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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 60 minutes 3-5

Designer(s): Thomas Liesching

Publisher(s): Rio Grande Games, Zoch

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Product Description

In the wild rapids of the Niagara River, fearless canoers battle the water and each other to collect gems along the riverbank. Of course, the most valuable gems are found furthest down-river, close to the waterfall. Yes, there is a waterfall, and careless canoers can fall over the waterfall. Also, players must return collected gems to land in order to be counted. At the end, the player who collects the most value in gems is the winner.

Players play on a 3D board, representing the Niagara River and the falls. Canoes float down the river as the river flows, but players can row their canoes up-river or down-river to collect gems, to return them to shore, and to avoid the waterfall. This game is great fun for the family, but is strategic and gives players the chance to plan and steal from one another.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2006
Mensa Best Mind Game Award
Best Mind Game, 2005
Spiel des Jahres
Game of the Year, 2005
Deutscher Spiele Preis
2nd place, 2005

Product Information


  • 1 game board
  • 12 river discs
  • 10 canoes
  • 35 paddle cards
  • 1 rainmaker marker
  • 1 life preserver
  • 40 gems
  • 1 rule booklet
Niagara has the following expansions available:

Spirits of Niagara English language edition of Flussgeister am Niagara Out of Stock

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.2 in 13 reviews

by Joe Blow
A Decent Family Strategy Game For Older Kids And Adults
May 23, 2010

A fun game to play with your family, but has it's downsides as well. First off, the game and pieces themselves are all nicely made and very appealing. I think the younger kids will enjoy the look of the game more than they will the gameplay. We have played this game numerous times and it seems every time we play, we still need to refer to the rules before playing and several times during gameplay. I think my wife and I enjoy playing more than the kids, as it is more of a strategy game than anything else. Our teenager also enjoys playing more than our 10 yearold, but the game seems to take such a long time to play that about halfway through both of them tend to get bored and lose interest.

We also have the Spirits of Niagara companion set that goes with this game and it can add a little more excitement to the game, but is not necessary to play. The rules are not well spelled out for the companion set, so we don't use most of those pieces. They also make the game quite a bit more difficult for the younger gamers.

With most games, the first time you play it, you can judge whether or not you will actually have fun playing it, but that doesn't seem to be the case with this game. The first time you play it you will not have too much fun because you will be worried about following the rules and will not get involved with strategy of it. The more you play, the more fun you will have at it. Will everyone enjoy this game?...No, but it can be exciting and a good game to play every once in awhile. I would recommend playing it on a game night with other games, but that can also be a problem if the game takes too long to play, which it often does. If you are looking for just a fast, fun family game to play on family night with younger kids, then this is not it, but if you are looking for a challenging game that takes time to learn and can hold the adults interests, then this is the right game.

Overall this is a good solid game for families, but it is definitely more of a strategy game that is more fun for the adults and older kids to play.

by Matt Hiske
One of the Best
November 26, 2007

Wonderful game! The most innovative and creative game in years. Family and friends will love playing this guaranteed! Easy enough to play with children and strategic enough for adults.

by Brad N.
The more we play it, the better it gets
March 12, 2007

The first time we played this game, we were all impressed with the aesthetics of the game. The colorful gems and canoes were great and the discs going over the waterfall are very neat. We were either paying too much attention to the game's good looks or not enough attention to the rules because we all agreed that the first game was pretty clumsy.

We tried it again a few weeks later and everyone enjoyed the game much more. The rules are not complex, but there are a decent number of "you can only do this when that" type of rules and new players tend to forget them or get a bit confused. Now, when we play the game everyone has a good time and employs different strategies to get (and steal) the right gems. And, now that we are all comfortable with the rules, the game is no longer clumsy.

With some members of my gaming group, having a pretty game helps. Of course, the game play is the most important thing to everyone, but a good-looking game is always nice. This game brings both to the table. It's not rocket science, but there is more than enough strategy to keep this light game very interesting.

by N.
My favourite TWO player game ever
November 16, 2006

The manufacturers sell this as a 3-5 player game but by making one change to the victory conditions, it works fantastically well with two. Remove the possibility of winning with 4 identical gems - you've either got to get one of each of the 5 colours, or 7 of any colour.

This game is only fun if you're really unpleasant to your opponents. As just one member of my family is as nasty as I am, we can only play with 2 - but it's far and away our favourite 2- player game, full of second-guessing, triple-bluff and stacks of surprises. Read your opponent's mind slightly wrong and certain victory turns into ignominious defeat in a couple of moves. We've got about 30 German games and this is the fastest-moving, the most brain-challenging, and the most fun of all of them.

Just couldn't make this one fun...
May 23, 2006

We played Niagra once again - in an attempt to find out where the fun was in the game, and my husband and I finished with the impression that it still just doesn't work. My 10 year old enjoys the game, maybe because he hasn't lost yet, but he does like the pieces and the movement of the little boats along the river and over the falls.

I searched again tonight for some other variation of the game that would help it to move along faster or with a more clear strategy. The cards add a small element of calculation, and maybe I just don't get it, but most of the game is still random. It seems to take forever to finish and the rules are complicated enough that you have to refer to the rules brochure over and over again. The rules are not simple or intuitive.

If anyone thinks of a way to make this a drinking game for kayakers, let me know... I might be able to sell it at the next rodeo.

Not what the hype would suggest
May 22, 2006

More a comment than a review but after playing several times I think I understand the many negative reviews of this game. I love this game but some of the other players have not been as enamoured. The reason for this is that although the rules are simple and the box and river gimmick are cute the game does not play like a "family" game. First time players focus on the pickup and drop off of gems and get concerned over flow of the river. After a couple of plays you realise that this is administrative half of the game and the real gameplay comes in second guessing your opponent so you can steal gems off them and timing plays with your position in the playing order. This calls for aggressive gameplay and concentration on card counting is quite an advantage. In my experience "family" game players do not like negative foil the opposition tactics and do not like to have to concentrate on players moves for the whole game and therefore the challenge, and interest, in this game is lost to them. Gamers on the other hand see the gimmick of the game and pass it off as a light family game.

So, the key to enjoyment is understanding that Niagara is a pretty game, light on rules, but medium in terms of strategy. Sell it to kids based on the style and funky river movement but make sure older participants are aware that there is more to gameplay here than a mindless 'roll and move' game.

More than meets the eye
May 17, 2006

We thought this was going to be a VERY light game but were surprised to find a great deal of tactical strategy and card planning involved and still a great amount of FUN. As for the small cards mentioned previously, we agree, while not a problem for us, in the past for other games we have used cheap Magic the Gathering cards with scanned paste ons of the true game cards to make bigger cards, as for the cloud cards played last turn, yes i can see that being a problem, wasnt in our games, but a variant of maybe only the first cloud card played on the last turn takes its normal effect the other cloud cards lose a collected piece or play one round less and play that a cloud card is played with a number card. We havent had a problem so we will play it as is and have great fun with it.

Great subtle strategy
March 04, 2006

I have played this game a dozen times now and I thoroughly enjoy it. Niagara infuses strategy with a bit of luck. I won't go into the rules of the game but more of the playability.

The game is great for families and those that are introducing new games to novice players. The game can be finished fairly quickly (less than 30 minutes or can last as long as 60 minutes). Niagara keeps each player involved because each round is played fairly quickly. After each player chooses their paddle and then plays it, the river moves. Where your own boat ends up is the unpredictable part.

The cloud is the interesting part. By moving it in the plus direction the river moves at a faster pace. In the minus direction, it moves at a slower pace. Without fail, in mixed company, the women move the cloud in the minus direction and the men move it in the plus direction. I guess it's the risk taker part of men that want the river to move at an accelerated pace. As you play the game more, the cloud gets placed at different times (usually when your boats are out of the water) by the different players.

There has been no clear repeatable winner when we have played. The game mixes its unique qualities with enough strategy to make it a thoroughly enjoyable game.

Niagara is a great game!!!
October 01, 2005

Niagara is a strategy game, and I disagree with the previous review stating that it wasn't that fun. I found everything in this game to be creative, well designed and well thought out. We did have a little trouble understanding the game at the beginning, but once my friends and I discovered how the river works and how you can only use each paddle once until you have used them all, it became an interesting strategy and difficult game to out think your opponents. Understanding the rules is important to making this game equal and fun (knowing that stealing gems can only happen going upstream). We loved it and will continue to play and enjoy it for a long time.

Overhyped and Underdeveloped!
September 18, 2005

I'll start off by saying everything about this game is a beautiful production -- the board, the river, the bits are all incredible. The artwork is extremely well done, and the kids especially liked the little wooden boats and real looking gems. Setup was easy, less than 2 minutes setting up the entire board and bits. 5 different color gems, and 7 of each of them, and each player has 7 paddle cards that control movement and within those 1 cloud card which controls river speed. Each player gets 2 wooden boats in their selected color.

Two complaints about the bits I have are the cards, they are TINY in size, which is fine for kids, but my giant meathooks had tremendous trouble handling them -- this was a major problem for me and detracted from the game! The other complaint is the clear river disks, cute idea, but they didn't think it out very well. When you have boats on the disks, and try to slide them, often the boats fall off and get jumbled up along the shore and sometimes move to other tiles messing up the placement and confusing people! What they should have done is make the boats smaller, and the river discs should have had borders to contain the boats! I'm shocked such a simple change was overlooked by the team behind this.

After some fumbling with a few basic questions to the rules, and a quick run over to the PC for a printing of a clarification, we were off and running. As with any game, the first time out is mostly to get a feel for the game, and study the actions and playstyle needed for that game. This game was no different, despite a billing as a light game, there are a few special movement rules that need to be followed closely for the game to come together.

About 25% through the game it was clear none of us were having much fun, I couldn't put my finger on where the malfunction in our funmachine was occurring, but it appeared to be related to how grossly fast the river pushes you downstream, and everyone immediately playing higher number cards in an effort to paddle farther, which has the side effect of making the river faster! So our first 3-4 turns were spent frantically trying to save our canoes, rather than enjoy the game and think of strategies. The river is essential a wildcard in the game that nobody can control to any great extent, and all three of us found this luck factor frustrating -- at least in this first game. 50% of the way through the game with everyone nearly tied, both kids wanted to quit and go play Emerald. Not good. Another factor the kids disliked was the theft aspect of stealing gems from other peoples boats, my son got rather disgusted when I stole his red gem and made a run for the victory. The game wrapped up with my victory by getting one of each colored gem.

Another silly aspect is the cloud cards, if you play a cloud card, then you can't play a paddle card, so everyone just holds onto their cloud card, and the last round is usually mostly clouds! This seems like a poorly thought out rule in my opinion, the cloud card should be independent of the paddle cards, and used for strategic action at key times.

All of us were tired tonight, which may have contributed to our lackluster play session, I can barely keep my eyes open for some reason tonight myself! With the session over, I began to examine what caused our misfire with this well rated game -- was it us, or was it the game? Did we have too few players? The rules state you can have 3-5 players, but the website for the game states 2-5 players, but with only 3 players it was clearly a problem with people playing too predictably, and too few boats on the river making plays for things, we all seemed to either be A) Riding on the same river section as the next guy, or B) Passing each other up and downstream ferrying our gems home or going to pick them up. I actually think much of the blame is that this game just isn't ideally suited to only 3 players, and probably is a 4 player game (5 might be too hectic?). Another rule which was mysterious, was that the gems are all the same value, yet in the rulebook and even on the box it says "The closer to the falls, the more valuable the gems!", huh? Were there some rule changes to the game at the last minute? Scoring might have been more interesting if there was values associated with each gem, why was this changed?

It is tough to fully grade a game based on one session, but up to this point almost every game we've played was rated pretty solid after the first session except for this game. There just seems to be too many holes in the ruleset, and the river system seems contrived and not well conceived -- it seems gimmicky. I'm really baffled at the good reviews this one is getting, and the hype surrounding it. In my opinion the fancy board and wonderful bits do NOT save this game from mediocrity -- because right now I have little desire to play this game again after the initial session. While there DOES seem to be a good measure of strategy in the game, a bit of that gets washed away with the rapid river movement, and the rest of it was too hard to find because I was fumbling with the gnome sized cards and trying to prevent the boats from falling off the disks!

My youngest purchased this with his own money and was horribly disappointed, and said "eBay it, and get me my own copy of Emerald". Huh?!? Poor kid... My other son at least said "Lets play it 1-2 more times before passing judgement, maybe we'll get it next round.". To be honest, the flawed rules, missing elements (gem values), and the annoying bits (disks and gnome cards) are more than I'm probably willing to handle for another game -- I think my youngest is right, this one should hit eBay. As a first effort by a new game designer, this isn't a bad go of it, but it definitely shows as a first effort because of what I view are basic flaws in the game design to preclude it from any stature beyond average. I'd rather clip my toenails than play this.

Well deserving of Spiel des Jahres 2005 and Mensa Best Mind Game
August 01, 2005

I agree with the previous 2 reviews of this game regarding its value as a family game and an adult strategy game -- as well as the attractiveness of the game board and bits. I purchased this game recently and played it a few times over the past week with a group comprised of adults, teenagers, and children. We loved it!

The rules were easy to grasp and we never had to refer back to them during the course of the game. I won't go into the rules in depth, but briefly, you have 2 canoes that you maneuver up- and down-river while you try to get gems that are stashed on the sides of the river bank back to shore. A player must choose carefully which paddle cards to play in order to avoid going over the falls (which, by the way, is great fun to watch) and maximize opportunities for picking up and/or stealing gems. A player who pays close attention to the paddle cards that other players are playing (and have not played yet), as well as the gems they are trying to get will have a greater chance of winning.

And, speaking of winning, this game has the novelty of allowing for more than one winner. The rules state that even after a person brings all of the required gems back to shore on his/her turn, the other players can still play the remainder of the round. If any of these players can also get the needed gems to the shore by the end of their turn, they tie for a win!

This game may not be as "brain-burning" as The Princes of Florence or Tigris & Euphrates, but I think the game is still rich in strategy and tactics and rewards the most alert players. I think it is well deserving of the German Game of the Year 2005 and Mensa's Best Mind Game. This game is becoming one of my favorites.

Terrific family game!
June 25, 2005
I recently ordered this game to take along on a beach vacation, and it quickly became a favorite for our kids (ages 10 and 13). While the rules are pretty straightforward, there is a fair bit of strategy involved in deciding which oar cards to play when, and which gems to seek. It is an attractive, well-made game, and the clear discs, which introduce the element of a river current, were a big hit -- particularly when they ended up carrying canoes over the "waterfall."
The pieces alone are worth a star.
February 08, 2005

With its cartoony artwork, you might confuse Niagara for a kids' game. And though it is easy to learn and play, it's not just for children.

Each player has two canoes that they row along the river above Niagara falls, trying to get gems on either side of the river. But they have to watch out for the current, which will push them towards the falls each turn. In addition to collecting gems, you can steal them, even from yourself, and you can change the weather, which changes the river's speed. There are also multiple victory conditions.

All of this adds up to a good game of trying to maximize your boats. Do you load up both and hope to make it back in one piece? Do you set up a "ferry" system and pass gems from one boat to the other? Or do you turn pirate and steal from everyone else? These kind of decisions make for a more thoughtful game than it first appears to be, though it's certainly not brain-straining.

Finally, as mentioned in the title, the bits for this game are great! The board is sturdy and actually uses the box as part of the setup. The canoes are nice wood pieces, the gems are multi-colored and irregularly shaped plastic, and the river itself is a series of transparent discs that are pushed through a channel to simulate the river's flow. Very high production quality here. Our whole group was impressed.

So I recommend Niagara. It's not as deep as other games, but it's not as simple as it looks either. And when the river gets crowded and chaotic, it's definitely a lot of fun.

Other Resources for Niagara:

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