Iquazú Review

Iquazú (Haba)

With a long-standing peace now disturbed, the Inox tribe is forced to hide their precious, life-giving Gemstones from the clutches of the evil Rhujas. Through the help of the great water dragon, Silon, the Inox can temporarily expose the face of the mountain from the crushing Iquazú Waterfall, providing a perfect concealment. Repelling dangerously close to the poisonous water snakes below, it is only through these great lengths that the Inox are able to protect their Gemstones and the future of their people.

Before the first turn, Iquazú’s inventive board takes a little setting up. The four framing game board pieces connect to provide a snug fit for placing the two plastic rails, the interchangeable Rock Strips placed between the rails, the overlying Water Strips and lizard-headed Water Frame placed on top of the rails, and lastly the Point Board for that game (determined by the number of players). Bonus Tiles are placed randomly, facedown over the nine right most Rock Strips, eight of which are covered by the starting Water Strips and the ninth of which is turned over to make the first column of contested bonuses. It’s a quick setup that gives Iquazú some of the most inventive and exciting components of any game from 2018. Games are ultimately toys and as a toy, Iquazú is a triumph.

To start the game, the first player gets the Gemstone Box and receives 4 cards with the proceeding players each receiving an additional card (second getting 5, third getting 6, etc). The player to the right of the first player gets the Water Drop Box and then game is ready to play!

On each turn a player can take one of two actions, draw 4 cards (up to a hand limit of 12) or play cards to place one of their Gemstones in one of the Rock Strips’ available colored gaps. Placing a Gemstone requires playing cards of the color of the gap equal to the column number where the the gap is found. Then, if the player currently has the Water Drop Box, they place a Water Drop in the first available gap in the left most column. The player then passes the Gemstone Box to the next player on their left.

If by placing a Gemstone or Water Drop a player fills the left most column, an Interim Scoring Round occurs. First, Rock Points as determined by the Point Board for that column are scored for majority Gemstones with ties going to the lowest placed Gemstone. Then Bonus Tiles are awarded as determined by row majority with ties going to the furthest right placed Gemstone, then finally broken by lowest placed of the furtherest right. After scoring, players remove the furthest right Water Strip on the plastic rails and add it to the left side, pushing the Water Frame and all Water Strips right to expose a new Rock Strip column. New Bonus Tiles are flipped, the Water Drop Box moves to the right and a new round begins.

After a number of Interim Scoring Rounds, the game ends with the Final Scoring of the third most right column. With no additional Bonus Tiles, the two remaining rock strips are scored regardless of whether they are full. The player with the most points wins!

Beyond the wonderful illustrations and components, Iquazú’s gameplay is a balance of weighing points and advantages. Placing Gemstones in the left most column costs fewer cards and help to score immediate Rock Points, but Rock Points increase with each column. Bonus Tiles aquired by row majority allow you to draw additional cards, score immediate points, take an extra turn or ignore card color when placing a Gemstone – all which can be game-changing, if played correctly. There’s a lot to consider within each turn’s single action, making Iquazú just as fun to look at as it is to play. (Haba) by David C. Obenour