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Subject: Tahiti - Another Mixed Review by Casualgod rss

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David Debien
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Disclaimer:

For complete transparency, I received a review copy of Tahiti from Minion games. I am glad I did too, because I may have overlooked this fun little family oriented set collecting, push your luck game.

Rules

Tahiti is not a complex game, but there are a few rules in the game that would be easy to get wrong and the rule book as well as the included turn sequence player aid do a very good job of making sure the players get it right the first time. The rule book is logically laid out and every rule is exactly where you would expect it to be. Also, a frequent pet peeve of mine when this is not the case, the rules are taught in an order that makes sense and does not require reading ahead or jumping back to find a relevant rule. In all, an experienced gamer should be ready to play Tahiti after a 5-10 minute reading of the rules. Again, there are a few minor but important rules that are easy to overlook, so I would recommend playing with the rule book open for the first few turns.

Components

The components in Tahiti are top notch. The cubes are all uniform and this is important considering the blind draw nature of the cube draws each turn. The tiles and player boards are nice and thick. The colors and artwork are vibrant, appealing and match the theme well. My son, who is color blind, had a tough time telling the green and brown cubes apart, but you can easily correct this by putting some form of identifying mark on one of the colored sets of cubes.

Theme

In Tahiti, each player controls a family of Tahitians who have to paddle their canoes around the archipelago to collect crops (bananas, coconuts, taro and spice) as well as fish in order to feed their family. Each player is also dealt a tile which tells them in secret which crops his family prefers and will thus score bonus points for collecting more than any other player of that particular crop.

At its heart, Tahiti is a set collecting game with either very little luck, or as much as you can stomach, aside from the fishing aspect and the order in which new crops become available. In terms of theme versus game mechanic, I feel the theme of Tahiti shines brightly through the mechanics. In Tahiti, I do not feel like I am collecting sets of cubes. Rather, I feel like I am trying to feed my family and also seek out those crops which I prefer.

Gameplay

There are two stages in the game, there is the initial expansion phase when islands and crops are added at a fairly breakneck pace and then the second half has a sort of resource scarcity phase where the crops come more slowly and islands slowly stop producing new crops.

In the first half of the game, each player in turn, will draw a tile and then try and place it as strategically as possible to their benefit on the growing map. Next, they will draw three crop cubes from the bag and place as many of them as they can on the island tiles, again placing them in a way that is most beneficial to their position. Then, they will receive a number of action points dependent on how laden their canoe is which they will use to move around the map and collect (and drop off) crops and fish.

Once there are no more island tiles to be added to the map, the game enters the second stage. Now, players will start by adding only two crop cubes per round to the islands followed by their action round. Finally players will take a depletion tile and place it on any island of their choice which does not have any crop cubes on it. This island is now depleted and can no longer take new crop cubes. A few of the depletion tiles have a fish icon on it and this now indicates an island tile where players can draw more cubes from the bag when fishing, making that island tile a prime fishing location. When the final depletion tile is laid out, the game ends.

Players begin with their canoes on the center (home) tile. The idea is to move the canoes from island tile to island tile and collect crops in order to bring them back to the home island for storage and eventual scoring at the end of the game. What makes collecting the crops interesting is that as your canoe begins to fill with crops, you receive fewer action points with which to take your turn. This leads to an interesting decision point, where players must decide how much they want to fill their canoe before turning around to drop off the crops on the home island. Making matters more interesting is the fact that your canoe can either carry no more than one of each type of crop, or only carry one kind of crop if you want to collect only a specific type. Finally, each island tile has a couple of reefs along its edge, which can disturb a laden canoe and cause it to lose carried crops into the ocean. As the game progresses and the map is built by the players, avenues of safe passage and areas of single or even double reefs appear on the map, creating an interesting press your luck mechanic whereby the players must decide to either play it safe and take the longer route, or try and save time by paddling over the rougher reef zones, thus risking their hard won crops and fish.

Now, to my least favorite mechanic of the game: fishing. To collect fish, a player declares the fishing action and draws 2 (or 3 if on a depleted island with a fish icon) cubes from the bag. If one (or more) of the cubes is white, then they add one fish cube to their canoe. I understand why something like this was added to the game, but I am not sure how necessary it is.

Thematically, it works for me as you are literally fishing for white (fish) cubes from the draw bag during the fishing action. I just don’t like the way it plays out in most games. From what I have seen, people generally wait until the latter half of the game to fish. I have deliberately tried to fish earlier than this to see how it works out and ended up doing poorly as a result. Late in the game, the draw bag has been fairly well depleted of all the other colors, so there is a high concentration of fish in the bag, making it more of a situation where its bad luck when you draw a hand with no white cubes rather than good luck when you do draw a hand with a white cube.

This bothers me a little as it is no fun for the little ones you are playing with when they spend a turn fishing and come up empty only to watch everyone else catch fish on every action. Also, the fishing stage usually happens abruptly sometime around 70-85% of the way into the game and when one person starts fishing everyone follows and the game just devolves into a couple of rotations around the table where everyone is grabbing cubes from the bag until most of the white cubes are gone.

There is little to no strategy to this and can have a huge impact on the final score. Finally, during this group fishing frenzy, crop cubes continue to come out of the bag onto the board, but no crop cubes are being removed from the board, resulting in a situation where there aren’t any island tiles without crop cubes which means no new depletion tiles are coming out, resulting in a longer game around the time when most people are looking forward for the end game. My gripe about the fishing may just be group think for my playing group, but I have played this with three separate groups (and have seen it play out the same way each time) and have deliberately tried not to follow this pattern (by fishing early) in my games with no luck.

At the end of the game, scoring is based on how many of each crop (and fish) were collected as well as a couple of bonus scores based on how each player did in regards to their secret objectives (favored crops) as well as a final bonus received for number of full sets (x number of every crop and fish).

Luck

For the most part, this is what I like most about Tahiti. Essentially, players get to decide how much luck they want in their game. Players who like to push their luck can paddle their laden canoes over reef zones, thus risking losing some of the hard earned crops in exchange for saved actions. Alternatively, conservative players can avoid the reefs when hauling cargo and thus insure zero loss of material. I have seen both strategies win the game and so there does not seem to be a winning strategy in this equation.

On the flip side, the luck that comes from fishing can hardly be avoided and as I pointed out above, is the wrong kind of luck. In running a reef, a player risks losing goods, but that is a risk they took upon themselves and thus have no one to blame when it fails. When it comes to fishing, a player must fish at some point and if they do it near the end when everyone else is fishing, they stand a better than average chance of catching fish with a fishing action, making it disappointing when no fish come out of the bag on their turn. If this happens enough times to the same player, it can cost them the game.

Aside from fishing and running the reefs, the other aspects of luck come from the island tile and crop cube draws that happen on a player’s turn. The great part here is that this luck can be mitigated fairly well. You didn’t draw the tile/cube you wanted? Well, that probably means you drew one someone else wanted and you now get to place it in a position that makes it harder for them to reach. This is just fantastic game design in action. There simply aren’t any draws that you can’t make something positive happen with some careful thought.

Good At All Player Counts?

I find that Tahiti plays equally well at all player counts. With more players there is more competition for the actual island crops as you race against time and other players to get to that juicy banana/spice island. On the other hand, with two (or fewer) players, the decreased downtime make Tahiti a frantic little race to grab as many resources from your part of the board while you try to deny other players their perceived favorites by placing them as far away from them as possible.

Player Interaction

There are no direct attacks in Tahiti. Player interaction is limited to racing for cubes if in the same section of the map with other players, to placing cubes and tiles desired by other players as far away as you can manage.

Is It Fun?

This is a question I always try to ask myself when playing a certain game and also when writing a review. Tahiti offers enough interesting decisions to keep players engaged and it may be 10-15 minutes too long to completely hold their attention the entire game. The 5-10 minutes during each game where everyone just passes the bag around and draws for fish cubes is definitely less fun than the rest of the game. For the most part, however, I do enjoy Tahiti as a nice filler or casual family game.

Several times, we played Tahiti while waiting for a last player to start the main event game of the evening and we scored the game when that player showed up. This avoided the fishing issue entirely and I found I enjoyed the game a lot more knowing that it could end at any moment. Perhaps including a game ending tile among the depletion tiles would make the end game portion of the game more tense and also solve the fishing issue in one fell swoop.

Conclusion

Tahiti is a fun little casual game that comes with an interesting set of decisions. The mechanics serve to enhance the theme of this game, rather than hide it. Gameplay is simple and straightforward and while there are many decisions to be made, they are never overwhelming for casual or analysis paralysis prone players.

Tahiti can be a little long for the kind of game it is. This reviewer would have preferred a 30-45 minute play time over the hour that is usually clocks in at.

The luck vs skill quotient is right where it should be to keep both casual players and hard core gamers invested, except for the fishing mechanic which I feel brings in the wrong kind of luck into the game.

Tahiti is as fun with two players as it is with the full player count of four, with each player count offering different dynamics to the game, which is great.

In the final analysis, Tahiti is a fun little casual set collecting game with just the right amount of push your luck style game play (aside from fishing) for two to four players wanting an hour long game offering interesting mechanics and decisions. The components and easy to understand rules make it a great gateway game for most ages and play styles.

Tahiti gets a 7 out of 10 from this reviewer.
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Andy Andersen
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I just took this off my wishlist yesterday and now have to put it back on.

Excellent review as always. Thank you.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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Nice review again.

The 1 hour timeframe irks me as well. If this was 30 minutes it would be a serious contender for the 7 Wonders time slot.
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David Debien
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kaziam wrote:
Nice review again.

The 1 hour timeframe irks me as well. If this was 30 minutes it would be a serious contender for the 7 Wonders time slot.


I am going to try a couple of variants I proposed in the Tahiti forums:

1: Remove a white cube from the game if more than 1 white cube is pulled during the seeding phase.

2: Mark one of the depletion tiles with a game end symbol which makes the current round the final round and then put this tile somewhere in the bottom half of the depletion tiles.

I think this will not only shorten play time, but fix the fishing issues.
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David Whitcher
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kaziam wrote:
Nice review again.

The 1 hour timeframe irks me as well. If this was 30 minutes it would be a serious contender for the 7 Wonders time slot.


Like most games it plays much quicker with players that are familiar with the game. I wouldn’t expect to get a game played in 30 minutes, that would be unusually quick. 45 minutes on the other hand is realistic.
 
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Alex Fiedler
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Nice review! Very informative and clear.

With your variant, what happens if the end of game tile is the first one drawn? Wouldnt that make the game far too short?
Or do you shuffle that end of game tile into the bottom half of the deck?
 
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David Debien
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ReqMan wrote:
Nice review! Very informative and clear.

With your variant, what happens if the end of game tile is the first one drawn? Wouldnt that make the game far too short?
Or do you shuffle that end of game tile into the bottom half of the deck?


We put the game end tile in the bottom half or third, depending on how long we want to go.
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Kendahl Johnson
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casualgod wrote:
ReqMan wrote:
Nice review! Very informative and clear.

With your variant, what happens if the end of game tile is the first one drawn? Wouldnt that make the game far too short?
Or do you shuffle that end of game tile into the bottom half of the deck?


We put the game end tile in the bottom half or third, depending on how long we want to go.


I personally wouldn't even put it that far down. Players have some control over how quickly islands are being depleted.
 
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Chris Rohloff
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Great review. I will be receiving a copy of this game this week and am really looking forward to getting this to the table.

The idea of an end game tile added in the depletion tiles sounds like a really good idea! Is that your preferred variant? Have you run this idea by the designer and publisher?

I would be curios to here what they thought.

 
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