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AQUADUKT

Reviewed by Ben Baldanza

(Schmidt Spiel + Freizeit, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; about $30)

 

Network games are a genre unto themselves, and the variety created over the years has given gamers a lot of good things to try. Santiago (Winter 2004 GA REPORT) emerged as an interesting four player but hugely strategic and nasty five-player game that still hits many game tables. This year saw more well produced games including this game, Aquadukt by Schmidt. Comparisons to Santiago will be most readily expected given the board looks similar and the canals are built and extended using blue sticks.aquaduktbox

Aquadukt is more family-oriented than Santiago and plays faster. The board shows an eight by twelve grid with the corners removed, then another four to eight spaces randomly covered to start the game leaving 88 squares in play for four players and 84 with two players. Each player gets a set of tiles showing from one to four houses each, and all are used in the two-player games while smaller sets are used with three or four players. The goal in the game will be to place house tiles and get them watered, meaning to construct one of up to ten water paths so that it flows adjacent to your tile. At the game’s end, every tile watered in this way scores equal to the number of houses on the tile. A tile with four houses requires no greater water source than a tile with just one house, but it scores four times as much.
The board grid is further subdivided into 20 areas of four to six spaces each. These are nicely displayed on the board with both borders and differing landscape features. On a player’s turn, they can do one of three things: add house tiles, start one of five water sources, or add two pieces of canal to any existing canal or water source. Adding house tiles is not certain, as a 20-sided die is rolled and the player can place a tile into one of the free spaces in that numbered area on the board. If they place a tile, they can continue to place up to three each with their own die roll, but if they choose not to place the turn ends. Starting a water source means placing one of five blue glass markers at any intersection on the board. Extending a canal means placing two canal pieces at a water source or from the end of a previously-placed canal piece.

The game evolves based on the results of the die rolls and the placements of the water sources. Likely tiles will be placed early before determining the locations of the water sources. The most strategic aspect of the game is the fact that any one source can have at most two branches coming from it. There is thus risk in placing a source, as that is the only thing you do on your turn, as the next players may extend its two branches in ways that you had not intended. If the canals are built faster than tiles are placed, players can get lucky and roll into a space that is already watered. This of course is the surest way to get the four-house tiles placed, but especially in the four player game it’s quite risky to count on that placement. Double paths can eminent from a source as well, and a double-wide canal will water two tiles on each side rather than just one.aqueduktpcs

The game includes one other rule that penalizes premature house building. If on a turn a player places a tile that completely fills the sub-area, immediately any tile not watered at that point is removed from the game. It is good to keep a small stock on one-house tiles to discard in these cases, especially toward the end of the game. It is more often than not that such a case can hurt your opponents more than you. The spaces freed up this way can later be re-filled, as the further advancement of the canals can later water those spaces. The game ends when all the canal pieces are placed, thus the pace can be controlled and estimating the ending can often determine the best play later in the game.

Aquadukt plays differently with different numbers of players. The two player game is highlighted by the fact that while it is easier to get your tiles watered, getting an advantage through more efficient tile usage is essential. In the four-player game, many more houses will be removed and the choice of houses, source, or canals is more difficult as many things will happen before you can choose again. The game works better with four as a result, but is still satisfying with two or three. The addition of the die removes much of the analysis paralysis that would occur without it, and also adds an element of risk to the house placement. A variant is included that randomizes the scoring some at the end. Most gamers will not use this option but it further reinforces the family nature of the game. The resultant feeling is a game with the weight of Carcassonne rather than something heavier, and as such it is an excellent game for new players and older children as well. For real thinking, play Santiago, but for a decent night-end closer this is a credible new addition. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Ben Baldanza


 

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Summer 2006  GA Report Articles

 

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