If you read my review for Brian Boru back in September 2022, you’ll know that I really enjoy trick taking games where the trick taking is just a mechanism to a larger game. While Brian Boru implemented trick taking for area control, Gold Seal Games makes good use of it in their pick-up-and-deliver game, Tricky Tides. (Please note, Tricky Tides comes with several variations that can be added and removed as desired. We found that playing with all of them gave the best experience, so the setup and gameplay described below incorporates those variations.)

To start, shuffle the Island Cards and arrange them in a 3x4 grid between all players. In the upper right corner of each of these cards is an icon depicting either a monster or a ship in a player’s color. Flip over any Island Cards that have an unused player color ship icon to its empty ocean side. Place the monster standees near the Island Cards with their associated icons. In the lower left of each Island Card is a number. For each Island Card, randomly place a number of cubes from the cloth bag equaling the number noted on it in the center of the card. Shuffle the smaller Order Cards and place one in the lower right-hand corner of each Island Card.

Give each player a cargo hold and ship meeple, as well as a secret scoring card. Deal eight Navigation Cards to each player. Have each player place their ship meeple on one of the two Island Cards with a ship icon matching their player color. Flip over an Event Card. This will modify the game for all players during the current round. Decide on a leading player and begin play.

Play begins by the leading player selecting a Navigation Card from their hand and playing it down in front of them. Then, going around the table, each player selects a Navigation Card from their hand and places is in front of them. If a player can play a card in the leading player’s suit (octopus, serpent, whale, or shark), they must do so. If they can’t, any suit can be played.

Whoever played the lowest card of the leading player’s trick moves and controls the action of the corresponding monster. A monster can either move then act, or act then move. Monsters can move to the next nearest island along any of the eight compass directions, provided that island doesn’t already have a monster. Monsters act differently depending on what monster is active.

The octopus can push one cube from its current island to an adjacent island, or pull one cube from an adjacent island toward its current island. The serpent chooses one type of good on its current island and changes all of them to another good type. The whale spouts goods outward from its current island by placing one random cube on its current island, and the drawing and placing a cube on two other islands in any compass direction. The shark will take a goods cube from its current island and place it on the controlling player’s ship. No monsters may manipulate gold cubes.

Whoever has the highest valued card in the leading player’s suit is the leader of the next trick and will move first, followed by all other players based on the value of the lead suit. The Navigation card played will determine the available directions a player can move. The active player must move one Island Card away in a direction permitted by the Navigation card, if they are able. Player ships can share an Island. Once all players have moved, beginning with the leading player, all players take one of two actions. They can either take all goods of one type from their current island, or fulfill an Order Card by removing cubes matching the Order Card’s requirement. If an Order Card is fulfilled, the fulfilling player takes that card and places it face-down in their player area. The filled order is then immediately replaced with a new Order Card from the deck.

Play continues with the leading player choosing a new Navigation Card from their hand and leading new tricks as described above. When all cards have been played, the round is over. All Island Cards are refilled with goods based on the number in their lower right-hand corners, a new event card is flipped, and all players are dealt eight new Navigation cards. Once three rounds have been played, the game has ended. Add up all gold values on fulfilled orders, as well as bonus points scored based on the secret scoring card. Whoever has the highest total wins!

Components for Tricky Tides are exactly right. Cards are of good quality, and the iconography is clear and compelling, and the art is beautiful. Meeples for the ships provide enough of a contrast from the monster standees to make the play area easy to understand. It plays well at all player counts and is an easy game to carry around. Definitely pick this one up if you’re into card games and looking to venture into more complicated board games!

  • Designed by: Steven Aramini
  • Player Count: 2-4
  • Playtime: 30-45 minutes
  • Time to Learn: 10 minutes
  • Complexity: 2/5
  • Replayability: 4/5
  • MSRP: $30

Written by Brendan Quinn, President of Tri-City Area Gaming. We’re out in the world again! Come play games with us at any of our regular monthly events. We’re also on Discord at https://discord.gg/gAgZzYz.

Registration for TAGCON is open!!! http://tagcon.org

We also have shirts and stuff ;)