Emile de Maat
Taluva is a game about several tribes trying to settle a tropical island. The players are gods who modify the landscape to create a suitable environment for their people.
The game consists of fourty-eight tiles, made from thick cardboard. Each tile is comprised of three hexes. (They have a different print, but otherwise they are the same tiles as used by Java). In addition to the tiles, there are some very nice wooden bits. Each player gets twenty huts, three temples and two watchtowers.
I don't care much for the artwork on the tiles: it's not that great, but not bad either. I do like the wooden bits a lot, and they make a big difference, it seems: the game looks great.
The game is rather simple: each turn, you add one tile to the isle, and then you build something.
Adding tiles can be done in two different ways. You can simply add the tile to the island by laying it next to an existing tile, or you can cause a volcanic eruption. When you choose for the volcanic eruption, you place the tile on top of the existing tiles in such a way that the volcano of the new tile is on top of an existing volcano, with the lave flow pointing in a different direction. (This second requirement actually means that no tile may be place right on top of one existing tile; it must always be supported by two or three existing tiles).
A volcanic eruption may destroy any huts that were already on the tiles, as long as you do not destroy a complete settlement (that is, all the buildings that are on adjacent tiles to eachother). Temples and towers may not be destroyed.
After placing the tile, you may build anywhere on the board. There are four options for building:
1) Start a new settlement by placing a single hut somewhere on an empty field on level 1 of the board.
2) Expand a settlement by naming a type of terrain (jungle, desert, lake, rock or clear) and add huts to each empty field of that type adjacent to the settlement. On each field, you place as many huts equal to the level.
3) Add a temple to a settlement. This may only be done if the settlement already has reached a size of three fields.
4) Add a tower to a settlement. The tower may only be placed on a field that is on level 3 or higher.
You win the game if at any point you've build all buildings of two different types (i.e. you've build all your huts and temples). If no one achieves this before there are no more tiles to play, than the winner is the player who build the most temples (followed by towers in case of a tie, and finally huts). Huts that are destroyed by a volcanic eruption need not and cannot be build again.
You loose the game if at any point you cannot build during your turn.
Multi-player solitaire potential
There is plenty of space on the board, and it can easily happen that all players are building away on one corner of the board, happily expanding their own settlements, without any real interaction going on.
Luckily, the game also allows for more interactive tactics, which I think are better and make the game more interesting. You can use your tiles to destroy part of an opponent's settlement (delaying his temple building plans) or start a new village to prevent your opponent from forming a hill (since the eruption cannot take out your single hut). The game seems designed with this kind of interaction in mind: with only peaceful actions, it's easy to get rid of your temples. Only when people start preventing this, the towers really come in to play.
The huts are a very interesting factor in the game. Despite there being twenty of them to get rid off, it's quite easy to build them all. Too easy, in fact. You may find yourself running out of huts too soon. As there can only be one temple and one tower in a settlement, you need to be able to build several settlements. Expand your initial settlement to to big a size, and you don't have enough huts left to get those extra settlements. This is also the point where other players can kick you out of the game by keeping destroying your huts.
So far, most games I've seen have been won by a player who was merely a single turn ahead on the next player... A difference so small it could easily have been caused by luck of the draw. This worries me a bit; it might be that the game is too easy, i.e. everyone can easily continue building, without real setbacks. I expect, however, that more aggresive play will change this.
I think Taluva is quite a nice game. The stacking of tiles gives a 3D-element to the game that I haven't really seen before in a filler game, and that sets it apart from the other short tile-laying games. There's also room for some thinking (although you need not think to deep about it, if you do not wish to), something that a most filler games do not offer. On top of that, it's very beautiful to look at. If you're looking for a light game, I'd certainly recommend you take a look at Taluva.
Steve R Bullock
Good review! I have this game on my "to buy when it is available" list. I hope to get it before Christmas, but we will see. Again, nice job!
Nice review Emile, I bought the game at Essen but with no English rules. With your review together with the review Naturelich has posted has enabled me to get the gist of it. As you say lovely production values, it remains to be seen how the game plays.