Monday, February 19, 2024

Looking at the second maps of both Voyages and Aquamarine

After I played the second map of Voyages, I really wanted to blog about it. However, I didn’t want to go down the road of writing about every single map in the series. Pretty sure I’d really start boring people.

So I decided to wait until I played the second map in Aquamarine and compare the two. Same publisher, same designers, both R&Ws  I think that’s fair.

Voyages - Marauder’s Reef

Ho boy. I quite liked the learner map, Trade Winds Blow. But Marauder’s Reef takes the core concepts you learn in Trade Winds Blow and makes them razor focused on one concept. Beating people up.

Trade Winds Blow did have one hex that involved combat but Marauder’s Reef adds fuller (but still very simple) combat rules and makes them the centerpiece of the game.

The other major change is the duty chart. In Trade Winds Blow, you filled lines to get bonus items. In Marauder’s Reef, it’s a flatout tech tree that lets you get permanent upgrades. This is a literal game changer.

I have been playing Voyages as a solitaire where games are only 16 turns and if you don’t earn three stars, you automatically lose. It is definitely harder to earn stars in Marauder's Reef, creating a more tense game.

Marauder's Reef isn’t a more advanced Trade Winds Blow. It is a different experience.

Aquamarine - Apex Predators

This map makes two meaningful mechanical changes to Aquamarine’s first map, Exploratory Expeditions. It replaces the shipwreck and their bonuses with research magnifying glasses and it adds in caves.

The research tracks are a very nice addition. Filling out a complete track gives you points but certain spaces give you special moves. Unlike the wrecked ships, you have more choices in how you use the research check marks.

Plus, most of them are in caves with the new giant squids, tying almost all the new elements together. 

Caves are special spaces that are restricted. You can have them in a box if it’s daytime or if you use a torch. And you have a very limited number of torches. Between the sharks (which take up more space than map one’s jellyfish) and caves, this map has more bottlenecks and tough choices.

Apex Predators isn’t just map one with a new arrangement. It’s a definite step up. With this one provision, I think you do have the focus on the giant squids to get the best results.

Overall Conclusions

When I first played both Voyages and Aquamarine, I was really impressed. I mean, it’s one thing for a Roll and Write to work for me since I’m kind of an R&W addict.  But I think anyone would have fun with both of them.

I felt that Marauder’s Reef definitely affirmed my feeling that Voyages is a game system. I was working with new goals and new mechanics. It could have been marketed as a different game. On the other hand, while Apex Predators definitely showed new things Aquamarine could do, it didn’t push it to that extent. And it doesn’t have to.

The second maps in both games affirm my first impressions.

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