This review was originally posted on the website of the Perfect Information podcast. It has been reposted here for archival purposes.
Hello and welcome to our little village by the sea. Thank you for visiting. We have much that is promising here. Like a thriving fishing industry spearheaded by some of our most talented and motivated young fisherwomen. But we also have plenty of hard-working women in our factories, making sure that we can produce the machines that make our living so luxurious. And who could forget our plentiful job opportunities in our retail and service industry, or our agricultural industry. This village of ours is surely going places. Don’t mind the young men in suits and aviators, they are merely land developers that are speculating on our property. Yes, they have in the past lured young families from settling here, but we are determined to turn our village into a community to be proud of. So please… Come to Fishing Village.
Some people seem to argue that there are more than enough cooperative games out there, and while they are not entirely wrong: Come to Fishing Village presents something interestingly unique. An accessible cooperative card-game with few rules and friendly artwork. It is unlikely to uproot any of the giants of this genre, but if you enjoy the art style and the idea of opposing suit-wearing land developers draining the life out of your community… this game might be worth your while.
When I talk about Fishing Village being accessible, I must add that I don’t necessarily refer to the rulebook. Once again, terminology does a lot to both challenge your understanding of the rules and the appreciation of the game play. One of the core mechanics of the game is called “book closing” and refers to fulfilling specific conditions with the cards in your tableau. Had it been simply called “demand” or “contract”, things would probably flow much easier.
But once you’ve wrapped your mind around fulfilling these challenges or risk people leaving your village for good, the game is pretty straightforward. Play cards into your tableau, play them to get rid of land developers, reduce your population to draw new cards or complete a challenge. If you succeed at the latter new people move into your village! YAY! New cards move into your hand! SUPER-YAY! New land developers come to beset your attempts to make life better for everyone. DAMN! They will even chase off people from your tableau if you’re not careful. SUPER-DAMN!
In play, the game is most reminiscent of a board-less Pandemic lite variant. You need to manage your hand cleverly, and choose whether to discard cards to benefit you later or discard them to remove an obstacle (the afore-mentioned land developers). It is just as easily grokked once you’ve played a turn or two, and you spent most of your time coordinating your efforts in an efficient way to complete challenges. Even strategic losses are part of the tactics you will use to win the game.
So… ringing endorsement, then? Not quite. For all its accessibility in its rules, Manga-style cuteness and strong theme, the game ultimately ends up a little dry and mathematical. There are no sudden upsets or surprises waiting for you. The challenges you face are all fairly similar and none of them too unexpected.
Whereas in Pandemic the wheel of fate would occasionally come crashing down on cities you’ve prematurely deemed safe, Fishing Village only puts more obstacles in your way but doesn’t set you back.
In some ways, this might be the game’s strength. People who feel intimidated by the rules of cooperative games in the vein of Pandemic (or Hanabi; let alone Space Cadets!), this might be a good way to ease them into the fun that cooperative games can provide. For people who are used to rougher and less forgiving waters… Come to Fishing Village might feel a little too safe and family-friendly.