Das Riff

Exotic Fishing for 2 players 10 or older
Translation by Jeff Goldsmith and AltaVista's babelfish.

Many different multicolored fish live in the coral reef. The players breed a new generation of these fish. The parent fish need to live in coral, which is found in the flowing waters. The more reef boats a player has, the more chances he has to find suitable fish. One needs to breed a red male and a yellow female or vice versa to produce a red-yellow baby fish.

Goal of the game

Whoever breeds five fish first wins.


96 square game cards:
  60 reef cards (blue water on the back)
  21 breeding cards (water with fish on the back)
  15 reef boats (boats on the back)
48 Worms (8 in each of six colors)
2 special dice

Prepare for Play

Before the first game, carefully remove the worms from the sheet.

The 60 reef cards are shuffled. Then the tableau between the players is laid out. It consists of four rows each of 8 cards. The two middle rows are placed face down. The rows near the players are played face up. (See figure on page 2 of the rules.) The rest of the cards are placed face down off to the side.

The baby fish cards are shuffled and placed face down. Four baby fish cards are drawn and placed face up near the end of the reef.

The reef boats are placed off to the side at the other end of the reef. Each player takes one reef boat and places it next to the first row of reef cards. (See figure on page 2.)

The worms are placed beside the spare reef boats. Each player starts with one worm of each color.

Whoever can stay under water the longest goes first. If that cannot be determined now, the oldest player starts. [This is German for "choose a starting player randomly". --Jeff]

Play of the Game

The player whose turn it is follows these actions in the indicated order. Some steps must always be performed; others are voluntary or may only be performed if certain prerequisites are fulfilled.
  1. Roll the dice and collect worms (required)
  2. Buying and Using cards (optional)
  3. Water flows (required)
  4. Refill and Reshuffle (required)

1. Rolling dice and collecting worms

The player throws both dice and takes a worm of each of the two thrown colors. The other player may take one worm of either of the two colors rolled. (Note: if a color is not available, the player may choose which color worm he takes.)

2. Buying and using cards

A player may do as many actions as he wants as long as he has the appropriate worms.

Basic Rules

To catch fish or take other cards from the display and store them, some basic rules apply:
  1. Cards can only be taken from columns in which a player has a boat.
  2. Cards from the row next to the player cost one worm.
  3. Cards from the two middle rows cost two worms. If a card is face down, one may spend any worm and turn it over. One may then let it be, or one may buy it for a second worm.
  4. Cards from the far row cost three worms.

Fish Culture

Fish need to live in reefs. (Important: a player may never have more than five reefs.) Each reef card a player owns is kept face up before the player.

One can house two fish (always one male and one female) at a reef in order to make baby fish. In order to breed, the right combination of parents must be used.

If a face-up baby fish card shows, for example, a red-yellow baby fish, then one must place a red female and a yellow male or vice versa at a reef card in order to breed the baby fish. One may not play a second fish at a reef card unless they breed immediately.

Once a breeding is completed, the two parents are discarded and the baby fish card is placed on the reef card. That reef card is no longer available to house parent fish or other baby fish, but it does count against the total of five reef cards. Then a new baby fish card is revealed. The current player may breed the new baby fish if he can perform the necessary actions.

Note: On the fish cards, one or two dots are shown in one corner. They signify how many of that color/gender cards are in the deck.

Special Cards

Other than reef cards and fish cards there are also pearls and sharks. These are stored in front of the player (that is, they do not need reef cards) and can be used immediately upon being obtained.
Pearls count as a worm of any color. Once used, they are placed on the discard pile.
Sharks discard any face-up card from the display or one parent fish at a player's own reef. The shark and the prey card are both discarded.

(Tip: It makes quite a bit of sense to have a shark eat one of your own parent fish if it does not fit any of the baby fish. This is the only way to get rid of parent fish from your reefs.)


When taking fish from the tableau, one must spend worms of the same color as the fish taken. For example, to take a red fish: (Note: Since perls can be any color, a pearl could be used as one of these red worms.)

All cards other than fish can be purchased with any color worms or pearls.

Reef Boats

On his turn, a player may buy reef boats. They cost 3 worms (or pearls) of any color or colors. The boat is placed in the column next to the boats the player already has. In this way, the player gains access to further columns of the tableau.

Hint: There are 15 boat cards, so if one player has 8, the other can only have 7.

3. Water flows

At the end of each turn, water flows. Face up water cards at the front of the tableau are discarded. Then all cards slide towards the front of the tableau, filling any empty spaces. Face down cards stay face down, face up cards stay face up.

Tip: One can use a shark to kill an inconvenient card and all the water behind it if it is going to be the front card in the tableau.

4. Refill and Reshuffle

If the deck has fewer than eight cards, it is reshuffled with the discard pile.

The tableau is refilled from the stock, face down in the center rows, face up in the edge rows so as to have eight cards in each row at the end of each turn.

Note: the deck may be shuffled even if no more cards are needed in the display. [How can this be? --Jeff]

Play now passes to the other player.

End of the Game

As soon as a player breeds five baby fish, the game is over and he is the winner.

Example Turn

(See figure on pages 6-7.) Anna has a supply of 8 worms, 2 pearls, and a shark. She builds a reef boat for 3 worms. Now she can take the blue male fish from the far row. That costs three blue worms. Since she only has one blue fish, she uses the two pearls.

She puts the blue male fish on the reef card with the red female to breed. She discards both adult fish and replaces them with the blue and red baby fish.

A new baby fish card is dealt. It is a green/green fish. Anna has no green fish, but has an uninhabited coral card, so she tries her luck fishing in the middle row. She spends any worm (here a purple worm) and flips over a card in one of the rows next to her boats. Good luck! It's a green female. Quickly, she spends a green worm, takes this fish, and places it on her coral card. A green male fish is not to be seen. Since she has no other green worms, she stops fishing.

She still has a shark. She uses it on the yellow male fish in the far row, which her opponent can use for breeding. The yellow male fish and Anna's shark are discarded.

To end her turn, she discards the open water card at the front of the rows and shifts the cards towards the front. She checks for a reshuffle and fills the tableau. She refills the middle rows face down and passes the turn to her opponent.