Reef is a 2018 release from Next Move Games designed by Emerson Matsuuchi. This is the first game in my collection by Emerson, and I was quickly impressed by the quality of components and the brief, but well organized rule book. With the help of my kids we were able to punch, sort and ready to play in under 30 minutes, which is a great start for a family game, especially with younger children.
Reef is designed for 2-4 players, ages 8+ and plays in 30-45 minutes. As of this writing it’s rated 7.3 on Board Game Geek. Before we get into the game play, I played this with my wife and 2 kids (8 & 10) in approx 30 minutes. My 8 year old struggled with some of the strategy, but with a little assistance, she caught on quickly. My son is a seasoned board game veteran and had no issues picking this up. On issue was that my kids are easily distracted, but with the colorful stacking reef pieces, they were able to stay focused until it was their turn again without getting bored or wandering away.
Reef is played in a series of round as the individuals collect and play cards allowing them to gain pieces to expands their reef and build patterns that match the cards to score points. Each turn is pretty quick, the play either plays a card from their hard, scoring points (if applicable) and gaining pieces to expand their reef, or drawing a card from the middle to assist in planning for future turns. This continues until one of the 4 colored reef tokens are gone or the cards in the middle run out. The player with the highest points wins.
Initial Impressions / House Ruling
Probably the most confusing part of this game is planing and matching the patterns. Some are simple (2 next to each other, 3 in a row, etc.) where others require an additional criteria of height, that can need some additional explanation. Other than that, it’s pretty straight forward, I like ability to build over your reef to create new patterns, and collecting multiple cards in an effort to score multiple times for the patterns.
Each player starts with 2 cards, but most of the first few rounds were spent burning cards for the right pieces to build their reef, or collecting cards from the middle. This could be sped up by drafting a starting hand of 4 cards to help speed up the process, but would probably need to be balanced by reducing component counts or some other adjustment to bring it back into balance. This will be tested out in our next round of the game.
With a low cost (Approx $28) and a quick play time, this will stay on the shelf for awhile. It’s currently ranked #601 overall, #22 in Abstract games and #103 for family games. It has high reputability, though as the kids get older i could see selling it off in search of something with a little more weight to it. There is no real punishing mechanism (a small one for card choice) that could make it a little more interesting for adults, but for now it’ll settle in on the kids shelf.
What it teaches kids –
– Pattern Matching
– Planning Ahead
– Counting (Points Tracking)
– Light Strategy with the ability to take cards that others may be trying to match on.
Here’s how the ratings came in for the first round –
Me: 4/5 – “Quality components, colorful artwork, looking forward to playing again.”
The Girl: 5/5 – “It helps kids that are little count”
The Boy: 4/5 – “I think it’s a really game and it takes some strategy, but it’s not the best game I’ve ever played”