Designer: Brian Suhre
Publisher: Bellwether Games
Player count: 1-4 players
Play time: 40 to 90 minutes
A prototype copy of Coldwater Crown: The Sea was provided for this preview. I want to thank Bellwether Games for supporting Jambalaya Plays Games. Everything you see is in prototype form.
- The review for the base game, will post in the near future
Coldwater Crown is one of my favorite games of all time. What I was hoping for from The Sea expansion is gameplay that would add more strategy to the larger player counts and content that doesn’t completely change what is already a well designed game. Well, achievement unlocked! The Sea expansion adds more opportunities to score and operating room for players to alter their strategies during the game. If you’re not familiar with Coldwater Crown, it’s a worker placement game where players are strategically removing bait from their four quadrant (Zones) player boards to catch fish from three freshwater locations. Players can win multiple trophies for collecting sets of Fish cards, Master Angler cards and catching all of the small species from each location. Players also receive trophies (point tiles) for coming in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place in each location. The size of the fish you catch, just like in real life, make the gameplay a little unpredictable and I think that’s a sweet thematic touch. The place and remove mechanic is a refreshing touch to the worker placement. In the base game and The Sea Expansion, the game ends when someone catches their 12th fish. Players will receive trophies for their total weight at each location and add up points from trophies earned during the game, to see who has the most points. I left out a few details, but the Coldwater Crown has more strategy than I expected mixed in with a small dose of luck to spice up the fun for casual players. It’s light/medium weight game and solo mode shows off how strategic the game is. We’ll talk about the solo very lightly in this preview and give the mode a full blowout in a base game review. Off to the open water we go.
The Sea Expansion
I feel like I went into my Coldwater Crown review and not the expansion preview, sorry about that. Love me some Coldwater Crown. The Sea Expansion adds a side board that’s attached to the main board and lines up perfectly with the Tackle pieces explanations at the bottom of the board. There’s not a huge amount of content in this expansion, but there doesn’t need to be. The expansion builds on the Port location actions that place players “at Sea” and you’re catching a new selection fish and sharks which can be caught with any color bait. The Squid Master Angler card is added to the deck of angler set you can complete. Everything you catch and complete is added to the base game except for how the board is scored. At the end of the game all players will earn points for their total weight instead of winning trophies for each location on the main board.
Everything in the expansion is activated by taking a Port action. To be considered “at Sea” takes one action point. If a player places or removes the number one or two side of their Angler token, they can take one or two port actions. For example, when a player places the number 2 side of their Angler token on the Port space, they can place their little Sea Vessel on the expansion board. The player is considered “at Sea” and can still take one more port action, such as grab an Master Angler card or refill a quadrant (Zone) on their player board. If you want to catch fish while “at Sea,” you still place your Angler token on the main board to remove bait. When the last piece of bait is removed from a Zone, players receive a fish from the same Zone on the Sea board. The fish on the expansion board can be caught with any color bait, providing a less restricted approach to the gameplay. In the base game, you can get a little unlucky with drawing too much color variety from the bait bag. At higher player counts, you might get the feeling that you’re moving too slow because you need a specific color bait to get a specific fish at a specific location. Now you have an option to head out to Sea instead and snag one of the heavy Blue Shark cards that pop up. As long as you’re considered at Sea, you have the opportunity to place bait that would be discarded on Squid Angler cards. All of the Sea actions don’t apply to the main board. You can’t catch fish on the main board while at Sea, nor can you place bait on Master Angler cards from the base game side. Players are never stuck on the Sea board, returning to the main board is a free action that you can take anytime during your turn. The Sea expansion also adds the Anchor tackle piece to the variety of Tackle pieces in the base game. Tackle pieces are bonus powers that are awarded based on removing the last piece of bait off one of top two Zones on a player board. The Anchor can be activated at any point during a players turn and gives the player an extra Port action. The Rod tackle piece can’t be used on the Sea board because it would the player to catch one fish from the sea and the main board. It would completely break the rules of the expansion content and I’m glad they took this option out because I would be a little disappointed. That’s about all the content in expansion based on the prototype I have. Overall, everything that was added give players more to do and room to operate. You know how some expansions feel tacked on? I want you to know this is not the case with The Sea. The base game only needed an extra touch and not a complete overhaul to fill in holes. I hope that answers your, “is it worth it?” question.
The Sea board scores completely different from the normal game. Instead of dishing out trophies for 1st through 4th place, all players calculate the total weight of their Fish cards to score between one and eight points. You can’t submit more than one of each species and everyone score points based on where their total weight falls on the scoreboard. All Fish cards and completed Master Angler cards from the expansion contribute to the Master Angler Trophies (three of a kind, four different species), the Mystery Weight trophies, and color tag bonus points. Everything is easy to tally up and it raises the final score just little for veterans of the game.
The solo mode in the Sea offers more opportunity to put more points on the board. If you’ve played against the base game AI, you need to move at a faster pace to catch fish and snag as many of the trophies to stand a chance. The Sea expansion content makes me feel slightly more competitive. I have a higher win rate with the expansion because I can focus on more of the Angler cards and win the race on the Sea board. I don’t want you to get the impression that the solo mode is a cake walk in Sea expansion. You get more options, the AI gets more options based on your choices, and the same amount of challenge remains. By the way, I’m 3 for 10.
The AI has a follow mechanic where it can grab fish from the Sea board IF you’re “at Sea” after your turn. The AI could snatch up a Fish card you’ve been eyeing up, just like the base game. The same goes for the Squid Master Angler cards, since the luck of the draw could burn you. It’s tempting to stay “at Sea” because the potential of having an extra eight points is so crucial to winning, but you can’t forget about the amount of trophies you can win on the main board.
If you’re looking for a real challenge, the solo mode in Coldwater Crown highlights all of the strategy the gameplay has to offer. You to have to be willing to switch up your strategy at any point of the game and take advantage of the Sea board when the time is right. The saying, “us all of the tools in your tackle box” comes to mind. The potential downside to this mode is the randomness of how the AI operates. It’s based on a blind draw from the bait bag and you can’t necessarily plan for what’s coming. I kind of like the unexpected and revealing the unknown is kind of exciting to me. I like how thinky the solo mode is and I don’t mind losing because it’s rewarding to squeeze out an occasional victory. I don’t feel lucky when I win, I feel like I earned it. If you’re a solo only player, I highly recommend this game without hesitation. One of my favorite solo games. The play time is about 45 minutes.
Why Should I Back Cold Water Crown: The Sea?
(Base game) The bait removal mechanic and worker placement is totally unique. Everyone can learn the rules rather quickly and enjoy the game on their first playthrough
(Expansion) The Sea board opens the gameplay for higher player counts, which was the minor grip I had with the base game
(Both) More Beth Sobel art….You know what’s up! This new board is beautiful and the scenery matched up with the regular board, which is a nice touch
(Expansion) I like putting more points on the board, so the new scoring option is a major selling point for me
(Expansion) The solo mode is one of my favorites and it doesn’t make the game easier, but it opens up more options
I don’t want to play the base game without the expansion
Expansions are a tricky thing to back on Kickstarter, especially when you’re late to the party. Even with all of the additions to the game, it’s light on content. Update on this subject, backers have already unlocked enough to turn this into a positive. My opinion of course
I want more card types. Maybe more Master Angler cards get unlocked during the campaign, but I want at least two or three new types mixed in there
Drawing from a bag to refill your board is totally random and some people can’t stand that amount of randomness
It’s a game about fishing. I know some players can’t get past that
Can’t you tell? I want more Coldwater Crown. I might sound a little fan boy-ish, but I can get bored with games I love and this is not the case with the expansion content. I believe players will enjoy the thinky gameplay of the base game’s unique bait removal mechanic and appreciate the new content. I want future expansions to continue down the same path of adding more variety and different scoring option, because it adds more weight to the game. In all fairness, this is not a perfect game. I’m a little lenient when it comes to the higher player count experience and the randomness of drawing different color bait from a bag. That might be a turn off for some players, but it doesn’t make the game less fun. It doesn’t bother me to catch a fish and not know exactly how much it weighs. I like the possibility of receiving instant and end game bonuses for the fish you catch. Fishing is supposed to be a little random and unpredictable anyways. Overall, the positives vastly outweigh the small number of negatives. If you’re looking for a close to medium weight game to add to your collection, Coldwater Crown with The Sea expansion is solid choice. The base game has a home in my Kallax and I’m already a backing the expansion.
Is it worth it? Yes
Is the expansion worth it? Yes
Is it worth it just for solo play? Yes
I’ll leave up to you to decide what to do with your money. I want my readers to make an informed decision about Coldwater Crown and the expansion, so please read my base game review, which should show up later this week. Meanwhile, take a look at the Kickstarter page while you wait with anticipation! I’m projecting. Thank you for your time.