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This is a game of sailing ships in the South Pacific. On each turn, players have to hire a new crew for their ship. To attract Captains and Mates, they display the wages they're offering. Each player (shipowner) then throws three dice (symbolizing the crew)--crew are distributed equally to all ships but his own. The first player will naturally seek out the post offering the highest wages, but later players can oust him from the post. After hiring the crew, the ships set sail, with the crew setting the speed. Afterwards, the crew signs off, taking the wages with them. On the next turn, players hire another crew. The ship owner, laying the course, tries to reach four out of five islands before anyone else, building camps on each one. The first player gets a hefty price, the later arrivals a lesser one. After the camps have been set, the players race back home to the island of Tonga Bonga. The first player back receives another bonus and ends the play. The player with the most ducats at the end of the game is the most successful shipowner and therefore the winner of the game. Tonga Bonga introduces some interesting new game mechanics in the way you have to ante, the hiring, and distributing the dice.
Average Rating: 4 in 2 reviews
Tonga Bonga provides a fun & challenging 'Family Night' game. The colors, graphics, 'ducat coins' and ease of play made it possible to have everyone grasp the rules in about 5 minutes. My eight year old caught on to the bidding process of the game after two rounds, and was making change with the bank to do his bidding! An excellent learning bonus!! The flow of Tonga Bonga is fast, so no one playing got bored waiting for another player to make his move. However, my beer & beer gaming group found the game fairly 'light', and preferred Stefan Dorra's Streetcar in terms of advanced planning and strategy for an evening of adult gaming. I recommend Tonga Bonga to any player/parent looking for a fun game to involve the family and even use as a teaching tool on budgeting money and planning.
The goal of the game is to have the most money at the end of the game - sounds simple enough!
Each round consist of four actions: Pay your crew, roll and play your dice, move your ship, and collect your dice.
Paying your crew - the more you pay them, the more likely you are to get to move your ship a long distance (a good thing). Two stacks of coins are placed on the board - they will be awarded to the two highest 'bidders' in the 4th action. Other players will then place their dice next to the coins after rolling. More money attracts higher die rolls.
Roll and play your dice - die rolls are given to the other players in the game. High die rolls are good because you are more likely to collect the highest pay offered by the other players. Low die rolls are good because the other players won't move very far. Which is better???
Move your ship according to the die rolls given to you by the other players. High numbers are always best here. Ships are moved to islands on the board and are rewarded the most money for arriving first.
Collect your dice and corresponding pay. Higher rolls will usually have received the most pay from the other players.
After a player's ship has landed on 4 of the 5 islands, he returns to the starting island and the game is over. The player with the most money wins.
The rules to Tonga Bonga are easy to learn. The strategy is complex. I like the fact that the die rolls are given to other players and your movement is therefore decided by the other players. The only control you have over how far you move is the amount of incentive you offer via paying your crew. Don't pay too much though - remember the goal of the game is to have the most money! If one player gets way ahead, he can be slowed down by the other players if they conspire and give the leader their lowest die rolls. Not very nice - but neither is life on the high seas! Arrggghhh!
With such an unusual title, you might guess for a long time before you came up with the theme of this game from Ravensburger. ln fact, it's a race game from Stefan Dorra set in a fictional set of islands in the tropical zone. The race is to visit four out of the five bays with your ship and then to return back to the starting bay. The winner is the person with the most ducats.
Each player is the owner of a galleon and must hire a crew. You do this by placing ducats on your ship which you will pay out to the sailors who are attracted by your wages. Similarly, you hire out crew to each other captain and receive the wages they are offering. You get bonuses for getting home first and for visiting different bays.
To begin with, each player receives 20 ducats. In turn, each player distributes at least one of these ducats on to two of the three places on his own ship. The first place (for the captain of each ship) often commands a premium over the second for the mate. In my experience, you may spend up to 10 ducats for the first post and a similar figure for the second, but this depends on the game situation. Having set the value of each place on the ships, the players throw their dice. The higher the number of ducats on each place on a ship, the more likely it is that you will get high numbered dice to move your ship.
Each owner takes charge of their own ship and on their turn throw their own set of six-sided dice. These are only placed on other players' ships and one die is placed on each ship. Each die shows either the number of movement points (1-5) or a sailor being ill, in which case he cannot be placed on any ship. Movement across the board is regulated by a square grid and the ships move orthogonally. The movement phase begins and each ship is moved in turn the number of squares up to the sum of the sailors' dice in your ship. It often happens that a person will have thrown a seasick sailor, in which case one or more ships will not have a full complement. The competition for the money offered by each player means that a space is often challenged by a player and here the rule is that a higher or equal die displaces a lower one.
Having moved, a player places a marker when they have visited a bay. Many of the islands have a only single sea space between them and so a ship placed in one of these spaces forces the spending of extra movement points by rivals to move through that square. All players then receive their income. Each sailor is paid the number of ducats for the position they occupied on the ship. As I mentioned, the captain's place is usually the best paid because it will have the highest movement points, whereas the third place on a ship is not paid. Players also receive money for reaching bays as well as money from players who visit the island after they have set a camp marker. The final payment is for the player who reaches the start bay having visited four of the bays.
Money is tight in this game, not the absolute amounts, because it does build up, but the relative amounts you have to pay. It is always difficult deciding how much to put on your ship to attract high value sailors. Pretty often, the players can gang up on the leader (who is the person who has visited the most bays and is probably closest to winning). However, there is always one player who cannot resist the lure of a large number of ducats! If a player does not have more than one sailor, then the player receives back his money. This can yield a good position, as you may get income from manning other player's ships and then get your own money back.
How does the game play? Well, it's alright and we have played it about five times, so there must be something there. It is a Stefan Dorra creation, so it should be played several times, shouldn't it? I'm not so sure. Although it has an interesting system of attracting crews, while also being concerned about maximising money, the actual race is a bit boring. There are many great race games, many games with good systems, but for me this one does not get the mix quite right. Seven out of ten on the How scale, which, as anyone who knows my scoring system will realise, is modest.
[Note: The unusual naming in this game extends to the names used for each island. In this era of political correctness, it is nice to see that the folks at Ravensburger have not heard of it--or perhaps it does not exist in Germany--but I would not have named the islands Samboa Bay, Mamboa Bay or Bigboa Bay. Perhaps the last 'a' was added as out of consideration for the nineties.]