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Maori

Reviewed by Ted Cheatham

(Hans im Gluck/Rio Grande Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $34.95)

 

What does a copper kettle company that caters to witches and wizards for a multitude of spell ingredients have in common with the wonderful people of Polynesia, the Maori? The answer? Gunter Burkhardt.

maoriboxOn playing Maori, I was readily reminded of Gunter’s 2002 Kritikerpreis, Spiele de Jahres game Kupferkessel Co. (featured in the Spring 2002 Gamers Alliance Report). He has taken his two player “move around the outside of a card layout” mechanism for grabbing magical ingredients from that game and nicely incorporated it into a multi-player version of building islands in Polynesia. In Maori, the use of one common ship piece to move around the circumference of tiles is very nice and the addition of sea shells allows you to manage your destiny to some extent. The fact that Maori plays 2-5
players is a huge plus even though you can only play on the larger atoll boards with 4 players.

So, how does it work you ask? A random 4 x 4 grid of tiles is placed in the center of the table and ship is placed beside one of the tiles on the circumference. All of the tiles are island related ranging from solid water, sections of islands, or complete one square islands. And, on these island tiles you will find boats, sea shells, lei garlands, huts, and palm trees.

Each player starts the game with two boats and five shells. (The only way to get more of them is to acquire them on tiles that you pick up.) On your turn you move the ship clockwise around the tile array up to a number of spots equal to the number of boats present on your board. For example, if you have two boats on your board, you can move the ship around the array up to two spaces. If you have 4 boats on your personal display, you can move the ship around the display up to 4 spaces.

maoribox2More boats means more movement and, thus, more options and at the end of the game, the person with the most boats on their board will score 1 point for every ship they have. If you do not like the spot where the ship stopped, you may move it farther at the cost of one shell per spot. Once the ship has stopped moving, you must take the tile that is adjacent to the ship for free or you may pay one shell per tile to take a tile that is farther away from the ship in the same row. So, if you wanted the tile that was at the other side of the board (4 tiles away) it would cost you three shells to take it. These are two uses of the shells; moving the ship farther or buying tiles not adjacent to the ship in the same row. The third use of the shells is end game scoring similar to how boats are scored.

Once you have chosen your tile (and put a new random tile back into the tile array), you will typically place it onto your player board. You are allowed one reserve tile in the game so you can just keep it off your board until you decide to use it. With your tiles you are trying to build islands, score points, and collect boats and shells. That is really it in a nutshell. Once a player fills their board, the game ends. Incomplete islands are removed and all empty spaces are -1 point. From there, if you have a complete lei garland score 10 points. Palm trees are worth 1 point each and if a hut is on an island, it makes the palm trees worth 2 points each. Add in points for the player with the most boats and sea shells and the player with the most points wins. You start the game with two boats and five shells. The only way to get more of them is to acquire them on tiles that you pick up.

Do you want more stuff? Well the islands run vertically and horizontally. This turns the game into a little bit of a puzzle as you will need some specific pieces to close your island and avoid negative points at the end of the game. Having shells for key movement of the ship and being able to choose tiles is important but, you must choose wisely because shells can be scarce or on island tiles you really don’t want. The bigger atoll boards are nice and provide for double scoring if you can complete islands within the atoll area. It also has one of its boats printed on a square on the board that must eventually be covered by an island tile. This makes you want to acquire some boats at some point.

Finally, there are rule variants that add to the game difficulty. These variants all have to do with each player receiving a wooden canoe. When you place your first tile on the game board, this canoe is placed on top of it. From this point, you can only build your next tile directly around this canoe. Where the canoe goes next depends on which of the variants you play. You could play the version where you move it where you like onto any existing island tile or the version where it automatically goes onto the last tile built/ (That one is a little harsh.)

I really like Maori. It is a very light family game that will play out in 30-45 minutes. With the addition of the atoll boards and some variants, you have a clever, light strategy game with a few tactical choices/ Because it is easy to explain, it all works for me. Many gamers have complained it is just too light with not enough choices for them. This game is not meant to be a meaty game. It is just light fun. Besides, any game that the wife likes and sometimes asks to play is always a good thing!

 


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