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ECO: Coral Reefs

[ECO: Coral Reefs]

Izik Nevo

Unique Board Games

No. of Players:



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

During SPIEL 2021 I came across Izik Nevo from UNIQUE-GAMES at the news show. His ECO: Coral Reefs was a real eye-catcher to me, mainly because the oversized boardgame version he showed there, this was really awesome. The retail version of the game is much smaller, but still there are a lot of Ahs and Ohs after the first picture tiles are played on the table. To understand this, you must know that a really colourful coral reef arises during the game with beautiful corals and gorgeous marine creatures like fishes, turtles and jellyfishes.

The rules of the game are actually very easy to teach and learn. In your turn, you always perform 3 actions. That is: you either draw a new picture or mission tile or you place one of your picture tiles on the game map by placing the new tile adjacent to one or more previously played tiles. Each picture tile has a coral in each of the 4 corners, and if this coral matches the corals of the adjacent picture tiles, the player gets one VP for every matching corner. If this new card even matches all 3 corners of the adjacent tiles in a specific place, the player even gets 3 points for this corner.

[ECO: Coral Reefs]

Click on image to enlarge!

So far, the game seems a little bit to be like Domino, doesn’t it? But of course, that would be too easy. The first difference is that you have four corners not just two sides, and the tile can be adjacent to more than one tile too. But what makes the game even more tactical are the mission cards. Completing a mission will earn the player 7 points, so it’s worth taking a closer look at this:

Mission cards always demand to find structures in the game map. For example, you might be asked to build a pattern of four picture tiles in a row, each with three marine creatures on it. Or you must find a L-structure with 2 animals on each picture tile. Completing these missions as described would be called a colonization, but the missions would also be fulfilled with the same required layout, but with different numbers of animals on each picture tile (called a coexistence). Finally, each mission card can also be completed using a rectangular-square layout with the demanded number of marine creatures (a migration).

Sounds complicated? Well, it will be at least confusing in your first rounds of ECO: Coral Reefs. I mean, you are busy enough finding matching corners for your picture tiles to score the corals matching in the edges. Who will be aware for all that patterns you can find in the growing game map? Matters are complicated further by the fact that you first have to possess a mission card (so you must take it in one round), before you can score it in a later round. As a result, you must foresee what patterns will build up and what your opponents will do in the next turns.

[ECO: Coral Reefs]

Click on image to enlarge!

You see, ECO: Coral Reefs is more than just another beautiful clone of Domino. Izik Nevo, author of the game and CEO of Unique Games, explained to me that the game is somewhat like a mixture between Domino and Chess. I wouldn’t go so far, but after some rounds, I know what he means. You can easily play the game, the rules are explained in about 3 minutes, but to win the game against a clever opponent, you will need more than just finding some matching coral edges. To sum up, I enjoyed playing ECO: Coral Reefs a lot. It probably won’t be among my most favourite games of this year, but the game is definitely worth to be taken on the game table more than once in the years to come. Well done, I want to say, go for the corals, build a beautiful reef and find those tricky patterns!

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