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Build Coral Reefs in Aqua, Process Algae for Cosmetics, and Rediscover Cave Evil

by W. Eric Martin

Sidekick Games is a Danish publisher owned by designers Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen, and Dan Halstad that debuted in 2019 with Bloom Town and aimed to release “one perfect Generational Game” annually…then Covid hit, which put a crimp in that plan.

After several years, though, Sidekick Games has announced its next such title along these lines: AQUA: Biodiversity in the oceans, from the father-and-son duo Dan and Tristan Halstad.

Here’s an overview of this 1-4 player game, which features art by the seemingly ubiquitous Vincent Dutrait:

In AQUA, your starting point is a hot spot that gradually becomes surrounded by expanding coral formations. These corals serve as habitats for small marine animals. By fostering biodiverse habitats, you can then create ideal conditions for attracting the largest marine animals.

AQUA plays over 17 rounds. On your turn, you must take a new coral tile from the market and add it to your reef, then you may also attract animals to your ecosystem if you create the correct patterns of coral.

Gameplay example

At the end of the game, the player who grew the best coral formations and attracted the most large and small sea animals will score the most points and win.

AQUA is due out in February 2024, and Pedersen notes, “[W]e are extremely pleased to have a lot of partners on board for the first print run (14 languages, 19 territories) including The OP and Asmodee.”

• Since we’re already in the water, let’s check out Algae, Inc., a 2-4 player design from Julia Thiemann and Christoph Waage that Game Brewer will release in 2024:

Algae, Inc. is a company that produces and processes different kinds of algae into cosmetics, bioplastics, and biodiesel. You manage one of these sectors of the company, trying to create an efficient assembly line; manage your team of operators, engineers, and scientists; and help expand the company to several locations all over Europe.

As the company becomes more and more successful, you try to achieve certain milestones before other departments may do so because as much as you like to see the whole company perform well, you would like to get that extra bit of credit compared to your peers.

Algae, Inc. is a medium-heavy strategy game that combines resource management, tableau building, and multi-processing. Each player has a unique player board and must adapt their strategy to the department they’ve chosen to manage. As the game progresses, you have to hire more staff, optimize your processing line, and keep a close eye on what your colleagues are doing. You also have to make crucial decisions as you decide to free up space on your science board by either unlocking engineer tiles (that will improve your factory) or science tiles (that will allow you to improve your actions). It’s a meticulous game that reveals its true depth the more you play it as every decision you make will affect the next one.

• Let’s keep diving: French publisher Bombyx would like you to be aware that 2024 is the tenth anniversary of Abyss, a game from Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier that features fabulous art from Xavier Collette.

In a Facebook post, Bombyx promises “a few surprises” for the anniversary year, while sharing only this image for now:

• If we keep diving into the abyss, what might we find waiting? How about Cave Evil, specifically a new edition of this 2011 design by Mat Brinkman, Jochen Hartmann, and Nate Hayden.

What is Cave Evil, you ask? In the designer’s words:

Cave Evil is a necrodemonic dungeon brawl board game that takes place in a vast deeply subterranean cave-crypt necropolis.

Players take on the role of Necromancers locked in a desperate battle to harness the power of The Pit, a chasm that connects to the realm of Shadow. The Necromancers must raise squadrons of creatures, demons and monstrosities to battle and do their bidding — players control six squads at the same time — through a maze of tunnels that can be strategically constructed or collapsed and are constantly evolving during game play in a process of brutal player elimination.

Minions must mine and excavate or destroy opponents to gather up resources to raise their Necromancer’s army. Resources come in three varieties and correspond to various types of creatures (130+ unique creatures are included in the game).

The designers note that they plan to release a second “AND FINAL” edition of one thousand copies of Cave Evil should they receive five hundred pre-orders or “reach a particular level of funding through selling new merchandise” after a three-month pre-order period on their website. This edition will feature rule revisions and minor component changes, but no gameplay differences.

Additionally, the designers say, “The reprinting will also give us reason to produce the Expansions that have already been in the works for some time; these will be compatible with BOTH printings of the game.”


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