We at Abducktion Labs Intergalactic love ducks. Not only that, but our shareholders really adore ducks too. That’s why it’s your job as the newest unpaid intern to figure out how to rearrange all the ducks in your little pond into specific formations so you can collect ’em. Do well and you might just get promoted to unpaid intern level 2. It’s a worthy task and we promise, no ducks are hurt in this enterprise, even those that are mysteriously pulled into our UFO.
Abducktion is a fun, family friendly puzzle game from Evan & Josh’s Very Special Game Co., featuring wonderful and whimsical art by Alina Lytvynova for 2-4 players, with an additional solo mode. It consists of 4 Quantum Pond Boards, 24 Formation Cards, 60 Action Cards, and 80 little plastic ducks, along with a big green UFO for storing and working with all the ducks that aren’t in the pond. Don’t worry, the Labs assure us that those ducks are in stasis, so don’t mind being jostled around a bit. An expansion adds more types of ducks, more complex puzzle formations, Research Pods, and supports up to two more players. Having played it with two and three players, I have opted to write about the “Solo Career Development” mode, where it’s human vs. duck.
BASIC GAME SETUP FOR ABDUCKTION
The game consists of your Pond board, a set of Formation Cards that list specific layouts you seek to attain, and Action Cards that allow you to move the ducks around as specified. For multi-player, each person starts with 3 Action Cards, but solo mode starts with 5. You always have 3 Formation Cards displayed: In solo mode it’s just you seeking to attain the formation, but in multi-player, everyone is working against the same three formations, a very different situation.
Notice the directional arrows on the Quantum Pond Board: when a space opens up, the ducks flow down the river as indicated, with new ducks showing up on the top left spot. There are four colors of ducks: Blue, white, pink, and yellow. Formation Cards specify exactly how they need to be arranged to score the card:
The top left indicates the point value – and higher point value formations are more difficult to attain – while the picture shows the exact formation required. You can’t, for example, have three on the top row and two on the bottom to attain “Nesting”. Mating Dance, on the other hand, requires two of one color, then two of another, all in a neat row.
Ducks are moved around with Action Cards and they can be fairly complicated, as befits the eggheads working here at Abducktion Labs Intergalactic:
You can see here that the artwork is really wonderful, offering a delightfully whimsical overtone to this reasonably straightforward puzzle game. Parallel Universe allows you to swap ducks between the top and bottom row, Teleport lets you swap any two – even non-adjacent – ducks, and Wormhole is, well, a special case. The card describes what it does in a multiplayer game, but the solo variation of this action lets you pull out a specific color duck from the UFO and swap it with any one duck in your pond.
PLAYING THE GAME OF ABDUCKTION
The game’s quite easy to play in both multiplayer and solo mode. As a solo player, you will use as many Action cards as desired to rearrange the ducks to attain a specific Formation. Once attained, take the Formation card, collect two additional Action cards, and remove all the ducks that made up that formation from the Pond…
Once any ducks are removed, remember that all the other ducks flow down the stream to fill in all the holes, then new, randomly chosen ducks from the UFO are added to the Pond to fill it up again. Flip over another Formation card so that there are always three showing, and it’s time for the next move. That’s it.
The challenge is to figure out which of the Formations you can attain with your Action cards: Run out of Action cards and your game is over. In the above, for example, given my duck formation, is Flying V, Nesting, or Alligator going to be easiest to attain? In fact, a closer look reveals that the white ducks are almost already in the Flying V formation: A single swap of the lower white duck in the very middle with the pink duck immediately above it will get three white ducks in just the right configuration.
Further in the game, the Pond layout is entirely different and there are two new Formation cards. It turns out that the Alligator is a tough one to recreate because it requires five of the same color duck, something that’s unlikely without Action cards (like Wormhole, discussed earlier) to help bring more of a specified color into the Pond:
If you count ducks, you can see that there are enough for Alligator formation, but I’m down to one measly Action card, and Swap isn’t going to let me attain the desired formation. As a result, I’ve run out of actions and my solo game is over.
The final score is the sum of attained Formation cards:
This was pretty miserable, a total score of 26 points, marking me as an “Associate”. I might have to abduckate my position if this keeps up.
I shuffled the cards, repopulated the Pond, and played through a second game with much better luck. This time I focused on both going for low point configurations to get more Action cards and performing a bunch of actions to attain those tough high point formations. The result was significantly better, with me attaining almost every single Formation card:
My final score in this second game: 112 points. According to the chart supplied by Abducktion Labs Intergalactic, this score moved me up from unpaid intern to unpaid Vice President. Sweet! Guess I won’t be able to duck my responsibilities when I’m a VP, though.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ABDUCKTION
I really love Abducktion, there are no two ways about it. The overall tone and style is whimsical enough to appeal to anyone, even non-gamers, it’s obviously very family friendly (tho younger players might need help with the more complex action cards), and the artwork is some of the best I’ve seen in a board game. Don’t let that all fool you, though, this is a brain teaser of a puzzle, particularly when you pull a duck or two out of your stream to reorient all the others: Can you envision how it will affect the layout of ducks in the entire Pond?
Having said that, I would recommend only getting the expansion after you’ve played the base game for a few times, since it might be the case you don’t need it. A fifth duck color and more complicated Formation cards are interesting, and being able to add two more players is useful, but the base game might just be plenty for you and your gaming group or family. Recommended!
Disclosure: Evan & Josh sent me a copy of Abducktion with the Expansion for the purposes of this review. Thanks!