‘Niagara’ board game review
By Ed Appleby, Illustrator
It’s time for every white man’s favourite game, “Take the natives’ stuff!”
Niagara (2004) is a “pickup-and-deliver”-style family board game designed by Thomas Liesching and published by Rio Grande Games. In the game, you play a treasure hunter looking for hidden native jewels stashed along the river. Players take turns moving up and down the river in canoes, picking up jewels and dropping them off at your campsite. At the same time, you have to watch out for other treasure hunters as well as the river, which changes its flow according to the weather. One uncalculated move, and over Niagara Falls you go.
This game is simple and fun, with a surprisingly complex and innovative mechanic. The board has a groove down the middle, and the spaces are represented by clear plastic disks. The board is mounted on its box, forming “Niagara Falls” at the end. The disks move down toward the falls, bringing the player with them. Similar to other moving board games like Tzolk’in (2012), you need to anticipate not only the moves of other players, but the moves of the board as well. However, Niagara is purely delightful due to its very accessible simplicity.
I also really appreciate the story that the game tells. You play white adventurers hunting down these jewels, and the local Iroquois and Shawnee just happen to forget to mention the extremely dangerous waterfall.
I find the game to be good fun. It runs pretty short, and its simplicity opens gameplay up for a lot of casual and first-time gamers. More advanced gamers may crave something a little more complex, but will still find it enjoyable.