Quick status update. First of all, why did I decide to write long form reviews of every Feld game we played this month? Next up, no, we aren’t going to get to every Feld game. For one thing, we don’t have them all in our group (Sorry Pillars of the Earth Builder’s Duel), and between bad weather and me being sick last week, we just haven’t been able to get to all of them. It’s still been a really interesting experiment, and I hope you have enjoyed reading about these games!
Of all the Stefan Feld games, I think Bora Bora has been the most intimidating to new players. One look at the board, and many people have suddenly had to run to the store to buy groceries. I will submit that Aquasphere is WAY more intimidating, but I’ll save that for another post. Bora Bora is kind of like a Euro-style civilization building game. Players will travel across islands, build buildings, gain resources, purchase decorative jewelry, and do lots of praying to gain the favor of the various Gods. I’ve talked a lot about the board, here’s a look at it.
Yeah, there’s a lot to this game. This is probably the most “fiddly” of the games we’ve played. There are so many different actions and areas to play to, and so many stacks of tiles and cards and tokens…it looks overwhelming. Fortunately, once you get into the game, you start to see that most things work together logically. Rather than go terribly in depth into each action and sub-action, I’ll just do a relatively brief overview.
A game of Bora Bora lasts 6 turns. There are 3 phases to each turn. Phase A is “Roll and Place Dice, and Carry out Actions” Each player has 3 dice. Depending on the number of players, there are a set of action tiles that sit off to the side of the board. All players roll their dice at the same time. In turn order, players pick 1 of their dice, and place it on the tile that matches the action they wish to carry out. Subsequent players then get to do the same. If a player wants to use the same tile as another player, they must use a die with a value LOWER than the lowest die showing. The number of pips on a die also show how “powerful” that action can be.
If, for some reason, you are unable to play dice (say, you rolled all 6s, and the players in front of you took the actions you wanted to do with a bunch of 3s), you do have some recourse. There are a series of God cards that players can get to help (with the additional cost of an offering token) them bend the rules slightly. One of the God cards allows you to use an action with a die equal to or higher than whatever’s out there. If that fails, there is a lonely fishing spot you can use to just get 2 points.
Phase B is “Use Man and Woman Actions.” There are a series of Man and Woman tiles available for purchase during Phase A located at the bottom of the main board. Each of these tiles has 2 parts, an income of sorts (either tattoos or shells) that can be of value in later parts of the turn, and an action icon. Each tile you buy must be placed on an empty space on your player board. You empty those spaces by placing huts onto the map during Phase A. You are only allowed to use 1 man and 1 woman action, but if you have multiples of the same tile, you can stack those actions – making them more powerful. There are 12 different actions you can take. It’s pretty much impossible to get access to all of them, so it’s important to try and find a strategy, and try to load up on the villagers that will be most beneficial to that strategy.
Finally, Phase C is the awkwardly titled “Assess the Right Half of the Game Board” phase. The right half of the board is a series of tracks players try to move up on with various actions in both Phase A and B.
The top track is a status track, you move up on this by getting tattoos. This track can be worth quite a few points. It also determines turn order (because it’s Feld).
Next is the temple track. There’s an interesting pushing mechanism that can go on here that really shines with 4 players, not as much with just 2. Still, each priest you get here scores points based on the round, and the player with the most gets the God token which acts as a wild card for any of the God cards, but does not require the use of an offering token.
Next up, players can use the shells they may have collected to buy jewelry. Each piece is worth points at the end of the game.
Finally in Phase C, players have to deal with their task tiles. I haven’t mentioned these yet, but these tiles really drive a good bit of your strategy throughout the game. Each player is dealt three at the start of the game, and gets a new one every turn. These tasks can be simple (get 2 God tiles) or very hard (buy 2 of the most expensive piece of jewelry). A player must complete 1 task every turn of the game. If you are able to complete it straight away, you get a full 6 points. If you are 1 resource short, you can use a Green God card to finish it with a 2 point penalty. If you are more than 1 resource short, you get 0 points for it, and it kills off your chance at an end of game bones. To ramp up the tension, not only do you get one on the 6th turn that you have no chance to work towards, you also most complete all 3 of these tasks on your board at the same time because Feld hates the players. This isn’t impossible to do, but it can be really tough.
After 6 turns of all this (and I truthfully just scratched the surface here), final scoring occurs.
First off, players get 2 points for every unused God tile. Second, players get points for each fish tile on a space where they control the building spot (I’ll come back to this one) Next, each piece of jewelry gets you points. Players then get 6 bonus points if they completed any of the special tasks: such as getting all of their huts on the board, or buying jewelry every turn, or completing their ceremony section etc. etc. High score wins.
I had a big problem with the fish scoring. Now, I knew that this was part of the game at the beginning, but with everything else going on, I let this be the one thing I let slide. In most Stefan Feld games you have to choose something to be the thing you just have to let go. Basically, when you place a hut on an island space, you gain control of the building square. If someone moves there later, you don’t lose the resource you gained, but you do lose control of the space and the points from the fish tile at the end of the game. So basically, I made the land habitable, and my opponent got all the glory for it, because he slept in and got there later. Something about that struck me as very false in this game.
Bora Bora is definitely one of the heavier games in the Feld library. You can see so many ideas that were culled from his other games, largely to great effect. I worry still that many won’t give it a chance because it just looks like too much. Honestly though, a lot of what’s on the board are reminders of what you can do. Learn the symbols, and you’re well on your way to getting a grasp on this game. If you’ve ever liked any Stefan Feld games, I think you’ll like Bora Bora…just watch out for the fish.
Next time: Madonna’s involved.