Saturday, May 3, 2008

Maka Bana

Two new games were added to my New Games Quest list last night. The first game of the evening was Maka Bana.

Maka Bana is a cutesy sort of game, all about builiding huts on an island and trying to second guess your opponents.

Maka Bana is a tropical island with four beaches: Azzura, Bikini, Coquito and Diabolo. Notice the naming convention there? It keeps things nice and simple, which reflects the game as a whole. Having said that, there is a deeper underlying strategy.

The object of the game is to build huts at various locations around the island. At the end of the game players are scored based on the number of huts they have on the board, with bonus points awarded if you have neighbouring huts or if you have the most huts on a beach.

So let's have a look at the board:

The various sites that huts can be placed are marked on the board, with each site having three characteristics: beach, terrain, and setting. No two sites share the same three characteristics.

As mentioned earlier, there are four beaches. There are also four different terrains on the island: sand, grass, lagoon and pebble. Each of these terrains is clearly identifiable on the board and is conveniently separated from other terrains by jetties and paths.

For example, Azzura beach has three terrains: pebbles, grass and lagoon. Coquito and Diabolo also have only three, with Bikini the only beach to contain all four terrains.

The final identifier for a site is its setting. these are the patterns mareked on each site, and come in three types: fish, flowers and tattoo.

Players are given cards to signify each characteristic, and each round they secretly choose which site they wish to build on, and choose the appropriate three cards. For example, if you wished to build a hut on the central site on Azzura beach, you would select the Azzura card, the grass card, and the flower card from your hand and place these face down in front of you.

Once everyone has chosen their three cards, everyone turns over their top card to show the other players. Why is this important? Because of the tiki.

You see, all the other players will now have an idea of where you are intending to build your hut, and have a chance to stop you from building on that turn. That's where the tiki comes in. Starting with the first player, everyone places their tiki figurine on a site. If a tiki occupies a site you want to build on later in the turn, you're out of luck.

The idea here is to look at the card each of your opponents has turned up and place your tiki on a site that matches at least one of those characteristics. As the other players are trying to do the same, it's generally in your best interest to show them the card with the most possible free sites.

For example, if you want to play on the Azzura/grass/flower site, and there are only 3 sites left on Azzura, 4 grass sites left on the board, and 5 unclaimed flower sites, then you're probably better off revealing the flower card. This way there are more possible places you could be building and you've got a better chance for your intended building site not to be blocked by a tiki.

Of course, as more points are awarded for huts grouped together as well as for the most huts on each beach, as the game goes on you get more of an idea of where your opponents would prefer to build a hut. That's where the second guessing and the bluffing strategies come into play.

Once tikis have been placed, the first player reveals his or her remaing two cards. If the chosen site is free, they place a hut on that site. If a tiki occupies the chosen site, then nothing happens (apart from a little swearing and muttering of rude things) and the next player takes their turn.

If a site was free at the start of a turn, but another player has already built on that site before you this turn, then you miss out as well. The starting player changes each turn so you have a chance to get revenge later.

There is one other mechanic that makes things a little more interesting than simply building huts. Each player has two Paint cards which they can play at any time during the game. Once a Paint card is played, though, it's gone forever, so you only have two opportunities to paint during the game.

Instead of choosing to build a hut on a vacant site, you can choose to paint someone else's hut that is already on the board. To do this you simply declare a paint card when you select the three site cards. You must still reveal one of the three site cards to give your opponents an idea of where you might be choosing to paint.

When placing your tiki, if someone has chosen to paint this round, instead of placing it on an empty site, you can place it next to an existing hut. If the tiki is protecting a hut that someone has chosen to paint, the hut remains unpainted.

If, however, the target hut is unprotected, it is replaced by one of the painting player's huts. The replaced hut goes back to its owner and can be built or painted elsewhere (or indeed painted back to that same site) in a future round.

With only two Paint cards, it's unwise to play them too early. They are more useful later in the game when there are few empty sites or you are trying to maximise your points. It is also useful to keep track of how many Paint cards other players have remaining so you have chance to recapture a painted hut, or keep a hut painted in your colour.

The game ends in one of two ways. If one player has all 10 of their huts on the board at the end of a turn the game ends immediately. Alternatively, if all sites on a beach are occupied (either by a hut or a tiki) at the end of a turn, one more turn is played and the game then ends.

Once the game is over, it's time to score. Players are awarded 1 point per isolated hut (that is, a hut of their colour that is not immediately adjacent to another hut of their colour) on the board.

Neighbouring huts of the same colour are scored 1 point for the first hut, 2 points for the second hut, and 3 points for the third and any subsequent hut in the group. So, a group of three huts will score 6 points, while a group of four huts will score 9 points.

Each of the four beaches is then scored. The player with the most huts on a beach scores 4 points. If two players tie for the most number of huts on a beach they each score 2 points. if three or more players tie, then no points are awarded for that beach.

And that's it. There is a more advanced version of the game but we did not play it. in the game we had, Ian and I tied for the win on 16 points each. We each scored 10 points for our 9 huts (including 1 grouped pair each), 4 points for winning a beach, and 2 points for sharing a beach. The Giggling One finished third with 12 points. Bernd brought up the rear with 8 points after he took the lead late in the game and was targeted by the rest of us.

Maka Bana is a fun little game and relatively short. it can be played with up to 5 players, whough we played with 4. There's not too much strategy, and the most fun comes from the interaction involved with tiki placements. Both The Giggling One and I enjoyed this game.

Note: All images used in this post are taken from BoardGameGeek

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