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Twelve islands, but no bridges...
Five gods, but no peace.
A small group of islands anywhere south of Hawaii...
The 4 players go from island to island to pick up fruits to give to the gods:
- Kanaloa, god of the sea and the wind
- Ku, god of war
- Pele, goddess of fire - her anger causes volcanoes to erupt
- Lono, god of fertility (as well as peace, recreation and the weather)
Between the islands are arrows to move in one direction. One side of an arrow shows the player's color (only this player may move) the other no color (every player may move). After every move the arrow is turned to the other color.
The gods help the player who gave him most fruits: to move (turn direction or color of an arrow), to steal (of course from another player), to determine a volcanic eruption (the players near the volcanic eruption loose a turn), to pick up better fruits.
Average Rating: 3 in 1 review
The very patient Ken Hill ran a game of this a while back at The Guardtower, in Columbus, OH. I was fortunate enough to get a seat at the table. There really is nothing better than learning a game from somebody who cares, and makes efforts to keep people up to speed and such.
My rating of the game has more to do with the fact that I felt the god powers should be more useful than they were for me. I believe at one point in the game, I controlled all the possible gods except the volcano fella, and even with all this favor, I was not in any particularly advantageous position with respect to my opponents. I mention this not so much as an obvious flaw in the game, but as the most obvious flaw in strategic thinking that this game entails. In a game where the gods' favor is so heavily explicated, you'd think it would just be more darned powerful, and worth attaining. Well, you'd be wrong, or at least I was. The Knizia-esque scoring system was the biggest joy of the game for me, and I look at this game as just a wacky Tigris & Euphrates variant that I'd be willing to play again some time. Unless Ken left out a LOT of rules, though, there's more 'play' in this game than there is actual 'game'.
Kanaloa was one of the games launched at Essen last year and publicised in the pre-Essen internet press. It looked interesting to me and had been given a tag of "a gamer's game". This usually means that Joe Public will not like it, but that it ought to appeal to players of German type games and readers of Counter. So, my inclination was to buy it. Gnter Cornett had previously produced several games: Arabana-Ikibiti and Schlangennest, which I liked, and Flaschenteufel, which I thought was superb. I did not enjoy his Autoscooter, but on balance he was well ahead for me. The game has high production values and being a limited run of only 200 games, the costs were higher than you normally get at Essen. The reason for the higher cost is the quantity and quality of wooden pieces in the game.
I always like to know early on what the object of the game is so here goes: players collect wooden offering pieces in five colours by moving to islands on the game board and later sacrificing them to the appropriate god. This earns them temple pieces in that colour and these are displayed before each player. At the conclusion of the game, these temple pieces are scored and the winner is the person with the most points.
The scoring system bears some resemblance to the one used in [page scan/se=0874/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=20]Euphrates & Tigris -- in so far that the colour of a temple only scores if there are as many of them as there are on the white temple pieces. So if you have less of a colour than the white ones, you score nothing for that colour. If you have as many or more temple pieces than the white one you only score up to the white temple's value. An example of scoring is white 10 points; green 9 points: blue 14 points. Green does not score as it is less than white, blue score 10 (the maximum score is the value of white) and white scores 10 points.
Back to the game. The game board has pre-drawn routes linking all the twelve islands. Players receive a number of fish in their colour which are placed on these routes. The direction of the fish determines the route between the islands (the head of the fish points away from the island). All islands have to be reachable, so you don't have all the fish pointing in to or out of an island. To begin with, half the fish are turned coloured side down and half are left coloured side up. The colouring of the fish covers a portion of the sides so that you can see what colour is on the bottom side. The importance of this is that players may only move over white (that's coloured side down) fish or their own colour. After travelling over a fish, that fish is turned over, so the coloured side is now white or vice versa. This is one of the best rules of the game as it can protect your route out of an island if you travel over your own colour.
The rest of the set up involves drawing two offering tiles from a bag and placing them face up on each island. These show either one or two colours, (such as red or green) with a value of 1 to 5. The white coloured tiles can either be used to score for white or any other colour and so are especially sought after.
Each player has one piece on the game board and has two options each turn:
- Move to an adjacent island (via a white fish or one of your own colour) and pick up one of the offerings or
- Sacrifice some offerings. These do not have to be all for the same god.
Since the choices are so limited, the down time between turns is small, as even the decisions that accompany these choices are not great in number or concept.
The fun begins when sacrifices are made. The player with the most sacrifices (on a draw, control is retained by the existing player) receives that god and the power that comes with it. The powers are rule breakers and in some combinations are very powerful. The powers are:
- Gain a second piece (this doesn't move as well, but provides more options);
- Be able to reverse the direction of a fish (though not to cut off an island)
- Take an offering from another player when you land on their island
- When a volcano erupts, you choose where it does and the occupants of surrounding islands cannot move. This usually gives you a free move.
Because the powers are valuable additions, players compete for control of a colour. This means competing for the offering pieces and thus how to get to specific islands. So the game systems for movement, collection, fish direction and control of gods all intertwine well together. The white god has no power, so may appear less important than the others do. However, due to the scoring system, the white god becomes more influential towards the end of the game. However, in order to stop a player from collecting white temples too early, a player may not be the controller of a god if the white temples are larger that the coloured ones. This means that you tend to focus on specific gods rather than collecting offerings from all gods.
When offerings are taken from the islands they are replaced with ones from the bag. If a volcano tile is drawn, the god controlling that power is able to use his abilities. In addition, when 10 volcanoes have been drawn, there is a separate pack of tiles drawn at the beginning of the game that are mixed into the draw bag. One of these is a volcano, which will immediately end the game. It's a nice touch of preventing a perfect endplay and adds to the final suspense of the game.
When playing with four players, the second placed player in temples receives the junior god card. This usually affords some protection from the main god's powers and adds another dimension to the game. I found I missed this aspect when playing with three players so the next time I play I will ensure that we have four.
As you can see, the game does have a reasonable number of options, they are not too difficult to make and the progress you make is visible in the form of temples that you display in front of you. The offering tiles are also visible, so this represents the threat you may have of increasing power of one or more gods. The white gods are interesting and you have to make sure you have enough of these sacrificed at the end to optimise your score. Overall, I would concur with the "gamer's game" feeling. The theme of Hawaiian gods was lost to me within minutes as I concentrated on the game systems, which I like. The game has high replay value, as the set up and occurrence of the offering tiles will change and the variety added by the god powers improves the game. The only warning I would add is that you have to beware of a player controlling particular combinations of powers. These can be quite devastating when under the same control. Recommended for gamers who want a change of scenery and some clever interactive systems.