New islands emerge in the boardgame Emerge

If you want an eye-catcher on your table, check out Emerge. This game has a dark blue, oblong playing board that covers the entire table. On that playing board, you start building colourful islands on which you slowly develop an animal kingdom.

When you see it on the table like this, the game might look intimidating. But the rules are simple and it plays very logically.

I bought this game at board game fair Spiel (2023), because I always fall for pretty colours and nice pawns. Moreover, I found the subject interesting: the creation of islands by the shifting of tectonic plates.

When I played this in our gaming club for teenagers, the conversation immediately turned to: volcanoes, lava, magma, what happens when a volcano erupts underwater. I’m no expert so can’t tell you whether the game is entirely correct according to the geography textbook, but it certainly gives you cause to delve further into the world of tectonic plates.

Use your dice cleverly

In the centre of the table, place the large game board. Next to it, place the tectonic plates in three sizes and in each player’s colours, the animals, trees, research tokens and the extra dice. Each player also gets their own game board and 6 dice (so you really need table space 😁).

1. Put the sailboat on number 1

In total you play 8 rounds, after each round you move the sailboat to the next number. Sometimes the sailing boat then sails past the text ‘add dice’ and each player may add a dice.

2. Determine your strategy

On your game board, you will see different actions. For each action, you need a certain value of die. At the beginning of your turn, take a tile and place it on the board. In doing so, you cover one action with another. You can then use multiple values for the same action. As in this example:

3. Roll your dice

Then everyone rolls the dice at the same time and places them on the appropriate box on the player board.

2. Grow your islands

Taking turns, players roll their dice to do one action. You always start with the smallest tectonic plate, then you can grow trees and one by one the animals come to your island: first a crab, then a turtle and finally the seal. Birds can fly from island to island. And because birds defecate seeds, a bird always brings a tree.

Extra challenge

At the end of the game, each island is worth points. You count the number of island layers x the number of animals and trees on them. So one island layer with 2 trees and 1 lobster is 1 x 3 = 3 points. If you have a plant, crab, turtle and seal on an island, you get 3 extra points for biodiversity for that island.

To make the game more challenging, there are goal cards and help tiles (or, in game terms: research tiles). At the start of the game, you place four goal cards face-up next to the game board. For example, a goal could be: place 4 plants on 2 different islands. If you are the first to achieve this goal, then you place your chit on the 5 points and you may add it to the final score. The one who achieves it second gets 3 points and so on.

In addition, there are help tiles (research tiles) that lie closed on the game board. These are the volcanoes you open per round. If you build an island on that point, you may have the token. Such a chit gives you an advantage: build two crabs for 3 dice instead of 4 dice, for example.

There is also an open market with 4 help tiles. You can always use 2 dice to buy a token from the market. If you do, though, your turn is over for the whole round.

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General information on Emerge

  • number of players: 2 – 4
  • time: 45 minutes
  • from: The box says 14+, I played it with two nine-year-olds at games club and it went fine
  • the game is for now only available with the English rules (around € 54,00 – Dutch price, fall 2023)

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