Coldwater Crown board game by Bellwether Games, a fishy review:

I know what you're thinking, a board game based around fishing, that sounds kind of, well, boring. Don't be swayed by that thought dear gamer, because you need to know more about Coldwater Crown.

Coldwater Crown is a board game for 1-4 players, ages 13+ with a play time of around 40-90 minutes. Players are fishermen (fisherwomen) taking part in a fishing tournament called - can you guess? - The Coldwater Crown.

Is that “victory” you taste in the salty air? You’ve secured your spot as a competitor in the world-renowned Coldwater Crown fishing tournament, and the contest has just begun! Will you be able to cast the right bait at the right time to reel-in the biggest fish? Will you be able to strategically balance your efforts at the different fishing locations to win the most trophies? Very little is certain on these frigid waters, but it’s guaranteed the fish will be biting!

At its core Coldwater Crown is a light - perhaps tipping into medium strength - worker placement game. The aim of the game is to catch various fish in the different areas of the board (the lake, river and shore), trying to pick up assorted trophies along the way and also the heavier fish for final scoring. Fish have a weight range on the cards you can see on the board and the actual weight appears on the reverse side which you get to see when you catch it.

In worker placement style you use a token to choose where you're going to fish each turn to try and remove bait (different colored gems) from your tacklebox. Clear a section of your tacklebox (player board that looks like a tacklebox insert), gain a fish from that area. Or, go for the big guns and try and catch the larger / more rare master angler challenge creatures. To do those creatures you place bait on their cards matching the colors on the card with the bait gems, until it's completed. It's a clever little aside that switches things in the gameplay just a bit to give some diversity with regards to how you catch the fish. To do the master angler you use the port area, this is also the area you choose to replenish your bait.

Another little twist to the rules are the tackle tokens, special moves you can do that can change where you're catching and what you're catching. There are also two spaces in your tacklebox where you can also slightly manipulate your fishing choices.

Each turn you get two token actions, place your token in one of the empty spaces on the board and take that action, but also picking up a token from one of the areas and taking that action. Tokens are numbered 1 and 2 and both do different things. A 1 allows you to remove one bait from each area of the color you chose, a 2 allows you to move ALL bait of that color. It's a really clever mechanism.

Overall:
You have to hand it to Brian Suhre for coming up with a smart, cohesive worker placement game about fishing. I've really enjoyed all the games of Coldwater Crown I've played so far and it's a game I'll keep in my collection for years to come. It's a gorgeous looking game, from the board to the tacklebox, the artwork (by Beth Sobel and Ryan Coleman) to the cleverness of using gems as the bait. Everything just seems extremely well thought out and polished.

For me Coldwater Crown is a great game that somehow manages to capture all the excitement of a fishing tournament, without the boring bits of sitting there waiting for a bite.

The Negatives:
Some gamers may feel they are doing the same actions each round and this may seem repetitive. I would contravene this slightly by suggesting the repetitive action choices still contain thought / decision making.
Not sure if it's an anomaly, but the board we received is cut off on one side, meaning you can't read the player aid on that side of the board. Bit of a bummer, but that's just a little niggle really.

The Positives:
Leonardo da Vinci allegedly stated "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" and whilst I'm not suggesting this is a da Vinci level game, I'm certainly suggesting Coldwater Crown manages definite sophistication in its simplicity.

Thematically Coldwater Crown encapsulates the feeling of fishing (in a fish filled location!) right there in a board game without becoming overwrought with ridiculous options. You could teach and play Coldwater Crown to anyone, it is - in my humble opinion - a wonderful gateway game.

Check it out at Bellwether Games.