#579 – 10 Gallon Tank [Preview]

Box

2 – 5 players.
Play time: 15 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter! (Will update link when Kickstarter is live.)
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A preview copy of 10 Gallon Tank was provided by Winsmith Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. 

And we’re back with another Kickstarter! This one’s not launching for a week or so, but, early fish gets the worm, right? Though I guess getting the worm is bad for fish. This isn’t a great metaphor. Either way, Winsmith Games is taking their first game to Kickstarter, and it’s a fairly light filler, 10 Gallon Tank. Let’s dive right into that and see what’s going on.

In 10 Gallon Tank, you’re getting fish for your aquarium, and competing against other players who also want them. You, obviously, only want the prettiest fish, but in a move of true magnanimity, you’ve elected to share some of your fin friends with your opponents, but you’ve gotta divide them up … “fairly”, for some definition of fair. Will you be able to separate these groups of fish in a way that benefits you? Or will you end up getting schooled?

Contents

Setup

No real setup required. Just shuffle the cards:

Cards

Set out an Aquarium Goal:

Goal Cards

And you’re ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

A game of 10 Gallon Tank is played over a few rounds. In the rounds, you play to divide up a group of fish cards and ultimately choose groups to add to your pile. At the end of the game, players score their piles and the player with the most points wins!

Each round has a new Start Player. That player will set up the round by making a square of cards based on the player count:

  • 2 players: 3×3 square (9 cards)
  • 3 players: 4×4 square (16 cards)
  • 4 players: 4×4 square (16 cards)
  • 5 players: 4×4 square (16 cards)

Gameplay 2

Each player, on their turn, may split the group of cards up by dividing an existing group of cards horizontally or vertically. Pull the cards apart to show the divide. The next player may do so on their turn in clockwise order.

Once every player has split up the group of fish, your player count matters a bit:

  • If playing at two or three players, every player, starting with the last player and going in counterclockwise order, makes another split.

Once that’s done or if you’re at 4 / 5 players, move on to taking. Each player, starting with the Start Player, takes one group of fish and adds them to a face-down pile in their collection. Again, if playing at two or three players, every player, starting with the last player and going in counterclockwise order, takes another group. You do that sort of snake drafting you’ve seen in Sagrada or Catan. After that, discard the remaining fish and move on to the next round.

Gameplay 3

The number of rounds you play depends on your player count:

  • 2 players: 4 rounds
  • 3 players: 3 rounds
  • 4 players: 4 rounds
  • 5 players: 5 rounds

Gameplay 4

After that, total your scores; the player with the most point wins! Don’t forget to check to see if players achieved the Aquarium Goal.

Player Count Differences

The major difference is the snake cut at lower player counts. At 2 – 3 players, everyone gets two turns. First to last player goes, then you start again at last player and go back to first, sort of like the old placement rules for Catan. This makes it easier for the last player to synergize, but there are a lot of good moves available for the first player, so they may be able to pull some pretty great moves off if they’re not stopped. At higher player counts, the last player makes the final cut before the first player takes, so, it’s a bit more normal. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this leads to any particular preference among various player counts; it plays pretty similarly, and there are more cards added to make it easier for the game to scale. Just watch out for variance-related issues popping up at higher player counts; since there are more Neon Tetra and Angelfish in play, it’s possible for one player to swoop up more Angelfish, which might be a tough combination to beat if you’re not careful.

Strategy

  • Be careful with that Treasure Chest. It’s worth a lot of points. Like, a lot of points. Don’t let your opponent take that bad boy for free. If you really want to be cruel, pairing it with a Gourami in the first round might force whoever takes it to discard it, as well, which is at least funny.
  • If you’re playing at two players, it’s usually worth only taking one Discus. You’re either going to get the most or the second-most, so, taking one guarantees you’re in contention for it. If your opponent notices and tries to stick with two, well, now you only need one more to tie them. Still worth it.
  • Watch out if your opponent is hoarding Neon Tetras. They rapidly increase in value as you get more of them, so, it might be worth helping yourself to a few to make sure your opponent can’t go deep.
  • Similarly, if you’re losing the Discus race, they’re great fodder for Gouramis. If they’re not worth anything anyways, discard them for that big 5-point fish. Just remember that’s essentially averaging 2.5 points per fish, and there are more valuable fish.
  • Mollies are really only useful if they’re 3 points or if you need one of every fish. There are more valuable fish you can obtain just as easily. If you get a 2-point Molly, you’re better off dumping it to gain a Gourami. Just, strictly more valuable that way.
  • The kindest thing you can do to your opponent is make sure they get 2, 5, or 7 Angelfish. They only score multiples of three, so, let them help themselves to some garbage fish. It’s hard to keep track of what they’ve taken, but, might be worth looking out.
  • Using a Gourami to discard a Guppy may be worth a lot of points at the end of the game. Be mindful. Guppies are worth fewer points if you have an odd number of them, so you might be able to combo a Gourami so that you can land that Guppy play. It’s a good move if you can pull it off.
  • Don’t forget at lower player counts that the player who makes the final cut also picks first. That’s a pretty important distinction, given that you’re snake-drafting. Don’t leave the first player a very favorable option, otherwise they’ll make a garbage cut and then take the best cards for themselves. It’s a wise move if you’re first player, but annoying for everyone else.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Love the art. They’re cute fish! I’m very pro-cute fish. Also, the cards are a very relaxing shade of blue. I generally love games in two categories: the ocean, or space. And it’s an oceanish game.
  • Also love the theme. I’m a card-carrying member of the local aquarium. One, conservation is important and they’re doing great work. Two, they have penguins, so, money in the money hole. This is more of a personal aquarium game, it feels like, but I’m still into aquariums, even if they’re mostly reserved for personal use. Saving fish is important.
  • Plays very quickly. It’s a very quick game once everyone knows how to play; sort of ideal for its weight, I’d say.
  • Virtually no setup. Shuffle the cards and make a square. You need to reveal a Goal Card, but there are only three, so, no big deal there, either. It’s kind of nice when games are very easy to start playing.
  • Very portable. Pretty sure you can just take the deck with you when you’re on the go. I wouldn’t recommend trying to play it on a plane, since the actual layout takes up some space, but you could probably bring it with you most places no sweat. I usually judge a game on whether or not it can fit in my Quiver; this definitely makes that cut.

Mehs

  • I’m hoping for more Goals in the final game. Having only three Aquarium Goal cards is fine, but it feels like more might make the game-to-game play feel a bit more dynamic. As it stands, they do a good job incentivizing players to do different behaviors in each game, but they feel, maybe, a bit generic? Essentially “go deep”, “go wide”, and “ignore one”.

Cons

  • It also would be nice to see some fish with some more dynamic set collection mechanics. Right now, the game seems pretty consistent with an I-cut-you-choose take on Sushi Go. What I want is something closer to Sushi Go Party!, where you’ve got multiple sets of fish that come with their own weird interactions when you take it. That was similar to my issue with Sushi Roll (I wanted … more), and I think I want more, here, as well. It feels fairly basic, which isn’t a bad place to start, but if you want to elevate it beyond that, you’re going to need to get a bit more weird with your set collection. Daniel Solis has great thoughts on this, but I recall seeing a much larger list at some point that I’d like to find. There’s a lot you can do with it, and the I-cut-you-choose template seems well-suited to get more creative with your scoring.
  • Yeah, I think I just don’t much care for I-cut-you-choose as a genre. I noted it a bit in my Trial of the Temples review last week, but I’m starting to become acutely aware of it. I think that the decision space just isn’t often that interesting for me? Maybe it’s that it’s a lot more strategic than, say, tactical, and I tend to prefer tactical experiences? Not sure. Still tweezing that out.

Overall: 6.5 / 10

In Progress

Overall, 10 Gallon Tank is a fine filler. I don’t have any particular issue with it, beyond the core mechanic not being my particular favorite. At its core, it’s nice to see a game that has good art and a clean, solid set of mechanics. It’s very much I-cut-you-choose with some simple set collection. I think, the place where that falls a bit short for me is that I can’t help feeling like I want a bit more from it when I play. I enjoy the spatial nature of breaking the cards up to divide the groups, though; that’s a nice feature, and it makes the game feel like an overall good introduction to I-cut-you-choose as a mechanic. There’s definitely a place in gaming for games that work as sort of a genre introduction, right? They have essentially the cleanest possible distillation of the core mechanic and they present that to the players so that they can build off of that in future games. It’s kind of like what Dominion did for deckbuilding or Sushi Go did for drafting. While that’s all well and good, the people I played this game with tended to feel like they wanted more from it. Like I mentioned earlier, having more dynamic set collection scoring mechanics could potentially help elevate it, in that sense, or having advanced rules / additional scoring conditions. I figure that that doesn’t jive well with the desire to keep the game simple, though, so, that tension is always going to be there. That said, I could definitely see aquariums adding a bit of retheme to this and selling it based around their specific target animals to pretty great success, honestly. If you’re looking for an introduction to set collection or I-cut-you-choose as a mechanic, it’s certainly not a bad one. I’ll be interested to see what else 10 Gallon Tank is throwing in when the Kickstarter launches!

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