May Getaway days don’t exactly leap out of the gate at 6am. Part of our play space is one of the bedrooms this year (we’re rarely in the same house more than once or twice and this is a new venue this year), so more than a few players are up past midnight. I turned off the light around 1am and was back in the gaming room with my packet of Pop-Tarts by 8. The early people often kick off the day with lighter fare and this morning was no exception. Aquädukt is a game from the time of dirt-cheap Euros, when small publishers created games before they sold them (how quaint!) and often put them on cheap stock for the first printing to see if they would catch fire. My copy of Aquädukt cost me $1.99, plus shipping years back, and included the cheesiest d20 I’ve ever seen. Given my Dungeons and Dragons pedigree (30 years at the time I purchased this), that’s saying something. I played it a bit then gave the copy to a friend. He put it in his church’s collection and another buddy pulled it from there to bring to this event. The good news is that someone between here and there replaced the d20 in it with a respectable one. One that might even return somewhat fair results. There was only one way to find out, so we cracked it open.
Aquädukt is a tile-laying game where the tiles need to be reinforced with sticks placed between them. That’s the mathematical description. The thematic description is people opening farms in an arid landscape, supported by wells and canals that feed them water. There are 20 regions on the map (hence the d20) and you need to roll the die to figure out where you’re allowed to place.
Fundamentally a game about resource management, tiles and sticks, Aquädukt has a solid dose of luck intermingled with tactical placement. I like that kind of play. Frankly, I got my money’s worth, such as it is, and have no complaints about the quality of the play. Had a thousand games not followed the same path, Aquädukt would be remarkable, but it’s essentially in the center of the Euro scene: a good play that has plenty of alternatives to consider.
I won, so naturally I considered it the greatest game ever printed for about 90 seconds. But after that, I again realized, 10-12 years after purchasing it, that this is a Euro-style game, well-suited for families with kids even as young as five. With plenty of opportunities for coaching, Aquädukt is accessible for youth and provides an opportunity for parents to teach, to coach and, with that in the mix, permit all at the table to compete on an even footing, regardless of age. (I’ll note that the game won a couple of awards in 2006 for just this sort of situation, so it appears my opinion has good company).
Aquädukt has been out of print for years, but is available in the aftermarket for $10-$20 in new or very good condition. (Amazon has it for $98.) The components can be fashioned from household items like buttons and matchsticks, so if you’re particularly adventurous you can make it an art project as well as a game, giving your kids a chance to succeed at a right-sized project, then a chance to succeed by beating you to the best water resources in their first game.