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Descent Second Edition

Fantasy Flight are forgiven for every other pile of chromed up, pedestrian playing, lacking in imagination, poorly playtested, piece of donkey do from the last three years because this game is genius. The system is so stripped down from a rules read through it looks shallow, but game play is just so tense and involving unimpeded by 10,000 chits or Terrinoth waffle (its there but the table looks less like a town centre pavement after pub closing and more like a mission). For once the design hits the spot, game first, chrome second. This is the grail Dungeon crawl - the rules are simple, 15 minutes setup per encounter and and an hour or so play per scenario. Plus there is a campaign, with incremental development for both Players and Overlord. At no point does the game stall and at the trackable information is at just the right level - its possible to keep it all in view and mind yet theres enough going to provide depth to the story and meaningful choices for all participants. A huge improvement on Descent - which was damn fun to begin with. Where there was grind there is now flow, where every encounter went on longer than a Frankie Howard death scene now there is one decisive, bloody and brief tipping point...

A code of conduct for boardgamers

Repeated from BoardGameGeek - a code of conduct for boardgaming. I am reprating it here so that I read it from time to time (1) I will always finish the games I start and assist with the clean up when the game is done. This includes bottles, cups, cans, and other things around the game table. (2) I will not consistently take longer to decide my move than everyone else at the table. It is better to make a suboptimal move and consider it a lesson learned than to hold everyone up. It is okay if occasionally I say, "oh man, I'm going to need a minute to think about this one" when I hit a really interesting puzzle. But that's the exception, happening maybe a couple times per game, not the norm. (3) I will not eat foods that make my fingers messy while playing. I recognize that games are a dear possession and that my pop stains and "cheesy" prints may not qualify as adding value to a prized possession. (4) If you are teaching a game I already know, I will not interrupt you. It is your show. If you've overlooked something, and it becomes clear that you've moved on and are not just going to come back to it, I will politely remind YOU, "remember the rule about ...." and you can explain it. I won't just jump in and add my own commentary whenever I want. (5) If you are teaching a game I don't already know, I will be quiet and listen. If I have questions that seem like the kind of questions you'll get to in due course, I'll try to hold them. (6) If I decide that I no longer have any chance of winning, I'll play for style points. I mean, for place, or for score. If you decide that you no longer have any chance of winning, you can do whatever you want (just please don't leave). If you decide to knock me out and crown player X the winner just for the fun of it... I will be disappointed, but that is your choice. As Reiner Knizia allegedly said, "the goal is to win, but it's the goal that is important, not the winning." Whether I actually won or not is irrelevant except that it provides feedback about whether my choices were good ones or not. The feedback helps me improve my game, which is one of the finest pleasures of gaming. And here's the thing: the feedback I'd get is the same either way whether I won a game or I lost it only because of douchebaggery. In either case it is evidence that I probably played well, and should probably keep doing more of that. (7) I will try to contain my compulsive habit of straightening the pieces on the board until everything is so nice and perfectly straight. I'll try, really I will. (8 ) When you make a play that hurts me, I won't take it personally, and I will never try to make you feel bad for it. Sure, I may moan and groan a little, but it is all in good fun. Conversely, I pledge to always make the best moves I can think of; whether it hurts you specifically or not. That's my job as a player. I hope you deal with this well, almost all real gamers do. (9) If I realize I made a blunder, and the next player hasn't gone yet, and I know exactly what move I want to do instead, then I'll ask you if I can change my move. I won't try to change the past if the next player's already gone. And I won't ask to take it back and then make you wait while I decide all over again what to do. Better to just accept it as a lesson learned and move on. It's good to make sure that when I lose I'll have something to blame it on. (10) If I realize you've made a blunder, I'll ask you: "Are you sure?" I don't like game outcomes to be determined by who blunders the least. The exception is if fixing your blunder is injurious to a particular other player (not me). I think that would be very irritating to said player. If others at the table express that they prefer we not help each other in this way, I'm fine with keeping my mouth shut. I'll probably move tables after this game, though; it's just not the kind of vibe I like. (11) If you are new to a game and you ask for advice about what to do, I'll offer you my best advice, and make sure to point out the fact that, actually, I almost always lose, so you might want to take my advice with a grain of salt. (12) If I realize I'd forgotten about my staffed quarry when I built two turns ago, I might ask, "Hey. Is it okay if I take the extra doubloon that I should have saved?" I won't assume that you'll say yes. And I will NOT say, "If I'd known that, I would have bought this building instead, so when we crafted I should have an extra indigo meaning that the boat should have been full when...." (13) I will perform my actions in the open. I won't just drop my hand into my discard pile and announce "and I buy a Province!" Or, when paying five blue cards to build to Miami, I'll fan the cards, not stack them. I assume that you'd like to be able to see for yourself that my actions are legit. I think it's totally reasonable for you to want to see this -- we all make mistakes. I know I have accidentally "cheated" many times and I definitely want to get caught if I do! (14) If we realize a rules error was made, that benefited player X or hurt me, I will vote that we just let it stand. It can be very difficult, and often impossible, to reconstruct what the game state "should have been". Better to just move on, even if "it's not fair." If we realize a rules error that helped me, I will apologize and volunteer some penalty that seems appropriate. We can agree on a penalty, be it money, points, or whatever, and move on. Finally, if a rules error hurt a particular player, we can volunteer some simple compensation to that player and move on. (15) Sometimes if we realize a rules error, it may make sense to just decide as a group that we're playing a variant, and stick to that change. But this is for the table to decide! I won't whine, "That's not fair, you let HER add a guy there even though it was full!" (16) I will not complain that "You never told us that rule!"; even if you really didn't, (but you probably did). (17) I won't get mad at you if you don't adhere to the same code of conduct I do. If your behavior is *really* far from it, though, I might just quietly decide to try not to game with you again. Fair enough? (18) I will shut my cell phone off as to prevent interruption unless I have a VERY important call I am expecting and that is quite rare. (19) I will not cry "I never get good dice" just because my first die roll in a game was not what I wanted it to be. (20) I will try not to pass judgment on a game until it's completed. I will also try to comment on the good parts of the game, or the parts that I liked about it. I will not use this as an opportunity to expound on all the reasons the game sucks. I have an opportunity to express my tastes in game ratings. (21) I will show up at the designated and agreed time frame so the game can start on time. I recognize that by being late I am inconveniencing all of the other players that have given up their time to play this game. If I am going to be late, I will call the game organizer and let them know. I will not be offended if they decide to start without me. Their time is obviously as valuable and important as mine. (22) I will be open to trying new games and playing what the organizers and other players are proposing. I understand some people may not be as enthusiastic about my favorite game in the whole world. If the game being proposed is not one I enjoy, I will resolve to try it and be positive, or excuse myself from playing the game. I recognize that my attitude can have an effect on the other players and their enjoyment of the game. (23) Most importantly, I commit to having fun. Games are a leisure activity and should be engaged in with a sense of fun and adventure. I hope that my commitment to the fun and social nature of gaming is contagious enough that I encourage this behavior in others. I want to be an ambassador to this rewarding and entertaining hobby. (24) I will be very respectful of game components. Most board gamers are very protective of their games, especially collectors. Not only do they want to keep their games in good condition, a lot of them are hard to come by and can be very expensive. Some games, for example, have many cards. I will not bend, tap, rub or do anything that will mark or damage the cards.

New releases 070712

In stock now ‘Spielbox issue 3’, which includes 2 new monsters for Dungeonpetz. ‘Power Grid : Baden Wurtemburg and Quebec’, these maps were previously only available in either the limited edition ENBW Power grid (a 1,000 copies were made for the German power company, and to my knowledge its the only game from Friedman Friesse which has not come in a green box) and the Canadian version of Power Grid (‘Megawatts’). I have tired of waiting for the Rio Grande edition so have imported some German copies and I will provide a rules translation. These maps are only being printed once. Arriving next week ‘Milestones’ , designed by Stefan Dorra (‘Pergammon, Kreta’) and Ralf Zur Linde (‘Finca’) and published by EggertSpiel. Is an intriguing looking game where players are collectively building into the countryside but use their own rondel style board to take actions and gather resources. Given EggertSpiel’s recent record of picking winners (‘Village’, ‘Speicherstadt ’ , ‘Santiago da Cuba’ and ‘Pergamon’) I am going to be ripping the cellophane from a copy as soon as it arrives on Wednesday ‘Empire Express’ is a entry level Crayon Train game designed to be played in 90 minutes. ‘The Accursed Dead’ is the third battle pack in the Bloodquest Cycle for Warhammer Invasion LCG. Ted Alspach’s latest edition of ‘Ultimate Werewolf’ can accommodate up to sixty eight players – one for the end of the evening at a gaming convention. Specials Last year I made a strong recommendation that you should look at ‘The Gnomes of Zavendor’, this is a very good market manipulation and goods conversion game. The parts work together very well, with lots of subtle approaches to victory available - the market mechanism is novel and there’s real opportunities to manipulate it for short and long term gains .Its nicely produced with the largest start player marker I have ever seen. Given the mechanics this might have sold better without the fantasy theme (Industrial revolution springs to mind) - however it’s a worthy torch bearer for the Zavendor series. I have picked up a job lot of the German edition (its language independent, i will provide English rules) and am selling it at less than a third of the RRP. Don’t miss this! Restocks Biblios, Flash Point Fire Rescue, Tribune, Star Trek Catan, Haggis, Eclipse Recommendation I think that half way through the year I can make a safe bet that ‘1989 : Dawn of Freedom’ is going to sweep every 2 player gaming award for 2012. It’s a variant of ‘Twilight Struggle’ set in the year the wall came down. It’s actually a little simpler to play than ‘TS’ , the map is a little more claustrophobic and the scoring is a little more volatile, befitting the rapid swings that took place in the year that the Iron curtain fell. I have played it three times in the last week and it is completely engrossing as the Democrat desperately tries to survive the early attacks of the communist player and then as the Communist tries to cling to power in as many countries as possible

Back from holiday and raring for cardboard

After a month of voluntary cardboard abstinence (my wife took on a long holiday) I am viewing my gaming shelf with a sharp appetite. Two games, in particular, are screaming 'Play me!' - both are from GMT and both are sequels (of a sort). 1989, is a variant of Twilight Struggle, with a twist that the scorings are resolved with a card battle similar to 'We the People/Hannibal'. Early reports are very favourable. The second is 'Virgin Queen' and this might take a little longer to get to table with its requirement for 6 players and complexity. I am also hoping to to start writing again on the blog and this brief entry is a baby step in that direction

Eastbourne part two

My most fun game of the weekend was 'Moongha Invaders' - a dice festing blattathon - it's possibly the best light Wallace game I have played; a curio hybrid of chance and the distinctive action selection method that Wallace uses so well in his more serious euros. The difference between this 'entertainment' ( to borrow from the distinction Graham Greene used between his serious novels and lighter fare) and his other simpler output is that 'Moongha' has no constraint to shoe horn the design into a marketable theme and the game has playfulness and exuberance oozing out of the design , both graphic and game play wise. My own copy is sitting in shrink at home, and with the game commanding well over $200 on the secondary market, its only going to get played if everyone wears white gloves , in a a germ free bubble.

My 7th play of 'Santa cruz' convinced me that it's an also ran, a shame as I always have high hopes of the HIG Nuremburg release. As a four player family game it's passable - with less it's poor and with the minimum number it's a shocker. Traded, and Kingdom Builder appreciated that little bit more.

I played 'Dungeon Rampage' twice it has a neat core mechanic and premise that just does not seem to work though into an enjoyable game - Dungeon experiences should be tense affairs, with death lurking around each corner. In both games no one came near to death, and the winner was the best at running away.

Also played twice was 'The Manhattan Project' it is a pleasant worker placement game with nothing new to add to the cannon, there are some interesting but seen before conversions. And were it not for the contracts to deliver spices and cloth to Genoa being Nucler bombs that need 4 workers ,five uranium six money and a bomber I don't think i'd want to play it again. The worker placement and removal is the best part of the game, and I am sure the potential for some take that will add spice for some gamers.

After Moongha highlights for shorter games were a game of 'Vegas Showdown' and 'Navegador' - the more I play 'showdown' the more I like it , a perfect light medium 'entertainment'.

I have not played 'Navigador' for a year (i hotched up 10 games in six months) and loved my revisit, which turned into a ship sprint - I won with no ships but a lot of factories and churches, which I thought I wouldn't as the speed of the game meant I had to miss the Market and really on worker/prvilidge to make cash with the prvilidges grabbed as often as possible. My eleventh game felt as fresh and interesting as game number one.

The two most enjoyable gaming experiences were reserved for games released in the nineties - 'Foppen' is a 1995 trick taking card game- how this is not in print today is beyond me as its fantastic, up there with 'Bottle Imp' as trick taking game of simplicity and ingenious design.

The other experience was an eight hour game of 'Age of Renaissance' - i love having the time to play longer games and its four days since we finished I am still thinking about what I could have done better.

Eastbourne AKA BoardgameVille Sur Mer

I only attend five conventions a year (well six if you include a Saturday morning visit to Expo) and one is held in Essen and the other four in Eastbourne. I used to travel to cons in University Campuses, bypasses, the Chernobyl exclusion zone to game because that's what I was there to do to the exclusion of all else (especially excluded were sleep and vegetable consumption). Nowadays I don't want to game for more than 10 - 12 hours a day, and the other 12 -14 hours needs to be spent in some comfort and with more to look at than Nissan's whizzing past at 70 miles per Hour or at some post industrial wasteland. And how wonderful it is that Eastbourne with its Victorian gentility serves up four gaming weekends a year - two for Counter Magazine readers and writers to get together and two for London on Board members to go gaming crazy. The bi-annual events sit just in the off season in March and November in hotels that sit next to each other on the seafront. Both are intimate affairs - LOB sees 50 attend and Counter about half of that. The low number count (LOB is limited to 50 which gets booked up within days of it being announced, Counter is just not publicised) means you get to know nearly everyone over the course of a weekend, and the low numbers creates a very friendly atmosphere. There are some big differences LOB and Counter weekends - With the later dedicated to the 'cult of the new' and LOB to the 'cult of fun' - I would guess I am in the youngest 15% at Counter but in the oldest 10% at LOB. What Eastbourne (and most seaside towns) offers is a perfect gaming break ; every few hours I can walk along the front - clear my head, perhaps even sample the ice cream then head back to the table refreshed.

Through a glass darkly, or more dumb hobby predictions

My ability to see through crystal balls is not up to the most boss eyed of fairground forecasters. My predictions for awards (SDJ and IGA) are always wrong; I thought kickstarter would have died by now...I could go on. It would actually be better to discard this blog post to the trashcan – however I can’t help but make a couple of observbations/predictions.

The first is that the market for vanilla ‘build a deck’ games has peaked and is in decline. The evidence for this is both personal and business, on a personal level it’s that I decided not to open a copy of the last Dominion and Thunderstone expansions – on a business level it’s because I had a lot less orders for both Hinterlands and Heart of Doom than previous expansions. The evidence is pretty clear on Boardgamegeek as well – ‘Hinterlands’ has 800 or so listed owners , about half as many as second least owned Dominion expansion (Cornucopia) and its not caused by the quality – by most account it adds a lot to the game.

So why didn’t I open a copy? Simple really – the expansions have come out so quickly I have not had time to catch up with the old ones, I like Dominion but I think you really have to love it and play it most weeks if you are going to get your money’s worth out of the expansions. With Thunderstone it’s been even worse with expansions seeming to come out every other week, again I am a fan but am at least two expansions behind so have passed on the last two and won’t be opening Thunderstone Advance when it arrives on Tuesday. Ascension and Nightfall seem to be following a similar pattern sales wise as the Big Two and woe betide any new deck builders that come to market –Rune Age , for example ,seems to have stopped selling entirely.

It is s a difficult choice for Publishers – do you cash in and flood the market with as many expansions as possible whilst the game is hot? Or do you spread it out so that fans don’t reach saturation point? They have, sensibly gone for the cash in.

Two ‘deck builders’ that have bucked the trend and sold by the truck load in 2011 are of the new breed – hybrid deck builder/boardgames. Trust Wallace and Chavtil (the two most innovative board gamers designers operating today IMHO) to be the deck building mechanic innovators. And if these two almost simultaneously came up with the next stage of deck building evolution then it’s quite likely there are other hybrids games in the pipeline. If not the trend of 2012 it could be 2013.

The second trend is a Malthusian prediction – gaming is growing as a hobby by, I’m guessing, single digit year on year percent, games being released is increasing by a bigger number – accoriding to Counter magazine there were 550 new boardgames released in 2011. Now the Malthusian comparison is a little ropey already, he saw incremental changes in food production and exponential population growth, but missed the exponential advances in farming production as I may have underestimated gamer’s wealth and willingness to purchase games. So, and you saw this coming, my prediction that we are in for a bit of a crash in games output might be flawed. But bare with me – a lot of the increase in games sales and the ability of the market to stand the amount of releases was because of middle aged affluent gamers (mea culpa)who spent the last twenty years increasing their collections into the hundreds, if not thousands of games. A lot of new gamers are younger and if not income challenged certainly don’t have the space to house 200+ game collections. My perception is that a lot of younger gamers are running smaller collections and are being quite choosy about what they buy – and rightly so. In London a 400 games collection might cost £10,000 to purchase, but needs a room to house it which won’t have a lot else in it – the true cost of maintaining a large gaming establishment is many times the cost of the games.

And of cause there is the starving elephant in the room – the economy. A lot of gamers have less to spend on games, in previous decades the hobby rode out recessions but the hobbyist of old did not have a fifty game a year habit – in 1981 kicking back from the 10 essential game purchases was a impossible for a gamer, in 2011 it’s not too much sweat kicking down to the 10 essential purchase from the 50 in 2010. I think this might be the killer of games on the margin. What puts a game on the wrong side of the margin? It’s not going to be a bad game – its just going to be no more than good, even very good. I own a lot of games that I have played 3 times, that if they were in a collection of 10 would have been happy to play 50 times, prime examples that spring to mind are Assyria and Lords of Vegas – they might be better than good, but get pushed to the side of the shelf in the search for the new or the need to play an old great. This is very much a personal perspective (though a few friends share this view) – looking at 2011 games I have opened a lot less than in 2010 and 2009 and 2011 is the best year of the three. Moreover, I am quite relaxed about the prospect of not playing a lot of the games on the margin; Salty Ocean, Quebec, Strasbourg for example than I would have been in previous years.

Please take this all with a liberal dosing of salt, I am in danger of extrapolating my changing game ownership pattern to the market and, from a business perspective drawing conclusions on insufficient evidence – however I feel a change coming on and its be fascinating to see how the hobby develops over the next couple of years

New Releases 28h Februrary


Fantasy Flight’s third expansion for Cosmic Encounter , ‘Cosmic Alliance,’ is here on Tuesday and includes twenty races, and the ability to play in teams. The ever green base game will be back in stock at the same time.

Martin Wallace revisits the American civil war with ‘Test of Fire : Bull Run 1861’, in an a entry level complexity war game.

‘Rocket Jockey’ and ‘White Water’, both from Mayfair, are games I know nothing about other than the description on the publisher’s website. These have both slipped under the radar.

‘Kaispecher ‘is an expansion for Stefan Feld’s Speichersradt.

'Friedrich Anniversary edition' was released at Essen 2011 to celebrate the 300th year of the Prussian kings birthday. The new edition includes has only minor changes from the 2004 (now out of print) edition with new art work and changes to the map and cards.

‘ Village’, from Eggertspiele and in stock now, is in an interesting and novel worker placement game in that as well as placing your villagers as efficiently as possible you have to manage there departure from life as efficientlu as well – because they need to die when i an an honourable occupation to score at t end game, with a paupers grave scoring no points.

‘Santa Cruz’ is Hans Im Glucks 2012 Nuremburg medium weight euro and its continues the illustrious line of Stone Age, Finca, Titania and Pantheon. Early reports are positive so I have had the rules translated and the German edition will be arriving on Thursday, and it is available for pre-order now.

‘Thunderstone Advance’ is the new core set for the successful Thunderstone series. It will be in store on Tuesday 6th March.

I have emailed all the names drawn out of the hat for the limited number of Cave Evil, so i am sorry if you have not heard from me then you have not got a copy.

Hawaii - Tactical Tips and Strategic Surmises

I have played Greg Daigle’s wonderful game 10 times face to face and about 70 times on boardgamearena. Most of the following is mainly applicable to 2 and 3 player, because the resources and tiles don’t scale with the number of players the game provides a different experience with different numbers of players. I am going to assume you are familiar with the rules and may even have played the game once or twice.

Hawaii is a tactical game, with a little strategic direction sometimes imparted by the lie of the tiles and first round cost of tiles and gods. Over the five rounds the game follows the well worn path of shifting from purchasing income producing assets to Point scoring assets – however the random placement of the 10 areas where you purchase tiles or income tiles being expensive in the first couple of rounds can turn the game on its head – you might need to go for the foundation of victory points first and pray your income will carry you through.
Points come in five ways.

a) From the five end round scorings.
b) From Kahunas at the end of the game (45 Points max)
c) From Visiting Islands
d) In game scoring from spear huts, Ku and Lono gods
e) End games bonus tiles and gods

Most beginners focus on scoring at round end and from Kahunas and a typical score in the first couple of games in 70 to 90 points. However, after a few games you should be looking to score in excess of 120 on a tough pitch and up to 160 on a good one – and I have seen a score of 197.

Opening moves

Rule number one ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ – if a tile costs two and is going to provide you with income throughout the game grab it – and pay double for the double benefit. Each player gets a set, and declining income, each round of the two currencies (Shells and Feet). The income declines so sharply that by the fifth round you only receive three feet and five Shells – enough for one purchase and certainly not enough to get you over the increasing end round scoring threshold. So you need some supplemental income. The income available is from Shell, Feet and Fruit huts (fruit is the third currency – a wild card). One or, preferably, two double tiles from these three will set you up for the rest of the game. If you take fruit then you almost certainly need an exchange hut to be able to convert resources from one type to another

Rule number two – grab a double boat as early as you can. If a boat is going to cost 2 then it’s almost always my auto first move to buy a double. It’s almost impossible to win against a competent player without a boat – and a double boat means you can reach the last island AND you save one feet on all of your island visits. Assuming you go every round (on average I visit four islands in a game) then it has paid for itself by the end of the game and resources are so tight in this game that can make the difference between winning and losing

Why is the boat necessary? Because visiting islands scores points (the furthest scores you 9 which is huge) and you also get a ‘double’ version of a tile to place in a village. Most importantly it’s the most efficient use of the Feet currency – you can spend all your feet running around the island or you can visit an island using just feet. There will often be a round when the price of the tiles you want is prohibitive, turn order and a big boat will usually make up for that. Another beauty of boats is that it gets you back to the beach for nothing if you have walked to the top of the island. Multiple boats purchases are sometimes seen and if your income is foot heavy this can be a killer source of points – though at the expensive of letting your opponent get more cheap tiles on Hawaii. Multiple boats is quite powerful in four or five player games if you (almost) are the only person using them

So having established 2 golden rules I am now going to give you an exception. Watch out for the gods! There are two gods who may merit a first choice; especially if there are plentiful cheap income earners out there. First is Pele, if you can pay double for him at the beginning of the game then he will provide you a huge saving in the cost of feet. Moreover he grants you the ability to jump around grabbing tiles from an opponent who has tried to map an efficient walk up or down the island. I won’t normally take the single version of this god as it often does not payback the cost. The other god to consider taking early is Kanaloa – If the income producing tiles are expensive AND the boat/surfer part of the island is near the beach then a double Kanaloa god can score you mega points at game end – 4 points for each boat and surfer.

One of the best players on Boardgamearena likes to take a double spear hut in the first round, with the aim of scoring lots of in game points, especially if he can pick up two double spear huts and a Ku god. It’s very effective in four and five player games and needs to be countered in two player by denying cheap Speer huts to your opponent

Third rule

The Kanaloa god should probably be here – if Income tiles are expensive or you are at the back of the turn order and they have gone then don’t pay more for the same assets as your opponents. Think about grabbing end game scorers or enablers. Normally I would like to get these tiles later in the game or from visiting an island but if there is slim pickings then the mighty Hula girl and Irrigation are worth an early pick. The Hula girl is one of the two most ignored tiles by beginners (the other is the Surfer). But one or two of these grass skirted ladies is almost always necessary to win. To explain why I need to move on to ...

Village Construction

In your first game Kahuna points seems the most obvious way of scoring at the end game – and beginners will set out on a path of building five villages down the board – with excessive purchase of the long hut early in the game (I almost always won’t touch ‘em – and think I have paid double for one maybe once in 60 games). At the end of the game their tableau might look like five short villages of two to four tiles with a maximum score of 45 for Kahunas. However, whilst we all love to score the max for Khaunas the average number of Kahuna points scored by the winner is 30 (according to the stats on boardgamearena) . And the reason for this is that end game bonus points from the Hula girl, irrigation and god or two more than make up for not scoring one (sometimes two Kahunas)
Most of your villages need to be just long enough to score the Kahuna i.e. they must reach under your leftmost Tiki. I like to have one long Village which will score me lots for a double Hula girl (20 – 24 points is common) and 10 points from the Irrigation tile – they work very well together as the fruits score you both for Irrigation and the Hula girl.
The other point to make about village construction, which I sometimes get tempted by cheap tiles to ignore is that you need to start a send village and preferably a third as soon as possible –because if you don you might miss out on a super cheap god that appears or a second Hula girl.

Because the Hula girl is so useful I would not delay in picking one early to midgame. A lot of my opponents will wait till the end game and then it’s possible to take it from them – it might only net you four points in a short village but it can cost them a lot more.
So my template is one long village and three or four more that just scrape in under the wire. It’s not the only approach though and in a tough game with Fruits and Irrigation at the top of the board then you have to be flexible and look elsewhere.

End of round scoring

You got to be in it to win it. This holds good most of the time in two player, less so with more players. It’s pretty simple in two player if you don’t make the end of round threshold you are gifting your opponent a lot of net points. In 3 player plus if you are not going to place first or second then the resources spent gaining scraps from crossing the threshold might be better spent elsewhere – or saved till the next round.

Surfers are a great investment from round 2 onwards – they will help get you past the threshold – you won’t necessarily win the scoring but you are only giving up a few points round on round and in a tricky round they might mean you are the only person scoring. I don’t think I have ever taken a surfer on the first round unless I am playing against someone who does not know the value of boats (you buy them from the same island location). Another beginner mistake is to value the price tokens in the second and onwards turn order spaces above turn order. This is almost a golden rule – if you know you are going to make the end of round threshold then go for turn order. In a two player game you are giving up three points to go first – and most of the time that will repay itself many times. Where I might be happy to go second is in that rare position where I am going into the last round with nothing essential left to do, or (in a two player game) I know by going second it means my opponents won’t make the threshold – and even then I might want to go first if there is a tile I absolutely have to have (say a double kahuna or tiki)

Fishing – it’s a wonderful pastime but something I only use on rare occasions in Hawaii, especially in a two or three player game. Resources are precious and I don’t want to use them (and a boat) in pinching a few points at the end of the round. If I have spare capacity and for one foot can get in the scoring or win the scoring it’s a good trade off – that does not happen often though. Once in a blue moon you might grab a fish just to get you back to the beach for free. In the four and five player game fishing is much more important because the end of round scoring can be a larger percentage of total points than in the two and three player game.

Which comes on to my last point. Often you are presented with the decision on your last move ‘ I can take this crap tile for five and get in the scoring or save my resources till the next round’ – If you can save the resources and grab first spot in turn order that’s often the right way to go. Don’t feel compelled to spend all of your resources every round – especially in expensive rounds.

When to shoot for end game scoring

The beauty of this game is that there is no correct answer to this – so many ‘build engine then score Vps’ games have a narrow tipping point – as I have suggested earlier Hawaii does not. By leaving it to the last or penultimate round to grab Hula girls and irrigation and gods you are risking the caprice of the cost tiles and the ability of other players to take them before you. When I lose it’s often because I have neglected to take Tikis and been forced to pay through the nose at the end of the game. I think I have only once seen someone win without taking any Tikis – and if you have invested in Kahunas and a village that does not score you will be in peril. Tikis are almost always an instant choice if they appear on an island and I have to think long and hard if they appear cheaply on round two. In three player and upwards I‘d almost say they are the most important tiles to secure because of their scarcity and importance in enabling other end game scoring. In a four player game I’d take them on round one.

Some thoughts on tiles

Ku – Lovely in a Spear heavy strategy. Good if cheap for the foot income
Kane – Good for the income and very useful in multiplayer for the option to purchase a tiki. Happy to pay double for in first round for the income.

Lono – I am usually happy to pick this god up late in the game to fill space and for a few extra points. My wife likes to double him on the first round for up to 20 points over the game. Like Kane probably more powerful in the four or five player games with tighter scoring

Laka – The icing on the cake of a Fruit/Irrigation/Hula/Long village strategy

Exchange huts – I struggle in games where I don’t have one exchange hut, I have never paid double for one, though 2 have sometimes proved useful in the last round

Kahunas – In a two player game I try to delay taking them, there are three spots open so its quite likely they will be available and cheap late in the game. In multiplayer I take them when they are available and cheap.

Long Huts – They have more value in 3+ player games as Tikis are scarcer.

A last note on gods - be warned, don't take a marginal scoring god in the last round - it might just reveal a killer scorer for your opponent(s) to grab


Hawaii is a tactical game, with some strategic considerations. My approach has been fairly successful on boardgamearena – though I have been totally schooled by the designer Greg Daigle who likes a thin income strategy, and other players swear by Spear huts .If I ever go into a game with an inflexible approach then I lose. The most important consideration is efficiency and adapting to the changing game board, what I like so much about Hawaii is how every game provides a slightly different challenge depending on the initial island lay out and the changing cost of tiles. I hope this article gives you some food for thought, and If I have missed anything please do let me know. Maybe we will meet on boardgamearena.

Stefan Feld - Euro Master

My first play of Trajan inspired a sense of De javu - at first a tremendous sense of excitement at the cleverness of the Mancala/Rondel core mechanic, a sense of frustration at trying to string together a set of actions, and lastly a little disconnect with the game - all the same feelings I have had about Macao and Die Burgen von Burgen, though with both of these it took multiple plays to get there. Feld is the master of the clever core action selection mechanic - the dice in Macao/Die Burgen and now the Mancala/Rondel. These three games also share the need to be efficient in use of actions, and each turn is best spent trying to put together two or three engine building/spoint scoring opportunities. They also share a wealth of ways to score points. They are all great designs - and all ones that I don't see myself playing very often. Why? I like my Euros to have a little bit more connection between theme and mechanics. The other problem I have is that with the myriad scoring paths and the resulting high scores it's not easy to have a sense of why I came first or last in close games. In my last game of Burgen three of us scored about 250 points with four points separating us - the post game analysis could not identify if an why one player had won and another last. The journey to that point was pleasant enough and required a lot brain power but the after taste was a bit bland.

Stuart Dagger, the editor of Counter Magazine, recently made an impassioned defence of Feld's lack of theme, saying that the game play made his games every bit as good as Martin Wallace's. However, its a connection that I can't quite make and therefore Feld's recent games are ones I am always keen to try but not ones I am going to seek repeat plays of. My favourite of his games is 'In the year of the dragon' - and I like it because the game is much tighter than recent offerings, is interactive and also there is, for me at least, a strong connection between the theme and the way the game is played. I am always intrigued by new Feld designs; and I hope that a future release might be theme lead and integrate Feld's wonderful gaming ideas into a strong story.

New Releases 14th Februrary

Next week’s new releases include

'Tanto Cuore : Expanding the house' a standalone expansion for Tano cuore

‘Lamborghini’ – a economic team management game

‘1812 – The invasion of Canada’ – a two to five player hybrid War /Euro from Academy games

‘Dragon Rampage’, from Richard Launius (‘Defenders of the Realm’, ‘Arkham Horror’) should arrive later next week, and it’s a competitive dungeon Ccawl for 3 to 6 players

I have added Peter Schutze’s range of wargames to the shop which until now were only available to be ordered from the USA

Restocks include 'Siberia' and 'Trajan'

New releases 7th February 2012

It’s a great story when a game gets overlooked when released to become a cult classic after it’s gone out of print. ‘Nexus Ops’ is a great example of this, with second hand copies going for hundreds of dollars on ebay. Fantasy Flight have reprinted ‘Nexus Ops’ and given it some added bling – moreover its does not require a remortgage to purchase now. For those of you not familiar with the game it’s a ferocious sci-fi battle game that is over quickly and will have asking for a second game as soon as you finished your first.

‘Cyclades: Hades’ adds four modules to ‘Cyclades’ – this another example of a game that was met with an initial muted response but seems to becoming more popular with time.

‘Giza the Great Pyramid’ is a worker placement game with players trying to impress the pharaoh by making the greatest contribution to the building of his tomb.

Spielbox 7’ – the last issue of the 2011 series includes the last of the Martin Wallace games specially designed for Spielbox (you need issue two to play the games as it contains the counters).

‘Strategy and Tactics 273 ‘includes Reichswehr & Freikorps a two-player (So¬viet versus German) strategic game based on the Russo-Polish war of 1920
If you like your games to include negotiation and blood feuds and look like a million dollars then look no further than ‘Fief’ from Asyncron games – it’s a new and somewhat streamlined version of the 2000 original.

It’s been a long time out of print but the stupendously silly ‘Hamsterolle’ is back in an all new edition – the only boardgame I know that will get envious glances from the family pet rodents.

Restocks arriving on Tuesday

‘Kingsburg’, ‘Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space’, ‘Haggis’ and ‘the Resistance’