Niagara

Next up in my Finnish review site: Niagara.

While Zoch is well-known for games with good presentation, Niagara is an extremely pretty game. From the first pictures I saw from the Essen fair 2004 I knew I had to see this game in action. I was not disappointed: the clever board (go see the pictures at the Geek, words will not do justice to it), shiny gems and wooden canoes work well to provide theme and excitement.

However, the game beneath all this flash is decent, but not extraordinary. Players move their canoes by playing movement chits numbered from 1-6. The chits are used once and returned to play after all have been used. Players choose their chits simultaneously and then play clockwise around the table — last players have an advantage, as they can react to players before them.

It’s a pretty tactical game. Players try to fetch gems from the river banks and set themselves up so that they can bring the gems back to land. There are two threats to that: the flow of the river that pushes the canoes towards the waterfall (and thanks to the setup of the board, the canoes will actually fall) and other players, who can steal gems.

The river consists of transparent plastic discs, which are the “squares” players use when moving in the river. After everybody has moved, the river flows a certain amount of steps, determined by the smallest numbered chit played. There’s also a small modifier (from -1 to +2), which the players can meddle with. New discs are pushed to the river from upstream, causing discs to move down the river and eventually over the waterfall.

The neat river mechanism and the simultaneous action selection make Niagara quite interesting. However, I’m not quite sure the game will last repeated play for experienced gamers. While there are certainly tactics involved, it’s still a bit light. Thanks to the pretty bits, the price is steep for such a simple game.

However, as a family game, it’s top of the line in my opinion and I would recommend it without a shadow of a doubt.

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