Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Stefan Feld


No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Stefan Feld and ALEA - this always sounds like an interesting mixture. Indeed, the new game Bora Bora is Feld's sixth cooperation with ALEA, and due to the sheer volume of his publications under the label of ALEA he is mainly responsible for the success of RAVENSBURGER's trade mark in the last 10 years, since most of these cooperations resulted in outstanding games like Notre Dame, In the year of the Dragon or Macao. The newest offspring Bora Bora is settled in the mysterious island world of the famous atoll.

Of course, when Stefan Feld and ALEA come together you cannot expect a simple family game, and compared with Rialto, one of Stefan Feld's other games in 2013, Bora Bora is much more complex and you have to invest some time to get familiar with the game. The set-up alone is a challenge for casual players and - although there are good player aids - you will need some time to recognize the benefits of the various game components. The many various ways to score are also quite typical for a Feld-game, and so it is always hard to decide what is the best choice in a given situation. As a result, during the first game most players are too busy to have an eye for the final scoring conditions - they are more engaged to get to grips all the different symbols on the various game components before they begin to understand what is really important to win the game. But let us have a closer look to the game mechanisms:

At the beginning, all players are equipped with a huge player board. Next to luxurious player aids we find spaces for building materials that we can use in the game, for building tiles, spaces for tasks we have to complete, for huts as well as for men and women tiles. We start with three tasks, building tiles 1 to 6 and all of the 12 spaces for huts, each of them occupied by women and men. Next to the player boards we have a main board. On this we can find the famous atoll which divided into 12 regions with mountains, beaches, forests and plains. Each player starts with one of his huts in one of the regions. This is the starting point for a player to explore the atoll. The other half of the main board is reserved for new supply tiles of men/women, jewelries and tasks. Finally we find a scoring, status and temple track on the board. As you can see, every space on the boards is used for the game...


The game itself lasts six rounds, each consisting of three phases. The first phase is the most complex one. All players simultaneously roll their three dice. For this each player has his own set of dice in his colour. Then in turn order and one by one, the players place these dice on 5-7 different action cards next to the main board (the number of available action cards depends on the number of players). Each action card has a different effect which is carried out right after a player has placed his die on the card. Several dice on one card are also allowed, but only if the new die shows a value lower than the current lowest die on this action card. This rule results in some very interesting tactical moves, because most actions become stronger if dice with a high value are placed on them. As every player knows the result of the rolls of the other players he can prevent someone from placing his die on an action card by placing a die lower than the available dice of his opponents. But on the other hand this means for the player that the card action will have a weaker effect because of the low dice value...

The players can use the actions to expand their influence on the map by placing new huts onto regions adjacent to ones with a player hut of the same colour. But this is only possible if the path that connects the two regions has a number less or equal to the die that was placed on the corresponding action tile. With every hut placed on the main board, a player makes room for more men or women. So other actions are for taking these tiles from the common stock on the main board, which results in various positive effects for the player during the following phase. Here the result of the die expands the selection of tokens a player can choose from. An important action is the helper action. Depending on the die result, a player can tattoo several of his men, thus triggering an advance on the status track or enabling him to collect shells with his women. The status track not only determines the player order for the next turn, but it also brings victory points at the end of each turn. Shells on the other hand are necessary to buy jewellery tiles at the end of a round. Again we can find a common stockpile on the main board, so every player can see if it is worth to collect shells this round.

There are a lot of other actions like taking god cards for altering the rules for the player, taking building materials which are needed for building the still unbuild tiles on the player board, performing temple actions to bring priests to the temple track or just taking some victory points. All of these actions can help the players to fulfill tasks and they also influence the final scoring. Besides this - like the temple action - some actions result in a fire bonus for which a player can either take a god or an offering card (which is necessary to play a god card) and gain one status or one shell. In fact, there are a lot of possible actions for the players.


This variety of different actions continues during the next phase, in which a player can use the powers of his different men and women on the player board. Again there are 12 different kinds of men and women with various bonuses like taking god cards or shells, using special paths on the map and so on. Finally, in the last phase of a round the right half of the game board is assessed. In this phase it comes to a scoring of the status and temple track and the players can buy from the jewellery tiles with their shells and take new men and women. The turn ends after each player has completed one of his tasks and has taken a new one. Well, every player should have tried to complete a task, because otherwise this results in 0 victory points while the other players may get up to six victory points for completing their tasks....

In contrast to the simpler game Rialto, Bora Bora can really be called a Feld-game. The sheer mass of game components and the multiple ways to score are nearly a mental overload for new players and most casual players. But after investing some time, most players will find their way into the game, and they will fall in love with the multifaceted playing mechanism and the various possibilities to score.

As usual, ALEA has equipped the game with very good playing material and a rulebook that leaves no questions unanswered. Although some of the mechanisms like the temple track already had an appearance in other games by Stefan Feld (i.e. Luna), the author has carefully assembled the different pieces to form a completely new and atmospheric game. Still, there is one caveat: Bora Bora will not please everyone because of its complexity. For me, the level of complexity was still ok, but sporadically other playtesters like my wife grew more and more frustrated keeping track of everything during the course of the game.

Leaving this rather subjective reaction of some gamers aside, my biggest point of criticism is that it is difficult to keep track of the chances of the other players to win the game. For this you will either need a profound, in-depth knowledge of the game's intricate mechanisms or a look into a reliable crystal ball. In addition, there are only very limited possibilities to interact with the other players, and like in many games the interactions found in Bora Bora are mostly indirect because they are mainly focused on the first phase where the dice are placed on the action cards. However, taken as a whole, Stefan Feld once again has provided us with a perfectly balanced and entertaining game. It is not really something you would call a family game, but for fans of Stefan Feld and complex games it should be a very enjoyable game for the whole evening!

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Copyright & copy; 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany