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Tongiaki: Journey into the Unknown
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Tongiaki: Journey into the Unknown

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Product Awards:  
Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2005

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 45 minutes 2-6

Designer(s): Thomas Rauscher

Manufacturer(s): Schmidt Spiele, Uberplay Entertainment

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Product Description

300 AD: The Polynesians embark on daring sailing trips and explore thousands of Pacific islands. Driven by overpopulation and a desire for adventure, they set forth into the unknown on simple catamarans called Tongiakis. Without any help from navigational instruments, they charted their course with the help of the sun, stars, wind and water temperature. Birds, reefs, cloud formations, fishes and distinctive waves were the signals telling them that land lay nearby. Each trip became a life-threatening journey, as landfall was often impossible to achieve or the way home became cut off by strong currents. Suspense was their constant companion. Will the next hour, the next day bring them to their goal... or will the ocean's currents force them to drift endlessly at sea?

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2005

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Thomas Rauscher

  • Manufacturer(s): Schmidt Spiele, Uberplay Entertainment

  • Year: 2004

  • Players: 2 - 6

  • Time: 45 minutes

  • Ages: 10 and up

  • Weight: 786 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.


  • 32 ocean tiles:
    • 16 island tiles
    • 16 water tiles
  • 90 boats in 6 colors

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 4 reviews

by Emory
Simple, different, and a good bargain
April 16, 2004

Well, I think the only game I've given 5 stars to so far is Carcasonne. And as I haven't played this game nearly as much yet, I was debating 4 or 5 (I wish I could give it 4&1/2).

But at the price of $17.95, you really can't go wrong. Though nominally a 'tile laying' game, your boats move over the tiles, so the tiles are really a dynamic board of sorts.

My real enjoyment from games these days is when simple rules combine in unsuspected ways, to yield a game that takes multiple plays before you really begin to formulate strategies. And Tongiakai is certainly one of those games. At first it looks like it's all luck, but after a game or two you start seeing the strategies, and that's what I really enjoy.

Finally, you might call this abstract, but the theme is just close enough to the rules that it does indeed distantly capture the aspects of ancient transatlantic ocean faring (reminds me of Samurai in that respect). It's also not deeply competitive, though there is certainly interaction (though requiring cooperation).

The only caveat is that this plays far better as a 3 or 4 player game, as there are less possibilities to cross to a new island with only 2 players.

In the end, this is a cute, accessible game that's easy to understand yet shows some deeper strategies. And at $17.95 you can't miss.

Indirect movement makes for good coopetition
February 22, 2004

Everyone starts off on one small island, Tonga. From there players' boats multiply, and new waterways and new islands are discovered when players leave Tonga to go exploring.

You want to get your own boats on as many islands as possible (especially high scoring islands), but guess what? The fewer players involved in the exploration, the more likely it is that the boats will fail and be lost. This leads to really interesting competetive cooperation. If someone finds themself alone on an island, they may discover that it's really hard to successfully explore by themselves. Thus bulking up in one spot and leveraging your overwhelming someone doesn't work. You need to spread yourself around, but no so thin that you don't have an advantage anywhere.

Movement is interesting. It sort of feels like Tikal, with its movement restrictions, except that in Tongiaki you don't find out the restriction until you actually attempt the move, which means you need to play the odds. And instead of it being movement points, it's the number of *different* players required to make the journey simultaneously. And you don't always get to move your own ships. Once a dock (shared by all players) fills up, whoever filled it up gets to move all boats on the dock, regardless of whose they are. Then if the boats successfully make it to a new island, the player who moved them also gets to distribute them on the new island.

Highly recommended. Best with 4 or 5.

Yar-har-har-har -- a Tongan's life for me!
April 26, 2004

Do you like control, careful analysis, sneaky tacics, broad strategic thinking, rich payoff, clever interaction, and a real sense of give-and-take in a game? Then run far away right now before I even BEGIN to tell you what this game is like! Run and don't ever come back!

Phew! Now that THEY're gone, and the rest of us random loving, luck driven bumpkins are left, I gotta tell you about this fun little game called Tongiaki. It's simple, it's wild, it's tricky, and it makes for some fun filler.

This game, like Carcassonne, is a tile-laying game with players moving their pieces to tiles to try and claim points. That's about where the similarities end though. See, Tongiaki (boy! that's hard to type quickly) is a game about sailing ships and exploring the South Pacific islands; in this sense it's more like Entdecker. But then you also need other people's help; in this sense, it's like Dragon's Gold. But then you also want to score the big regions for yourself and boot everyone else off; in this sense it's like El Grande or Tikal.

Each island in the game is a 6-sided hexagon and has between 2 and 4 beaches, and each beach having between 2 and 6 spaces for boats. Each island (except Tonga) is wirth between 2-5 points. Players will try and fill beaches in order to set sail, and in doing so, they will try and disseminate their boats across the 'sea' trying to be on as many islands as they can. Players put 2 boats each onto the central island of Tonga (which has 6 beaches with 3 spaces each) to setup and then the game beings.

On a player's turn, she chooses an island that she has one or more tongiakis on and then adds the number of boats to that island that she already had on that island up to a maximum of the number of beaches the island has. (WHEW!) All that means is that is you have 2 boats on Rapa Nui, and 4 boats on Hawaii, and you choose Rapa Nui, then you add 2 MORE boats to Rapa Nui. If you did the same for Hawaii and Hawaii only had 3 beaches, you could only add 3 more boats. When adding boats players must put one boat on each beach maximum.

Then the player checks to see if they filled a beach. If any beach(es) is now filled, the boats on that beach will now sail. If the beach has more than one mooring (the directions each beach can sail to) the player must declare which mooring she will leave from. If the mooring leads to an already placed island, then the boats then must be moved to the destination island and make 'Landfall'. Boats must be placed one on each beach until each beach has had one boat placed on it, then the remaining 'arrival' boats (if any) may be placed anywhere by the active player.

But if the player chooses a mooring has no hexagon on it, then the player grabs a hexagon from the stack and adds it to the board. If it's an island, than the active player distributes the boats in the same way as 'Landfall' descibed above. If it's a water hexagon (and they are much more fun =) then the boats start sailing over the open sea. This is where you often need other players' help. The sea paths start at one side of the hex and exit to some other side of the nex. On that path there will either be a '2', '3', '4', or blank. If there is a number, you must have at LEAST that many different COLORS of boat in the expedition in order to keep sailing. If you do not, all boats drown. If you do, you then bring the boats to the end of that path. If the path leads to an island, make landfall; if not, then flip another hexagon and repeat the process of checking number of boats etc.

What's fun (and chaotic ... and the essence of the entire game) is adding boats to the board in order to fill beaches and start sailing. When you sail to an island that already has boats, you can often add the new boats in such a way as to set off several other expeditions. In this way you can setup chain reactions to get your boats all over the board, and hopefully washout your opponents boats at the same time. The problem/fun of the game is the tremendous amount of luck in the game. Flipping over a lousy tile that gets you stranded in a low value part of the sea is lame. Watching your opponents get onto lots of valuable island that you have NO access to (due to 'high cost' sailing paths, etc.) is also lame. If you are alone on Rapa Nui, and every sea path off it has a '2' or higher, you will not be able to move boats off there unless another players arrives and helps you off. And since every player is particpating in this randomness and trying to do the best for themselves, you can forget about any long term planning. Every player in the game gets taken for a ride by the other players, and there is almost nothing you can do to prevent that.

So why would you play this game? Because it is quick and lucky and fun. No one has to think too hard, washing out your opponents boats is fun, the theme of sailing to new islands works well, and the bits are nice. This is not MENSA material (although MENSA has handed out some pretty strange awards in the last 5 years -- but I digress), but it is a fun romp that shouldn't take you much time to play. In this repsect it makes a fun non-gamer game or family game as long as everyone can appreciate the game for what it is: a slightly tactical game with near unmitigated chaos. I will say that due to the nature of the game (collaboration getting to new islands), playing with 2 or 3 players is fairly weak. With the rules as written the 2 player game is, in my opinion, junk. But with 4-5 players it is a lot of fun. It might actually be a lot of fun with 6 players too, but for some strange reason, I did not get any green boats with my game and therefore can't try it with 6 yet. I am still trying to get a set from Uberplay, but so far all they have sent me is another set of blue boats. (Sorry J.Y., but I couldn't resist. =) I can see how this game would still be fun with 6, since it's extremely chaotic no matter how many people are playing. With 2 players though, variants are needed. A solid game from Uberplay/Schmidt Spiele, and worth checking out.

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