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Blue Lagoon is the newest game from Reiner Knizia, one of the most prolific designers of all time. The game’s publisher, Blue Orange, primarily creates products aimed at a younger audience, but they usually put out one or two “gamer’s games” per year, such as New York 1901, Photosynthesis, or Kingdomino. This year, like every year, I was interested to see what their big release would be, and when I heard it was a Knizia design, my excitement level jumped.

Blue Lagoon is played on a hex grid board, which shows eight islands divided by water. Each island has spaces for resource/statuette markers, and at the start of the game, these pieces are mixed together and randomly distributed in these spaces. Each player receives a number of “villager” tokens and five hut pieces in his color.
The game is divided into two phases: Exploration and Settlement. In each, players take turns placing their villagers on the board, either on land or on water. The gameplay is similar in both phases, but with some minor differences.

For such a simple game system, Blue Lagoon has a fair amount of strategy. The turn sequence is little more than “you place a piece, I place a piece,” but players constantly find themselves torn between multiple desirable goals. Is it better to nab resource tokens before others get them, or try to get on all eight islands? And what about huts? What is the best way to place them during the first half to maximize the outcome of the second half? None of the decisions are excruciating on their own, but together—trying to balance resource collection, area majority, and route building, all while working to prevent opponents from doing the same—every move feels like it matters.
I enjoyed Blue Lagoon. Clocking in at around a half-hour, it moves along at a nice pace. The game scales well between player counts, but I prefer it with three or four; more players means a tighter game with a more claustrophobic board. It also has an attractive visual appeal, particularly the wooden resource markers and huts.
All told, Blue Lagoon is a fun outing in the family game genre. Younger children might struggle to grasp its strategy, but kids over, say, nine years old shouldn’t have a problem with it. It really encapsulates Knizia’s design style and coming from me, that’s high praise. I recommend giving this one a try, preferably with the Moana soundtrack on in the background.

Suitable from ages 8+

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