Author: Thomas Rauscher

Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

Awards: none



The new SCHMIDT SPIELE game Tongiaki takes the players to the Polynesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Driven by overpopulation and by sheer lust for adventure, the natives travel between thousands of small islands on their great Katamaran-ships, the "Tongiaki". Navigating only by the sun, stars and the wind, they face the dangers of the ocean which may often prove to be too great a challenge...

In essence, the game has three different playing components: 15 identical-coloured ships for each player, 16 island-hexagons and 16 ocean-hexagons which will be mixed together to form the drawing deck of landscape tiles. The island and ocean tiles will be used to build the playing area step by step during the game, whereas the ships go to each player's personal stockpile and will be used by the players as demanded by the game. It is the attribute of each island that it has a beaches which are aligned to different sides of the island, and each of this beaches has a maximum capacity for ships which can be placed there.

At the beginning of the game, only the isle of "Tonga" will be placed openly at the middle of the table, and - taking turns - the players now will be allowed to place two of their ships on different beaches of Tonga. For the initial set-up the players must follow the rule that no player may place his two ships on the same beach and furthermore each beach must still have space for at least one ship when the set-up has been made.

Now the players will play in turns, and during his turn a player first multiplies his ships on one of the islands before he may - possibly - set sails and try to populate a new island. As for the multiplication, the active player is free to chose one island where he already has some ships. On the chosen island he may double his ships, provided he follows the rules that he must place each new ship on a different beach and that he may not add more ships than the island has beaches.

After the multiplication of the ships, the player now needs to check whether overpopulation forces him to set sails and go onto an exploration voyage. If one of the beaches on the island he has chosen now is full to its maximum capacity with ships, then all ships of that beach (including those belonging to other players) will set to sea. If no tile borders the beach as yet, the player now will have to draw an random tile and align it with its "entry point" to the beach he is going to empty.

If an ocean tile was revealed, the ships from the beach now move onto the ocean tile, and here currents which criss-cross on the tile will determine on which side the ships will leave the tile. However, the player first will need to check whether the ships will actually succeed on their voyage. The current which the players follow has been assigned a random number, and this number identifies how many ships of different colours must be present in the travelling group in order to succeed on the journey. Thus, it is always a high risk to try a journey alone - it is better and safer to have the company of other players on the journey, since, if the voyage is not successful, all ships will be removed from play and be handed back to their owners. However, if the voyage was successful, a random new tile will be revealed and placed, with its entry point aligned correctly, next to the ocean tile which was crossed by the ships. This once again may be an ocean tile which the ships will need to cross, or it may be an island tile where the ships may land. If a landing is made, the active player distributes the arriving ships onto the beaches of the new island, following his own choice.

This basic travelling mechanism works the same way during all the game, even if ships are moved on routes which were already "discovered". In such a case, no new tiles are placed, but instead the ships move along the known routes. The initial multiplication of ships and the movement of ships also may lead to more than one beach being filled to its maximum ship capacity during a player's turn. A player's turn lasts as long as a player has full beaches which he needs to empty, so that it may actually be possible that a player may have to make several moves and voyages during the same turn. A player's turn ends when he has no more full beaches which he can empty.

A special action is the declaring of a "King's Island". If, during a player's turn, only ships of that player stand on an island, then the player is allowed to place a special King marker on the island and thus "taboo" the island to all players. All ships are removed from that island and no new ships may be placed there. Furthermore, the player will receive the value printed on the island as victory points at the end of the game.

The game ends when all tiles were revealed, and then each player adds up his victory points. A player gets points for each island he has ships on and furthermore for each King Island which he has declared. The game will be won by the player with most victory points.

During the first rounds of Tongiaki it was a bit difficult to grasp the strategic options of the game and to decide on sensible actions for each player. The first rounds of each game usually lead to the revealing of a few tiles and more strategy only comes into the game at a point when enough tiles have been revealed. The possibility to make several moves during a turn is one of the strongest options a player may have, and he will have to decide carefully on how to place and move his ships. The declaring of a "King Island" is especially crucial, since it does not only bring victory points at the end of the game, but it may also be used to cut off portions of the playing area from the grasp of other players.

Although the rules are not too complex, the game was a bit tricky to explain and - as said above - it takes the players a bit to warm up to the playing mechanism. If this phase is overcome, the players are met by an intriguing new game with a high replay value.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany