This was a 4 player game with four new players. Purple had played once before, everyone else was new. Players and player colours mostly the same as the game of China earlier except Green was taken by Blue.
Again, most folks were a little dubious about the boat distribution rules, but they're actually simpler than I was first taught. When distributing boats, one boat per beach then the rest wherever you want. When expanding boats, place up to the amount you already have, but a maximum of one per beach.
The game started out a little oddly. Despite having shuffled the tiles at least moderately carefully, the first three expeditions from Tonga immediately found adjacent islands. By this point, people had become pretty unconcerned about the possibility of expedition loss.
The game started to expand out at the point. A rush of water tiles came out and several expeditions very bravely started with 1 or 2 ship colours were lost at sea, even a couple of 3-colour ones perished.
At that point, Purple was left alone on an island and claimed the first Royal island of the game. There was much anguish around the table as all the other players explained that they thought the conditions were much more strict. This started lots of maneuvering for solely-controlled islands so other folks could get a Royal island or two. At this point, only the first-order effect of permanently claiming an island was considered.
That first Royal island and a doomed expedition left Purple with only two ships remaining on the board. While others were able to expand on islands with two ships, with Red starting to spread across all the islands and Green claiming two more Royal islands, Purple tried to build up forces on Tonga. Tonga's 6 beaches make it a prime candidate for generating more ships, but the 1-ship-per beach distribution rule makes it difficult to place them exactly where you want them.
Thus started the third phase of the game. The final large build of four ships by Purple on Tonga triggered a couple of expeditions on beaches adjacent to the Royal islands. These ships immediately came back, were redistributed and kicked off more expeditions. Each of these gave Purple the opportunity to push boats off onto nearby islands, Hawaii and Tuvalu, and even stock and send off doomed expeditions along the 3 route. At the end of a single turn with four bounces, Purple had spread to 3 adjacent islands, leaving one boat on Tonga.
The game continued for a couple of rounds with red and green solidifying leads in their corners but purple managing to spread far enough across the islands to win with 30 points to red's 25. Green's early lead didn't last.
The final layout was:
You'll note one water tile too many, we forgot the real termination condition, as the second last tile was land, and the last was a water that didn't go anywhere on the very last (incorrect) turn to end the game.
Possibly the most interesting thing about this game was that there were four islands adjacent to Tonga, two of them had been converted to royal islands and one of the two sea routes led to one of the royal islands as well. This meant there was relatively little opportunity to get off that island, but plenty of chances to use the multiple bounces to distribute your own boats as desired.
This did meant that we had much less opportunity to build up interesting sea routes which changed the feel of the game but did make losing ships rare until the very end of the game.
Things we learned:
* Actually getting lots of ships on the board is critical. You don't have to do this the whole game, but a couple of building spurts on Tonga can get a lot of ships onto the board. Then you need to
* Royal islands are much more important that they seem at first because bouncing is the only way to really control the layout of boats on the islands. Blocking off whole regions is useful, but less so.
* Having yellow or green boats which blend into the island makes you seem a lot less threatening to the other players. Choose one of these if you don't like being set against as the obvious winner.
Tongiaki is a fun little game, certainly runs longer than China, and I'll have to give one of the 2-player variants a shot sometime. It might even be fun.
Well done, Bruce! Great review, very insightful. You seem to have crystalized quite a bit of what's been rolling around in my head regarding strategies for this game. It's fast become a meaty filler favorite for our group.