Gaming and travelling are two of my favourite things, so products that combine the two are always a win in my mind! Especially an original travel game for adults, which is sometimes hard to come across. I was recently gifted the Great Barrier Reef Card Game by Travel Buddy Games, a tabletop game designed to be easy to play when on the move. It’s focused around building sustainable ocean reefs and is both intelligent and fun to play – let’s dive in and see how it works (see what I did there?).
Travel Buddy Games
From the Travel Buddy Games about page, written by owner Joshua Lobkowicz:
“Travel Buddy Games is my way of bringing the world of travel to gamers and introduce the world of games to travelers.
Every Travel Buddy Games title will fit 3 basic criteria: small enough to travel with easily, simple enough to play with new friends you meet while traveling, and thematically tied to an interesting or exotic travel destination.
Travel and Gaming are both, for me, inherently social. And some of my fondest memories consist of staying at a hostel and sitting down in the common area with a deck of cards, making new friends, and chatting about the corners of the world we come from and the destinations we seek to go to.
I want Travel Buddy Games to give you those kinds of experiences. I want my games to show you parts of the world you haven’t seen, and make you want to see them in person.
And when you go, I would love for you to take your Travel Buddy Games with you. Bring them to your hostel. Play with the new friends you make on your travels and share the joys of socializing with fellow travelers over a game.”
Despite the Great Barrier Reef Card Game being small there are many elements involved, although setting up isn’t complicated. The game includes a variety of different types of card. Reef cards, scoring cards, and reference cards are present, plus some fish tokens, number tokens, scoring markers, and a 1st player token. All elements are small and easily transportable. The set up is the same every time you play, but strategy is different due to the randomised scoring elements.
I love that the game is for two to five players – many games are 3+ so this is great. Always frustrating when it’s just you and your partner! You can easily adapt the game to different numbers by removing a certain amount of cards from the deck.
The cards for the game are durable but sturdy, and very lightweight. I love the design of the fish on the cards however we weren’t actually sure what some of them were so hoping that this will be included in the instructions (which I’m sure it will). It also took me a while to refer to sponges and corals correctly as they are both quite similar. A fault of nature, rather than Travel Buddy Games!
Gameplay & Scoring
I was surprised at how strategic the Great Barrier Reef Card Game actually is. Although it’s easy to grasp within one or two playthroughs I wouldn’t describe it as simple. There’s a lot of think about – the aim is to build the perfect barrier reef by placing cards together, but you have to consider many elements to achieve this.
One element of this collecting as many sponges, corals, and tiger sharks as possible, whilst simultaneously avoiding crown of thorns. The former give extra points, whilst the latter deduct points. There are also five ways to obtain more points by placing fish in certain ways. Each scoring pattern applies to just one fish, chosen at random, which makes it different each time – I loved this!.
The scoring methods have a base amount of points that the players can gain from them, however these can be altered by certain moves which adds another great element of strategy to the game. By covering up sharks and sponges in their reefs, players can adjust the scoring amount either positively or negatively, which can be used either to up the scores of the patterns they’re aiming for, or reduce the scores of the patterns it looks like their opponent is focusing on. This adds another level of competition between players and can really turn a game around at the last second.
I also liked the strategy involved with the method of drawing cards. Each player starts with three cards in their hand, and they place one each turn. Once placed, they pick up one of four displayed cards which corresponds to the middle number of the original card. Sometimes, placing a card for the next card you will get, rather than the fish patterns, can be more important. This can also be used to pick up extra points or get good cards before the opponents can.
Playthrough took around 20 minutes each time, and scoring was all done at the end. The scoring reference cards are quite handy to use for this as then everyone can work up their scores individually.
I initially thought that the Great Barrier Reef Card Game would be aimed at younger players, however due to the levels of strategy involved I think that very young players would struggle so it’s definitely more a travel game for adults. However, it may be possible for players with younger children to adapt the game. For example, you could take away the more complicated scoring patterns and perhaps remove the ability to adjust the score amounts.
The game will be of interest to many players of tabletop games. I think players of strategic games like Carcassonne will particularly enjoy it as I noticed some similarities there. It will, of course, also be great for anyone who has a particular interest in fish and the ocean!
I haven’t played many tabletop games recently but the Great Barrier Reef Card Game has reignited my love for them. It’s such a fun travel game for adults and kids and, although it requires properly sitting down and reading the rules to get to grips with all of the different elements, once you’ve got it it’s the sort of game you’ll just want to keep on playing. Perfect both for travelling and when you’re stuck in the house, and a guaranteed winner for family bonding time.
The Great Barrier Reef Card game isn’t out as of yet. However, you can join the mailing list and receive updates by visiting the Travel Buddy Games website.
What’s your favourite travel game for adults? Share in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin if you enjoyed this review! You can read some of my latest travel articles here: