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Reef Encounter
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Reef Encounter

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 60-120 minutes 2-4

Designer(s): Richard Breese

Publisher(s): Z-Man Games, Asmodee North America

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Product Description

Reef Encounter is about life on a coral reef! Using polyp tiles, players grow different types of corals, which they can protect from being attacked by other corals through judicious placing of their four wooden shrimp. To be successful players must consume polyps from neighboring corals in order to acquire the "consumed" polyp tiles that are the key to the game. The consumed polyp tiles have a myriad of uses (and have a similar effect to the action points in games like Tikal and Java). Most importantly they can be used to flip over or lock the coral tiles, which determine the respective values of the different types of coral at the end of the game.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Best Advanced Strategy, 2007
International Gamers Awards
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2005

Product Information


  • 16 wooden shrimp
  • 20 wooden alga cylinders
  • 50 wooden larva cubes
  • 200 polyp tiles
  • 10 coral tiles
  • 4 parrotfish containers
  • 4 coral reef boards
  • 1 open sea board
  • 4 player screens
  • 4 turn action cards
  • 1 cloth bag
Reef Encounter has the following expansions available:

Reef Encounter of the Second Kind domestic edition Out of Stock

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.4 in 5 reviews

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Well Produced, beautiful, yet complex Masterpiece
February 24, 2009

When you see the cute painted shrimp with their little painted eyes, don't think you have a simple, "beer and pretzels" game. This game is complex and there is a great deal of skill involved in the play. It will take a few plays before the richness of this masterpiece becomes evident. Every move and decision is crucial.

Highly replayable. May scare off people who don't want to put a lot of time and concentration into their games (Both in the learning and the play).

Reef Encounter is more like calculus than biology
December 09, 2006

I truly enjoy advanced strategy games and rarely write a negative review of one, unfortunately Reef Encounter is that exception. My local gaming group - a lawyer and three IT professionals - put this game through its paces and after four games of trying to like it we all came to a unanimous conclusion. It's painfully complicated and we don't.

The concept is indeed different and the pieces are colorful. Coral reefs. OK, that hasn't been done before. But to say this is a game about coral reefs is to say El Grande is a game about Spain. It adds flavor to the game but is really just window dressing for the game mechanic underneath. Marine biologists beware....

The ultimate downside to this game is that at its heart it is a very complicated math equation, and once you finally get your head around the rules and the strategy you come to realize this math equation just isn't very fun. The path to victory is ultimately the same for everyone - devour the largest corals, lock in the biggest multipliers and score the most points. Unlike Puerto Rico or Merchants of Venice there just aren't many alternate paths to victory - the formula is the same for everyone. The guy with the best head for equations at the table should win and the game is more or less a test of who can be the most efficient at performing the same task. Unfortunately I found very little redeeming value in this game.

Excellent heavier game
April 03, 2006

I've played this game twice so far. After the first play, I immediately bought it. If you like heavier games, this one delivers the goods.

The theme is of course out of the ordinary - growing corals on some underwater rocks, protecting them with shrimps, so you can finally eat both the coral and shrimps with your parrotfish. But on the other hand, there is something about the theme - life in a coral reef - that is compelling. And the new Z-Man edition has beautiful dark tones that help evoke an underwater atmosphere.

But of course, interesting theme and nice colors do not a great game make. The mechanics and gameplay are crucial. For me there are just enough things to consider in Reef Encounter to make it interesting, but not too much to overwhelm me. Others have already described the game play in detail. I'll just say that I was pleasantly surprised with this game, and recommend it if you want a deeper, heavier game of about the same weight as games like Puerto Rico, Caylus, and Tigris and Euphrates. It is also just as good as those three games.

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