long. The components for this game are adorably cute and fun. The artwork is truly amazing and it really draws you into the world created by Katie O’Neill. However, there is a small centering issue for the artwork on the large building supply tokens that needs to be fixed. The rulebook is very well designed and is very detailed on how each piece and part works. About the only thing it could use would be some solo rules. The game itself is very thematic and fun and is great for families. My daughter absolutely loved this game. It has a great table presence and looks amazing to boot. I enjoy the mechanics of the game and how easy it is to learn. This is one that everyone can enjoy. That said, there is one negative that I wasn’t fond of. That would be the way the game ends. There’s no real winning or losing with this one. It’s more like a beat your own score type of ending. The one redeeming quality about the way this happens is that the better you do, the better your story ending is. For most gamers, that might not be enough, but for families it’s a great game and one that can help teach our kids to be better citizens of our own planet and communities. Fans of The Tea Dragon Society Card Game or any of Katie O’Neill’s comics should really enjoy this one. This is one that I would definitely recommend for families. It’s a sweet and fun game that gets a thumbs up from me. While it’s not a gamer’s game, it’s still fun to play.
8 out of 10

 

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Renegade Game Studios at their site.

https://www.renegadegamestudios.com/

 

 

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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