Draft Cards to Build Your Ultimate Aquarium | Casual Game Revolution

Draft Cards to Build Your Ultimate Aquarium

Ultimate Aquarium

Will you fill your aquarium with fish? Or focus on decorations, plants, and crustaceans? Place each new acquisition carefully, since its location in your aquarium will determine its value at the end of the game.

Published by The Dusty Tophat, Ultimate Aquarium is a tableau-building game for 2-4 players, with a 15-30 minute playtime.


Each player starts with a 3-by-3 grid, filled with water cards, gravel cards, and one clown fish. At the start of the game, each player is dealt five cards and they choose three of these to add to their grids, discarding the cards that they replaced, as well as the two cards they didn’t select. The game is played over 8-9 rounds depending on the player count.

At the start of each round, 5-6 cards (depending on player count) are drawn to form the display. On your turn, you select one card from the display, and you must add it to your aquarium, adding the card that it replaces to the display.

There are eight categories of cards in the deck, such as fish, plant, and crustacean, and then multiple types of cards within each category. Most cards have a base point value and then an option for bonus points based on different conditions, such as the different cards in your grid, the card’s location in your grid, or its placement next to specific categories of cards.

After each player has selected a card, the display is discarded, and a new round begins. Each player starts the game with a restock card and a net card. Once per game, you may discard your net card to swap the position of any two cards in your grid, and once per game, you may discard the restock card on your turn to discard all the cards in the display and draw new ones.

The game ends after a certain number of rounds and the player with the most points wins.

The Ultimate Aquarium Components


Ultimate Aquarium is a very fast-paced game. There can be a few moments when you stop to consider between cards, doing some quick calculations as to which one will be worth more points, but in general, turns are fast, and the game speeds along at a pleasant pace.

The game lasts just long enough that during the last few turns you often have to discard cards from your aquarium that you don’t want to lose. Since so many cards have bonus scoring based on the other cards in your aquarium, losing one card can often throw a wrench in your plans. This makes it important to choose carefully when you use your restock ability, and it's also a good reason not to put all your eggs in one basket when pursuing specific strategies.

While the rulebook does a good job of clarifying the different terminology you’ll encounter during the game for the bonus points, and has a nice end-game scoring example to help familiarize yourself with how it works, we would have liked player aid cards for the card categories since they play such a vital role in a lot of the scoring. Especially if you want to play this game with children, it can get confusing. We found the coral and plant iconography is particularly easy to confuse when learning the game. But the rules are pretty simple and intuitive, and it’s an easy game to learn.

Ultimate Aquarium is a clever game of card combos, and figuring out the best way to utilize each card you draft. Often there’s a trade-off with each card you place, and that in turn leads to engaging choices and close games.

Pros: Cards combo off of each other well, a lot of trade-offs with where you place cards in your grid, fast turns and gameplay

Cons: Player aid cards to help with iconography are missing, bonus point text uses names for card categories while the cards themselves use iconography making it easy to make mistakes

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.