A wild ride down the river from Nuns on the Run designer Frederic Moersoen has some cooperative game elements and lots of unpredictable twists and turns for up to six players.
|Whitewater||Mayfair Games||Board Game|
In The Box
Picture a stretch of river and then double it–no, triple or quadruple it. The nine map boards packaged with Whitewater give you lots of variety for a river race and many possible combinations. In some cases you get the feeling that constructible boards are simply a way to economize or create randomness in a game. Here the decision to mix and match pieces means the difference between Whitewater becoming predictable and retaining nice elements of surprise. The board configuration also controls how long the game runs, so it’s possible to trim some time off when playing with younger gamers. A similarly smart design decision gives you the option to play a simplified version of the game by scaling back on the components.
Cardboard markers for lost paddles, overboard rafters, and spent energy all come into play with advanced rules, which you can work up to after mastering the base game. In both styles of play you’ll have the chance to frequently roll one of three special dice representing rapids. These dice are big fun for younger players, whether on their turn or in anticipation of an opponent being put through the wringer. Rounding out the contents of the box are two sets of cards showing action points for each raft and available energy. Everything is durable and our only caveat is to keep a close eye on the small energy tokens that can easily be lost or missed during unpacking.
How It Plays
Some of the best traditional family games involve racing to the finish, but young ones eventually figure out that success in titles like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders is just a matter of luck. Whitewater is a great upgrade for families seeking more strategic gameplay or for serious gaming groups interested in simple fun that blends luck, strategy, and cooperative play. The goal here–like any race game–is to be first across the finish line. If you’ve paddled a canoe or raft you know that it isn’t about individual achievement as much as teamwork. Whitewater does a masterful job building on this theme by forcing you to share each raft with another player.
Even though there are six raft tiles you’re forced to split control, making for plenty of planning and strategizing between rowing partners in every round. Another neat twist is that a player can use his or her turn to assist a partner. This cooperative gameplay is made even more interesting in smaller groups because each player ends up with two different partners, making alliances possible. At the end of the race, players reveal that they have taken bets on the likelihood of a specific raft winning, which influences the final score. Whether you play the base game or the advanced rules, you’ll spend a lot of time navigating around rapids and other obstacles, making strategic use of your available energy and action cards, and possibly appealing to your partner for help. The design of the game is brilliant, from the hex layout that supports the circular rotation of a raft to the idea of stocking up energy for difficult spots in the river.
Definitely start with the base game, even if you feel up to something more challenging. The advanced rules add lots of thematic fun, but they’re best for gaming groups capable of settling in for a 75+ minute float.
It’s interesting because it’s a mix of cooperative and competitive play, and it’s cool that you can arrange the board tiles in so many different ways.