Designed By: Calli Wright
Art By: Nikkie Stinchocombe
Published By: Unfiltered Games
Released: On Kickstarter Now! (March 2021)
Player Count: 1-4
Time to Play: 20-30 Minutes
Like mermaids? Like abstract strategy, tile placement, pattern building games? You're going to love Moonshell!
In Moonshell, you will play as a mermaid looking to collect seashells to have the most valuable collection by the end of the game. Players will use the rotating board to draft the right shells in order to score the most points by the time their treasure chest is full.
Set the ocean board in the middle of the table with up to one player on each side of it.
Give each player their treasure chest board, a mermaid board, a mermeeple, and moonshell tile. For an easier game do not use the moonshell tile and/or the mermaid abilities.
Place the tide token even side up
Separate the sea urchins from the shells and randomly fill the ocean board with shell tiles (if playing with two players add 10 sea urchin tiles to the bag after the ocean is full, otherwise keep them separate).
Separate the public objective cards into their 5 categories and select one card from each. Return the others to the box
Give each player two private objectives and have them pick one to keep and return the other to the box.
You are now ready to play! Whoever went to an aquarium or large body of water most recently goes first.
How to Play:
On their turn, players will be able to take three actions of their choice. They can take their actions in any order and may repeat an action multiple times if possible.
Rotate: turn the board 90 degrees in the direction shown on the tide token
Pull 2: if both rock spaces in front of a player are open, they can pull down two shells from the column of their choice onto the rocks below. The remaining tiles in the column slide down to the bottom and new tiles are replaced on the board from the bag. When the bag is empty, use the sea urchin tiles to fill in the open spaces. Each sea urchin in a player's treasure chest is worth 1 point at the end of the game.
Collect: collect a tile from a rock space directly in front of you. That tile is added to one of the columns on your player board and falls until it hits the lowest open space in the column it is placed in.
The game ends when one player fills their treasure chest. That player may complete their remaining actions (should they have any left) and then the round finishes so all players have an equal number of turns.
Private and public objectives are now scored and whoever has the highest total score is the most mermazing mermaid to ever swim in the ocean!
Mermaids are a surprisingly uncommon theme in board games. Sure, many games have a mermaid character, but up until Moonshell, we had never played a game based entirely around mermaids. Moonshell fills a void in gaming, specifically around games designed with girls in mind, that we didn't even realize was missing until we played it. Moonshell is simple enough to play with children, especially if you use the modified rules for a simpler game, but complex enough that a group of only adults would still thoroughly enjoy the game.
While we have a prototype copy and cannot speak to the final components of the game, we can say the art is beautiful and everything is very thematic. Each mermaid has its own style and all are lovely in their own way.
With three main actions, it is simple to teach others how to play, but the mix of private and public goals for scoring leads to a great amount of strategy around which pieces to draft and where to place them. There is also the added complexity of the size constraint of your treasure chest board. You only have 12 spots to store your shells, so you have to think about which ones are most worth drafting to score points.
For those who enjoy games like Azul or Sagrada, Moonshell will be an instant hit. The pattern-building mechanics will feel familiar, along with the objective goals, but the rotating board mechanism adds a nice twist to this type of puzzle game. Additionally, the mermaids all come with their own unique power, which can be used as a free action during your turn. The variable player powers help change up the feel of the game each time you play as a different mermaid. Lastly, you have a moonshell which can be used strategically as it can be any shape and any color, so if it is placed wisely it can be used to help complete objectives you might otherwise not complete. It can also be worth 4 points at the end of the game if it is not used.
With a variety of ways to score points and an ever-changing board, Moonshell was a joy to play and we look forward to refining our strategies as we play more in the future.