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Subject: First game with 4 new players proves to be... rss

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Kyle A
United States
Norfolk
Virginia
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AMAZING!

I picked this game up on a Ding and Dent sale and am just getting around to playing it. I am a fan of RKs other works so I was willing to take a gamble on this one. I love the components (minus the shells, but I will talk about that later), and the rich colors on the gameboard make this one a pretty sight on the table. At first I thought this would be another pure auction game, but I found elements of both route-building, and some take-that buried in the gameplay.

Anyway, we jumped right into the game with very little explanation needed, and by the second round we all had it figured out. Each round a number of tiles are drawn randomly from a bag and placed on the board. Each tile can only go in one spot so the tiles you draw from the bag direct you where to place your own markers.

Players are trying to link specific groupings of tiles with their player pieces, so everyone will see the new tiles placed on the board this round, and then bid for turn order to claim the tiles (place the player markers). If a player is able to link specific groupings with the player pieces, AND has an open spot on the border, they can build their Maoi statue, and subsequently pay shells to do so.

We were all new to this game and have various levels of gaming experience. As with all auction games you haven't played before, it is hard to judge what an appropriate amount of shells (currency) to bid is. For the first few rounds we overpaid, but that just helps to highlight the clever mechanism used to get shells (currency) back. Only the winner of the round's auction (highest bidder) loses their bid. Everyone else keeps theirs and in order to get shells back, you have to bid Zero. It is not enough just to lose the bid, you must bid Zero, and in doing so, you retrieve any shells left on the board from the previous round, plus the shells from the current round's winner. And if you tie, divide the shells evenly leaving any extras on the board for next round's "loser" to claim.

One round mid-game there was one shell on the board from the previous round. I was going to bid zero attempting to increase my stockpile of shells so I could control the next auction. Two of my opponents had a bunch of shells, so I knew they were probably going to bid a few. One opponent had one shell, so I knew she was going to bid zero. What really happened...The opponent that had one shell left bid their one shell and everyone else bid zero. The person who bid one basically got the deal of a lifetime, by getting to place all 3 of her markers for only 1 shell. And since she only bid one, there weren't enough shells for the rest to split. That moment when we all opened our hands and everyone had an empty palm except for one...just awesome, we all died laughing. It was completely unexpected.

The game flows smooth as butter with each round being pretty quick, so before we knew it we were getting close to the end of the game. This game is a race game, and it's always clear who is in the lead. I mentioned some take-that before. If you win the auction, you place your markers first. So if you see someone is setting up a combo, you could place your marker in a way that disrupts that entirely. I think this is the main decision point behind this game. There are some very simple combos/groupings you need to achieve. If you set yourself up for the easy combo, expect someone to try and take it away or disrupt you. Similarly, if you only pay attention to your pieces, you are potentially letting someone walk away with the game.

In the end, too little could be done too late. I didn't plan enough ahead, or didn't realize that the person sitting in last position was going to win. I won the auction and still failed to realize that I could have prevented him from winning the game. The ending was a little anti-climatic but I attribute that to the group's sub-optimal play. I absolutely cannot wait to play again, and everyone at the table loved the game.

A word on the auction in this game compared to other RK games...The auction in this game is much more exciting than something like Medici. There are not many games where players are FORCED to lose the auction. This is one. There is just no other mechanism to get additional shells. For this reason, every auction is super exciting. Every single auction result has a benefit and players can really take advantage of this with careful bidding.

Another super interesting aspect of the auction is the amount of shells (currency) decreases as the game progresses, so you might need 10-11 shells to win the first bid, but a bid of 3-4 might win you the last. I found this very interesting.


A note on the components:
- Player screens need to be bigger
- Shells don't really stay on the board. Once you erect a statue, you put shells on the specific tiles you used to pay for the statue. Since they are round like real shells, they roll all over the place and I had a hard time placing them. So, I went and got a bag of white glass beads like you put in a vase, and they work great and only cost me 2.99.

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Doug Adams
Australia
Oakleigh
Victoria
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Good read, thanks! I use the shells or white cubes - both work well (if you place the shells flat side down!). Good to see Orongo getting some love.
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Jeff Binning
United States
Rollinsville
Colorado
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Good review of a very nice game. We use white "Go" pieces to replace the shells. The shells are a cute idea, but just aren't practical.
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Shawn
Canada
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Ontario
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I've gotten 7 plays in of this game since i got it in Feb of this year. I think it's a good fun and light game and I'm happy with it.

Definitely need to get some white cubes or discs to replace the shells ... pearly white glass stones would be perfect tho
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