Aquatica Board Game Review

Aquatica is a strategy board game that is a hand management and the engine building game, designed by Ivan Tuzovsky, and released in 2019 by Cosmodrome Games in partnership with numerous companies, including Arcane Wonders.

Players: 2-4

Game Time: 30-60min

Complexity: Low

Age: 12+

Release Year: 2019

This game allows you to become one of the 8 rulers of the ocean or sea kings. Aquatica is a board game with a similar theme to Abyss. The goal of this board game is to conquer locations, complete goals, recruit characters, and gather resources to build your aquatic empire. Players take turns playing with cards and taking actions in order to play the game. Included in the game is a mechanic that works with Manta tokens. Collecting and flipping these manta game pieces, a player can get certain abilities and powers that allow them to take certain actions on their turn. The players try to score the most prestige or victory points by the end of the game in order to win. Acquiring deep sea locations through either conquest or trade allows the players to to score points. Another way to score points in this board game is to purchase characters. These characters will give the player prestige points as well. The third way to win at the game of Aquatica is to complete the goals. On the playing board itself there are four default goals. But this game comes with six other goals that can be worked towards in order to win.

1. Fun

In short, this board game is fun. The game itself is played with a deck of location cards, character cards, and unique king cards representing the ocean kings. Aquatica is an engine builder game. This is where the gameplay shines. Like a real engine. Every turn you take has lots of intricate pieces fitting together to make the engine run. A huge amount of fun is to be found in increasingly complex combos that you will be playing in order to score the points you need to win. From developing deep strategies in order to acquire location cards and character cards and flipping those iconic manta tokens. You will be able to build up and pull off impressive and lengthy combos. Pulling off these intricate combos to complete the goals feels amazing. You truly feel like you are one of the ocean kings ruling over one of the underwater kingdoms.

2. Replayability

This board game is definitely replayable. You can play the 4 default goals. Or you can use the 6 double-sided goal tiles to customise your gameplay to achieve a wide variety of goal set ups. The possibility of playing for different goals that you can decide on every time you play the game means that each game will be different. You will need to make use of different deep strategies each time you play in order to win. Being able to change it up like this and not play the same goals over and over again makes this game’s replayability very high. Aquatica is the perfect kind of game for a family game night. And with an average game time of 60 minutes, you will be playing for hours on end.

3. Player Interaction

The player interaction in Aquatica is not necessarily very competitive. But that will depend on the players that you are playing with, of course. The real fun in this game is those fancy combos. When the players are trying to out play each other in regards to the combos, this game comes alive. Aquatica is the kind of game that will have you enjoying the way your fellow players play as much as your own. There is very little in the way of interaction with other players’ hands. So, for this board game you will have to manage your own hand of cards better than everyone else right up until the end game in order to win. However, it would be interesting to see if the publishers of this board game will release any future expansions beyond the Cold Waters expansion that will allow players to maybe sabotage the hands and combos of the other three players at the table.

4. Quality

This game has behind it some solid and original mechanics as well as decently made boards, cards, manta tokens. The quality of the boards themselves is good. The boards are sturdier than one might assume them to be, given that they are cardboard. The boards feel smooth and without any undesirable manufacturing errors. Although the design of the printed sticker on cardboard lends itself a bit too closely to a situation where the board sticker might start peeling off. This can of course be remedied easily if the owners look after the game well enough and make sure it does not get damaged.  Aquatica comes with five boards. One main game board and four player boards. The cardboard that these boards are made out of is decent and will last a while. The four player boards are expertly designed for the players to be able to slide up their location cards in order to gain the abilities for those awesome combos. The cards slide up smoothly and stop at the right spot without going through the board. So you need not worry about fumbling to try and get the cards out in order to score them. The scoring slots themselves are nicely placed in order for you to get an idea of both what is in your chest as well as your discard pile.

5. Art & Style

The first thing that stands out with the Aquatica bard game is its incredible art. There are few games with such a visceral art style. One look at the fully set up board, and you will be transported to the kingdoms of the deep before you know it. The colour palette used in the art for this board game is expertly wielded to assault your eyes with unimaginably beautiful imagery. From the mediterranean greens to the deep blue hues the imagery will have you dreaming of lost shipwrecks, coral reefs teeming with life, and underwater cities with a few sharks lurking about, the art in this board game is an experience completely on its own. The only thing regarding the visuals that could be worked on is the colour of the purple manta tokens. It can be hard to see what the icon is on the purple manta game pieces. Under certain lighting the purple print blends in a bit too well with the colour of the plastic manta. But other than that there is virtually nothing to complain about regarding the art and style of this board game. The amazing art in Aquatica was created by Irina Kuzmina, Andrew Modestov, Oleg Proshin, Artur Varenyev, and Marat Zakirov. And they have done a stellar job with the art for this board game. From the epic design of the characters, to the immersive depictions of the oceanic locations, the art in this game will certainly be something to remember.

6. Our Rating

When it comes to our overall rating, Aquatica, along with the Cold Waters expansion, is the kind of board game that you will definitely want to buy and play over and over again. The gameplay lends itself well to being a relaxing game as well as a highly competitive one. The varied customisable ways you can complete goals means that you will have the freedom to decide how you want to win on each playthrough. This is an exceptionally well designed game. Being able to strategise and pull off those complex and intricate combos to secure your rule over the underwater kingdoms, is one of the highlights of this game and promises to challenge you and entertain you. Trying to manage your hand well to ensure that you discard the right cards at the right time to your discard pile will also bring its own challenges.

From what we have seen the board game itself should last for a very long time if you are able to look after all the boards, cards, and manta tokens. Once again a special mention needs to be given to the art of this board game. Aquatica might even rival Abyss with its art. No one would blame you if you took out the location cards just to look at them. There are plenty of people that will compare this board game to abyss. And rightly so. But this game stands out on its own as a fantastic game with unique mechanics requiring you to develop  and pull off deep strategies, all packaged in a simple gameplay style that is very intuitive and does not overwhelm you at all. For this board game review we will be giving Aquatica a rating of 8.5 out of 10 for its fantastic playability and incredibly immersive art style. 

If a game of nautical conquest is something you wish, then the Aquatica board game is definitely the game you will want to put on your Christmas wishlist.