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Iquazu Review

Quick Look: Iquazu

Designer: Michael Feldkötter
Artist: Stephanie Böhm
Publisher: HABA
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 45 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

tl;dr: Gem-laying and area control, using matching cards. Breath-catchingly clever waterfall mechanic.

Getting to the Game: Gimmicky games can get a bad rap. Ninety-five percent of the fun of Mousetrap is watching the Rube Goldberg device work or fail, and the actual gameplay just gets in the way. Iquazu, while nowhere near as complex a gimmick, still relies on the simple beauty of sliding cardboard around. Setting up for the game requires some doing, as you assemble the waterfall and the hidden rewards beneath it. 

Based on player count, your columns will each score differently, based on whose gems dominate the length of the waterfall. The starting player will get the gembox as well as the waterbox. Once the gembox makes a full lap around the table, the player with the waterbox will add a droplet to the topmost, leftmost empty space. When a column fills, the water drowns it away, revealing a new column on the right. When there are no more columns to reveal, you score what's left. Simple, right? Yes.

Playing the Game: But simple is far from bad. Iquazu is a HABA game, a publisher with a wide catalog of early-learner games designed to teach little kids game mechanics as well as life skills. However, if you are willing to delve a little deeper beyond those bright yellow boxes, you'll find your own hidden gems. HABA has been quietly making, for lack of a better term, big-kid games for a few years now, and what they've made has lived up to their reputation of quality. Iquazu is just another jewel in the crown.

At its core, Iquazu is a set collection game. Fail to draw the right cards at the right times, and you're playing catch-up the whole time. However, with only four colors to draw from, the odds of you failing to draw something you can use are so astronomically high that you would rival Homer Simpson with your bad luck. 

Points and bonus tokens awarded for the majority in each row or column move the game along at a nice clip--points being given out as you go force you to maximize your investments knowing exactly where you stand in relation to the other players, while the bonus tokens serve a decent rubber banding mechanic as well as some tactical choice in deciding where to focus your efforts.

Our group loved Iquazu, and for more reasons than simply being surprised as how great a simple game can be. When a developer like HABA leverages this level of art and thought-out gameplay, the result is a perfectly solid table game. Will this change anyone's world or win a Spiel de Jahres? No, but it might just be one of the best-looking game to hit your table with the lowest barrier to entry, and that's saying an awful lot in this golden age of board gaming.

Artwork and Components: From the eye-poppingly attractive box art, continued on in the jigsaw-puzzle board and player cards, Stephanie Bohm is to be commended. She's created a hidden world that rivals James Cameron's dreamscapes, and boiled it all down to just what's needed to evoke a playful world of water-dwellers. The iconography across the cards and the tiles is clear while still maintaining this feel. High praise.


The components are equally good. The wooden water droplets and the translucent plastic gems all have a good "hand feel" to them. The cards are serviceable, more or less what you'd expect from a game expected to hold up to multiple shufflings. Some of the gem coloring could have been bolder; depending on the light in your game room, you might have trouble distinguishing them from each other at times. This was a very minor complaint from my group, though.

The Good: Gameplay, art, and components all combine into a wonderful tapestry of fun. Simple enough to play with kids, but with just enough crunch for the grownups dragged along. Visually stunning on the table.

The Bad: Cards will wear thin eventually, and they're an odd size for sleeves. Fail to draw the right cards through luck, and you're looking at no-win scenario that's not your fault.

Score: For all the reasons mentioned above, I'm highly recommending Iquazu for any group that wants a break from overly deep and methodical games. I'm not knocking those--some in that genre are my favorites ever. But I don't always want that on my game night, and since it hit my table for the first time, we find ourselves reaching for it often. I'm giving Iquazu a score of Do, Do Go Chasing Waterfalls.

Check out Iquazu on:


About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Iquazu Review Iquazu Review Reviewed by The Madjai on November 15, 2018 Rating: 5

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