My daughter got her first card game for her birthday a few weeks ago.
Aquarius: A family card game from Looney Labs, the makers of the super popular Fluxx games.
The game is intended to be played with two to five players, ages six and older. Each player is dealt three playing cards and a goal card. The object is to connect seven cards with your goal element before another player reaches their goal. To add a bit of strategy to the mix there are action cards in the deck, allowing players to trade goals, trade hands, remove or move cards on the table, and shuffle goal cards. Play begins with a single card dealt face up on the table, and players build their connections from there.
This game is almost equal parts strategy and luck. There is enough of a strategy element to the game to make it fun and challenging for adults, and not just in the ‘I’m playing a kids game with my kids’ way. This isn’t Candyland – you won’t have to worry about holding back so Suzie gets a chance to win. If Suzie can think ahead a few moves, she’s going to beat you almost as often as you beat her.
The thing I love most about Aquarius is that there are three variations listed on the instructions sheet: “How to Play Aquarius with Your Preschooler”. If you have kids, you know the particular pain of tweaking the rules so your little one can join in the fun. The fact that Looney Labs put the variations in the rules gets major bonus points from me. My daughter doesn’t feel ripped off, like I’m dumbing it down for her because it’s printed on the paper that came in the box. When you’re four, these things are important.
Another thing that I really appreciate that has nothing to do with game play is just how pretty these cards are. You can tell a lot of time and effort went into making this game from the illustrations.
My daughter really enjoys playing Aquarius, and I think she’ll enjoy it for years to come. As she gets older we will build on the rules, adding the action cards and goal cards as it becomes appropriate, so the games stays fun for both of us.
The only drawback that we found was that you need a fairly large space to play. Little ones like putting their own cards on the table and it can be quite a reach depending on how the cards are arranged. This is by no means a deal-breaker, but it is something to consider.
I highly recommend Aquarius, especially as an intro to gaming. The quick game play and beautiful graphics are enough to hold the shortest of attention spans while the strategy elements keep it interesting for the older kids and adults. You can get a set directly from Looney Labs, or from your local comic book or gaming store for around $15.
Bonus: There is a free Java version from Kory Heath Designs – Javaquarius!