Fiji is a blind auction game in which 2 to 5 players bid with fake gems in order to make their collection most closely match the conditions required by the natives to earn shrunken heads. Once again the theme is a bit off the wall, but nothing less than we'd expect from Herr Friese.
The main components of the game are the plastic beads that represent the fake gems... these are cheap looking plastic beads, complete with holes, that makes me think they came straight out of a craft shop.
The game also includes a sheet of shrunken heads on decent weight cardboard. These feature the quirky artwork of Maura Kalusky, which we all know (and love) from many of Friedemann's other games (Fearsome Floors, Fische Fluppen Frikadellen, Funny Friends etc.) It's worth noting that some of the heads resemble famous characters, such as Bert and Ernie and The Count (from Seasame Street) as well as Bart Simpson, and others such as Elvis. There are also heads for Friedemann and Maura themselves.
There are also three decks of cards in the game... a small 'deck' of 4 goal cards, plus 1 idol, and two larger decks of 16 condition cards and 16 event cards. These are all language independant, using colourful graphics to depict the conditions and events. The cards are on stock that is about average compared to the usual decks of playing cards. Most of them are only shuffled once in the game, however the goal cards are shuffled before every round.
Finally there are 5 player screens, on fairly flimsy cardstock. These are used by players to conceal their stash of gems, and I found them rather unstable and prone to being knocked over easily.
The game consists of 4 rounds, and each round is a set of 3 auctions.
To begin the game, give every player a set of gems, as indicated on the inside of the player screen (5 green, 4 red, 3 yellow, 2 blue). Make one extra set and place this in the middle as a pool.
place the idol card on the table, at the top-left of the area you are going to use to play. Shuffle the four goal cards (being sure to rotate some of the cards as you do so) then place them side by side to the right of the idol. The card closest to the idol is the most important goal... the others are used to break ties in order.
Next shuffle the auction condition cards and place the first 4 face up in a column underneath the idol card... Then shuffle the action cards and place the first 4 in a column to the right of the condition cards (under the first goal card).
You now have your playing conditions for the first round of 3 auctions.
Players now take 1 to 4 gems (in any combination) from behind their screen and place them in a closed fist in front of the screen. when everyone has selected gems, simultaneously reveal what you have bid.
Starting with the condition card closest to the idol, and working down, compare what each player has bid with the condition on the card... this might be MOST of something or LEAST of something. The player who most closely matches the condition wins and must perform the associated action - the action on the card to the right of the condition. Bizarrely, if there is a tie for the condition, ALL tied palyers are ignored and a winner is sought from the remaining players. If no players are left after all ties are discounted, then no-one wins, and the action is not performed.
Work through each of the 4 condition cards in order, determining who is the winner, and having them perform whatever action is required... actions usually require certain players (either the winner, or everyone else) to take gems.. sometimes a fixed number, sometimes half that in the supply.
When the 4 conditions have been checked for the first auction, players place their stake into the pool, and prepare to bid again.
There are three auctions with the same set of conditions, after which there is a scoring round.
When the scoring round has been completed, re-shuffle the goal cards. Remove all the condition and action cards and replace with 4 fresh cards from each deck. You are then ready to begin another set of 3 auctions.
When all 4 rounds, and all 4 scorings have taken place, the player with the most Shrunken heads is the winner. There is no tie-breaker, so shared victories are possible.
At the end of a round, players compare the gems they have in their supply with the goal conditions for the round. The card closest to the idol is the most important goal, with ties broken by looking at the other goal cards in order of decreasing importance as you get further from the idol card.
There is a goal card for each of the 4 types of gem, and they will be placed such that players muct obtain either the most of that gem, or the least (done by rotating the cards while shuffling).
Note that some of the action cards allow players to affect the goal cards, so these may switch or rotate during an auction!
The player who most closely matches the goal conditions gets a number of heads equal to the number of players minus 1 and takes these from the supply. Subsequent players each get one less head than the player before them, so the worst player gets no heads at all!
Summary of Game Cards
Condition cards will always either be most of or least of, and depict a combination of 1 to 4 of the different gems
Action cards fall into the following types:
Winner takes X gems as shown
All other players take X gems as shown
Winner takes half gems of type y as shown
Winner rotates a goal
Winner swaps any 2 goal cards (changing their priority)
Winner keeps his stake
Most cards are of the first 3 types, there is only 1 of each of the others, these are the 3 special types.
Fiji is a chaotic auction game that to a certain extent defies strategic analysis... Each bid is against 4, often conflicting, conditions and you are always trying to second guess your opponents. In this sense it's often simpler just to grab some gems at random and hope. Having said that, I have played the game a number of times now (5 at the last count), and I can usually guarantee to do better through experience than others who are just playing the game at random. If you want a deep strategic auction game with good information and plenty of scope for analysis, then I wouldn't recommend Fiji. However, this is the game for you if you want a fairly quick and chaotic game, which leaves you with the feeling that you've had to make brain-burning decisions.
I've read the rules and read your review but I don't get this game. If everyone starts with the same gems and everyone has the same conditions during the auctions, wouldn't everyone just play the same way? I know I'm missing out on something here.
The rule about ties means that if players DO play the same way, they don't win... so it's about being different, and second-guessing your opponents. Besides sometimes you don't actually want to win some of the auctions.. if the goals are to lose certain gems.
Granted that occasionally we do find a couple of people bid the same for some rounds, but rarely does that happen and it's never more than a couple of people.
ya gotta bunny/duck it in your head
"I looked at my hands, I understood that one fine day, one fine evening to be precise, they would no longer be hands but some other awful thing." —Jack Kerouac
Thanks for the review!
Bizarrely, if there is a tie for the condition, ALL tied players are ignored and a winner is sought from the remaining players.
This is what makes the game, IMO. It prevents (as you said) players from simply bidding optimally, and forces you to double- and triple-think to try and make your bid unique. So in order to win with the *least* of something you actually have to bid the *most* of it--and hope all of the other lesser bids cancel out...
It's not about having the least or most, but having the ONLY bid that fulfills the win criteria.
It feels really weird to play it; it's definitely a rarified, acquired taste--but I like it.
Isle of Wight
To put it another way, did you ever hear of those competitions where thousands of people bid for a car, and the lowest unique price wins? Bidding 1p might work if everyone else talks themselves out of it, but if anyone else also bids 1p, you both lose, and someone would get it for 2p. So the chain goes, until the car ends up actually being sold for £1.18 or something.
Fiji is like those auctions. 4 of them. Being played at once. With some items you want to win, and some you don't. And bidding with the very means that allows you to win the game.