Saturday, June 16, 2012

Finally Winning Hawaii

I mentioned previously that I purchased Hawaii, by Greg Daigle, at Origins (my only game purchase there). Since then, Isabel and I have played three times. Until today she had reigned supreme, nudging me out in the first and blowing me away in the second. Today was different--final score, Isabel - 100 and Philip - 149. So how is the game? Really fun!

The basic idea is that you have ten areas on the main island and a number of available activities on the beach. Your job as chief of a neighboring island is to establish villages and build them up (and create nice scoring combos in the process). This game only has three resources: shells (to buy stuff), feet (to move and paddle a boat) and fruit (to stand in for either shells of feet).

The game lasts only five rounds, so you definitely feel pressured to get a lot done quickly. Another source of pressure is a target spending goal each round (which gets higher as you go). You have to spend X shells (or, specifically, claim that value in price tokens) to get a significant scoring boost at the end of each round.

When you first open the box you'll discover that this game has A LOT of components (all of a very nice quality). I flipped out a little when I read, ". . . now place the 126 location tiles . . ." during the setup for the game! But it turns out this takes about 3 minutes or less. All the extra baggies provide for convenient storage and organization.

During setup, the ten locations are randomly placed (good replay value). Then at the start of each round, all the prices are set with chips. A printed number on each location limits the availability and prices on each. Chips that equal or exceed the printed number get flipped over to become fish. Fishing is another way to reach your target but by paying feet instead of shells.

Everything works very well. What could be a ridiculously complicated mess ends up flowing as smoothly as you can imagine. Isabel and I can knock out a game in less than 45 minutes, including setup and tear-down! Of course, we haven't gotten to play with more than two players. This would no doubt increase the time. On your turn, you just make one move of your chief-meeple. You pay feet equal to the distance traveled (or nothing if you went back to the beach) and pay shells to buy a tile. Once everyone heads back to the start area (because they spent all the resources they could/wanted to) the round ends. Then you get more shells and feet for the next round.

The tiles extend one of five possible villages on your player "board". You have to get a village long enough so that it passes a tiki on the top row (you can buy more tikis to make this easier). You also want to build kahunas along the left column for super bonus points--but you only score villages that make it past the tikis! So you can make one or two big long villages or five really short ones--as long as you manage your tikis.

I can't really think of anything bad or annoying about this game. In our three games, the player who went second (and gets 2 extra fruit to start with) has always won. I think this is a fluke, but we'll see. I am very interested to see how the game translates to 3-5-player games.

We have really enjoyed this great game! There are so many different ways to get bonus points--you can try to max out any of them and have a good shot at winning or you can do a little of everything and still be in the running. Long-term planning is important but you won't have to bust your brain too hard working it out, as the number of options you have at a given time is not overwhelming. This one delivers just slightly less brain burn than Agricola, to give you some idea.

With great components, a fun theme and really awesome game mechanics, I give this game a 8.6 out of 10.

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