|Release Date: 2021||Players: 1-2|
|Designer: Mike Berg||Length: 15-30 minutes|
|Artist: Marty Cobb||Age: 8+|
|Publisher: Button Shy||Complexity: 1.5 / 5|
|Plastic (by weight): 18%||Air (by volume): <1%|
The two of us were strolling along the beach. We could feel the damp sand underneath our feet. We stopped for a moment to dig our toes in and take a look around. There were plenty of beautiful objects just waiting to be found: driftwood for sculptures, sea glass for earrings and many other things. So we followed the Tides by Mike Berg from Button Shy.
Yes, that’s sort of what the game is like: a gentle to and fro between two players, even though you can play Tides also solo. Every wave washes new treasures ashore, which may help you complete one of your orders and score points. Eventually, it’s high tide and there is nothing further to gather from the beach. So it’s time to choose from the available orders and hope that during the next low tide, you can get the bits and pieces you need.
High Tides and Low Tides
It sounds really simple and as you play it, it really is quite straightforward. However, at first, things can seem a bit confusing. That’s because every one of the 18 cards in Tides is double-sided and fulfils two functions. One side represents high tide, the other low tide. That isn’t clear just by looking at them, so make sure you read the rulebook carefully. If things still don’t make sense, then just start playing. It’ll soon become clear. Just pick cards at random and see what happens.
Once you get into the rhythm of the game, it really starts to flow. Tides does deserve its name. As you play, you do get a sense of low tides, when the beach is full of beautiful little treasures, followed by high tides, when the sand has given way to water and there is nothing left for you to do other than prepare for the next low tide and sell your wares.
The whole game is designed around the ebb and flow of water. Each tide only lasts two turns per player, after which all cards, except the ones in your hand, are flipped over. That’s a really short amount of time to collect everything you need to complete orders. You can never take everything you need and quicker than you can say “tides”, low tide gives way to high and all the flotsam disappears and is replaced by point-scoring cards.
Timing is everything, not only when it comes to picking what you need before high tide, but also because the high tide scoring cards give different points for different things, depending on whether you complete them during low or high tide. If you’re too late, you might sit on an order for another half a day’s worth of low and high tides.
Ebb and Flow
There is also the sense of an ebb and flow of the cards in your hand. Players can only have six cards in their hand at any point in time, but it’s always possible to discard a card to draw a new one. Despite that flexibility, it’s not uncommon to have lots of low tide cards with lots of lovely things on them, but no matching high tide order cards. Then, all of a sudden, you get the right scoring opportunity and your hand empties out during low tide and you leap ahead, just to find that you missed low tide and are now in desperate need of treasures to sell.
It seems impossible to get it just right, which feels rather thematic. As I said, time is not only ticking away mercilessly, but it often seems to be against you. It really takes a while to get in sync with the sea and its highs and lows. When you manage it, it feels amazing. You spend a few hours combing the beach until it’s time to go back to your little seaside stall and sell your wares. When you get it wrong, you curse and wish you could control the moon and sun and generally the sea.
Yet, every game is over pretty quickly. Once one of the players has reached a certain amount of points, the current tide is finished and whoever then has the most points wins the game. It’s all pretty gentle and as there is so much randomness in the game, everyone has an equal chance of winning. Also, the more you play Tides, the more you get used to the different cards and understand what sort of flotsam you should look out for, because it’s precious and what to leave maybe for another time.
The illustrations on the cards are also very fitting. They almost have a Studio Ghibli feel, which is very relaxing. So, if you want a game that easily fits into the jean pocket that you can play with another person or by yourself while you’re out and about, then Tides is definitely worth checking out. Despite the rulebook having confused me at first, it quickly clicked and my wife and I played it many times while we were travelling on a train through Germany while dreaming of the sea.
I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.
- I bought and paid for the game myself.
- At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.
Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.
Sound Effects: bbc.co.uk – © copyright 2023 BBC
The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Australia by MusicParadise
Free download: https://filmmusic.io/song/5056-australia
License (CC BY 4.0): https://filmmusic.io/standard-license
Artist website: http://www.music-paradise.de