Aqualin (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Marcello Bertocchi
  • Artists: Sophie Rekasowski
  • Publisher: Kosmos
  • Players: 2
  • Time: 20 Minutes
  • Times Played: 6
Down here all the fish is happy 
As off through the waves they roll
The fish on the land ain’t happy
They sad ’cause they in their bowl
But fish in the bowl is lucky
They in for a worser fate
One day when the boss get hungry
Guess who’s gon’ be on the plate?

I love the Kosmos two player games lineup. My oldest daughter and I played hours of The Reef, Odin’s Ravens and yes, even Elk Fest. The games are rules light and quick playing, something that was always of utmost importance to my daughter, who always had something better to be doing, at least until she noticed we’d already played five games and we were setting up the sixth. We kind of fell away from those titles as the years progressed, not because we grew to not enjoy them, but things just change, right?

 

One thing that hasn’t changed is the Kosmos two player line of games, new ones keep coming, the competition may be a bit stiffer now, with other companies like Lookout throwing out some fantastic two player only games, but Kosmos still turns out some wonderful titles, like this one, Aqualin.

Aqualin is an abstract game with a loose theme around sea creatures gathering in schools in a reef. A reef where either like species or like colors want to be together at the end of the game. 

Components wise, Aqualin, consists of a six by six square reef board and thirty-six acrylic tiles that depict six different sea creatures in six different colors. One player will be trying to place and maneuver tiles to get like sea creatures together, and their opponent will be trying to place and maneuver them to get like colors together. 

To start the game, shuffle all of the tiles face down and reveal six of them. On the first player’s turn they will choose one of the six face up tiles and place it on an empty space on the reef board and then replenish the available tiles to six by flipping one. From that point on, there is an extra step in a player’s turn. Before choosing and placing a tile on the reef board, the active player may move one of the sea creatures. The player may move the sea creature tile any number of spaces within it’s row or column up to a point where it meets another sea creatur or hits the edge of the reef. Play continues like this until all thirty six tiles are on the board, filling it. 

At this point, the players are going to score the board and assess how well they accomplished their goal by scoring different schools. A school is at least two contiguous groups of two or more sea creatures of the same animal type or color. Side by side, no diagonals. Schools score based on their size. A size two school scores one point, three scores three, four scores six, five scores ten, and a school of six will score fifteen points. The player with the most points after scoring is the winner. 

You need to think on your toes while playing, the board will constantly be changing, with the tiles being moved around just about every turn, you don’t have to move tiles, but it is far more advantageous most of the time to do so. It can lead to some contentious moments, which is what these two player games are all about, push and pull, and Aqualin is built for that. 

Components wise, Kosmos has done well with the minimal set up. Quality acrylic tiles are very satisfying to handle, which always makes a better experience. One thing I may have added is a dry erase scoreboard or maybe some score pads to make things a bit easier at the end of the game for the players. I also do imagine that this may have some color blind issues though, so just be aware of that.

Aqualin isn’t going to set the world on fire, it really is quite simple, move a piece, add a piece and refresh and move on. It does however engage you and give you freedom to feel clever while trying to solve a puzzle that evolves differently each and every game. But with the limited pieces and board, I just don’t imagine that the replay value is as high here as it is with other Kosmos two player games, but that’s okay. We’ve enjoyed our six plays so far and at the price, that’s really not that bad of a return on value. 

Quick, simple, tactical, and tactile, that’s Aqualin

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it.

I like it. Brandon

Neutral.

Not for me…

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