Freshwater Fly (2019) review
Bellwether Games is a publisher who gained recognition with the game Coldwater Crown. A game rather interesting and perfect about fishing. They are now back with a new Kickstarter, this time, Freshwater Fly. No surprise, it rests in the theme of fishing. While the first game was intended to plunge you into a world tournaments, the second offers a more intimate approach, more solitary. Indeed, in Freshwater Fly you go fly fishing in a slightly mountainous area, with friends. Just that, your whole program. Indeed, I like games that offer original themes. This one is one of those. However, I have to admit, not being a fisherman myself, I have not mastered the jargon specific to this passion.
Freshwater Fly is a game of Brian Suhre. All the visual was done by Darryl T. Jones. The game was available in small quantities at Essen 2019 and sometimes in a few shops. But the stock quickly melted. Hard to get your hands on now. The theme played a big part in the success of the title, especially in a current production that is struggling to renew itself. But what about the game itself?
Freshwater Fly invites you to play as a fisherman. Here, no religion. No, a real fisherman, with his rubber boots, his overalls, his gloves, his bucket hat... In short, all you need to not catch a death by cold from facing the currents. With your fishing rod, you and your friends decided to start a small competition. The subject of the competition: angling. The goal: to get the most points at the end of the game. Simple, basic. Fishing rod in hand, let's go.
Me, I dig my saplings, to go fishing, musette on the shoulder, sausage, cold beer. (french song "LA PÊCHE À LA LIGNE" - RENAUD) Settled in my little corner of paradise, I'm ready. First thing to do, choose my fly. There are six flies available, each corresponding to a color, which itself corresponds to the hatching tokens. It is important to study the game board in order to choose a color that corresponds to your target fish at the risk of telling the story of how the big fish got away. Each player, in the order of the turn, will prepare their rod carefully.
In Freshwater Fly, there is no lap count. You have the time, as this requires practice. Although ... the first to catch their seventh fish, will end the game. It remains a race. Monitoring the progress of others and catching up is a good idea. Just be contemplative and enjoy the water and clean air.
Each player has an individual board representing their abilities and reel. This is not a simple accessory that challenges but represents a real pretty ingenious and well inserted in the theme. The central board corresponds to the whole accessible end of the river and gives you a visual of the catchable fish. And essentially with which bait to catch them.
At each round, you will roll a number of dice based on the number of players. The dice are at the heart of the game. In turn order, you will choose one of the dice still available and perform a force action equal to its value. There are three main actions available: casting, reel or finesse +2.
First of all, you'll need a target, a whipping fish (no Igor, put that whip away!). For that, nothing more simple. The chosen die will show you a column on the board. In this column, you will be able to choose a position among those available (paying attention of the rocks). But for your prey to be attracted, you must have a fly of the same color as the hatching token at the bottom of the river. If this is the case, you must go to the second step: catching your fish.
For him to bite the hook, you will have to show skill ... not in fact, it's more luck but in a controlled way. There is a small deck consisting of four cards. Among them, is a card "fish caught". You mix this deck, and if you have a hook of the same color as a hatch, you draw one. If this famous card is drawn, bravo you can go to the next step. If you missed your fish, do not panic. Concentrate. Do you see your fineness level on your personal board? If you have any, you can spend one (you slip your token one step to the left) to take another card. Still missed? Decidedly, this fish is tough. You can even do it again, if you really lack luck (perseverance is a good virtue).
But what happens if you miss your fish? The current will move your line will drift one step to the left. If you were already in zone 1, too bad for you, you will have to retry your luck on your next action. In other cases, if your hook corresponds to a hatching token you can try again to hook a new fish. Take back the cards, shuffle them and ... this time you do not shoot one but two cards. Yes, it is like that. You want this fish! If, after this second chance, you have not succeeded, your action is lost.
In case your hook does not match the hatch token, it's a little less convenient. If this is your first run, your line drifts down a notch. You can only try your luck if your hook matches the hatch token. If it still does not fit, you still drift one step to the left. With each drift, you have the right to try your luck to catch the fish. But be careful, after the second drift or after the second attempt, your turn is over. Small bonus of a drift, it is not one but two cards that you will draw. Sometimes, going farther can be a good strategy.
Once your fish is hooked, you have it at the end of your cane. It took the fly, which may tend to annoy it. But expert as you are, it's not a problem. So you take the corresponding fish and position it on your personal board according to its color. Each color corresponds to a step in the capture. The more difficult a fish is to catch, the more points it makes. You also take the hatching token (which will serve at the end of the game) and of course you place a fish in the space of the one that your caught. If by chance you have caught it next to rocks, draw the first card from the pile. These are bonuses that will help you greatly during the game. Finally, the reel is positioned on its starting space.
Which brings us to the second possible action. Play the reel to tickle this stud. In short, bring the fish to the surface. Your reel has five spaces. Each corresponds to a specific action:
To use your reel, you will have to select a remaining die. You decrease the value of the die by the resistance strength of the fish and you advance your reel by that many spaces. Once this is done, you can use the power indicated on the space.
There remains a third and last action available, focus. You can take any dice and regardless of its value, to move your fineness slider two notches to the right. This is the best way to ensure future success or desired power.
There are also bonus actions that depend on your rock cards (permanent but once per turn), your speed tile (one-shot) or your situation on your ability (lower your fineness by one step to the left). These actions can be done in addition to the main action.
The end of a round occurs when there are no more dice available. To determine the first player, you’ll calculate the value of each die you used, the smallest total is prime. Being first can be important. This is also one of the ways the author tries to convince you not to just take the big numbers.
The end of the game comes at the end of a round where a player fishes their seventh fish. You’ll then count the points. Starting with the fish, then public goals and after private goals. Finally, the points from rock cards are added and the one that has the most wins.
Contrary to what it seems, Freshwater Fly is not a complicated game. Everything seems quickly logical and the rounds are linked in a rather important fluidity. In front of the small choice of available actions, the wait between turns is quite limited.
Thematically, the game is really exemplary. Everything breathes the theme. That it is the material but also the mechanisms. Special mention to the idea of the reel. We found ourselves with the impression of raising fish at the end of our lines. A little cricket singing in the background, relaxing music with water streaming and you're there.
The rules are in the majority quite clear and the components is relatively correct (some problems may be on some material). You’ll quickly identifies your objectives and the fish that you wishes to catch. Moreover, the idea of having personal boards with asymmetrical objectives is excellent. Everything is well indicated and it is not necessary to go back in the rule book.
The duration of a game is not very long. I must admit that it is sufficient. Longer, the game could have become quite boring. Because yes, it is not free of defects.
Already, the game seems pretty scripted. This feeling finally agrees well enough with the theme, but we quickly feel forced. One of the things you need to do first is hook a fish. When you do not have fish, the rest is impossible. Then, once you have one at the end of your line, you will have to go back up, so you will do almost this action. And so on. Finally, you take a dice, you take a fish, you spin your reel. However, this repetitiveness of actions and especially choices fits perfectly into the theme. How else would you have wanted it? To have wanted to stick too close to the theme, the author may have forgotten that this is a board game and that playfully non-fishermen could quickly get bored.
Luck is present. But it is relatively discreet and most of the time controllable. Once again, you could have liked unforeseen events (fish snaps the line, the wind reverses the current, etc.) which would have broken a little this playful monotony. The dice, in turn, play a role that is ultimately rather minor. The game will sometimes be a race to the one who will be able to take the strongest dice first (hence the interest of being the first player). Collect dice of small values quickly finds its limits.
The replayability of the game is theoretically good. However, it can quickly become a problem if your resistance to do more or less the same is low.
The game offers a solo mode that has the merit of existing and remains interesting. Not convinced by cons, once realized, we return with great pleasure.
I was really attracted to the theme that was off the beaten track. I would have loved to love this game. It is pleasant but unfortunately far from what had sold me, at least in my imagination. Maybe I was expecting too much? Far from being a bad game, it is not unforgettable either. If it had not had its original theme, would it have been so successful? Nothing is less sure.
Freshwater Fly is a pleasant game with a refreshing theme and incredible thematic respect. But even if it has interesting mechanisms, the game suffers quickly from gaps. Shortcomings that will be quickly forgotten if you are fans of fishes, or that will be important if you search more than a theme. This points race could finally be compared to a long calm river. A known place, relaxing but not surprising.
Technical score 8/10
Many good things in this game. The graphics, the material (even if some things are disproportionate or just below the rest), the rules, everything is clear, clear and thematically respected. The reel is a small gadget that has its charm. We hoped for a finish on some elements, for a little less generic look.
My BGG score 7/10
(Good likes from time to time play)
The strength of the game is its theme, rather its thematic respect. On it, the work of the author is remarkable. However, when you touch such a special passion, you have to know how to balance. Focusing on it alone can quickly knock out those who do not have this fiber. Paradoxically therefore, the game suffers from the thematic omnipresence that prevents it from coming out of the currents. A current sometimes too linear.
Combined score 7.5 / 10
And now, it's up to you to play ...