Coldwater Crown Review

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The sun is just peaking over the horizon as you tie your favourite lure to your line. With a quick flick of your wrist the shiny silver lure arcs beautifully in the morning air. It hits the water with a soft plop and you slowly reel it in. As you cast it a second time, you look around the glass-like lake and a soft breeze brushes your cheek. There is something so calming and gentle being out here. Yet come tomorrow that will all change, for tomorrow is the biggest tournament this lake has ever seen. This is your home turf and you know this lake better than anyone, so who knows, maybe you are in with a chance to take out the crown and prize money. Just as you think that though, your line snaps tight and something big starts taking the line from your spool. As you tighten the drag a smile comes to your mouth; who knows, maybe you are really good enough to take out the Coldwater Crown.

In Coldwater Crown you start by setting up the board with the various tokens and cards that go in specific spots. On the board itself is a nice guide that tells you which tokens to use depending on the amount of players that will be playing.

Once you’re done with the tokens and cards you place an angler token with the “1” side facing up on each of the Red, Yellow and Green spaces. This is simply to make sure there are enough options as well as blocking as the game starts and continues.

You will also be setting out the tackle tokens next to the board and shuffling them up as well as setting out the Master Angler cards next to the board

Gameplay in Coldwater Crown centers around a simple action order:

1. Place an angler token (worker) onto an unoccupied space.

2. Remove an angler token from an occupied space.

Each time you place or remove an angler token, you’ll get to take an action based on the chosen space and the number appearing on the token, either “1” or “2”. Interacting with one of the six coloured spaces allows you to remove some or all of the matching bait tokens from your player board, while visiting the Port allows you to either fill one section of your board with bait, or collect a Master Angler card from those on display. When one of the four quadrants on your board has been completely emptied, you’ve caught a fish in the location corresponding to the colour of the last piece of bait that was removed and the quadrant it was removed from.

As mentioned, the player board features four quadrants, numbered 3 through 6, which represent the amount of bait added when filling in that section. To reward the added difficulty of the bigger sections, you may take a random tackle-box token, which provides one of four bonus actions when spent after completing the ‘5’ section of your board, or when completing the ‘6’ spot take the top card from the fish deck in place of the fish you would have caught.

There are four Master Angler cards available to take from the Port at any one time, and each features a specific fish for set-collection purposes, as well as a number of coloured spaces that match the six types of bait. To complete a claimed card, you must fill in those spots with the bait you remove from your personal board.

Through the ebb and flow of the player turns, you’ll be adding and removing bait, completing Master Angler cards, and catching fish from the three fishing areas. These actions all relate to the end-game through the various scoring contests available in the tournament. During the game, you can score points for collecting a variety of different fish, for completing sets of Master Angler cards, and for fulfilling the fish-specific “Species Challenge”. The bulk of the points gained will come from the end game, through the weight contests in each of the three fishing locations. You and your opponents will submit the heaviest fish from each species available at that location and earn points based on total weight caught. The total of these various scoring opportunities determines the victor!

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Coldwater Crown really did hit me in the feels. As a kid I grew up fishing with my grandfather and father; even now it is a hobby I truly love and wish I could do more of. So even before I opened the box, this game made me smile and I hoped it was as good as it made me feel at first glance. I was wrong though; this game was better than good – it was great! 2017 is shaping up to be an amazing year for games. Already this year I have reviewed some amazing games and this just continues this trend.

So again I played this with Big J and 2 other friends. Big J is my current fishing buddy so I thought it only fitting to play with him. And judging from the child-like grin on his face, this game gave him the same initial feeling I got when receiving it. So we read through the rules, set up the board and we were off.

The thing that first stuck me with Coldwater Crown is the level of detail. The board is stunning and so highly detailed; and the fish – wow, just wow. As someone that knows fish and has caught a lot of these fish in real life I was shocked by the level of detail. They weren’t just brown or silver, they had the correct markings and subtle colour changes you see in the real thing. The art in this game is simply amazing. I can’t praise it enough.

Coldwater Crown was a very easy game to learn and yet has the kind of elegant complexity that I have come to love about a well-made Euro game. Turns are extremely quick and though our game lasted 90 minutes with the 4 of us, it seemed to very quickly roll around to your turn in about 2 to 3 minutes. Though the turns are quick and there are only 2 actions that can be taken, this really isn’t an easy game. There is a level of complexity, of out-thinking and balance. Balance truly is the key to this game and it is amazing how quickly the scales can tip one way and then back the other.

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I know I have gone on a bit about this theme and how much I loved it because it reminds me of my childhood, but my other 2 friends’ idea of fishing is going to the local take away shop and deciding the type of fish they want. They actually really enjoyed the game and though the theme didn’t grab them like it grabbed myself and Big J, they loved the game play and strategic simplicity in this game. They still enjoyed the theme though as it was a great fit and they thought the art was stunning.

So this is my first experience with Bellwether Games, and I must say if their other games are like this, I am already a fan. The gameplay mechanics are simple to teach and learn and yet so well balanced, and though the turns are quick there is so much you have to think about and toss up in such a small period of time. It really has been thought out down to the last detail. Bellwether Games really have a highly polished and extremely clever game here.

If you did miss out on the Kickstarter, don’t worry as Coldwater Crown has just been released and you can get your copy here. So whether you are a fishing fan or just a Euro Game fan that likes great art and extremely well thought out gameplay, I couldn’t recommend this game enough.

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