One of our biggest surprises of Origins 2018 was getting our hands on a copy of Reef from Next Move Games. Reef is very colorful, easy to learn and challenging to master. So let’s grab some cards and build the best coral reef around.
Players are given a 4 x 4 player board and 2 random cards to start the game. You’ll also take 1 piece of each color of coral and add it to the center of the board. On your turn you will take a new card from the 4 available in the center of the table or play a card from your hand. Most of the game is based on how much you challenge yourself with the cards that you pick up. Since your hand is limited to 4 cards, you have to choose wisely.
One Card, Multiple Uses
Each card in Reef has a two areas that you’ll focus on. On the top of the card, you get the two pieces of colorful coral that are pictured. These are taken from the supply in the middle of the table and can be placed anywhere on your board after playing the card. At the bottom of the card, you are given scoring criteria. It may show three red coral going diagonally scores 4 points or two green coral sitting side-by-side scores 2 points. If you meet this criteria, you score those victory points at the end of your turn.
In Reef you’ll be collecting cards so you can setup your board to maximize scoring. Sometimes the bottom of the card is completely worthless to you but you really need the coral that the top of the card gives you. The gameplay is very simple but requires you to strategize for big scores. Players can’t just settle with earning 2 or 3 points on their turn.
Reef is a light game but carries enough of a challenge that you’ll come back again and again. The chunky plastic pieces of coral are so inviting and feels like a kid’s building block. These pieces of coral can be stacked up to 4 high and cards allow you to score based on the color that is at the top of the stack. Designer Emerson Matsuuchi did a fantastic job of creating a light, family-friendly game that has a bit of a challenge. I think the joy of this game is in how quick and simple the game plays. Each time we play Reef, someone at the table always suggests we play one more game.
A Beautiful Gateway Game
I would place this in the same category as some of the great gateway games that have brought people into hobby gaming. Reef has loads of charm and has been a great fit for both kids and adults to play.
Victory points are counted using tokens valued at 1, 3, 5, 10 and 20 points. The game ends when you run out of one color of coral in the supply or there are not enough cards to refill in the middle of the table. The components are really well made and all the cardboard is thick and durable. The plastic coral pieces are so nice and have a weight to them that stands out from other games that may have cardboard tiles. This is the second game from Next Move and feels like they took just as much care creating this as they did with Azul.
I think that some people will cast judgment on Reef based on the look of the components and this would be a mistake for such a great game. Before playing my first game, I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t provide enough challenge. I’m so glad that I was wrong about this!
Whether you’re picking this up for your family or your weekly gaming group, Reef will be a welcome addition to your shelf.
Head over to your local game store or purchase Reef on Amazon today.
- Excellent components throughout
- Easy to teach gameplay with enough depth to play over and over
- Very accessible for both kids and adults
- May get overlooked by some gamers due to its playful presentation
- Wish the game had a better box insert