Dale Yu: Review of The Perfect Wave

The Perfect Wave

  • Designers: Jason Mowery and Chase Williams
  • Publisher: the Op Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by the Op at GenCon 2023

From the publisher: “Grab your board, paddle out, and try to put together the most impressive sequence of tricks on some of the most iconic waves in the world. Show your skills better than your rivals, and you’ll ride the perfect wave to victory!  The Perfect Wave presents a very fun and unique challenge. You’ll need to successfully create a wave by drafting Wave cards to construct a sequence, earning points for runs and sets of numbers. Play Trick cards to show off and score bonuses. But you’ll also need to simultaneously focus on paddling far enough out in the water to actually catch, surf, and score the very wave you’re creating! And here’s the twist…the more time spent creating your wave, the less you’ll be able to paddle out…and the more you paddle out, the trickier it becomes to create your wave! You’ll need careful planning and expert timing to balance these goals and win the game!  The Perfect Wave was the winner of the 2021 Cardboard Edison Award.”

Each player is given their own board, 2 wax tokens and a surfer token. The player board is a fold out board with 10 card spaces. Your surfer starts under the leftmost space.  During the game, you will play Wave cards to the spaces, scoring progressively more points as shown under the card.  Trick cards will be played above the Wave cards..

Each player is dealt 2 random Trick cards, 2 Wave cards and 2 Goal cards.  The Maneuver deck is then made up of all the undealt Trick cards and the Paddle out cards, shuffled and placed next to the pier board.  The Wave deck and Goal decks are also placed near the pier; 4 cards from each deck are flipped up.  The Maneuver and Paddle cards are a market, the Goals serve as the Public Goals for the game.  Each player now chooses one of their 2 dealt Goal cards to keep, the other is removed from the game.

On your turn, you get 2 Action Points to use.  The actions and their costs:

0 AP

  • Reveal new Wave cards – discard a Wax token, discard the Wave cards and deal out 4 new ones

1 AP

  • Take a Wave or Maneuver card from the Pier or the top of the deck.  Place this card in your hand OR play it to your board. If you drew from the top of the deck, the card is not revealed to the other players.
  • Play a card from your hand.  Wave and Trick cards are played facedown to the appropriate location. Paddle Out cards are played to the discard pile and you move your Surfer one space to the right.
  • Move your surfer – discard a Wax Token to move your surfer one space to the right
  • Take a Wave card from the discard pile – discard a Wax Token to search and take any card from the Wave Discard pile; in this case, all players get to see what you took.

2 AP

  • Activate a Public Goal – place one of the two Surfboard tokens below any of the four Public Goals signifying that this goal is in play for all players.  As there are only two surfboards, two goals at maximum out of the four will be in effect.
  • Gain one Wax Token from the supply

When you play a Wave card, it goes facedown on your board. They can only be played to above or to the right of your Surfer token.  A Wave is created by playing a series of adjacent wave cards on your board, but the wave must get smaller as it approaches the shore (the left side); so numbers must be equal or less going Right to Left.   At the end of the game, you’ll score a single wave from your board.

Trick cards are played face down above your player board; each will score points based on the criteria listed on the card.  They can only be played to above or to the right of your Surfer token. You may play a Trick over an empty Wave space, but there must be a Wave underneath a Trick by the end of the game in order to score points for the Trick.  

Paddle Out cards are played to the discard pile, and you move your Surfer one space to the right.  

After every player’s turn, update the Pier.  First, if there is a card in the rightmost space, discard it. Then slide both rows to the right and then deal out new cards to the empty spaces on the left of each row.

Continue taking turns until the last card is drawn from the Maneuver deck.  Play will continue until the end of the current round so that all players have the same number of turns.  (The Maneuver discard pile will be shuffled to provide the same number of Maneuver cards on the pier for all players in the final round).

Before scoring, each player can clean up their board by discarding any Wave and Trick cards played to the right of their Surfer Token.  Additionally, any Trick cards without a Wave card underneath them are discarded as well.  Now calculate your points

Wave cards – If necessary, move your surfer left until it is under a Wave, then flip over the wave card above the space.  Move the surfer leftwards and keep revealing Wave cards.  Keep going until you reveal a card which is higher than the previous (wipeout!), hit an empty space, or hit the end of the board.  If you wipeout, discard the larger wave card as well as all Wave and Trick cards to the left of the wipeout.  If you hit an empty space, keep the final wave card and then discard everything else to the left.  Now, score points as shown underneath the remaining Wave cards.

  • Sets – in your single Scoring wave, score 30/50/80/120 points for 3/4/5/6 cards in a row of the same value
  • Runs – in your single Scoring wave, score 20/30/50/80 points for 3/4/5/6 cards in a row of ascending order
  • Trick Cards – Look at the criteria on the card and score points if those conditions exist
  • Public Goals – look at the activated Public Goals (it could be possible that none were activated) and score if you meet the criteria
  • Private Goals – reveal your Private Goal, and score it if you meet the criteria

The player with the most points wins.  Ties broken in favor of the highest numbered Wave card on a player board.

My thoughts on the game

The Perfect Wave gives you a nice game with a little hidden press-your-luck element to it.  Over the course of the game, you have to try to judge how far you are willing to play wave cards as well as how far you’re willing to swim your surfer guy out.  You have to have all the things work out right or else you will have wasted your efforts OR be left with nothing to do but draw cards and hope you get numbers high enough for you to play.  It’s an interesting balancing act to play through, and one which I certainly don’t feel like I have mastered yet after my first few plays.

I like the way that you have choices between drawing Trick or Wave cards.  You can choose cards you need from the Market- but if you do, then everyone knows what you have (and what you might be trying to collect later).  You can also take cards from the facedown deck, and if you do, those cards stay hidden from your opponents which might give you a slight advantage as your play might be harder to predict…  

The Public Goals offer an interesting decision.  You really have to decide if you’re going to bite the bullet or not to activate one. I suppose you could wait it out and hope that someone else chooses the one that you want, but you definitely run the risk that your preferred goal isn’t chosen.  But man, the cost of a whole turn is a big ask.  So, you’ll definitely have to consider your options carefully, though a goal worth 50 points might be worth a whole turn in the grand scheme of things.

The components are nice – I like the long fold out boards and the artwork is done in a chill laid back style.  Of note, the insert is an interesting change, made of what appears to be compressed paper instead of the de rigeur plastic vacuum tray.   The rules are also printed on a matte paper, and there is a FSC logo on the back proving that it is paper made from responsible sources.  Certainly these moves towards sustainability in the hobby should be applauded. Tubular!

One thing I would recommend is to carefully punch the chits out.  We had a few of them tear as we punched them out.  Not sure if that was just our copy or a miscut on all of them.  It’s not a big deal, and once we realized it, we slowly punched out the rest and had no issues.  Otherwise, everything looks and feels great.

The Perfect Wave is a fairly easygoing game that rewards you for good planning and presents you with a big risk/reward decision on how far out to push your cards and your surfer.  Our games have been 30-40 minutes long, and I’m enjoying working my way up from being a Barney or a kook at the game and hopefully progressing to some level of awesomeness.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Steph H
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

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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