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Aquatica Board Game Review

A few weeks ago, we did an overview and first impressions of the components for Aquatica and were very impressed with it all. From the box insert to the board and Manta pieces, there were very few things we had issues with when getting the game unboxed. But a good looking game can only get you so far – how much fun is Aquatica? Let’s take a look!


In Aquatica, players will head beneath the waves to play cards, get more cards, get bonuses, and so much more. Each player begins with 4 Manta Rays and a hand of 6 cards, and will get an additional character that has specific powers and abilities. In a way, the game has a bit of asymmetry based on that 7th card. Players will play cards from their hand to perform actions, which could be one of a number of different things.

On your turn, you can use cards to buy or conquer locations. When you buy a location, it will slide into your player board until the first available bonus is showing at the very top, and now becomes available to you for later turns. Bonuses include additional coins for buying more stuff, conquer values to help conquer locations, and more. When a bonus is used, you slide the corresponding card further into your player board so that the next bonus, if available, is showing at the top. More expensive locations have more bonuses, and can be used for longer.

Turns can be manipulated by Manta Ray tokens, which can provide you additional funds, conquer values, and more. Conquering cards works similarly to buying cards, but use a different type of icon to obtain.

What I like here is that some cards have blank bonus spots on them which need to be dealt with to continue getting bonuses further down the card. Some cards in your hand will help facilitate this movement, but it adds a nice wrinkle to the games mechanics that makes you try to decide where and when you want to play and obtain certain cards.


Once a card is pushed all the way in, it can be scored using a score-card action. The card is then removed and placed in your score pile, while also opening up a new slot for brand new cards. There are other bonuses you can receive as well, including getting a new Manta Ray tokens.

I love how card cycling in this game works. After a while, the locations available on the board might not be as appealing, so when there are less than 4 locations face-up, you can Scout and move those further up the main board, making them cheaper to attack. Then brand new locations are placed, providing more options for players. I like the idea of making old, less desirable locations cheaper as someone plays a card with the Scout action because the cheaper price to conquer might make them a bit more appealing.

This is a deck building game in a way, so purchasing more cards is also an option. The difference between this an other deck building games is that you are never drawing a specific number of cards. Instead, you begin the game with all your cards in your hand, and as you play cards, they end up in your discard pile. Each player has a specific card that allows them to pick up their discard pile and flip any used Manta Ray tokens to their unused side. This is a really great mechanic, and as time goes on, the amount of choice you have just increases and increases.

The last really great mechanic I enjoy is scoring objectives. There are always 4 objectives at the top of the board, and these can be changed game-to-game using discs included. Once a player meets one of the 4 objectives, they can take one of their coloured Manta Ray tokens and “discard” it from the game by placing it on the left-most available space for that objective. Yes, you loose that Manta Ray token for the rest of the game, but there are some big points to be earned with these objectives.

I’m really impressed with how Aquatica plays. The various mechanics work really well together, and there is a good amount of strategy here. I like choosing which cards to play and when, which to buy, which to conquer, and so much more. But it’s also so easy to teach. There isn’t a ton going on Aquatica, so it only takes a brief 10-15 minutes to get new players up to speed. It’s a great filler game for game night as well, with a relatively short playtime of 30-45 minutes in our opinion.



Sure, if you have someone taking a long time to make decisions on their turn, that time is going to increase. But even with new players, the game was much quicker than I was expecting, and that’s not a bad thing.


If you love adventuring in the ocean and want something that not only looks beautiful, but is great to play as well, we highly recommend Aquatica. There is one expansion for the game out now, and another hitting store shelves soon!


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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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