Aquarius Review
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Players: 2-5 (ages 6+, with additional preschooler rules)
Playing Time: 10-20 minutes

Each summer, when I spend a weekend camping with my niece and nephew, we end up playing a whole lot of games. Over the last couple of summers, my nephew, Nathan (he’s 11), has enjoyed figuring out the strategies of Fluxx. But my niece, Kaari (she’s seven), is still learning—so she has to team up with a grown-up whenever she plays. For this year’s camping trip, though, we found a card game that everyone can play: Aquarius—a simple, domino-style matching game that incorporates a few Fluxx-style strategies.

Before the game begins, each player gets a Goal card, which depicts one of five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and space. The object of the game, then, is to match domino-like cards to create a chain of your assigned element.

Players are then dealt three cards each—and another card is placed in the center of the table to start the game. Most of the cards depict the five elements in various combinations. A card could have just a single element, or it could be split in half to show two elements, or it could be split in quadrants to show four elements. The deck also contains a number of Action cards, which allow you do switch Goal cards, trade hands, or mess with your opponents in other sneaky ways.

Each turn is pretty straightforward: just draw one card from the draw pile and play one card. You can play an Action card, or you can go about the business of matching elements. To match cards, simply place one card next to another, so at least one element on your card matches one element on the card next to it. Continue to do so until one player wins the game by creating a chain of seven panels of his or her element.

Aquarius game play is simple enough for younger kids. For the most part, you just match pictures, trying to finish your chain before your opponents finish theirs. Kids will catch on pretty quickly—and they’ll love matching the vibrant, flower-powered illustrations.

The bright, colorful cards certainly make for a lively playing surface—but you’ll need to be prepared to spread out. There are, after all, 55 element cards—and that can take up quite a bit of room.

But Aquarius isn’t just a super-easy, plain-and-simple kids’ game; it’s also intriguingly strategic for adults. So, as you play, you’ll pick up a few basic strategies. For example, you might want to keep your opponents guessing, so they won’t know which Goal you’re working toward. Or, once you figure out your opponents’ Goals, you might want to try to block them—or play an Action card to switch Goals with them, so you’ll reap the rewards of their hard work.

The strategies are pretty simple, but they make the game more than just a luck-of-the-draw kind of card game. So, if you happen to be on your annual family camping trip, you can play with the kids during the day, and the grown-ups will still want to keep playing after the kids have been tucked in for the night. It’s an easy-going game that will hold your interest without requiring quiet concentration—perfect for a relaxing night of game-playing out in the elements.

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