Sometimes you buy a game pretty much blindly, based on a recommendation or the art or something else. And sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. I bought a set of three used games based on a recommendation, and one of them was Aquädukt. In this instance it did work out. If you have looked at other posts on the blog you can probably figure out that I lean way more towards eurogames than american style. And this is very much a euro game. A light one, but 100% euro for sure. You’re in ancient Rome, building a new sprawling city in the beautiful countryside. But as all good Romans know, a house is not worth anything unless it’s provided with water. So as you build your houses you have to make sure the city’s aqueducts reach your house, but not your enemy’s. Ready to get your hands dirty and your feet wet? Let’s get going!
Components and Setup
The game is played with tiles that are placed on a static board. This board is divided into 92 squares, that have been grouped together into 20 different sections (or “neighbourhoods”) with a varying number of squares ( or “fields”) in each. These sections have then been numbered from 1 – 20. We will see why these numbers are important when going through the gameplay.
There are two different tiles in this game: houses and mountains. The house tiles themselves come in four different versions featuring one, two, three, or four houses respectively. These are the tiles you as a player will use. At the beginning of the game the mountains will be placed at random squares on the board to create some obstacles, and each player will receive their colour of houses. Now, this game scales depending on the number of players. No matter how many players you are you always get the four 4-house tiles. But for 2, 3, and 4 players respectively you will get 8, 7, or 6 of each of the other house tiles. In a 2-player game you use all eight mountains, in a 3-player game six mountains, and in a 4-player game only four mountains.
The aqueducts that you are supposed to be building are represented by 36 blue wooden sticks, and the wells from which they will originate are blue glass drops – 5 of them. At setup these are just placed by the side of the board within reach of the players. Finally, you have a 20 sided die which you will use to determine where to build your houses. So I suggest rolling the die to figure out who the starting player is, and let’s begin!
The aim of this game is to build as many houses as possible, and supply them with water. During your turn you can choose one of three actions to take: build houses, dig wells, or build aqueducts. So how is this done?
Houses: Roll the die. The number you get indicates in what section you can build your house(s). However, you may not build on a mountain. If there is no water touching the square you want to place your house, you can choose whichever house tile you want. Each tile is worth as many points as there are houses on it at the end, but we’ll deal with points later. If the square is already supplied with water however, you need to use your lowest value tile. If you cannot place a tile because the section is full, you may re-roll. If you fill up a section, any house tiles not supplied with water are taken out of the game. This means sections may open up again. If you choose to build houses you have three standard rolls (not counting possible aforementioned re-rolls) per turn. You may choose not to build on a roll, but then your turn ends, even if it’s not your third roll.
Wells: If you instead choose to dig a well, you simply grab one of the glass drops and place it at an intersection. There is one rule you have to follow though – each well has to be at least five steps from another well. They cannot be closer. But that’s it! When the wells run out, then you can’t place more. I’ve never had that happen though.
Aqueducts: When you build aqueducts you take two of the blue wooden sticks and can place them wherever you want. But they have to either connect to a well or another aqueduct. A well can supply aqueducts in two directions. No more. An aqueduct cannot branch (that is to say divide into two at some point away from the well). That also means they cannot loop around, nor have aqueducts from two different sources meet and merge. Each aqueduct is one single line (that of course can bend and change direction however you want). You can also make extra wide aqueducts by placing two sticks next to each other. However, this has to be done from the well and out. You cannot suddenly widen it in the middle. A tile that is touching an aqueduct on one (or more) sides is considered irrigated and will give you points at the end. A double aqueduct will irrigate two tiles away from it on both sides, meaning it is irrigating four tiles instead of two.
The game ends when there are no water pieces left. If you run out of house tiles before water, you simply keep building aqueducts. All the house tiles without a water supply are then taken off the board. You simply count how many houses each player has successfully supplied with water (1-4 points per tile as mentioned earlier), and whoever has the most points wins. Simple!
There is an alternate version, that I personally never play and I have seen people generally dislike, but it’s in the rules. You see, the back of the mountain tiles have different values on them, either +2 or 0. In the alternative version these are also used for scoring. The four tiles that are connected to a +2 mountain will earn two extra points if they are supplied with water from two aqueducts (either on different sides, or one double directly bordering the tile). If they just get water from one aqueducts it’s just normal points. The 0 mountains do the opposite. You only get points for the house tiles if they are supplied by two aqueducts. If it’s only one – no points whatsoever! I should probably try this version at least once. But yeah, that’s it.
Strategy and Thoughts
The strategy for this game is not that deep. You do have to think, strategise, and sometimes take a chance, but you do not have that many variables to weigh against each other. I’d say start with building some houses, but save your 4-house tiles for a little bit. If you have placed a tile and you build again, rolling a number that could place your next tile adjacent to another one of yours – go for a higher value tile. You can supply both tiles with water by building one aqueduct. Also try to get rid of your 1-house tiles in the beginning, but also try to balance it against easy to irrigate spots that would be worth the risk of placing higher value houses. Because you have to remember that in the later parts of the game there will be plenty of aqueducts built and a roll might mean you can build houses in a spot that’s already supplied with water, but you always have to place your lowest value tile in such a case. If your lowest value is now two… easy points! Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a 1-house tile to a bad section of the board just to be able to keep rolling and building houses on that turn. And who knows, maybe there will be water nearby eventually. And really, it’s only one point.
A lot of the fun in this game comes from messing with your opponent. If you can divert an aqueduct away from your opponent’s houses, and towards yours, you have done good. Sometimes it might even be worth it to divert the water flow just to be mean. After all, you can always build near there later, but if your opponent wants the water to reach their houses, they need to spend more turns than they planned to. Well done you! And that’s about it for strategy.
This game doesn’t seem to have gotten much buzz at all. I bought my copy used from someone in a gaming Facebook group I’m in, cause they thought I might like it based on this blog (hi guys, if you’re reading this!) And they were right. But as I tried to make a decision I checked youtube and couldn’t find much at all. And let me tell you, gaming videos for pretty much any game are all over youtube. I get it though. The theme is not very interesting, nor is it particularly pretty. I am not saying the game is ugly. It’s just not special. The theme is also very thin. This is a eurogame, through and through. And while euros do not pay that much attention to theme it is usually a little bit nice, or at least prettier.
The game is also very basic. Each game will be the same in terms of what you do and what happens. Now, what a lot of people seem to have against it is the element of luck that comes from the die. This is a part I enjoy actually. It makes the game a little bit more unpredictable. Otherwise it would just be a plain abstract game and as we all know by now, that’s not for me. Because yeah, Aquädukt does not have any secret goals (or anything else hidden for that matter), or common goals that can change from game to game. The board is static and will always be the same, and you won’t get any special abilities when completing some action. It’s just about choosing your actions based on the current state of board and hope the die is on your side.
What the game does have that makes it a little bit more fun is a clear take-that element. Since a well can only have two aqueducts and an aqueduct can never branch, you can clearly steer it away from your opponent’s houses. To be honest, this game can become quite mean! I have ever only played it as a 2-player and even then you can be rather mean. But having to share with three other people? That’s gonna be cutthroat.
The components in this game are not perfect. The board quality is alright, and the water sticks just fine (pretty similar to the ones in Takenoko, a game with excellent components). The house tiles are good though. Thick, and different for each player. It isn’t just a basic house with different colours, no no! Each colour roof belongs to a different style of house. And this is something I really like. My favourite are the blue houses. The mountains however are butt ugly. The artwork on the board itself is quite nice though. Nothing spectacular, but there’s some difference to the borders for each neighbourhood and some random design elements to the fields. It’s by no means ugly, just not gorgeous either. However, the glass drops used for wells look like prototype pieces to be honest. These are the kinds of things people use in vases and such for decoration! It does not feel like genuine gaming pieces. It’s perfect for when you’re figuring out your game and need stand-ins for everything. But you don’t leave them in the finished product. And yes, I assure you that it is indeed the original pieces. It’s not something the previous owners added when they lost the wells. While it does photograph pretty it doesn’t feel right. Finally, the die is cheap but it’s okay. And you can use any of your nicer D20s if you want. It’s just the one after all.
Overall I quite like this game. It’s simple, but still a bit thinky. And I can mess with my friends while playing without being too mean. I definitely don’t think it deserves to be forgotten or overlooked. So if you like these types of games, I think you should give it a try! It might not be a forever keeper, but it is good fun and deserves some kind of recognition.
- Title: Aquädukt (or Aquadukt)
- Designer: Bernhard Weber
- Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
- Players: 2-8 (but you can do more)
- Time: ~30 minutes
- Type: tiles, network building
- Size: medium
- Release year: 2005