Wednesday, July 17, 2024

‘Ducks In Tow’ Makes Strategy A Walk In The Park

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Ducks in Tow was the first game published by First Fish Games from designer Stephanie Kwok. The game has stellar components with a cute theme that my family has really enjoyed thanks to a blend of multiple mechanics mainly focusing on pick up and deliver, pattern building, and set collection. Players walk around a park feeding ducks, leading them to their favorite locations. When getting them to that location, a photo is taken with them and then they waddle off. Points are awarded for completing location cards and formation cards. Ducks in Tow is a puzzle game that is a great addition to our table and our kids love playing it with us. 

What’s in the Box?

  • 48 Location Cards
  • 14 Tiles
  • 40 Food Tokens
  • 32 Duck Meeples
  • 4 Player Pawns
  • 4 Clear Tows
  • 12 Formation Cards
  • 4 Reference Cards
  • 1 Food Bag
  • 1 Duck Bag
  • 5 Starting Cards
Ducks in Tow box art

How’s it Play?

So, the basis of the game is to feed certain colored ducks to then add them to your tow and lead them to a specific tile to complete a location card and gain points. When adding a duck to your tow you simply add it on one of the 4 available slots on your player pawn’s tow. Once a duck is on your tow, there are only 2 actions to remove them, so you will need to make sure to choose the right colored ducks to feed. 

On your turn you will have 4 actions that you can take in any order. Lets go over these actions.

Move – take your pawn and move it from the current tile to an adjacent tile. If you have any ducks in your plastic tow, they come with you. 

Feed – You can do this action as many times as you want on the current tile you’re on by spending 1 food of the same color as the duck you are feeding. You will discard the food and place it back into the food bag and add the duck to your tow. 

Ducks in Tow - placing a duck in tow

Shake the Bag – You will draw one random duck from the duck bag. If you have a food token that is the same color dick, you may add it straight to your tow by spending that food. If you don’t have a matching food token that matches that duck or you don’t want to add that duck to your tow, you will then disperse the duck

Dispersing a Duck – I will explain this in more detail later, but you will add the duck to any tile without a duck on it, if every tile has a duck you will choose one that only has one currently to add another duck onto it. But you will always place the duck on a tile with the least amount of ducks. 

Drop Off – Complete a location card by dropping off the 1, 2, or 3 ducks shown on that card while being on the tile shown on that card. You can complete as many number of location cards that match that location with one action. Place the completed card to either the left or right of your existing face up cards. Then remove the ducks from your tow needed to complete that location card. Then draw 1 random duck from the duck bag to add to the other ducks. You will keep these in front of you till the end of your turn when you disperse them. 

Ducks in Tow placing ducks out on the board

Tile Action – Each tile has a special action associated with it and when on a tile you can take its action. 

The Gift Shop – Gain 2 food of your choice from the food bag. You have a limit of 4 food total. OR draw 2 location cards from the available cards face up or blindly from the top of the deck. You have a limit of 4 location cards. 

Adopt – Remove 2 ducks from your tow. Keep 1 duck to place onto one of your completed location cards filling in an empty duck space. The duck you place must be placed in the row that matches their color and the other duck is kept in front of you till the end of your turn to be dispersed. 

Ducks in Tow board

End of Turn – All ducks in front of you will be dispersed. Start with any empty tiles to place one of the ducks on, then continue to place the ducks onto tiles with the least number of ducks. You can never disperse ducks onto a tile with a player pawn. Next, replenish food if you desire by discarding any food you have that you don’t want and drawing 4 new ones randomly from the food bag. If you have less than 4 location cards, draw until you have 4. 

Formation Cards – After completing a location card, you can claim a formation card, and this is not considered an action. To claim one of the formation cards, you will need to match the pattern on the card to the pattern in your card rows. The formation card is placed so that is covers and outlines the ducks of different colors. You can use duck symbols printed on the location cards and/or ducks you have placed on your rows with the adopt action form the matching patterns. Formation cards can overlap but you can’t use the same duck symbol or duck for 2 different formation cards. Formation cards also can never extend outside the grey area of your location cards. Each formation cards is worth 2,3, or 4 points at the end of the game.

Ducks in Tow location cards

End of Game – The game ends in one of two ways. First, a player reaches a number of completed location cards in front of them – for 2 players it’s 8 cards, 3 players is 7 cards, and 4 players, it’s 6 cards. Or, the last formation card is claimed. 

Scoring – Players score 1 point for each duck symbol and duck in your longest connected row for each of the 4 colors on your location cards. Players score points for their formation cards you claimed during the game. The player with the most points, is the winner. 

Ducks in Tow components

The Verdict

Ducks in Tow is a cute family game that my kids really enjoy. The weight is comparable to Pandemic, but the theme might be more appropriate for the younger players. In fact, similar to Pandemic, Ducks in Tow uses the mechanic where you have 4 actions on your turn. You can do whatever you want with the 4 actions to try to accomplish your goals. Unlike Pandemic, Ducks in Tow is a more competitive game where players are not working together, in fact you might be competing for the same ducks. 

Ducks in Tow combines a lot of common mechanics that you can see used in a lot of other popular games. Besides the action selection, you will need to time your location cards to make long runs of certain colored ducks, for example, or form a pattern that matches a formation card to gain some extra points. I wouldn’t say the game is all straight forward, as the location cards and the formation cards can require some strategy. The sequence in which you complete location cards can greatly affect your end game points as you will need to add them on one end or another extending the colored ducks. 

Ducks in Tow map

I like how Ducks in Tow requires a lot of good planning to do well in the game. You will need to be efficient when moving across the map, but also fulfilling the right location cards and the right moment. Formation cards also cause players to be creative in placing their location cards and using the right action at the right time.

Ducks in Tow comes with great components, the duck meeples are painted with multiple colors, making them look really good and are painted on both sides. The location cards are nIce and big that you can formulate your pattern in your mind and also on the table. The food tokens are shaped into a shape that is not just a cube like a lot of other games. The game comes with 2 bags that add a nice touch to randomizing the ducks and food. The player pawns come with a plastic piece to tow ducks which adds thematically to the game, but really isn’t all too necessary. But overall the production of this game is fantastic and my kids love the pieces for the game.

Ducks in Tow will find time on my table due to the theme, the fact that it’s a family game and that it doesn’t require a lot of time to setup and play. The game introduces clear formation cards that gives the pattern building an extra focus when playing the game. 

Images Courtesy of First Fish Games

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