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Surf's Up!

This is the game whose mechanics may confound your expectations. Notwithstanding the surfing theme and cute art from Bernice Choong, Jay Bendixen's Surf's Up! from Good Games Publishing is actually a bidding game where you'll be trying to bluff and outguess your opponents. This is a card game and it comes with its own neoprene play mat. This doesn't just look nice, it also make it easier to pick the cards up.

Players are competing for victory points which they'll collect by winning wave cards in three different suits and with various values. The 2-6 players all have identical hands of 'energy' cards used for bidding, numbered 0-5. You're always bidding on the wave card nearest the beach but the next two wave cards are visible to all players so you know what auctions are coming up next and that may well influence your bidding for the current wave. When you win an auction, you lose the energy card you used to bid; losing bidders' energy cards go onto their 'beach towel' board and they are recovered when the player 'rests' (ie: makes a bid using their zero energy card).

The highest bid wins the wave card. If there's a tie then the win goes to the player with the most respect tokens. If there's still a tie, then the bids wipe each other out and it is the player with the next highest unique bid that wins. In our plays at Board's Eye View we found wipeouts were quite a common occurrence; perhaps not surprising given that players have strictly limited and diminishingly available energy cards with which to bid.

In addition to winning the wave card, the winner can choose to take a respect token (tho' they can't have more than four of these) or they 'visit the beach' (spend respect to buy a beach card from the three on display). The runner up similarly gets to either take a respect token or buy a beach card, and as the runner up doesn't trash their energy card it can often be better to be the runner up than the winner of a bid. Some beach cards show surfboards and add bonuses to your end-game scoring, other cards are single-use additional energy cards which get added to your towel board and which you add to your hand when you rest (play your zero card).

Some wave cards show a jellyfish. That will sting the lowest bidder and anyone who rests that round. Anyone stung has to take a face-down jellyfish token which may give them negative points. The jellyfish wave cards aren't won in the normal way, they are just stacked at the side of the board where they act as a game timer and end-game trigger. Final scoring will also be affected by the three shared objective cards set out at the start of the game.

Surf's Up! then is a game where you need to keep a close eye on what other players are bidding on and collecting. You'll want to try to keep track of what energy cards other players still have available to them and what beach cards they've previously bought because these may well affect how much a particular wave card is worth to them. This all makes for a highly interactive game that plays in a pacy 20-30 minutes.

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