Dale Yu: Review of Reef Rescue

Reef Rescue

  • Designer: Daryl Chow
  • Publisher: Origami
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 7+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Played with copy provided by publisher

In Reef Rescue, “the seas are teeming with life of all shapes and colours. But how much do you know about the sea kingdoms that lie below us? What if one day, they need to be rescued from the insidious surface creatures who dump their garbage into their living space? In Reef Rescue, you take on the role of Ocean Rangers trying to rescue creatures, both big and small, from the sea. But beware, even you aren’t immune to the garbage patches that are destroying their marine habitat!”

The game is comprised of 40 tiles which can be joined together to make a large 8×5 illustration of the ocean – showing both small and large ocean creatures, a coral reef and sadly, areas of plastic litter.  However, when you play the game, these tiles are shuffled facedown and spread out into the same sized array.  

Each player gets a pair of double sided Action cards which are randomized to side face up and placed on the table in front of the player.  Each player will take a turn in order, using one of the two face up actions found on the cards in front of him.  When an action is taken, that card is flipped over to reveal the action on the other side which will now be available to be taken on the next turn.

The four possible actions are:

Bright Beam – flip over up to 3 tiles in the ocean that are directly adjacent.  Then, you can rescue: a completed large creature (2 pieces), the coral reef (3 pieces) or any tiles with smaller creatures on them.  Collect any valid tile choice and then flip the unchosen ones back over in the same location.

Fast Fin – Flip up to 5 tiles, one at a time.  If you reveal a complete large creature (two pieces) or the complete Great Coral Reef (3 pieces), you can collect it.  If you ever flip up a Garbage Patch tile, your turn immediately ends.  Whenever your turn ends, flip any uncollected tiles back to the facedown side.

Turbo Turbine – Flip up to 5 tiles, one at a time.  If you ever flip up a Garbage Patch tile, your turn immediately ends.  If you choose to stop (or flip over the 5th tile this turn), you may collect any tiles with small creatures on them.  Whenever your turn ends, flip any uncollected tiles back to the facedown side.

Sea Scope – Pick up any 3 tiles in the Ocean and then put them back in any empty spaces in the 8 x 5 grid.  You do not collect any tiles when you use Sea Scope.

The game continues with each player taking a single action until there are 10 or less tiles on the board.  At this point, the game will go until all players have had an equal number of turns.  Players now calculate their score.

Each little creature = 1 VP (tiles are worth 2-4 VP each)

Each large creature = 10 VP

The Coral Reef = 15 VP

The players who collected the most tiles with 2 little creatures on them gets 10 VP.

The player with the most points wins.

My thoughts on the game

Reef Rescue is a really nice family game which can be nearly stored in your pocket.  The entire box is essentially big enough for the 40 tiles to be stacked on top of each other in a single stack.  As you dump the tiles out on the table, it’s easy enough to show people the special tiles: the 3 garbage tiles, the 3 coral reef tiles and at least one large creature.  Then, you shuffle the tiles, arrange them into the board, and it’s time to play.

The four actions are pretty straightforward, and the action cards themselves have an iconic reminder of what the actions do (and which tiles you’re able to collect).  I have found it easy enough to teach people that small creature tiles are equal to the number of things on them, and all big tiles are simply worth 5VP per tile.  

A lot of the game involves memory.  As tiles are revealed, many of them will be flipped back over (and not collected).  Players that can remember where specific tiles are will do well in this game.  The Fast Fin and Turbo Turbine actions add a little bit of press your luck spice to the game as you can try to uncover more tiles but increase the risk of losing your whole turn if you reveal a Garbage Patch tile.

At first glance, the Sea Scope tile seems to be not overly useful as you only get to look at things without collecting anything.  But a few plays have shown me that it’s a great way to pick up tiles that players might be trying to collect (i.e. parts of big creatures or the coral reef) and move them around the board.  I have found that picking up two useful tiles and a known Garbage Patch tile is lots of fun as then I’m the only one who knows which tiles are good and which are garbage when I replace them on the board.  You can also use this action as a way to break up lines of tiles to nerf the Bright Beam action for your opponents.

The artwork is well done, and the ocean scene depicted on the tiles is quite nice.  The game is rated for gamers 7 years and up, and as such, it’s a great little title for families and kids.  As with many games that involve memory, the adults will likely not have to take it easy because while the adults may have the advantage on the action tactics, the kids will have a much easier time remembering where everything is!

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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