Coldwater Crown

Coldwater CrownI don’t like fishing. I love this game. It takes care of the parts of fishing I don’t enjoy and transforms the experience into something fun. I was able to be immersed in this game in a way that I could never do in real life.

Coldwater Crown, a game created by Brian Suhre, is for 1 – 4 players and is published by Bellwether Games.

Do you try to catch fish quickly in hopes of acquiring twelve fish before anyone else? Do you try to catch many Master Angler fish? Do you try to catch the fish that are in the weight range for the goal weight? These are questions you must contemplate along the way. Catching fish is easy; catching the right fish can be hard.

I was asked to test the rules without any prior knowledge of what the game was. I agreed, and I’m glad I did. I discovered a game I might have otherwise passed by without a second glance. I’m looking forward to the Kickstarter campaign for Coldwater Crown.

Setup was difficult the first time I played since I didn’t notice the color coordinating parts of the game. Granted, I was playing with prototype components, but I still should have noticed it. Once you notice this and choose to pay attention to it, setup becomes second nature.

The prototype components lacked some of the “Wow!” factor that one would expect from a full game, but that did not stop me from getting immersed into the game. Fantastic gameplay made the artwork become secondary to me. From what I’ve seen, the final artwork is great and that will just immerse me that much more into this game. I’m excited to see this final artwork and let it immerse me further into the game.

Each player has a board that has four sections on it which can hold three, four, five, and six pieces of bait, respectively. On your turn, you can remove bait to catch fish, or you can add bait to your board to enable you to catch more fish.

You place a token and remove a token on the main board, flipping the removed token to the other side, on your turn. This determines which bait you can remove, and how much of each bait you are allowed to remove. Removing the last piece of bait in one of the four sections on your player board enables you to catch a fish. The fish caught depends on the color of bait and which of the four sections it was in. Placing or removing a token on the Port space allows you to add bait to your player board or to take a Master Angler fish.

Master Angler fish require you to remove specific colored bait from your player board. Once you remove enough bait to fill the spots on the Master Angler card, you have caught that fish. Catching three Master Angler fish that are the same earns bonus points at the end of the game. You can also attempt to catch four Master Angler fish that are unique for bonus points. You can attempt to catch three Master Angler fish at any given time.

Each turn goes fast, as your choices are placing your token on an unoccupied color / port space, and then removing a token from a different spot. There are six colors and one port space. Those colors match the bait color, so knowing which bait to remove is simple. When you add bait to your player board, you draw the bait from a bag, one at a time to one section you choose until that section has the maximum capacity. There is a special color, yellow, which triggers you to put all discarded bait back into the bag so the bait can be drawn again.

You can also earn tackle pieces for removing all the bait from your five section. This will allow you to catch a different fish or remove extra bait from your player board. Using these at the right time is crucial. Removing all bait from the six section allows you to take the top card from the appropriate area instead of the fish you would normally have to take.

On your turn, you must pay attention to which fish are available to be caught and which colored bait you have on your board. Catching twelve fish will trigger the end game, with each player getting a final turn. Only one fish of each type can be submitted for the weight scoring, so a variety of fish is a must to have a chance at winning. There are three areas on the main board that correspond to river, shore and lake. Each section has particular fish in it that can be caught and submitted for scoring.

There are many ways to score points in the game, so paying attention to which fish you need is crucial. To be victorious, you will need to catch a variety of fish. Each fish has a specific weight, time of day, and tag color. These become important for end game scoring. So while it is obvious that you want heavy weight fish for the end game scoring, there are also times when you want to catch fish with a lower weight. There is a goal weight that varies between two to seven pounds. If you catch a fish that matches the goal weight, you earn points for the end game scoring. Points can also be earned for catching the right combination of fish or for being the first player to catch a specific number of fish.

It’s the simplicity of the game that gives it charm. Turns are quick, so there isn’t a lot of down time. Gone is the waiting of hours to catch a fish. You can see your objectives on the board, so there is not confusion as to what the objectives are. Between your turns, you see what objectives other players complete, which may determine what objectives you try to complete. Each player keeps the weight of the fish they catch hidden from the other players, so there is incomplete information in the game, making it hard to know if you are truly ahead for scoring purposes.

The ease and simplicity of catching fish by removing certain colored bait intrigued me from the start. Placing and removing the tokens is fun. You are in control of the bait you remove, thereby you have control of the fish you catch. Catching fish is no longer a guessing game. Coldwater Crown puts strategy into fishing.

As you take the token from the board, you flip it to the other side. This can enable you to get rid of bait quicker, but sometimes slower could be more advantageous. Decisions like this make the game interesting.

While you know seemingly most of the information, there is enough incomplete information to keep the game interesting. Stockpiling on too many of the same fish probably won’t win you the game, although there are multiple ways to score points, so there isn’t a set formula to use to win every time. What works for one game is not guaranteed to work in another game.

While placing and removing tokens on the board, I could envision myself casting my rod and then reeling it back in. Even with the prototype components, there was enough artwork to help me visualize the fish I was catching. Final artwork will only enhance this.

I’m glad I was able to test this game. I highly recommend this game. There are enough elements to keep the people who enjoy fishing immersed in the game, while the people who dislike fishing can get the fishing experience without the unenjoyable aspects of fishing. This game puts strategy into fishing, and for that I am glad. Whether you play solo or with friends, Coldwater Crown is a fun, exciting game.