It’s summer and at least up here in the Pacific Northwest that means we actually see the sun more often than usual. Games, especially board games, tend to be inside kinds of endeavors. So what’s a gamer to do? Well, partly, you add a BBQ to the gaming gathering.
Add some Island music to the space (Jimmy Buffett on deck!) Beyond that, pick games with outdoor themes. At least it *feels* like one is enjoying the outdoors that way :>. So - this game can be played easy (3 margaritas) or strategically (1 margarita or maybe just a beer - Not British). For those looking for content (as opposed to just a review), this should whet your whistle!
This game tends to play relatively quickly.
Tongiaki, by Uberplay is one such game. Not only does it let you be outside, but you get to sail boats in the Pacific Islands. You can't get more outside than that! The game's basic premise is pretty straightforward: Each player gets 15 sailboats to explore the islands of the Pacific. The board is constructed as you go, each ship sailing causing another laying of a tile, either water or land, depending on what gets turned up. With 30 land tiles and 30 water tiles, this game tends to play relatively quickly. The game starts with all players placing boats on the primary island (first tile). Then, on each turn, each player places a number of boats equal to the number of boats she has on whichever tile she wishes to expand. Each island has some number of beaches and when the moors at any one beach are filled up, everyone on that beach sets sail. If the group sailing encounters water and the "current" they find themselves on requires more colors of boats than they have in their band of merry explorers (it's all about cooperation in sailing canoes, folks), they all sink and the players get the boats back. If they encounter land, they spread out onto the various beaches, first 1 to each beach then the rest in any way the Sailor who's turn it is wishes to. Turn done, unless they fill another beach and then it continues in the same way.
Each island is worth some number of points (2-5) and the player with the most points at the end (you get points for each island you're on) wins. There's one more rule, and that's Royal Islands. Each player is allowed to have up to 2 (go for the big points folks) and they don't share those points with anyone else. While not in the printed rules, our house rule has been: If the player has no boats (because they all sank at sea), she gets to place up to 3 on the center island and start over. Honestly, we've only had to use this house rule a couple of times, but it's there so no one has to just watch.
Here ends the 3 margarita version. Go have another Tequila slushee and a cute umbrella if this much makes you happy!
What's really interesting about this game is the strategy.
For the "1 margarita or a beer" bunch, the game can be much more involved. What's really interesting about this game is the strategy. Because the board is never the same, you can't plan for certain paths to be there. What you can plan for is more complex and therefore more interesting. Remember I said when sailing canoes, it's about cooperation? Well that's true - up to a point. And it's figuring out that point in each game that gets exciting. The water tiles have 4 kinds of currents marked 0, 2, 3, 4. This number indicates the number of PLAYERS (not number of ships - this is often a point of discussion/disagreement/fighting amongst players - another margarita?) that need to sail together to navigate that particular current. If you have that number or more, you're gold. If not, all the ships are returned to the players. Here's the thing to remember - as you only get to add as many ships on a particular tile *as are already there*, removing ships from the board is NOT a good thing (Yea, that's a hard thing for Catan players to remember).
Like a lot of board games, there’s 2 phases. Each player starts by placing ships (3 of them) on the beaches in turns with the other players. How you place them will have a big impact in the first part of phase two. If you start on Tonga (first tile) with 3 ships (which is how the game starts), you have to be prepared for both Water tiles and Land tiles showing up. If the tile next to the beach you have to sail from is land, you all move directly onto the next island and spread out, as explained in the 3 margarita section. If the tile is water, you all hope you have enough players on the beach to match the minimums marked on the current that touches your beach. We have only 3 players in house, so we have occasionally decided to make all currents max at 3 when we’re in an “easy” mood – leaving it at 4 makes some tiles automatic suicide runs – and that’s good too if we’re in the right blood-letting type of mood. Your group sails the current and turns up another tile. Continue until you finally turn up land (assuming no death currents on the way) and you all disperse onto beaches, as above.
The real trick lies in figuring out where to put your boats.
The real trick lies in figuring out where to put your boats when you land on the new island. The player whose turn it is gets to place them and forcing a beach to sail with lots of *other* player’s boats (some beaches have as many as 5 moors, others as few as 2), but say only 2 colors, sends a bunch of boats back to the players. Putting your boats on large beaches with lots of moorings allows you more time to add more colors to the beach. Don’t take too much time though, because shipping routes can be nastily interrupted by Royal islands. While the norm is to take Royal islands that are worth 5 points (or 4 if you can’t get the 5’s), there are times when taking a Royal island with less points is useful if it bollockses up traffic lanes that *you don’t need*. I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve played with folks who get the idea but not the tactics. You need to be on the *other side* of the traffic block in force with lots of land or “free” currents for this to be worthwhile. If you block traffic when you only have a couple of ships on the other side and no way to get more land, it’s not a great advantage. You have to be able to profit at the other player’s expense for this trick to really do you any good.
This can be a very interesting game with lots of strategy if you play that way. It’s also a fine game for a light easy evening of chatting and sort-of-gaming. It makes a great staple in the game library because of it’s versatility. The cost ain’t bad either ;>. As with a lot of games given to us by German publishers, the pieces are wooden and the tiles are thick – they’re gonna last for a good, long while. As it’s been out for a little while, the game can generally be acquired for between $20 and $30 new and far less used (I’ve seen it for as little as $15 on eBay).
Next time? That’d be *telling*.