Reef Review

Spikey Bits

Posted by Spikey Bits on Jul 18, 2018

Everyone’s lighter in salt water. It’s science. Take a load off and relax with a game of Reef, a refreshingly lighter abstract board game.

Reef is a 2-4 player game designed by Emerson Matsuuchi known best for his work on Century Spice Road. Published by Next Move Games a sub-publisher of Plan B games that focuses on light themed abstract games that have a deep strategy yet simple gameplay.

Another keynote of New Move Games library is that they will all feature a title consisting of only four letters.

In the game Reef, players take on the role of the reef itself, alternating turns in which they carefully select the colors and patterns in which to grow and expand – the more beautiful the reef, the more points they score!

In Reef you play the role of a coral reef and try to grow into certain patterns, scoring various cards to gather the most points by the end of the game. The gameplay is very simple.

You start with one of each of the four colors/shapes of coral on your board. On each turn, players take one of two actions; either play a card or take a new card. You are limited to only four cards at a time, however, so if you want a new card you have to play one of the four you have first.

When playing a card you follow two simple steps.

First, you resolve the top portion of the card which you take the two pieces of coral depicted. Then you place those two corals in a new space or on top of an existing stack. Afterward, you check the bottom portion of the card to see if you made the pattern shown. You score points based on the number at the bottom.

The cool part is if you are able to set up that pattern several times with different sets of coral, you gain those points multiplied by the number of sets you created. These must all be separate stacks.

A single coral cannot double up and count for both stacks depicted on the card. In order to take a new card, you can either take any of the three single stacked cards for free or you can take the faceup card on the draw deck. If you want the card from the deck you must pay a point to the lowest scoring card of the three single stacked cards, potentially making that card more lucrative for another player. Greed may get you in the end.

A game of Reef ends once any single color of coral is depleted from the reserve. Then the rest of the players get one last turn, so everyone plays the same number of turns. Then, each player gets a final chance to score any cards they have but cannot gain the coral on them in order to score further. The player with the most points at the end is declared the winner.

I had the lucky opportunity to play Reef early at Origins Game Fair this year. I was worried it would be too similar to Azul but I was pleasantly surprised how fun and strategic the gameplay was. It was definitely a highlight of my trip.

Also, Emerson Matsuuchi was at the booth. Chatting with him revealed a very humble and easygoing man. I can see why people would love his games.

Reef should be hitting retail roughly in August and is currently available for preorder. Its price is around $39.99, which is more than a bargain for what you’re getting.

Beautiful artwork and amazing components are a pleasant bonus. I couldn’t recommend this anymore to your group especially if you want something a little on the lighter side. Plus, Reef will certainly get your brain working but won’t overdo it.