Hide and Seek in the Coral Reef
One shark and up to five fish play a game of hide and seek in the coral reef. The shark tries to memorize the pattern of corals then closes their eyes. Each fish then places their token under a coral and replaces it with a similar, but not identical coral. Choose your camouflage wisely, because if the shark notices, you'll be lunch. Will the shark be more likely to notice a change in color or a change in the type of coral?
40 coral tokens (5 types in 8 colors)
6 fish tokens
6 colored fish meeples
1 shark token
Shuffle the coral tokens and set them face-down (blank side up) next to the board. This is the deck.
Each player picks a fish token and a matching fish meeple. Set the rest aside; you will not need them. Place all the fish meeples at the start of the score track.
Pick who will be the first shark, and give them the shark token. They will be finding the fish later in the game. Everyone else will be a fish.
Place a coral token face-up (coral side up) on each space so all the square holes are covered. Try your best to keep them all facing the same direction and evenly spaced. To make the game simpler for the shark player, you may reduce the number of coral tiles you put on the board to create a smaller grid of corals to memorize.
Playing the game
The goal of the game is to get to the end of the score track first. You can score points by hiding from the shark or from finding fish as the shark.
Phases of a round
First, the shark memorizes the color, shape, and arrangement of the coral on the board. The shark can take as much time as needed (within reason) to preserve the board in their head. The shark will need to remember this as well as possible for later in the round.
Now the shark turns around and closes their eyes. Don’t try to peek, it’s no fun if you already know where the fish are. The shark should not see the other players or the board until the hiding step is over.
Next, lay out a row of coral tokens face-up next to the board so all the fish can see them. There should be one coral token in the row for each fish. (The shark is not included in this count.) For example, if there are 5 players (4 fish and 1 shark), there should be 4 coral tokens in the row.
This step is the most important. Starting with the player to the shark’s left and continuing clockwise, each fish picks a coral token on the board and replaces it with a new one from the row next to the board. Then they place their fish token in the square hole under the new coral token. The goal here is to trick the shark into thinking that the new coral token is the same as the one that was there before. The token that was on the board should go into the row for the other players to use. Once every fish has replaced one coral token, move on to the next step.
Shuffle the remaining coral cards in the row back into the deck face-down.
Now the shark turns back around and opens their eyes. The shark now has to figure out which tokens were replaced with new ones. The shark gets three guesses to find as many fish as they can. To find fish, the shark picks a coral tile and flips it over. If there’s a fish underneath, the shark scores a point. Remember, any coral that is different than it was at the start has a fish under it. That’s why the shark memorized the original setup.
First, the shark moves their fish meeple forward on the score track by the number of fish they found.
Next, any fish who did not get found by the shark move their meeples forward one space on the score track.
Starting a new round
Pass the shark token to the person on your left. Whoever has the shark token is now the shark, and the previous shark is now a fish.
Return all fish tokens to their owners.
Shuffle all coral tokens back into the deck, and lay out a new set of coral tokens as you did in setup.
Note: You can adjust the difficulty for the shark every round if you want to make the game feel more balanced when there are players with different skill levels playing together. To do this, simply reduce the number of coral tiles you put on the board - creating a smaller grid of corals.
End of the game
The game continues with the shark token passing clockwise until someone reaches the finish line.
Alternatively, the game continues until everyone has been the shark an agreed-upon number of times, at which point the person farthest along the score track wins.
If two or more players tie for first, those players return their fish meeples to the start of the score track. The rest are removed. The players who tied each take a turn playing the shark against the others, gathering points as normal. The player farthest along the track when every tied player has played the shark wins. If someone ties again after the tiebreaker round, all the tied players win.