Our Benny Sperling looks at one of the games found in the upcoming roll and write collection book,  Dice and Ink Volume 1. Which game? This time he is looking at Jesse Carton’s (designer of Salmon Run) game, Coral Relief.

Hello, Friends!

Welcome back to the wide wonderful ocean! In today’s game, we are looking at a game coming out that is part of the Dice and Ink Volume 1 Kickstarter, coming soon. This particular game is by a designer who I really respect at a deep level because of how brilliant he is. Jesse Catron is also an Optometrist as well as designer of the really neat Salmon Run. There are a handful of designers whose games I will always give a look at, Jesse is right in that mix because he takes such deep dives! I felt like I learned so much about coral and reefs by playing this game. 

To the game itself. Coral Relief is at its core a thematic game about the ecology of reefs and understanding the effects of invasive species and bleaching that can occur. The use of dice is very creative in this game, each player has a turn to be the active player and rolls 3 dice (blue, yellow, pink) and chooses two. All the other players follow the active player’s lead. The 3rd die is used to mark starfish that are invading the reef. This can go badly if a player does not utilize those hermit crabs and is mindful of how the starfish wreck havoc. 

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Quick Editor’s Note: The art above is not final, but prototype art for the print-and-play. 

The dice are used to populate and expand the coral, Brain coral expands 1 level, Digitate expands 2 levels, Branching expands 3 levels. I love how the coral looks. I think using highlighters adds a nice piece to the drawing that happens in this game. 

The players are looking to connect the types of coral with their same type. Doing so triggers the game end as well as earns the player more points. Bringing in a variety of fish also helps the reef thrive! I found all of the fish and crustaceans to be increasingly fun and fitting of how the mechanics fit with the theme.

On the whole, Coral Relief is a delight to play! I could see where players could really mess with each other by choosing high values for the Starfish as each pip is an invading starfish. I also feel like it can be played with families with an eye for exploring how our ground and air worlds interact with the ocean world. While there are no mermaids (maybe an expansion? Wink wink) there is a ton of fun to be had, under the waves! Here’s to the ocean blue and all of its beautiful inhabitants!

Enjoy friends, may your blessings be many!


Coral Relief, as well as 9 other games,  will be part of the Dice & Ink Volume 1 coming to Kickstarter August 27th from Inkwell Games. 


Disclosure: Benny was giving a print and play file of the game from the publisher for an honest review.