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Store:  Strategy Games
Theme:  Fantasy
Format:  Board Games


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Ages Play Time Players
10+ 45 minutes 2-6

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Product Description

Aquarium, the second release from the Belgian small scale game publisher Sandtimer, offers high player interaction as the other players can – and will – use their action cards to alter the available fish that you can buy and the price that you have to pay for them.

Each player starts with a set of nine action cards and $15. The deck is shuffled, then set up with three or four "Feeding time!" cards shuffled into the deck at various points. On a turn, a player first turns up a card from the deck if the market is empty (as it is as the start of the game). Then the player looks at the fish and plant cards in the market and decides whether to pass or try to buy them. If he passes, he takes $2 from the bank and adds the top card to the market; if he wants to buy, all other players get to influence what's on the market and what the cards cost.

First, each other player chooses one of their five action cards for use in phase 1 of a buy. These cards force the active player to add, remove or swap a card from the market or simply allow the card player to make a fish swap of his own! (Players can also pass, with all action cards but the "pass" being set aside.) Second, each other player chooses one of their five action cards for use in phase 2 of a buy. These cards add or subtract 1 from the cost of the market, or double or halve the cost of the market. In the latter case, the player of the card receives money from the active player instead of those coins going to the bank.

Once the goods and the cost are set, the active player chooses to buy all the fish and plants on offer or none of them. The cost is equal to the sum of the card values, plus or minus any modifications, then doubled or halved as appropriate. All purchased cards go into a player's personal aquarium. If a player has two identical fish, he can move them to a separate breeding tank where they will earn him 1-3 coins each turn.

Each time a "Feeding time!" card is revealed, players reveal one "food cost" card at random, then pay money equal to that cost times the number of stars on fish and plants in their aquariums. Any fish not fed starve and float away to the big toilet bowl in the sky. Each plant in an aquarium reduces the food cost by one.

After the final "Feeding time!", players count the stars on their non-breeding fish, then receive bonuses for collecting all colored fish of the same size, all three sizes of fish of the same color and different varieties of plants. The player with the most stars wins.

Here, fishy, fishy, fishy...

Product Information

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.5 in 1 review

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Fun game of balance and real-life skills
July 06, 2017

Essentially, you take turns adding fish to the "pot." Once you add a fish, you then have the option of declaring a purchase of all fish in the set. One component I love about the game is the chance to affect other players' purchases. When a player declares he/she will purchase the set of fish on the table, all other players may then play cards to affect the fish in the set or the cost of the set or both! Want to be a jerk and double the cost? Do it. Want to trash the fish the purchaser wants the very most? You got it. Want to halve the cost and get a coin in return? Sure thing. In my view, the swap-one-fish-for-one-of-your-fish is the most valuable card in the deck! 

Ugh, the feeding! As natural a consequence as nature itself, your fish die if you don't feed them. In my first couple of games, I pushed hard to build up as massive a fish collection as I could (the more the better, right?). I'd stretch my purchases as much as possible then would lose several to starvation. Then I'd stubbornly do it again...and again...and again resulting in almost no fish in my grand aquarium at the end of the game. Finally, I learned my lesson and wouldn't buy whatever I could with whatever I had (good life principle, too!). I started planning ahead to make sure I had enough food to feed my fish. The catch? You randomly draw the amount of food necessary to feed each fish. It could be one, two, or three for each feeding. Oh, and don't forget to invest in the aquarium plants to help you feed your fish! Rarely will someone win the game without at least a couple of plants.  

I really like the expansion components where you can add the Fishybank (to get more money/food), the Breeding Tank (to, you know, facilitate fishy baby-making!), and the special Rainbow Fish. These are fun components that add variety to the base gameplay.  

Overall, this is a fun and fairly simple game. The replay value is moderately high for me, particularly because of the expansion options. A couple of point detractors for me are feeling a constant pressure to have enough food/money over building up an awesome aquarium as well as the time length of the game itself sometimes seems to drag a bit. I give it a 6.5.  

Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be. 

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