Full disclosure: A review copy of Blue Lagoon was provided by Blue Orange Games.
Still getting through some Gen Con games, yes, even now. I should have most of them done before BGG, just in time to get a bunch of new ones. What a time to be alive. Anyways, in the meantime, let’s talk about Blue Orange Games’ last Gen Con release, Blue Lagoon!
In Blue Lagoon, you’ve just discovered a lush archipelago with a rumored beautiful lagoon. Naturally, you decide that this is probably a great place to set up life for you and your people, but unfortunately you’re not alone. This archipelago isn’t quite big enough for the 2 – 4 of you, but you’ll have to make something work while you discover everything that these islands have to offer. Will your people stand tall as the most renown in the archipelago?
Setup isn’t too bad. Set out the board:
Take all the resources:
Put them in the included bag:
Mix them up and put one resource on all the spaces that have a circle of stones on them. Give each player their Village tokens:
Also give them the Settler tokens in the same color:
There’s a land side and a boat side. Try not to mix that up; it’s bad for the boats and worse for the settlers. You’ll want to use different amounts for your player count:
- 2 players: Use all 30 Settlers.
- 3 players: Use 25 Settlers (leave 5 in the box).
- 4 players: Use 20 Settlers (leave 10 in the box).
Also, set out a sheet from the Score Pad:
Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to roll!
This game’s a bit of an odd one. There are two major phases to the game: The Exploration Phase and the Settlement Phase. They play similarly (and score identically), so I’ll explain the phases in order. The major gist of the game is that you’re placing Settlers and Villages around the board to make connected chains, settle the islands, and acquire resources. You’ll gain points for each of those things and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins! Let’s dive right in.
So, during the Exploration Phase, you should try to find places where you can start forming villages. You do this in turn order by doing the following:
- Place a Settler or Village. You may place a Settler or Village on the board following these rules:
- Settlers may be placed on any water space or on any land space adjacent to another of your Settler or Village tokens. Imagine people sailing near the island and letting people off. If you place a Settler on a circle of stones (a space with a resource), take the resource and add it to your supply. Place Settlers on land land-side-up and on the water water-side-up. Just for aesthetics; no other reason.
- Villages may be placed on any land space adjacent to another of your Settler or Village tokens. Not to tell you too much, but you want to spread these out, a bit. They’re not floating cities, so you can’t place them on the water. If you place a Village on a circle of stones (a space with a resource), take the resource and add it to your supply.
- Only one token may occupy a space. No sharing.
The Exploration Phase ends when players have either:
- Placed all of their tokens.
- Taken all the resources.
Either way, the Exploration Phase ends immediately when that happens; move on to Scoring. You score as follows:
- Islands Explored: These are points given for exploring the various islands.
- 20 points if you have at least one token on all 8 islands;
- 10 points if you have at least one token on all 7 islands;
- 0 otherwise.
- Island Chain: These points are given for a long chain of connected Settlers and Villages.
- 5 points per island connected in your largest chain of connected islands. It’s allowed to branch and fork off, if you want. Or, at least, that’s how we’ve been playing it.
- Island Majorities: These points are given for having the most pieces on an island.
- 6 – 10 points per island: Check the islands themselves. The player with the most Settlers and Villages on an island scores that island’s points. If there’s a tie, split the points evenly between all tied players.
- Resources: Score points for the number of each resource you have of a type. (This is per resource, not counting Statuettes.)
- 2 of the same resource: 5 points
- 3 of the same resource: 10 points
- 4 of the same resource: 20 points
- One of each: Score points if you have one of each resource (again, excluding Statuettes).
- 10 points if you have one of each of the four types of resources. This is a one-time deal; you don’t score 20 if you have two of each type.
- Statuettes: Score points for each Statuette you have.
- 4 points per Statuette. It’s not too complicated.
Once you have that, record the scores and … it’s onto the next phase! Remove all Settler tokens and all Villages on stone circle spaces. Return the removed Settlers to their players; place all unused Villages back in the box. Should have used them while you had them Reset the resources (put them all back in the bag and shuffle them up). It’s time to start the Settlement Phase! Play continues with the next player whose turn it would be (if you use all the resources up during the Exploration Phase it might be a different player).
There’s not much that’s changed during this Phase except for the placement rules. You still take turns placing Settlers and Villages, following these modified rules:
- Place a Settler. You may place a Settler on the board following these rules:
- Settlers may be placed any land or water space adjacent to another of your Settler or Village tokens. So this is different. Now, you may only place Settlers if they are adjacent to other Settlers or Villages. You’re not exploring anymore. Resource-gathering hasn’t changed.
- You cannot place any Villages. They’re gone, remember? You miss them dearly.
- Only one token may occupy a space. No sharing. That hasn’t changed.
Once all Settlers are placed or all the resources are taken (like the last phase), score like you did during the previous phase. Add the two scores together and the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
This game is hectic with four players; there’s so much happening on the board. At two, it’s not bad, but you need to be careful because you don’t have any players that can run interference for you if you need. That’s sometimes good because they won’t bother you, but also bad if you need some help against your opponent. It really just depends on the kind of game you want — if you want a game that’s almost go-like, you might try it at two. If you want a super-hectic area-control game, try it at four. I kind of like it at three, but there’s the spoiler problem where one player is kind of kingmaking another in any given conflict by either choosing to help or doing nothing. Hard to say, but I’d prefer it in the 2 – 3 range.
- Don’t place Villages on the stone circle spaces. The rules kind of heavily imply that you shouldn’t, but let me be the first to tell you; don’t do it. You’ll want all the villages you can muster for the next phase. If you lose them, that’s a valuable start point you don’t have, anymore.
- Plan. You’re going to need to try to connect as many islands as you can as quickly as you can. Where are the places where your opponents can shut you out? Do you have good resource coverage? Can you at least get a set of all four? These are the questions you should be asking yourself pretty much constantly if you want to come out ahead.
- Don’t be too conservative about placing your Villages. You shouldn’t place them, like, adjacent, but you’ll want some on the hard-to-reach islands and on the main islands so that you don’t just have to build inward from the outer edges of the board; give yourself options!
- If you can cut your opponents off from an island, do it. That’s minimum 10 points they both lose if you do that; even better if they accidentally forget to connect another one and they’re only on six islands at the end of the game; that’s going to cost them dearly. Plus, then you can collect the resources on that island at your leisure.
- Don’t forget about majorities. That’s one of the most common objectives for players to forget, in my experience. Just keep an eye on which islands are competitive and try to subtly tilt them towards you, if you can. You should at least try to get one or two islands for your cause, if you can. There are 62 total points to get from island majorities; keep that in mind when you’re trying to prioritize islands.
- Don’t get in fights at higher player counts. At two players if you want to race your opponent for something, go for it. At three or four, that just means that there are one or two other players who aren’t really interested in you two fighting and they’re taking territory from both of you while you’re distracted. That’s great for them; bad for you.
- You can make a player someone else’s problem, but be careful. One of the classic maneuvers in games is that Player 3 is going to make a valuable move next turn. Players 1 or 2 can block them. Player 1 should block, but realizes he can just kick the can down the road to Player 2. Ideally, that’s a good strategy, but that requires that Player 2 also realizes that’s a thing they can do. If they don’t, well, congratulations, Player 3. Blue Lagoon has a lot of these moments, so make sure you’re paying attention.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I really like the art. I’m generally a big fan of games with prominent oceans (or deep blues in general) and Blue Lagoon does not disappoint; the islands are beautiful, the game is bright and colorful, and the box is also particularly well-designed. Great work.
- The Village tokens are also very pleasant. They’ve got a sort-of-cute thing going for them, which is nice, but they also seem pretty solidly well-made. It’s a nice touch.
- I appreciate that the game tells you how many Settlers tokens to return to the box. It’s a subtle thing but it’s nice; I’m not great at counting, consistently, so getting to count a smaller number is a huge help.
- Seems expandable. I imagine other map variants could be pretty interesting, especially if they had special events / locations on them. I’d love to see what that looks like, at least.
- I get what the resources are supposed to represent but those tokens are not intuitive. There’s a page in the rulebook that shows the representation, but it’s very confusing. There’s not an obvious mental mapping unless you’ve already seen the photo.
- Lotta different scoring options. Games can end with players in the 200+ points range, and there are a lot of different ways to get there. That can be a pretty high cognitive load for some players, so keep that in mind before you roll up to your game group.
- The two-phase thing is super unintuitive for new players. You either have to try to explain both to them (which many people don’t get because the second phase requires a lot of context) or you have to explain the second one when you get to it and players are furious because they didn’t strategize properly for the second phase. I haven’t had much luck with either option. I understand why they need to be that way, but hoo boy is it a rough first game for a lot of the new players I’ve tried it with.
- The analysis paralysis potential for this game is super high. Players agonize over placement, especially because Village placement has so much riding on it in the second half of the game. They try to consider every player’s angle of attack, what resources they have / want, majorities… it’s a lot. It can be a mess for certain groups of players.
- The game also specific enables one of my least favorite behaviors in gaming. I think it’s a problem with a lot of games, but I genuinely do not like when Player 3 is about to do something on their turn and Player 1 says to Player 2, “hey, you need to do X on your turn to block Player 3”. I think it’s bad etiquette, personally. This is definitely a game with a lot of potential for those kinds of conversations to happen, though.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Blue Lagoon is solid! I think it’s a neat blend of area control and set collection, but I particularly like the board; I think it’s just really well done from an art standpoint. At two players, it plays a bit like Go, I’m told, which is kind of fun, but it adds in more of a focus on resources (and, I imagine, island majorities). At three and four, it’s a hectic mess of pieces, blocking, and area control that’s going to be appealing to a lot of players because it’s colorful and everywhere. I’ve had fun with Blue Lagoon, though, and I’m certainly hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of it. After all, I’m surprised we didn’t run into any volcanoes, and it would be really interesting to see how that would impact gameplay. Either way, if you’re looking for a novel blend of area control and set collection or you’re looking for a bright, colorful game with a fun, theme, I’ve enjoyed Blue Lagoon; maybe you will, too!