Game Buzz: Bora Bora

It’s Stefan Feld’s year.  As of right now, he has four games coming out in 2013.  The first is:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Bora Bora is the latest in the long line of partnerships between Stefan Feld and alea.  alea’s big box game line has featured games such as Ra, Taj Mahal, The Traders of Genoa, and Puerto Rico, but the last six have all been by Feld.  Bora Boar is for 2-4 players and takes 90 minutes to play.  It’s a game about building your tribe up on the islands of Bora Bora.  But let’s face it, if you’re looking at this game for the theme, you’re going to be disappointed.  Feld is the quintessential Eurogame designer – all mechanics with not much of a theme.  Still, Feld is very good, so it’s always worth taking a look at what he has to offer.

image by BGG user maeddes
image by BGG user maeddes

The game is set up with the board, which shows the islands and tracks, placed in the middle of the table.  I always love it when rules tell me to place the board in the middle of the table.  It’s right up there with component lists that tell me the rulebook is a component of the game.  Anyway, you make supply piles of the building materials (stone/sand/wood), shells, and offerings, and place 5-7 action tiles next to the board (depending on the number of players).  12 fish tiles placed randomly next to the 12 regions on the board (spread across five islands, with four on the central island).  There are man and woman tiles, which are shuffled and placed in separate stacks, with six of each drawn and placed face up on the appropriate tracks of the board.  Each player gets three random task cards, and these are placed on the player’s personal boards.  24 jewelry tiles and 6 God tiles are randomly placed face up on the board, and 5 God cards are drawn.  Each player gets a player board, 12 wooden hut tokens, 6 building tiles, a God tile, 3 dice, 4 priest pawns, 2 God cards, 2 offerings, and a random turn order tile.  In reverse turn order, each player puts a hut on a building space of a region next to a 1-fish tile, gains the resource of that region, and either puts the resource on a ceremony space of his board or (if he gained an offering tile) next to his board.

There are six rounds in the game, and each round is divided into three phases.  PHASE A is where all players roll their dice simultaneously, and then one at a time take turns placing one of the dice on an action tile.  You can only lay a die that is lower than any other value on that action tile.  As soon as you place the die, you take the associated action.

  • You could use a land or water path to expand by building a hut in a region adjacent to a region where you already have a hut.  The number on your die indicates the highest number path you can use for this expansion.  You can only have one building per region, and you have to decide when you place your hut whether or not you want to score points for the fish tile.  This can only be done once per player per region, and only with a red God card.
  • You could take a man or woman action by taking the man or woman tile from a space equal to or less than the value of die used.  The man or woman tiles goes onto your player board in a free space.  Spaces are freed when you place huts on the board.  If you don’t have a free space, you can’t do this.
  • You can choose a helper action to trade for items.  There are several options, and each costs a number of die points.
    • Tattoo a man by shifting his tile on your board so that a check mark is revealed.  This advances you on the status track.  This costs one die point.
    • Collect shells by shifting a woman tile down in the same manner.  This gives you a certain number of shells, and also costs one die point.
    • Advance one space on the VP track per die point you spend.
    • Take an offering from the supply by spending two die points.
    • Spend two die points for a God card.
    • Get a new building material for two die points.
    • Move a hut to the 12th space on your board for two die points.  This clears up room for men and women without having to expand.
  • You could take a priest and put it on the temple.  The die you use indicates the highest value space you can put your priest on.
  • You could take a building tile that you haven’t built, spend materials from horizontally or vertically adjacent spaces on your board, and place the building.  This will get you 4-10 points, depending on the round.
  • Finally, you could fish, scoring two points for any die you use in the action.  You don’t have to adhere to the lower value rule.








Once everyone has placed their dice, you move on to PHASE B, the man and woman actions.  You can use each of your man or woman tiles in any order you choose, depending on the symbol on the card.  These are basically like the actions from PHASE A, but with fixed values – expand as if you used a 2, take a man/woman tile as if you used a 3, build as if you used a 3, take 1-3 building materials, move 1-3 of your huts, gain 2-6 VPs, take 1-3 God cards, take 1-3 offerings, advance 1-3 spaces on the status track, or take 1-3 shells.

Finally, it is PHASE C where you assess the various tracks on the game board.  Players get VPs based on their position on the status track, resetting to zero after scoring with the player who was last on the track going on the bottom.  Turn order is then determined with the top player getting #1.  Players get VPs based on their priests – 1-3 per priest, depending on the round.  The player with the most priests gets a God tile.  Players may then choose to buy a jewelry tile from the current round’s column by spending shells.  Jewelry is worth points at the end of the game.  Players then complete one of their tasks, gaining 6 points with no help and 4 is they use a yellow God card.  If you can’t complete a task, you surrender a task and score nothing for it.  Everyone then gets a new task.

The round is over at this point.  Tasks, men, and women that weren’t taken are removed from the game, and new tiles are dealt out.  The game ends after round six. For the end game, each player completes their three task tiles in the same manner as before.  You get 2 points per unused God tile, 1-6 points for each fish adjacent to a building space containing one of your huts, and 1-9 points for jewelry.  You get six bonus points for completing all 9 tasks you see in the game, having six jewelry tiles, filling all 12 ceremony spaces on your board, building all six of your building tiles, adding huts to all 12 regions, and having all 12 man/woman spaces filled.  The player with the most points wins.

This game has Stefan Feld written all over it.  One of his hallmarks is having a ton of options and not nearly enough power to do everything you want to or need to. Here, it takes the form of only having three dice to use, and being forced to optimize them in order to do what you need to do.  There’s also some interaction included with the lower pip count rule – it would be easy to block someone by playing a one.  But then, you might not get what you need.  So it looks like there are some interesting decisions to be made.

This game is getting compared to The Castles of Burgundy, which was Feld’s last alea game.  I think it has to do with the fact that both are Eurogames that use dice, and that both feature individual player boards.  Having not played either, I couldn’t comment, but I think it’s cool that Feld is looking for more and more new ways to use dice.  I think this is one to keep an eye on – early buzz has been pretty good.  We’ll see how it goes, but I’m sure Feld fans will be happy with this one.  Thanks for reading!










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