In Reef, between two and four players take the role of living, growing coral reefs, which makes this a science-fiction-themed game. Morbid humour aside, each turn you choose between (a) drafting a card from a central market or (b) playing a card from your hand, which allows you to first add pieces to your reef and then score points for having particular configurations of coral pieces on your individual game mat. The game ends when one colour piece (out of four) runs out or when the deck of cards is exhausted.
And that’s it! So as you can infer, Reef makes a great “gateway” game. It takes minutes to teach, the components are colourful (and colour-blind-considerate, which is nice) and language-independent, and the game has just enough luck tempering the tactics and planning necessary to win. Since the pieces you add with your cards are never the ones which score that same turn, the trick to victory is being able to look two or even three moves ahead: “This card will give me the pieces to score that card, which in turn lets me add pieces to score this other card…” and so on.
The designer, Emerson Matsuuchi, has already made a name for himself with his Century series of games (Spice Road and Eastern Wonders, which we wrote about a couple of months ago). So it should not be surprising that Reef provides excellent and elegant gameplay.
Our only complaint is that the divider in the box insert is just a leedle too narrow to accommodate the 4x4 game boards, which therefore have to nestle awkwardly atop the other components. Well, 95% of the time we toss the insert away anyway.
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