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Review: Tahiti

Sections: Board, Exclusives, Genres, Originals, Reviews, Strategy, Tabletop

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Title: Tahiti
 Price: $34.99
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Minion Games
Recommended Age: 13 and older (a 10 year old could play this, however) 
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Pros: Simple, fast, attractive board and components 
Cons: Small pieces, a bit shallow (probably because of the reefs)

This time of year, I start to fantasize about going to the beach. Such fantasies attracted me Tahiti, a game where players take the role of tribespeople on a Pacific island, exploring the local islands and gathering resources, with the winner being the best gatherer of food. Tahiti appears only due to a successful Kickstarter campaign.

There are some Eurogame influences here, in that much of Tahiti is abstracted. You only know that the little brown cubes represent coconuts because the game says so, for example. Nevertheless, the game’s artwork, especially the player cards representing the canoes, do a good job of setting the mood for something more than another “place and gather cubes for points” game.

Where should I go?

In addition to a canoe card, each Tahiti player is also randomly issued a small chit of two “favorite foods” that are worth bonus points if the player gets more of these than any other player, or at least ties for first or second place. There are only coconuts, bananas, spice and taro available, so even with four players it’s easy enough to get the most or second-most number of food-stuffs. The home island, a hexagon, is surrounded by four other islands, lots of reefs, and two “open water” hexes. Each island has two different food items, so players usually, and should, make the the first move to an island that has the two favorite food items.

What’s going on?

The best way to explain Tahiti is to cover that first turn in detail. Before really taking his turn, the player moves “the goddess”, which is just a way of putting a new island into play. Then he draws three cubes from a bag, representing food becoming available for harvest, placing them on any open spaces on the newly revealed island on the first turn, as the other islands start loaded up with food. These foods could be placed on other islands on subsequent turns. A player gets four actions, less if his canoe is loaded down with food, but players usually unload at the home island rather than take less than 3 actions a turn. A player can move over reefs, but runs the risk of losing food, though this is not an issue when there’s no food in the canoe. So, first action, move over the reef to an adjacent island to get food. Second action, “load food”. A canoe can carry any number of one food item, but on the first turn it’s better just to take both (different) food items off the island. A player could take a risky move and go back over the reefs, but it makes more sense just to move to the open water space, then move again to the home island, unloading on the next turn.

There may be more movement to outer islands, but otherwise, that’s how Tahiti plays in the first moments. Once all the new islands are placed, the goddess is removed, players only draw 2 new food cubes a turn, and any island that has no food on it gets a “depletion token” on it. Most depletion tokens just make the island useless, but some have fish on them. A player that goes there can fish, drawing three tokens, and keeping one if he draws a white fish cube, the fifth food item. There’s something of a penalty for players that don’t fish, so usually in the late game, players park their canoe on the fish and load up if possible.

Is it party time?

Once there only four non-depleted islands left, the game ends. The players automatically get credit for any food in their canoe, hence it’s good to fish at the end of the game, and presumably there’s a feast on the home islands. The players’ cards show how to add up points, based on favorite foods, amount of foods, and variety of foods, making the score easy to add up.

While Tahiti is a simple game, sometimes that’s just the thing, especially when you’re looking for something fun to do together for Valentine’s Day. It plays fine with just two players, after all. It’s also good when the gaming group has some time to kill, but not enough time or energy for a more involved game.  I do wish the food cubes were just a bit larger, as there’s plenty of room on the islands and the canoe cards wouldn’t need much enlargement to accommodate larger bits. I’m a little puzzled at the “14 and up” ranking for the game, as the 8 page rulebook is an easy read. I can only guess the small parts have something to do with it.

Product Page [Minion Games]

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