Günter Burkhardt


No. of Players:
2 - 5



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

The islands of Polynesia, about 3000 years ago. This was the time of the Maoris, and the islands will be the paradise the players have to discover in the game. Fine words, but do not put too much emphasis on this story! Apart from the design of the game material, it is quite difficult to draw an analogy between the game mechanism and the history of these islands...

However, if you just stick to the facts, the new game of Günter Burkhardt is quite nice, good for families and not very unalike to the famous Carcassonne. Also very useful is the fact that three different variants make the game adoptable to the experience of the players. While the game is not really complex, it nevertheless is advisable to start with the easiest variant to fully understand the game and to avoid unsatisfied players right from the start.

We start our journey by receiving an own water tableau each, showing a 4x4 grid of empty water spaces. Additionally we get five mussels, a kind of currency in these older days. Then we place a 4 x 4 display of shuffled island tiles faced-up in the middle of our table. A ship of the discoverer is put adjacent to one of these island tiles, and then we can start to discover.


Günter Burkhardt has adopted nearly the same mechanism that he already had used in Kupferkessel and Herr der Ziegen to distribute the island tiles. In our turn we move the ship of the discoverer around the display of island tiles. We can move as many steps as we have ships on the islands on our tableau, starting with two ships at the beginning of the game. Additional ships are found on some of the island tiles and as soon as we have put a disc on our tableau, we can start to use the additional steps.

After moving the ship, we can take the island tile directly adjacent to the ship for free. But if we prefer to take the second, third or fourth tile in this row, it costs us 1-3 mussels. In the game this phase is called discovering the island: if Christopher Kolumbus just had known that it can be so easy - just to spend some mussels...

Now, what can we do with our new island disc? Right! We place it on our tableau. So we develop a more or less perfect island scene, the world of Polynesia. The aims we pursue when placing the island tiles follow some easy rules:

  • Complete islands with a coast on every side.
  • Use as many islands tiles with palm trees, as long as you have a cottage on the island.
  • Combine two island tiles with flowers to form a coronal.

All this options guarantee us high scores at the end of the game. This end is reached when the first player has filled his tableau completely. Then all unfinished islands without a coast on every side, are removed from each tableau. Only the rest of the tiles contribute to our score.


Once familiar with this basic game, you can try to master the other, more advanced variants. So, an additional ship for every player comes into play. In the first variant this ship is put on my first island tile I place on my tableau. In my next turn I am only allowed to place the next tile on a space adjacent to this ship. After that, I may place the ship elsewhere, at any of the island tiles on my tableau. This limits the possibilities where to place new island tiles enormously, especially at the end of the game, when a lot of spaces are already occupied.

An even harder variant is the third one: after placing the tile, I must put the ship on the new tile I just put on the tableau. This restricts the possible choice even further, and may result in nasty one-way situations.

Both variants seem to make the game more tactical or even more strategic. But that is not really the case, because you do not have enough influence on your opponentīs moves and strategy. So you cannot really plan, which island tile you can reach in your next turn. I personally felt that the variants - though they enrich the game - also increase the factor of frustration. So to speak you can anticipate your favourite tile going to an opponent player.

When I come to my final opinion, I am a little bit indecisive. On the one hand, Maori is a quick game with easy rules and satisfactory game mechanisms so that it will satisfy a lot of casual gamers. But after the one or other game I was missing more possibilities to influence my next moves. In Maori I am quite dependent in which row the ship of the discoverer stands at the beginning of my turn, and only then I can begin to plan. This element of short-time strategy was less pronounced in Kupferkessel or Herr der Ziegen, and so the mechanism of distributing the tiles does not seem to be the perfect way to make this game work smoothly. In a way, this is a bit reflected just by the bare existence of the mussels since they serve as a counterbalance to keep frustration at bay.

Overall, with its nice design and the easily accessible game mechanism Maori will find its friends in the community of occasional gamers, but for me it seems that the game does not give enough influence to the players to make it a recurring strategic challenge.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2009 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany