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BFA Design

Matti Bergh

The circular game board divides the coral reef into three playable zones, with a beach and the deep ocean as barriers. Points are scored around the edge, with four compass tokens for navigation.

The coral tokens are in three different shapes. They all have three hexagons, with three of the five different species of coral. The corals are placed according to different rules based on how corals grow in real life.

Green algae grows on the corals, which attracts fish. Each player has small and medium sized fish pawns in their own colours and tries to build shoals to score points in the end. Players take turns moving the shared shark to break up each other’s shoals. Yellow polyps are used as currency, earned when the players place corals and given as payment to play fish.

An eco-card is played each turn, which shows specific positive or negative ecosystem effects as well as information on how algae grows on the corals. Increased temperature in the ocean causes coral bleaching. Bleaching tokens are placed on the corals and spreads if the same type of card recurs. The players can remove bleaching tokens by purchasing sunscreen. A coral token could die if the bleaching is not rectified. If that happens, the token is turned upside down.

Sediment and fertilizer flows from land into the ocean resulting in eutrophication of the green algae. They block the sunlight the corals need for nutrition. If the run-off tokens reach the reef, they prevent the players from continuing to build in the affected area. By playing mangrove tokens, which filters the run-off, the players are protecting the reef and their fish.

The fishing industry upsets the balance between animal groups, and invasive species like sea urchins, which are harmful to corals, will easier dominate the reef. Sea Urchin tokens breaks up shoals and prevent players from continuing to build. Sea Urchins are eaten by the medium sized fish.

The ocean absorbs emissions of carbon dioxide, which leads to acidification that makes the corals skeletons more brittle and easier damaged by waves and storms. The players can remove acidity tokens by purchasing pH-balance or take the risk of being harmed if a storm card is played.

The Storm card affects all players that haven’t removed any acidity tokens adjacent to their fish. The players lose parts of their shoals and have to try to rebuild them again.

During the game the players score points based on how well they build their corals, and in the end, points are given for the shoals, which decides who is the winner. To solve the issues arising in the ecosystem doesn’t score any points, instead it’s necessary to be able to build successfully. The game is recommended for 2-5 players and suitable from ages 10-12. 

Life on the Reef 

Dive into the world under the surface.
Create a vibrant diverse reef teeming with life.
Build the best coral combinations to score polyps,  and claim parts of the reef with your fish.
Every turn the ecosystem has new challenges in store.
Make the most clever deductions and  protect your territory against the dangers.
Get ready to create life
Life on the reef 

Life on the Reef is a board game where the players combine coral tokens and build shoals of fish to create a tropical coral reef together. At the same time the players have to manage challenges in the ecosystem, and form strategies against the other players to win.  

The project wants to promote what makes coral reefs fascinating, special and worth saving, in contrast to disaster-based images of human impact on the ocean environment. The perspective is shifted by obscuring the human influence, and instead focuses on how much the coral reefs’ inhabitants fight to solve the challenges they face. The players get to act in the circumstances of the ocean, prevent bleaching with the sunscreen corals produce, eat sea urchins with their fish, try to balance the acidification and build mangroves to prevent eutrophication.   

Simplifying and illustrating real environmental issues in an exciting and fun board game, while at the same time not undermining the seriousness of the problems, can contribute to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the delicacy of the ocean’s ecosystem. A more positive experience, where the players are confronted by ingenious challenges and manage to defeat the obstacles, can offer hope that it’s possible to make a difference, and evoke interest and dedication in environmental issues.