Review – Reef (Next Move Games)

Reef by Next Move Games
Reef by Next Move Games

Reef, from Next Move Games

In the game Reef, players take on the role of the reef itself, alternating turns in which they carefully select the colors and patterns in which to grow and expand—the more beautiful the reef, the more points they score!

The Story


Observe the growth of nature’s most beautiful and exotic natural structure: the coral reef. Found primarily in the Indo-Pacific region, it has taken reefs thousands of years to grow. Over that time, they have mesmerized marine life and created amazing aquatic ecosystems. Prepare yourselves to do the same… and open your eyes to the beauty of the oceans.

Reef is designed by Emerson Matsuuchi, (best known for designing the Century series) and is the first title published by Next Move Games, a spinoff of Plan B Games. Next Move Games focuses on LITE themed abstract games with DEEP strategy. Riding on the success and popularity of modern abstracts, Next Move will bring fans PURE games with simple, CORE mechanisms to engage their minds. Fans can expect CHIC, high-quality components that offer a simple pleasure to the tactile and visual senses. A final point to note is that every Next Move title will be FOUR letters in length to reinforce the elegance in the game’s design.

Reef Set-Up

Reef gameplay

Shuffle the player boards (one for each number of players and including the one with the starfish) and randomly place one in front of each player. The player with the starfish board will be the first player.

The 60 cards are shuffled and 2 cards are dealt to each player, forming their starting hand. The remaining cards from that deck. Draw 3 cards and place them in a face-up row next to the deck, forming the card display. Each player also receives three 1-point tokens, forming their personal point stock.

Sort the 112 coral pieces by color to form 4 separate supplies, removing a number of coral pieces based on the number of players. From the coral supplies, each player takes 1 coral piece of each color and places them onto the 4 center spaces of his player board (in any configuration).

Reef Gameplay

On each turn, the player will either draw a card from the center row to add to their hand, or play a card from their hand. If the player chooses the top card from the draw deck, they must also put one 1-point token from their personal point stock onto the remaining card in the row with the lowest printed point value (the number in the bottom right corner).

Reef game pieces
Reef game pieces

The hand limit is four cards. So, if a player already has a hand of 4 cards, they must choose the second option of playing a card from their hand.

When a player plays a card from their hand, two steps are performed in a specific order. First, both coral pieces shown on the top of the played card are taken from the supply and placed anywhere on the player board, either on any blank space or on top of a piece or stack. Stacks of coral can only be 4 high.

Once the coral pieces are placed, they remain in that spot for the rest of the game. Second, the player may score the pattern shown on the bottom of the card, and take the coordinating number of point tokens from the supply. If the pattern appears multiple times throughout the reef, the player takes the number of points for as many times as the pattern appears. Only the top view is relevant. So it is always the color of the top coral piece of any stack that counts for the pattern, no matter the color any of the pieces below it.

As soon as at least one color of coral pieces runs out, or if the deck of cards runs out, the game ends. Players finish out the current round of play. Each player who still has any cards left in his hand may now score the patterns of those cards (without taking any coral pieces first), only scoring a completed pattern once, even if the pattern appears multiple times throughout their reef. The player with the highest score wins the game.

The Good

Reef components
Reef components

While the gameplay is simple, it can also be complex. It is a constant challenge to build long-term strategies. The choices of cards should ultimately balance out the inventory of reef pieces that a player receives to build their reef, while also attempting to complete the combinations on the same card to maximize point accumulation. This also contributes to replayability – there will never be two games alike.

The components are very high quality. The player boards are made of a thick cardboard and printed on both sides. The coral pieces are a nice chunky plastic, similar to the feel of dominoes. The reef pieces are bold colors, but with each reef type as a distinguishable shape, they are also colorblind-friendly.

The Bad

Reef box Insert
Reef box Insert

There isn’t really anything negative to say about this game. Simply put, if you are a fan of abstract strategy games, it is great to add to your collection. If not, then this game isn’t for you.

The one negative that I have is in regards to the box. The game comes with a box insert to hold the coral pieces and other components – but not the player boards! Instead, the player boards sit awkwardly on the top of the box insert. There is barely enough room for the box lid to shut. It is a very odd box insert design. There is plenty of room in the box, and there could’ve been a simple recess in the insert, or another minor tweak, to make everything fit.

Final Thoughts

Reef is an attractive game that is a sure hit among those who love abstract strategy games. Fans of Emerson Matsuuchi should just go right out and pick it up, no second-guessing. It’s a fun little game that will surely provide long-term entertainment for gamers of all ages and skill levels.

Game Statistics

  • Release Date: Q4 2018
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Age Range: 8+
  • Player Count: 2-4


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About the author

Shanon Connelly

(a.k.a. “Super Muffin Girl”) is an avid board gamer, cosplayer, and all around nerd girl. She has been cosplaying for over 10 years, attending several conventions every year. She recently started a YouTube gaming channel, "Time to Play!", which previews and reviews board games. Follow Shanon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@supermuffingirl).

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