In the small publishing house Gaiagames, which comes from Saxony-Anhalt, they attach great importance to sustainability and conscious and ecological production of their own games. The games should also always have a learning effect and arouse interest in a relevant topic. Now the second edition of the standalone expansion for the first game from the publishing house Ecogon – Stille Wasser has been released. This review should show how well the game is doing.

The small publisher Gaiagames is based in Könnern in Saxony-Anhalt. 2015 appeared with Ecogon the first game. Seven years later, the second edition of the first expansion is already available Quiet waters. This brings some innovations. In addition to a new cover, there are now mission maps and the new habitat module, which give the game more strategic depth. Of course, as in the base game and in the first edition, the core mechanism remains the laying of tiles. Only the cooperative mode will be considered for this review, as this is where the real strengths of the game lie.

The name Ecogon is a neologism from the two words Ecology and Hexagon.
If you want to learn more about the publisher Gaiagames, you can do so in our IDEA of the publisher do.

Create your own ecosystem

The box has the dimensions as small as possible, as large as necessary and of course comes without foil. There is no plastic inside either. The hexagonal plates can be held together with environmentally friendly rubber bands. There are also the new mission cards, the habitat tiles, various markers for both modules, the event cards you are already familiar with, and dried organic beans as point markers. It doesn't need more in this game.
In quiet waters there are, unlike in the base game, only two instead of three different habitats: the shore and the still water. In addition to the habitat tiles, there are of course, as usual, a large number of native animal and plant species that must be placed next to the habitats.

The ecosystem grows tile by tile

The principle of the game is very simple. At the beginning of each turn, the active player draws a tile. Then any number of tiles may be placed. Then it's on to the next person's turn. As soon as the first new habitat has been added to the two starting habitats, the event cards come into play. These often have bad, but sometimes helpful effects. In addition to their effect, the event cards also serve as a “timer”. When setting up, you can choose how many event cards you want to play with. This allows the length of the game to be flexibly adjusted. If you play with the missions, the number of event cards is fixed at 17.

In the beginning, the ecosystem (here with habitats) is still very sparse. Image: Jonas Dahmen

There are not many rules for laying out the cards. They just have to be placed in a suitable habitat for them. The animals all have specific needs in order to become established. In the simple variant, a few fewer rules apply. In the advanced version, in addition to the size of the animals, it is also important how they move. This is made visible by different colored dots on the edge of the tiles. In addition, each card may only fulfill one need of an adjacent animal.

When the stack of event cards is used up, the final scoring follows. If you have scored at least twice as many points as there were event cards in play, you have created a stable ecosystem together and won the game. Points are awarded for established (all needs are met) animals, missions, and for some habitats after event cards.

The mission module brings an additional challenge into play. By default you play with one mission. However, you can also choose two or even three as a professional variant. Of course, this makes the game much more challenging. Each mission has specific requirements that must be met. Initially, each mission brings 10 minus points. For each of the three levels you gain 5 additional points, which you display with the corresponding markers. At the end of the game, only the points of the mission(s) are added or subtracted if you weren't that successful. The victory condition does not change.

The missions bring new challenges. Image: Jonas Dahmen

With the habitat module, a new tactical element comes into play that allows more planning. A habitat tile is placed face up on each newly played habitat. If this habitat is now completely enclosed, the effect of the tile takes effect immediately. At the end of the game, players must score at least 2,5 times the number of event cards used in order to win.

The habitats make the game even more tactical. They are also available here for all habitats in the base game. Image: Jonas Dahmen

Infobox

Number of players: 1-6 people
Age: from 8 years
Playing time: 30-90 minutes (standalone)/60-120 minutes (with Ecogon)
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: very good
Genre: family game
Core mechanism: tile placement game

Authors: Micha Reimer
Illustrations: Rosemary Knowles et al
Publisher: Gaiagames
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Language: German
Cost: 36 Euro

Summary

Gaiagames have with Ecogon - still water not just a worthy extension to the basic game in the program. Also works as a standalone quiet waters terrific. The new element of the mission maps works very well and, depending on the selected map, can also be integrated thematically without any problems. The same also applies to the Habitat module. Both innovations complement the game perfectly.

The theme of this game is quite rare in the board game world and is implemented here very appropriately. Associated with the cooperative construction of a shared ecosystem Ecogon a highly themed game. The naturalistic artwork and the very well-chosen elements that the individual creatures need or offer complete the making of the subject tangible. Since the cards are placed next to each other, you don't always have to read whether a symbol means "grass" or something else, but you can use the optics to help. Of course, it is still worthwhile to have the overview of the symbols ready for the topic. The clarity has also been improved again in the new edition, in which the symbols have been slightly adjusted.

The ecosystem is growing slowly but steadily. Image: Jonas Dahmen

The many hexagonal tiles have a good thickness and show no signs of wear even after many games. Bad or short-lived material wouldn't fit Gaiagames' philosophy either. In the second edition, all cards now also have rounded corners, which significantly upgrades them. The beans work well as markers. The rules booklet is well structured and presents the simple rules in a clear form. There are also a number of answers to FAQs online.

The game works mechanically very well. Placing tiles as the main mechanism isn't a reinvention, of course, but the theme still makes it feel refreshingly different here. It is in the nature of many cooperative games that there is a risk of an alpha player, especially when new players are involved. This “danger” also exists to some extent at Ecogon. To counteract this, you can play with hidden hand tiles, for example.

The trains themselves run very smoothly one after the other. The optimal number of people tends to be three or four. There is a very good balance between clarity, predictability and a sufficient number of options. With even more players, it will of course be more difficult to coordinate with everyone. Because the new event card is revealed every three tiles drawn, it also feels more cohesive with up to four players. If you play without the missions, a higher number of event cards (= longer playing time) also feels more relaxed here. This way you can really control the development and construction of the ecosystem in the long term and is less dependent on luck with the event cards. Otherwise it is possible that these destroy the work of a few rounds without being able to react afterwards if you play with few event cards.

The mission cards sometimes shift the focus in an interesting way as to how and where which tiles should be placed. Most of them also integrate very well thematically. Of course, instead of one, you can also play with two or even three missions, as the test showed. This naturally leads to an increase in complexity. This makes the game challenging even for connoisseurs and even expert players, since the missions are so diverse that in this way many more aspects to be considered in the game become important.

The habitat module is also wonderfully successful. Some effects may not seem positive at first glance, but they still allow you to dive to new tactical depths in still water. Overall, they make earning points a bit easier. But since you now have to collect more points, this is very well balanced.

The points scored can also be easily determined at the end. During the game you place the corresponding point markers on the established animals and only have to add them up at the end. The missions can also be evaluated quickly.
At the end of the game, you quickly realize that despite the simple rules, the game is not that easy to win and offers a real challenge. The more events you use, the less luck-heavy the game becomes and the more tactical it can be played.

As with most cooperative games, the game works very well solo. For more predictability, the hand card limit was increased to five. Of course you can also take on the role of several “persons” alone.

The overall impression is Ecogon - still water a really successful, easily accessible cooperative placement game with a very exciting topic. With the two modules, it can be raised from the demanding to the expert area.
The topic is especially exciting for children, who can get to know a lot of the local nature in this way. The absolute plus point here is that it is not an "educational game". It's a very good family game that teaches and stimulates curiosity as a great side effect without forcing it on the players.


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Last updated on 4.12.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API