This weekend I was demoing at the UK Games Expo on the Mayfair stand, and got to play quite a few games! Over the next few days I will be giving a review of some of the stand out games I got to play over the weekend, and what I thought after playing them at least 20 times each! Sadly I don’t have any/many photos of the games in action, due to being busy demoing!
First up: Costa Rica!
Time length: 30-45 (First game may take 45 minutes, but will be closer to 30 minutes once you have played it once)
Times played/Demoed: 10+
Costa Rica is a pretty simple “push your luck” style of game. You are intrepid explorers exploring the country looking to photograph the most wildlife, while also trying to photograph the most varied wildlife. The map is made up of hexagon tiles which forms into a large hexagon itself. The hexagon map tiles are split into three different biomes: Forests, wetlands and mountains. On one side of the tile will be a picture representing the biome, and on the other side will be creatures. In each biome, you will find different wildlife, as well an increased chance of danger which is indicated on the tile with a mosquito.
At leach corner of the hexagon map, each player places one of their explorers. Then the start player is given the exploration leader token. They choose one of the parties around the board and flip one of the tiles that the exploratory party is next to, and see what is underneath. Then they can choose whether to take the face up tiles, or continue exploring. If they choose to keep exploring then going clockwise each player in the party chooses whether to take the face up tiles, or to keep exploring. If somebody chooses to take the face up tiles they collect them all and remove their explorer from the party. Only players with explorers still within the party may be involved in deciding whether to keep or continue exploring.
However, there is always a risk that danger could strike! If a two tiles with the mosquito symbol are turned up, then the lead explorer leaves the party but takes any tiles without a mosquito with them. Then the exploration leader token is move on clockwise.
This continues until all accessible tiles are used, or all explorers have been used. Then it is a quick task to tally up the points of each of the players to discover the winner!
So, with the very brief explanation of the rules out of the way, how does it feel to play? For such a simple game it is an absolute blast to play. It is nice, light and quick to play. You can try and gamble for more tiles, and risk somebody else taking those tiles away from you when you choose to continue exploring, or you can turn over a mosquito and suddenly lose those two leopards that you so desperately needed!
The joy of suddenly getting a lucky streak as you push on and gather more tiles than you imagined, or the bad luck of turning over two mosquitos in a row can make the table howl with laughter as your misfortune. The fun of risking turning over a mountain tile with already a mosquito shown as you desperately need that toucan to get one of every type of creature is as much fun as nabbing the tiles from a friend who decided to explore further and you need those frogs is great.
I really view this game as a breath of fresh air after a more heavy strategic game. 30 minutes to clear the air and head after a heavy game of caverna, scythe or other big games is exactly what this game is and absolutely perfect for.
There are strategies you can consider (knowing there are 61 tiles on the board, fighting to make sure in a 5 player game you can get the average 2 tiles per explorer is something to think about when you gather none from one of your explorers!) however overall I view this game as something fun and relaxing.
I would say I much prefer the game with 4 players rather than 5, as I think with 5 there is a little too much competition for the tiles with 5 players, however I wouldn’t say it detracts from the game by any stretch.
Liz’s Score: To give you an idea how much I look forward to taking this game to my gaming table, I currently have a copy in my backpack I am taking home to play with my friends, even after demoing it for hours over this weekend, and demoing the playtest version last year. This is one to pick up to play with friends, and we will have a laugh between gaming marathons without a heavy rulebook slowing us down.