Tongiaki: Journey into the Unknown
List Price: $19.99
Your Price: $15.95
(Worth 1,595 Funagain Points!)
from 4 customer reviews
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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?
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.
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.
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.
I tried this game this weekend with 4 players, having read that it was best for 4 or 5 and that it was actually horrible for 2 or 3. But quickly, the luck of the draw separated the ships into two separate parts of the board, creating almost 2, 2-player mini-games. Needless to say, no one could do much of anything except hope to draw an island tile all the time because no one could succeed on any lengthy voyages. Someone also had told me that the game seemed to play itself, and that was my impression, too. The only reason I'm not giving this 1 star is because I think there's probably some potential as a 6-player game, but I'm not going to go find out for myself. I'd spend my money elsewhere.
Tongiaki is an exploration game inspired by the 'I wonder what is over the horizon?' voyages of the Polynesians that took place around 300 AD. Driven by over population to leave the places where they were living, they set off across the Pacific not knowing whether the end of their journey would be a new island or death at sea.
The game begins with a single, face-up, hexagonal tile. This shows the island of Tonga, which for game purposes has six beaches and spaces for three boats on each. At the beginning of the game each player places two boats on the island, with the restriction that at the end of the placements each beach must still have at least one vacant space. The rest of the tiles (15 islands and 16 ocean) are in a face-down stack.
On your turn you select an island and place more boats on it. The number you can add is bounded both by the number you already have there and by the number of beaches - which can be as low as two on some of the islands. When placing these new boats you are not allowed to add more than one to each beach. If, after your placements, any of the beaches are then full, all the boats on it must leave the island. If there is another tile already adjacent to this beach, they go to that; if not, a new tile is drawn, placed in position and the boats go there. The orientation of the new tile is not a matter for player choice and could spell disaster for the departing boats.
When boats move to a new island, they are distributed around its beaches, with the moving player doing the distributing. If they move to a sea tile, they will find themselves on a sea lane taking them from one side of the hexagon to another. From the end of this they go on to the next tile, which may already be in place or may need to be drawn. This continues until they either reach land or are lost at sea. The danger of the sea voyages is represented by numbers on each of the sea lanes. These are either 2, 3, 4 or blank (which plays as though it were 1). In order to journey safely along the lane, the group must contain boats from at least as many players as the number on the lane. So if it is a 3-lane and only 2 players have boats in the group, the boats are lost (taken off board and returned to their owners).
If the player's placements filled more than one beach, or if the redistributions at the end of a journey led to more full beaches, there will be further voyages, and a player's turn doesn't end until they have all been resolved.
The ultimate object is to spread your people over the islands. With the exception of Tonga itself, each carries a value in the range 2 to 5 and at the end of the game you will score this value for each of the islands on which you have a presence.
What I described above was a normal turn, but there are two other things you can do instead. If you are the only player to have boats on an island, you may use your turn to declare it a royal island. The effect of this is to deny access to it. To do this you place one of your boats at the centre of the tile and remove all others. You will score for the island at the end and no boats (including yours) may land there for the rest of the game. Each player is limited to a maximum of two royal islands and their purpose can be either to deny the points to others or to break a chain in a way that gives you a tactical advantage. The other special option is one to be used when your on-board position is desperate. With this you remove all your boats from the board, play tiles until a new island appears and then place a boat on to it.
The game ends when either the last island tile or the last ocean tile is added to the display.
Unusually for a German game, the mechanics flow directly from the theme, a fact that would normally have us cheering to the rafters. However, on this occasion you must remember that the theme is about people setting off on a wing and a prayer. They often had very little control over their fate and the same is true for you when you play Tongiaki. There are things for you to think about, and in parts of the board where the geography is known you can do some planning ahead, but for a lot of the game you are entirely at the whim of the gods. Avoid the game if that sort of thing doesn't appeal to you.
There is also an issue with the number of players. The normal number for my group these days is 4 and that is how many we had for this. At that number I quite enjoyed the game. Not one that I'd want to play that often, but amusing enough providing you don't care too much about who wins. When Greg Schloesser played it they had the full six and didn't like it all. Jeremy Young of berplay has since said that 3 or 4 (or 2 playing two colours each) sees the game at its best. Fair enough, but if they knew that already, wouldn't it be better to have said so on the box? Publishers don't often give a 'best with' as well as a 'plays with', but it might be a good idea were they to start.