Mermaid Beach Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 6 and up
  • For 2 to 5 players
  • About 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • A not so typical day at the beach!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer geek rejected!
  • Parent geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Remember the last time you were at the beach? For those of you who live on the coast, it wasn’t that long ago. For those who live inland, we have nothing but memories to cherish until we get another opportunity to slather on the sunscreen and cinch up the bathing trunks. But while we wait (and lose weight), we can play Mermaid Beach! A fun and fast card game with light aggressive player interaction and smart game play.

Mermaid Beach is a card game comprised of 77 cards. The cards are separated into two groups: Beach and Shell cards. Each group has a different card backing illustration that makes it easy to separate. The artwork on the cards is fun a colorful, with an extra bonus of also being sparkly! Contained in the Beach group are 5 Mermaids, 5 Mermen and 2 Mean Mermaids who have sparkly borders, which is honestly, just plain cool. The cards themselves are made of standard card stock and are durable allowing you to enjoy the game for many game plays to come. Another quality product by Gamewrite!

Game Set Up

Divide the deck of cards into the two different groups, Beach and Shell, which should be easy to do as the different groups have their own unique card back illustration. Shuffle the two groups thoroughly to create a Beach and Shell deck. From the Beach deck, deal each player 5 cards, face-down. If playing a 2-player game, deal each player 7 cards. The players should keep their hand hidden from the other players at all times.

Place the remaining cards in the Beach deck and the Shell deck face-d0wn in the middle of the playing area where all the player’s can easy reach them. You are now ready to play the game!

All The Things You Find At the Beach and Then Some

The cards in Mermaid Beach depict everything you’d find during your next beach vacation. Shells, seaweed, boats, sandcastles, and all the rest. There are a number of special cards that deserve more detail as they can heavily influence the game or require the player to take a special action.

Sneaker Wave

  • The Sneaker Wave card allows the player who uses it to steal any one Shell card that is currently out in front of an opponent and place it in the Shell discard pile. This allows the player to rob other players of points.

Seaweed

  • The Seaweed card allows the player to increase a selected opponent’s deck by one Beach card. Seaweed tends to be a mixed bag as the player could draw a beneficial card to play on their next turn; however, by adding cards to an opponent’s hand, you are making it more difficult for them to end the game on their own terms.

Sea Monster

  • The Sea Monster card is the terror of the sea and the players. Whomever has the Sea Monster at the end of the game has their highest scoring Shell cards removed before they can count their total points. The only way to get ride of the Sea Monster is to pass it to another player when a Starfish card is played. Note that having the Sea Monster at the end of the game does not mean you immediately lose, but it does make it harder for you to win.

Starfish

  • The Starfish card forces all players to pass one card of their choice from their hand to the player to their left or their right, depending on the directions on the card. This can be a game changer as the Sea Monster card will most certainly be passed if another player has it in their hand.
Mean Mermaids
  • Beneath the waves dwell the Mermaids and Mermen who live out their peaceful existence in harmony. Not all fish-folk are good eggs, however. There are a few who are considered “mean” and, yes, they do mean things. While the vast majority of the good natured Mermaids and Mermen are very helpful to the player, the mean Mermaids cause mischief and woe to others by allowing a player to steal Shells and points!

All the rest are either Beach cards with illustrations on them depicting things you’d find at the beach, Shell cards for points, or the Good Mermaids/Mermen. Note that you can tell the difference between the good and mean mermaids by the color of the sparkles around the card’s border. The Good Mermaids/Mermen have a silvery sparkled border while the Mean Mermaids have a darker sparkly border and darker character background.

Playing the Game

On a player’s turn, the player takes one of possible six actions. Once the player takes their action, the game continues with the next player to the left. The actions available to the player are as follows:

Discard a Good Mermaid/Merman

  • Player discards a Good Mermaid or Merman card to the Beach discard pile
  • Player immediately draws the top card from the Shell deck and places it in front of them, face-up, if a Shell
  • Player gets another turn!

Discard a Mean Mermaid

  • Player discards the Mean Mermaid card to the Beach discard pile
  • Player steals 1 face-up Shell card from any opponent
  • Player places the stolen Shell card in front of them, face-up, if a Shell
  • No bonus turn for the player!

Discard a Pair of Beach Items

  • Player discards two of the same kind of Beach items to the Beach discard pile
  • Player immediately draws the top card from the Shell deck and places it in front of them, face-up, if a Shell

Ask an Opponent for a Beach Item

  • Player asks any opponent for a Beach item they have in their hand
  • If the asked opponent has that Beach item, they must give it to the player
  • If a card is given, the player discards the two of the same kind of cards to the Beach discard pile and player immediately draws the top card from the Shell deck and places it in front of them, face-up, if a Shell
  • If a card is not given, the player draws the top card from the Beach deck – if the drawn card is a Mermaid/Merman, Sneaker Wave, or Seaweed, they can play it immediately

Discard Sneaker Wave

  • Player discards Sneaker Wave to the Beach discard pile
  • Player steals 1 face-up Shell card from any opponent
  • Player discards the stolen Shell card in the Shell discard pile

Discard Seaweed

  • Player discards Seaweed to the Beach discard pile
  • Player selects any opponent to draw the top card from the Beach deck to add to their hand

Picking Shells

When a player is given an opportunity to pick a card from the Shell deck, there are only two cards that can be drawn. These will be either Shell cards, which are placed immediately in front of the player for points, face-up, or a Starfish. The Starfish will have text that states in which direct each player will need to pass one of their cards. The Starfish card is then placed in the Shell discard pile.

Regardless if the card drawn is a Shell or a Starfish, the player’s turn is over.

Ending the Game

The game ends when one of the following two conditions are met:

  • One player no loner has any Beach cards in their hand or..
  • One player is left holding only the Sea Monster in their hand

As soon as the game ends, all the players count the Shell cards in front of them, adding the point values together. The player who has the Sea Monster must first discard their highest Shell cards before counting their points. For example, if the player had Shell cards with the values of “4”, “3” and “2”, they would discard the Shell card with the value of “4”. If the player had more than one “4”, they would discard all of them.

Example of final scoring - note how the sea monster is a remorseless shell eating machine

After counting up all the points, the player who has the most points wins! If there is a tie, the player who has the most Shell cards with the most points wins.

To learn more about the game and to read the complete rules, see the game’s official web site.

Game Playing Tip

It is suggested you remove the Mean Mermaids and Sneaker Waves from the game if you are going to play Mermaid Beach with very young little geeks.

Prediction

My little geeks continue to favor the card games when asked to choose either a board or card game to play. Most likely because card games take very little time to set up and play. Little geeks are busy people, after all, and downtime is unused play time.

Mermaid Beach has several game mechanics that are already familiar to my little geeks such as passing cards (like Go Fish), getting rid of unwanted cards (like Old Maid), and collecting sets (like Hearts). This should make the game very easy to teach. It also helps that Mermaid Beach is not a very complicated game, rule wise.

After explaining the game to my little geeks and providing several examples of how the cards should be played, I opened the floor to any questions they might have while I shuffled the decks and dealt each player a starting hand. No one had any questions (a good sign), so I asked them their thoughts on the game so far.

“This looks like a girl’s game, Dad, but I’ll give it a try.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Daddy, can I be the sea monster instead of a mermaid?” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

While my little geeks appear to be somewhat lukewarm on the game theme, I believe they will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of player interaction and competition. Let’s find out!

Final Word

Girls game or no, Mermaid Beach is a lot of fun to play. It’s fast, furious, and surprisingly aggressive for a little geeks game. Made even more surprising that the theme and narrative deal with sparkly mermaids. As soon as we started playing, my 7-year-old, put on his game face as he realized this was a game that did not take prisoners! Set all the mermaid glam aside, and you’ve got yourself a very competitive game.

Unfortunately, because it was a fast-paced game and pretty aggressive, my 4-year-old started to get frustrated and eventually quit, allowing me to take over his hand. The game was just a bit too much for him to keep track of with all the cards shifting back and forth. He is more than capable of playing this game, but he just wasn’t feeling it. My 7-year-old, however, was enjoying every minute of it! He immediately grabbed the cards and started to shuffle them when the game was over, demanding another game! No one at the table minded and helped get the game going again as soon as possible.

I had to remind myself several times that this game was designed by an 8-year-old named Emily. It certainly didn’t play like a game an 8-year-old would design. Mermaid Beach is well-balanced, fast, fun, and engages the players from start to finish. This is not an easy feat to accomplish. There are game designers right now pounding their fists on table tops out of frustration because designing a game is difficult work. And yet, this 8-year-old little girl made it seem effortless. The game feels like it was designed by a more seasoned game designer, and for that reason, I must tip my hat to this young little geek who has to be one of the youngest game designers to successfully publish a game. And a really good one at that!

My 7-year-old and his Nana play a quick game while dinner is being made - notice how he is pouncing!

Gamer Geeks, Mermaid Beach is a fun and fast game with a light level of character interaction and aggression. Yet, it falls short of being Gamer Geek approved, but just barely. It is just a bit too simple, a bit too light, and a bit too easy to be a “gamers” game. It’s perfect for the age group and for families, but the game elitist won’t have much use for it. A pity as I’m sure there are a lot of gamers who would enjoy Mermaid Beach. Consider picking it up for your little geek in training and prepare thyself for fun!

Parent Geeks, wow! Mermaid Beach is a wonderful game to play with your little geeks, family, and friends. It’s theme masks a rather aggressive and fast-paced game that is borderline cutthroat as the players rush to collect as many points as possible. The game mechanics and rules are simple, but does require basic reading skills to play effectively. Only a few cards have text on them that will need to be read, but everything else is picture matching. This is also a great game to play with non-gamer friends and their little geeks if you are trying to get them more involved in the hobby.

Child Geeks, don’t let the pretty mermaids and their flashiness trick you. These fun-loving people of the sea are all business when it comes to collecting shells! Avoid the sea monster and collect shells as fast as you can because the rest of the players will be doing the same! It’s a great deal of fun to pass the sea monster to a family member or friend and see their faces! You’ll need to play smart, but you won’t be overworked or overwhelmed.

I am very pleased with Mermaid Beach and am always happy to play a couple of games with my little geeks. It’s a lot more fun than Go Fish, Old Maid, or Hearts, and yet has the same game mechanics of all three included resulting in a fun game for everyone to play. The player vs. player aspect of the game is light and does not allow for any single player to bully or be the target over and over again. This is a very good thing as young little geeks are not yet accustomed to or have the emotional coping skills necessary to realize that it is just part of the game. And like all the games we play with our family and friends at the gaming table, the goal is to have fun and be together. Mermaid Beach is a prefect game for such an activity and will most certainly be a hit with you and yours.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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