(The Sondheimers have been playing a prototype version of Tiki Island the gents at Great Wight Games were kind enough to, quite literally, drop at my door. Honest review, etc.)
Your Goal: Save your Islanders, save the world! Move your Islanders from their devastated Home Island to the Goal Island directly across the board before your opponent(s) can rescue all of their Islanders.
Ages/Skills: None specifically stated in rule book (remember, we’re playing a prototype version). Four-year-old has been drifting off about halfway through a game. Six-and-a-half-year-old has no problem hanging in for a whole game. Definitely geared for families. Counting is integral. Reading is useful but since rune cards can be played open hand, parents can give an assist without affecting gameplay.
Length of Play: 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on number of players.
Each player will need: one Tiki disc, three Islanders, one die, island tokens, and move “cheat” card, Rune card(s)
To start: Distribute Tiki and Islanders in the four hexes of the corresponding color. Certain configurations are suggested in the rulebook based on number of players. If there are four or more players, a neutral (gray) island is placed at the center of the board.
Play (basic summary): The first player chooses a Basic move and performs it. Successive players roll their die and either make the move corresponding to the number rolled, select a basic move, or trade in their Rune card(s) (exceptions, special skills, weapons, hexes, and often hilarious complications) for one of those moves (also listed on the “cheat” card). If you are going to build a new island, you must do so within three hex spaces of your Tiki. An Islander may occupy the same space as a Tiki but, unless a Rune provides an exception, Islanders may not occupy the same space as one another. Islanders cannot move through or jump one another unless you are using Soar. Tikis and Islanders may only move over and to their own islands unless otherwise specified by a Rune. The more Runes there are in play, the more complex, and delightfully silly, play becomes. There are a couple of different ways to destroy Runes in play should you desire to do so. Continue building your island chain, and moving your pieces, based on either the rolled moves, basic moves, or trade moves until your island chain reaches the opposite side of the board and all of your Islanders have crossed it.
At least two members of the family have played Tiki Island every day since it arrived last weekend and we’ve enjoyed every game. There are enough strategy elements and twists involved to hold the interests of myself and my husband while maintaining an ease (not to be equated with “simplicity”) that allows both kids to participate fully. Play is long enough to feel like an actual game without being so long as to bore the little one (the boy isn’t necessarily a standard kid to judge by; he’ll play back-to-back games of Risk without drifting off).
The board is nicely laid out and it’s a good size; we love Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary, but the board barely fits on our dining room table and unfortunately, in our current set-up, we don’t have space for a dedicated gaming table. Tiki Island fits nicely at the center of the table while still being big enough for everyone to be able to reach their pieces. The pieces are small enough to allow for easy storage but big enough for little fingers to get hold of without difficulty and the bright colors means everyone of any age is clear on which pieces belong to them. All four of us dig the creepy-cute vibe of the board and the Rune cards (what can I say, we started ’em young).
Play is flexible in that the steps of one’s turn don’t necessarily have to be done in a particular order (you can do your action and then play a Rune or play the Rune and then do the action). Some Runes (those labeled as Unhindered) can be thrown down at any point during play. This, believe it or not, makes play far smoother as kids’ (or adults who forget rules constantly, a.k.a. me) turns can simply progress if they forget a step in the middle without having to be restarted for frustration/kid rage. The wide range of action choices make it virtually certain (except, perhaps, toward the very end of the game) that a given player will be able to do something useful to them, which also cuts down on the aforementioned frustration/kid rage. It also ensures play remains constant and engaging. Tiki Island suits all styles of game play (be it the cut-throat competitive style of hubs/son or my more laissez-faire/girl’s wander away halfway through and then wander back three minutes before the end of the game styles). My kids tend to add an element of storytelling to everything they do and my son has been enjoying spinning yarns about his Tiki, Islanders, and their crazy Coconut Cannon whilst screwing the rest of us over.
Tiki Island is easy to pause, which is essential in a family game, and easy to pick up again, so potty and snack breaks aren’t problematic during a longer game.
There are a couple of places where the instructions need a bit of clarification (can one, for example, rebuild a Rune devastated island, for example); Matt at Great Wight has been great about doing so for us via email and I know he and Christian are planning some edits for the final version. There are also a couple of Rune cards that have left me a bit confused in a “Why would you ever play this card?” sort of way but, again, we’re playing a prototype and a good amount of work has been done since our copy was printed.
Beyond those two tiny nits, Tiki Island is pretty much a perfect family, kid’s playdate, or small kid’s party game and I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m sure hubs and I will introduce it on adult gaming nights as well.
The Tiki Island Kickstarter goes live on August 30th. Keep an eye out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.