Friday, April 14, 2017

Quick Review - Tiki Island - Preview

Tiki Island
Designers: Matt Hyzer and
Christian Miedel
Publisher: Great Wight Games
2-6p | 30-60m | 8+
Quick Review - Tiki Island - Preview

Back in September, Great Wight Games ran a Kickstarter for their first game, Tiki Island.  They contacted me about reviewing the game for that campaign, but their campaign was half over at the time and I couldn't squeeze a review in that quickly.  But when that campaign was cancelled I told them I'd be happy to review it before a relaunch if they'd like.  Well, a few months later I unexpectedly received Tiki Island in the mail and was excited to review it before their next campaign... which started the day after I received the game.  Once again, I wasn't able to get a review out before their campaign end (I generally require a minimum of 4-8 weeks to get a review out, depending on my current queue, which has been packed solid since last summer).  But I promised I'd review the game when I could fit it into my schedule, and since the second campaign was successful I figured I'd wait until closer to the release of the game.  Tiki Island is scheduled to be delivered to backers in June, so if you're interested in it, you can preorder it for $40 now!

Despite the shaky start to my experience with Tiki Island, I was very curious about the gameplay, and was excited to play.  It's a highly chaotic game for two to four players.  Each player controls a group of three islanders that are escaping their island before it is destroyed (by volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, a kraken, etc.).  Unfortunately, they're trying to escape to another island that is also being destroyed, but that's besides the point.  As long as you can get your islanders to the island on the opposite side of the board they're safe.
What calamity is destroying your islanders' home?
To save your islanders you need to build smaller islands as stepping stones between the island you are escaping and the island you are trying to reach.  The problem arises when your chain of islands meets up with an opponent's chain.  Your islanders are only able to use your own islands or neutral islands, so as you build a chain you are also blocking your opponents' progress.
Starting out on a journey.  Things look wide open, but that's about to change!
Tiki Island is a relatively simple game to play.  On your turn you'll roll a die, determine what action to take - either one of the basic actions or the one allowed by the die, and play a card or two (maybe).  Each player has four units - three islanders and one tiki.  The islanders need to cross the central sea, but they can't stray too far from the tiki because only the tiki can build the little islands for the islanders to move across.  Throughout the game you'll also acquire rune cards that will give you a variety of abilities that can influence the game.  
Lots of rune cards ensure the game stays unpredictable.
There are three basic actions: Move, Build, and Draw a Rune.  There are also two types of movement: standard movement and soaring movement.  Standard movement allows you to move your islanders or tiki to any adjacent or neutral island.  Soaring let's you move through enemy, occupied, or even ocean spaces, as long as you end your movement on a friendly or neutral island.  Build let's you add an island anywhere within three spaces of your tiki.  Draw a Rune simply gives you a rune card that can be used later.

When you roll your die to start your turn you'll have an advanced action available to you.  A one let's you move four times.  Two let's you build two islands.  Three is build one and move two.  Four allows you to soar up to three spaces.  Five has you draw a rune and move one.  Six allows you to choose any advanced action.  If you don't like your advanced action option you always have three basic actions you can take: move two, build one, or draw a rune.  You can also discard runes to get additional movement, build, or soar.
The main game is pretty simple and is a fairly dry, abstract strategy game, but the rune cards add life to the game.  There are four types of rune cards that can give you special abilities, wreak havoc in the game, or protect you from that havoc (cue Allstate commercial).  
As the board starts to fill up the tension builds.
Attack runes let you affect the board or your opponents directly.  Attack runes usually have a pretty powerful effect, like devastating islands that your opponents may occupy, moving opponent pieces, or worse.  However all attack runes also have a less disruptive effect, that may even harm you instead of your opponents.  A roll of the die will determine which effect triggers.  So, while powerful, attacks are sometimes risky - either being less effective than intended, or even backfiring horribly.  It's a calculated risk, but whatever the outcome, the result will be more chaos!
Attack cards have two effects, one that's pretty powerful, and another that'll still change up the game,
but may take your pieces out, too.  NOTE: Destroy means move your piece back to the start spaces.
No one is ever eliminated from Tiki Island.
Buff runes give you special one time boosts when you really need them (like extra moves, play a random rune card, etc.), protect you from attacks, and have other effects.  These you'll hold onto and play at just the right time to give you the edge you need to overcome your opponents.
The flavor text throughout the game is a lot of fun.
Miscellaneous runes have all sorts of other effects, adding chaos to the game, or giving you useful abilities.  Finally, Permanent runes remain in effect until something else cancels them.  These usually give you special abilities that you can use turn after turn.
Permanent runes remain in play until a player rolls a six and decides to get rid of a permanent rune.
As I said, it's really the runes that make the game.  Without the runes the game would still be fun and chaotic, but the runes really push it over the top.  They add excitement, humor, twists, and a nice dash of take-that to an already fun game.  They're not too aggressive or mean though, and offer just enough flair to help mitigate some bad luck and shake things up as needed.
By the end of the game the board is a crowded mess, but a very fun crowded mess!
Pink won this game by getting all his islanders off the board!
Final Thoughts:
I was pleasantly surprised by Tiki Island.  It looked fun originally, but after my first read through of the rules I wasn't too sure how it would play.  Roll a die and do what it says or another basic action sounds a little too close to roll-and-move, but all of the options seem really well balanced and valuable in their own ways.  I found that I always had plenty of options and games were always pretty close.
Tiki Island is a blast for gamers and non-gamers, young and old (not that I'm calling anyone in this picture old). =)

The first game I played was just a two player game and it was fun and chaotic, but I was concerned with how crowded the board would get with five or six players.  When I played with more players I was happy to find that the game scaled extremely well, even though the board size remained the same.  Higher player count games do take longer, but I never felt like it dragged or outstayed its welcome.  The runes also have greater effect in higher player count games once playing one will potentially wreak havoc with many players' plans.  In the two player game runes were still effective, but less chaotic overall, so the game tends toward more of a traditional abstract strategy game.
I liken Tiki Island to the classic Survive! (and the Survive: Escape From Atlantis reprint), but with a slightly different feel.  The theme is similar and the take-that aspect is also similar, but there's less carnage and more chaos in Tiki Island.  But if you like Survive!, Tiki Island should be right up your alley.  Plus, it plays up to six, so now everyone can join in!  
Even with two players the game is fun.
It's faster and less chaotic, but still fun.
The rules for Tiki Island are pretty straightforward and the rulebook is nicely laid out with good examples and diagrams.  There is also a lot of humor throughout the game, in the flavor text, rulebook instructions, and artwork.  And the artwork is really great.  There is a ton of detail all throughout the game, from the killer whales and sharks in the water, to each island token in a set having unique artwork.  Tiki Island will look great on your table when you play, and there isn't an aspect of the game that isn't chock full of fun.
The production copy will have hex shaped islands and some updated graphic design to make them more
color blind friendly, but each island will still have its own, unique artwork.
Tiki Island isn't a game to play if you want a deeply strategic brain burner.  There is a ton of chance in this game, and any long term strategy you plan out will be over before your next turn, but if you like a bit of chaos in your games, and are happy with a crazy and silly experience, win or lose, Tiki Island will deliver.

If Tiki Island sounds like a game you'd love to bring out on family game night, be sure to check it out on the Great Wight Games site where you can preorder it for $40 now!

Preliminary Rating: 6.5/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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