Published on December 9th, 2013 | by Luke Turpeinen
Tropical Island Adventure
Summary: If you've played a lot of board games, take the time to play Bora Bora. If you haven't, you might want to wait until you have more experience.
Another wonderful game by Stephen Feld, Bora Bora is not for the first time gamer. Imagine loading up all your favorite board games into a pinata and breaking it open. Now take all those pieces as they land and make a game out of it. That game is Bora Bora. Up to 5 players work to sustain and grow their own tribe in this game mechanic mash up of area control, set collection and dice-based worker placement.
Bora Bora is the name of a real island in the Pacific, part of the same archipeligo as Tahiti, and it is part of a rich polynesian culture. The game Bora Bora uses a lot of polynesian imagery from pre-European times and the theme of the game invloves growing villages, expanding production of goods and materials, as well as increasing cosmetic items such as tattoos and jewelry. Bora Bora gives you a lot of options, and it’s up to you which ones will see you to the end.
If you hadn’t noticed by the pictures, this game is gorgeous! I am absolutely in love with the amazing amount of color in this box. I feel like games try to go the gritty or realistic route too often in their art design. It’s refreshing when you can play a deep, complex game with a lot of character. I’m not a polynesian cultural expert, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the real world culture presented in the game, but at first blush the game art and design seems as accurate as medeval european themed board games tend to be. The components are all top grade quality, and while there are a ton of little fiddly bits in the box, they are all put together well.
Bora Bora is the great German Eurogame, the apex predator of the wooden-cube-pushing species of games. The thing that really makes Bora Bora unique as far as gameplay is concerned is its wide range of different mechanics. There are many avenues to victory in Bora Bora, and none is necessarily better than another. Some people really focus on building their colonies on the map board, which makes it easier to catch the kind of fish and have access to the kind of materials you want. Other players relocate members of their villages to one central district, making a city and concentrating cultural power into one area by making a lot of tattoos. These separate options are part of what really makes the game engaging.
The expanse of different options isn’t always a benefit, and if you are new to board gaming or not used to playing intricate and fiddly games, this might be a turn-off. The good news is that to win you don’t have to be able to manage every part of the game effectively. As long as a player can find one way to make points from the board and they keep cranking the knob on that machine then they will generally do fine in the scoring rounds. For experienced players you can use this to your advantage, taking an alternate route for points if the players before you blocked off your ideal move. Bora Bora encourages this kind of blocking and it rewards quick thinking in getting around those blocking situations. Board game veterans will appreciate the cornocopia of styles within the game and how they come together to make a coherent whole, something I doubted would happen before I played my first game.
One of the things that was the most fun for me while playing Bora Bora was watching everyone who played fight over the various resources in the game. Mostly this takes the form of trying to place your workers before the other players so you can do the actions you want. A larger part of the fun of the game was just in watching everyone’s machines come together. When I play, I tend to ignore the map on the board and I go straight to the options that let me get rid of villages so that I can recruit more tattooists and bead makers. From my perspective it was fun to see Nicole run around the map, building villages and occassionally make trouble for me. Finally there is a worker placement game that at least feels like it’s more interactive and fun than the multi-player solitaire that it Agricola.