The theme of fishing isn’t something I’ve wanted in my board games, but somehow Coldwater Crown still holds a special place in my heart (and on our family game shelf). It surprised me that a game could make me care about a theme that I had absolutely no interest in. This year, Bellwether Games is heading back to the water with new mechanics and a very different feel for their new game Freshwater Fly.
In Freshwater Fly, players will cast different colored flies into the stream in order to catch a variety of beautiful fish. Players will reel their fish in using an incredibly well-designed player board that also contains end game scoring bonuses. The first player to catch 7 fish brings the game to an end.
How to Play the Game
Players will draft dice to do one of 3 actions on their turn. You will use these die faces to cast into the water, reel the fish in, and earn finesse points to help along the way. Designer Brian Suhre did a fantastic job of using a drifting mechanic where the line moves downstream for multiple opportunities to snag a fish.
Freshwater Fly uses a set of 4 “strike” cards in order to determine if you set the hook and make the catch. These strike cards are flipped over when the casting token is in the same column as a “hatch” token that matches the players fly. It may sound like I’m speaking another language, but trust me, this system works really well.
Casting into a column on the right side of the board can give you multiple opportunities for getting a fish on your line. You can also risk casting on the exact fish you want and hoping the top “strike” card reveals a fish, allowing you to set the hook. I found times when it was worth pushing my luck to get the fish that I needed versus just catching just some random fish downstream.
The fish in Freshwater Fly have point values that are face down on the board, and each one has a difficulty assigned to it using a color bar and icon. Green indicates a simple fish, dark gray is medium, and yellow is difficult. These fish cards will also have a strength value that will decrease the value of the drafted die as you reel it in. All of this fits the theme so well and makes you feel like you’re fighting to get the most difficult fish reeled in.
I’ve got to point out that even though this is a prototype, this is one of the nicest pre-production games we’ve ever seen. The board looks beautiful, the tokens are nice, and the player boards are incredible. Seeing what Freshwater Fly looks like as a prototype gives me confidence that the finished product will be top-notch.
This Game Has Us Hooked
Each player board contains a rondel in the style of a fishing reel where the player will draft dice to reel the fish in. Most of the spaces on the rondel give the player a perk or bonus. One space will actually set you back as you reel in a more difficult fish. In each game we played, this mechanic worked so well. The player who caught the more difficult fish spent multiple rounds reeling in the fish while another player caught and reeled in two smaller and easier fish. The players who aim to catch the tougher fish will have to weigh the benefits of spending their time on a single fish. Many times, the cost is worth it. You can even charge your “finesse” on your player board to make it easier to reel in a big catch.
While everyone is shooting to be the first one to catch 7 fish, each player has different scoring bonuses based on their board. One player is working on sets of Rainbow and Brook trout while another is trying to catch fish using 4 different colored flies. These variable scoring goals keep the game fresh and keep everyone competing without chasing the same exact goal.
Yet again, Brian Suhre and Bellwether Games have done such a great job making me care about fishing. Freshwater Fly has more of a focus on strategically pulling the fish in rather than the focus on worker placement of Coldwater Crown. The use of the “strike” cards gives you odds to work with as you cast downstream. Each mechanic in this game is polished and works so well. There is enough room on your shelf for both of these games, even if fishing isn’t your thing.
Head over to the Kickstarter campaign that is going on now through April 25, 2019, to reel in a copy of this great game.
Bellwether Games provided us with a prototype copy of Freshwater Fly ahead of the Kickstarter campaign. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.