Review – Waterfall Park
Waterfall Park is a remake of the classic negotiation game Chinatown. In this game, players wheel and deal with each other in hopes of building the ultimate amusement park. Ready for a splash?
Considered among the best negotiation games of all time, Chinatown has returned in a new edition as Waterfall Park.
The goal of this game is to earn the most money, and players do so by making deals with each other. The game is played on a board of 78 spaces, each representing locations where theme park attractions can be built. The attractions themselves are tiles, each of which shows a number 3, 4, or 5, indicating the maximum size that attraction can be.
Waterfall Park is played over 4 rounds, and a round consists of 4 phases:
- PREPARATION: Each player receives a hand of location cards, from which they choose 2 to discard. Then, they reveal the remaining cards and place pieces on those spaces to indicate ownership. Lastly, they receive a hand of attraction tiles.
- EXCHANGE: Players reveal their attractions and begin negotiating. Their deals can involve any combination of location ownership, attraction tiles, and money.
- CONSTRUCTION: Players place their attraction tiles onto empty spaces they own. Attractions can be expanded by placing like tiles together (e.g. 3 bowling alley tiles in a cluster forms a size-3 bowling alley)
- INCOME: Everyone earns income for their attractions. The bigger the attraction—or if an attraction has reached its maximum size—the more money it generates.
Play continues like this until the end of the 4th round. At that time, the richest player wins!
There are many reasons why Chinatown is such a beloved game. It’s simple, fast moving, highly interactive, and always amusing. Like the best negotiation games, it’s all about wheeling and dealing—strong-arming opponents, undercutting each other, and making promises that may or may not be kept.
Waterfall Park is a good reworking of Chinatown, though it has several notable changes. For one thing, it is shorter to play—4 rounds instead of the original 6. For another, the board geography is different. The rows of spaces are now staggered to form a hex pattern, and since spaces in that configuration have more adjacencies than spaces in a typical square grid, players now have more options of where to connect tiles and grow attractions. This makes the negotiations feel a bit less mean than those in Chinatown. There are some smaller changes as well, such as a different tile distribution and the fact that the board is now split into 2 distinct halves rather than 6 smaller districts.
Collectively, these changes, along with the amusement park theme, make this feel like a more family-friendly edition of an otherwise brutally cutthroat game. This largely informs my overall recommendation; with either version, you’re in for bribery, negotiation, and treachery, but if you’re trying to decide between Chinatown and Waterfall Park, consider your audience. Both games have the potential to be ruthless, but Waterfall Park is slightly more forgiving, and it plays quicker.
Visually, this new version is very colorful, perhaps too much so. The board is quite busy, which can make it tough to survey at a glance. I like the bright aesthetic, but I wish it was toned down a little. The plastic ownership markers, though a bit chintzy, are helpful in preventing the tiles from getting bumped on the board, and the holders they come with are a welcome touch. On the other hand, the money tokens are very generic, just basic cardboard bits. All told, the production of Waterfall Park is average—not bad, but not amazing either.
That said, Waterfall Park is still great fun, just as Chinatown was before it. Fans of games like Bohnanza and I’m the Boss will almost surely enjoy its wheeling and dealing. Negotiation certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who are drawn to it, this one is worth a try.
A review copy was provided by Asmodee.
The Bottom Line
Waterfall Park feels like a slightly less ruthless version of Chinatown. With a shorter playtime and some gameplay streamlining, it retains the core ideas from Chinatown, but trims them down a bit. Recommended for fans of cutthroat negotiation games.