Review: Coldwater Crown

Coldwater Crown - The River

I never understood the people who sported the “I’d Rather Be Fishing” bumper sticker on their vehicle. The thought of sitting in the sun, tossing a fishing line into the water and inevitably catching nothing sounds like the worst day ever. I openly dislike fishing. Can a board game about fishing from Bellwether Games change my mind on this incredibly boring sport?

Worker Placement with a Twist

In Coldwater Crown, players are competing to catch the biggest fish in the three bodies of water located on a central map. There are additional awards given to players who collect specific fish, target weights and “master angler” cards. The game does a great job of giving you a steady progression of points during the hour that you play.

Each fish has a specific body of water they can be caught in. You can fish on The Shore, in The Lake or in The River. Each area will have a supply of different fish of various weights. The fish’s weight is listed on the back of the card and has a weight range on the front of the card. This fits the theme so well because you won’t know the exact weight of your fish until you make the catch.

The individual player boards look like tackle boxes and contain 4 spaces to that can hold bait. The 6 different colors of bait look like gems, but let’s ignore that for now. On your turn you place a wooden token on a colored icon on the fishing map. This gives you the ability to remove bait of that color from your player board. If one of the 4 spaces become empty because of this action, then you catch a fish in that location that corresponds to the space that the bait came from (numbered 3-6).

Coldwater Crown game board

There’s a lot of strategy behind getting rid of the right bait at the right time. If you’re shooting to catch a fish at The Shore, you need to hold on to a purple or green bait since they share that location’s color. At the end of your turn, you retrieve a different token from the board and take the action that goes with that color. Visiting the port on your turn will allow you to refill your tackle box by randomly drawing gems from a black bag.

The mechanics here are basically “worker placement” using a single token that can give you an advantage based on whether the token is showing the number 1 or the number 2. It only takes a couple rounds to get a feel for the actions that you will take each turn. After you get this process down, it becomes like second nature.

Fishing Really Can be Fun

Coldwater Crown truly feels like a fishing competition. There will be times when you cannot access a body of water because someone else placed a token there. If you don’t manage your bait properly, you’ll end up wasting a turn and having nothing to show for it. Efficiency becomes key as the other players around you start catching fish every turn.

The “master angler” cards that are available add an additional challenge that can earn you points for collecting sets of cards or four different cards. It’s been a blast to try new strategies to earn points and see how I measure up to the competition.

Coldwater Crown tackle box

Coldwater Crown does an excellent job of giving the edge to the player that manages their resources well. I find myself focusing on catching fish but neglecting to refill my tackle box. I waste so many turns because I’m not paying attention to this detail.

Victory points are awarded in each body of water based on the final weight of the fish they caught in each area. Duplicate fish are thrown back and only the biggest fish get counted. Players will look around and see what everyone else is catching so they can stay ahead of the competition. There’s a tension in Coldwater Crown when players are doing well and I absolutely love that feeling.

There are a couple fiddly mechanics that new players can forget their first time playing the game. The best way to experience Coldwater Crown is by having someone who has played before teach everyone the basics. None of these are difficult rules, just small things that actually matter from turn-to-turn. I wish the pieces of bait were wooden worms or lures instead of gems. This is the one thing that seems out of line with such a well-themed game.

Coldwater Crown bait

Our kids have enjoyed playing the game and caught on to the mechanics quickly. After a couple minutes explaining the rules, everyone at the table was reeling in fish and chasing points in different ways. The game is probably suited best for kids 10+ that have some experience with gaming.

I’ve got to say that Coldwater Crown has to be one of the most underrated games in the hobby today. This game is a solid example of how gameplay can change the mind of a person that may not connect with a specific theme. Never in my life did I think I would want to proudly display a board game about fishing! Bellwether Games has knocked it out of the park and made me (possibly) rethink my opinion on fishing. Will you see me out at the lake this weekend on a bass boat? No way. But, I’m down for some competitive fishing in Coldwater Crown.

Grab your tackle box and pick up a copy of Coldwater Crown at your local game store. You can also purchase this game through Amazon today.

Highs

  • The weight of each fish fits the theme so well
  • Feels like a fishing competition
  • Simple mechanics that have enough depth to play over and over

Lows

  • The gem tokens as bait feel out of place
  • Players need a couple rounds to understand the mechanics