Bora Bora, published by Ravensburger, is a worker placement game set in the tropics. Kai, with Meople’s Magazine, recently wrote a really good, and in depth, review of the game.
Like most recent games, your goal in Bora Bora is to finish the game with more victory points than everyone else, but the options how to score are, again, overwhelming: you score points for the gods favour, catching fish, having jewelery, living next to fish, putting jewelery on fish – okay, that one was a lie – building huts on the board, building ceremonial huts on your player board, having men and women live in your huts, sending priests to the temple and completing mostly arbitrary tasks. And to do all that, you only have six rounds with three dice to choose actions each round.
Dice are, of course, Feld’s favourite component, and I imagine him staying up at night cackling to himself as he comes up with new ways of using them to force players to make agonizing decisions. In that, he succeeded yet again: the dice mechanic in Bora Bora is agonizing again. All players roll their three dice at once and then take turns putting it on one of the five to seven action tiles and taking the corresponding action. The higher the number rolled, the more powerful the chosen action. But higher numbers are harder to place on actions because the value of a new dice on an action tile must always be lower than the values already there, baring divine intervention with the Blue God card. Placing a one on the action all your opponents needed is not likely to make you friends, but all the more likely to make you successful. Who needed friends, anyway? To keep choices tough and space limited, some actions are combined into one tile when playing with less than four people. It works, you’ll hate the other players no matter how many they are.
Now you’ll likely want to know what those actions do that you select, but that’s where things get difficult. The beauty of Bora Bora is how everything is linked in one way or the other. Unfortunately, that makes every possible order of explaining the game not ideal because you’ll always have to say “I will explain that in a moment”, an expression everyone that ever listened to a game explanation hates. That is also why it takes until the end of the second game to stop being overwhelmed: the first one just to understand how everything is connected, the second one to figure out how to make use of those connections. And taken by themselves, all the actions are so simple. Take Expansion, for example: from one of your huts you may follow an arrow to another region and build a hut there. The arrows show a minimum dice roll you have to place to use them, so a higher roll gives you more choice. Easy, right? But expanding gives you one of the game’s three resources needed to build your ceremonial huts, or a
fruit basket Offering needed to play god cards. It also gives you a fish to score at the end, unless someone else fishes it up when he settles in the same place. And it frees one space on your player board to place a Man or Woman tile. And expanding to the whole island is worth bonus points at the end of the game. And having huts on specific regions is required for some goal tiles. That’s how entangled the actions are, and while the whole thing seems impossible to see through at first, it also means every decision you make has many implications. When you make a decision in Bora Bora, you know that you just made a decision and could have a small snack now, thank you very much.
The other actions are not less entangled, but I’ll skip some of the details for your sanity. The Man and Woman actions let you chose a Man or Woman tile, respectively, to put in an empty spot on your player board. These people are important in the second phase of each round. With the Build action you build one of your six ceremonial huts, scoring a bunch of points – provided you have the right resources from expanding, of course. The Temple action sends one of your four priests to the temple. And the didn’t-fit-anywhere-else Helper action lets you buy things for the score of your dice: one point of the die allows you to activate one Man or Woman, giving you Tattoos or Shells. Oh, I hadn’t mentioned those yet, had I? There we go again, many connected parts. For two points, you can have a
fruit basket Offering, any of the three resources or a god card. Finally, the temple action puts one of your priests in the temple for later profit.
For more from Meople’s Magazine, you can visit their site here to read the entire review.