Bora Bora - Board Game Box Shot

Bora Bora

| Published: 2013
96 10 9

Stake your fortunes in the mysterious island world of Bora Bora. Journey across islands, building huts where the resilient men and women of your tribes can settle, discovering fishing grounds and collecting shells. Send priests to the temples, and gather offerings to curry favor with the gods.

In Bora Bora, players use dice to perform a variety of actions using careful insight and tactical planning. The heart of the game is its action resolution system in which 5-7 actions are available each round, the exact number depending on the number of players. Each player rolls three dice at the start of the round, then they take turns placing one die at a time on one action. Place a high number on an action, and you'll generally get a better version of that action: more places to build, more choices of people to take, better positioning on the temple track, and so on. Place a low number and you'll get a worse action – but you'll possibly block other players from taking the action at all as in order to take an action you must place a die on it with a lower number than any die already on the action.

Three task tiles on a player's individual game board provide some direction as to what he might want to do, while god tiles allow for special actions and rule-breaking, as gods are wont to do. The player who best watches how the game develops and uses the most effective strategy will prevail.

User Reviews (5)

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9
USA
I play blue
Paladin
Master Grader
10
129 of 137 gamers found this helpful
“Give me Mora Mora of Bora Bora”

First off, let me apologize for my title. I should have resisted but failed.

Second, let me admit that I am a huge fan of Stefan Feld so many might consider my thoughts too biased (although I do not like every one of his titles).

Third, let me direct you to Outlier Joe and X-hawk for detailed descriptions of game play. I don’t think repeating their detail is particularly useful for you so I will refrain.

Fourth, let me finally get to the review.

REVIEW

Stefan Feld is a master of taking a game mechanic and then developing it in a unique way to make a masterful game. In Bora Bora he does this with dice worker placement.

In Bora Bora you are developing your tribe attempting to be the dominant one by the end of the game (competing against one to three more tribes). In order to do this you claim territory, settle islands, recruit members, trade/purchase items, and develop religion. In order to do any of these things you roll dice that will be placed on your desired action. The brilliant trick is that once you place one of your die on one of the action spaces no one else can go there (including yourself) unless they have a dice number lower than the one you placed. This ultimately means that for a fantastic Euro there is a lot of interaction and blocking done to other players.

For better or worse (and in my mind it is for the better), Bora Bora definitely falls into Feld’s “point salad” reputation. All actions earn you points, the trick is spotting opportunities, working efficiently, and dealing with setbacks. There are definitely multiple paths to victory and you have the ability to make up a lot of ground on leaders.

Components

The component quality is high and the board and color are much more vibrant than your typical Euro. The player boards are arguably too busy but carry a lot of helpful information. There are a lot of bits to keep track of to be sure so set up is a little bit of a chore.

Conclusion

Simply put, Bora Bora is my favorite Feld (beating out Trajan which is probably his most impressive design). The replayability is off the charts and though there is a lot to explain initially, new players can pick it up quickly and be competitive. Interaction is high but not really mean and the need to make challenging decisions abounds.

Bora Bora is Eurogaming at its best.

 
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4
Novice Reviewer
Intermediate Grader
10
129 of 138 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A Vibrant Puzzling Euro-style Masterpiece. Thematic gamers beware.”

Quick Summary
You can’t really talk about Bora Bora without using the phrase “Stefan Feld”, who has sort of his unique feel of a designer. He’s almost has his own genre of games. When you play a Feld game, it becomes the baseline of which you judge all over Feld games. Bora Bora is a “Feldian” point salad game that takes place in a Pacific Archipelago. Players are running tribes which are settling islands, building huts, and presenting offerings to gain favor with the gods.

Primary Mechanics

Dice Rolling & Placement
The game centers around each player having and rolling three dice in their color. Each player will then place a die on an action spot to show which action they will use with that die. The catch is, every die placed must be lower than the lowest die on an action spot. There are several actions available, but how a dice is used for those actions is done in a similar way. The higher the die is placed, the greater your options are for that action. The lower the die is placed, the more you’ll be able to block other players from taking or benefiting from that action. This creates a humorous situation where everyone seems unhappy with their dice roll. Roll high, you’ll get blocked. Roll low, your options won’t get large benefits.
The action spots vary in what they do, which includes gaining men or women workers, expanding by land and sea, placing priests in the temple, build your village, or adjust several aspects of your player board and cards.

God Cards
To help assist with the strategy and mitigate some aspects of the dice, there are God Cards which you can play, paired with an offering. The cards come in several varieties, such as being able to place a die when it normally would be blocked, or treating a low numbered die as a 6. The cards cover most phases in the game.

Task Tiles
A central part of the game’s tension comes from the task tiles. At the beginning of the game, you are given 3 task tiles. They are all unique from each other, and may include tasks such as having 3 of the same god cards, having a number of specific type of men and/or women, having a lot of different men/women. Having a number of a type of resource. They are tasks which pretty much are related to every aspect of the game. The big catch is you need to be able to complete a different task tile every round. At the very end of the game, you’ll also want to complete EVERY task tile you have remaining for bonus points. These task tiles will really be a huge tactical aspect in the midst of your overall strategy.

Point Salad
Feld games became the inspiration for the term “Point Salad” which refers to being able to gain points in such a huge variety of ways. In Bora Bora, you can sometimes just gain some points because there’s nothing better to do. The end of the game can take a while tallying up all the points because there are several categories which you can earn points and gain bonus points. You’ll gain points at the end of each round, and sometimes you’ll gain points in the middle of a round.

Balance & Difficulty
The game is actually pretty straightforward in a lot of ways. You roll your dice, you place your dice in order, and when you place a die, you do the thing. Gain some points, and whoever has the most points, wins. But the game really can sometimes be unforgiving. You didn’t complete a task? You not only lost out on points for that round, now you can’t get a bonus at the end of the game. And with a game this tight, that bonus can be the difference between a win and a loss. The good news is there are God cards with can mitigate a lot of that, you just have to make sure you have offerings. But now you’re spending actions to gain offerings and god cards, and not spending it on taking other actions which can further your strategy. Sometimes you have to just forego your losses to try and make ground through other means.
With a lot of dice centered games, it can feel very swingy, and if you don’t roll well, you’ll lose. I never found that to be the case with Bora Bora. Rolling low often hurts your opponent just as much as it hurts you. And sometimes, with the god cards, you can pull some very mean combinations, such as placing a “1” die with a god card that treats it like a 6. You’ve essentially maxed out your benefit while blocking everyone else from taking that action.
The game has parts that allows it to scale between 2-4 to keep conflict existing, but options still numerous.

Theme
While the mechanics and theme aren’t at odds with each other, they don’t really complement each other either. All games are some sort of abstract of something, but often times the mechanics really simulate the theme. I can’t say Bora Bora is a game that does that. Nothing really feels like a “thematic” experience. The mechanics don’t really enforce the theme as it’s more of just being present with the theme. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what the role of the player is. Tribal chief? Island manager? Sea Shell Broker? Tribal Tattoo Logistics Coordinator?
Components
– Main Board – The main board is very functional. It depicts the islands, has some player aid of the order a rounds goes. It is very colorful and straightforward. The onyl thing that can be a little hard to spot would be the location of where fish tiles go (Which has a role with scoring and starting locations). On one side of the board, it is well laid out and is layed out in order of what happens when the third phases of the round happens. The jewelry tiles can be used as a round tracker as a column of jewelry disappears every round. The board is average thickness and doesn’t take up that much space.

– Player Board – The Player Board is very overwhelming for first time players. But it really fills two functions. The left side of the board is a very helpful player aid, that illustrates what the god cards do, their associated costs, what a “fire action” is, and what that “hand holding a dice” action actually does. The center-and right side of the board is essentially where you will put all of your “stuff”. Spots for the huts that you can build, a place for your men and women tiles to be. Where your resources go for constructing your village. A little place for jewelries, bonus god tiles. After a quick briefing of everything, it really makes a lot of sense.

– Action Spots – These are essentially large chits. The game is language independent, so they use some iconography that will take a bit of explanation.

– Dice – The dice are a light plastic with. They seem to be average in quality, with rounded corners. Nothing you’ll be chucking long distances. Just a roll in your hands and set-down type of thing. Pips will fade over extensive use.
– Cards – The god cards are very standard mini-euro cards. A bit difficult to shuffle, and the art doesn’t don’t bleed to the white edge. They’ll scuff over time, but that shouldn’t present any significant imbalance. Only sleeve if you’re obsessive or you expect to play the game extensively.

– Chits – There is a small tree’s worth of cardboard chits with this game. There are two types of task tiles which can be very challenging to differentiate from each other, so you’ll want to try and keep those separated from each other. There are a ton of jewelry tiles, task tiles, men tiles, women tiles. There are Bonus god tiles, and dice tiles and fish tiles. The quality on all of them is pretty good, but the print can feel a little bit flimsy on some of them, so be careful when punching.

– Temple Pieces – There are tiny plastic temple figures in each player. They are very small and roll very easily. You’ll want to keep these from the edge of the table.

– Wooden Pieces – The huts, score tracker, and tattoo tracker are standard and decent quality. No odd cuts in my experiences.

– Insert – The game doesn’t come with any sort of insert. but there is a very nice looking box liner on the inside. You’ll want to be obsessive with sandwich bags or Really Useful Boxes (Found at Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, etc.)

– Rulebook – The rulebook is pretty good, but often times vague. There have been several scenarios where things just didn’t seem to really be clear, so we had to discuss what was the most fair. That can be frustrating, but it isn’t hard to reference at all. Overall, it will teach the game pretty well.

Art
Very vibrant colors and design. It has great use of complementary yet contrasting colors. When it is all set up, I find the game to be visually stunning.

Replay Value
There are so many varieties of strategies, tasks, goals, and tactics to extract from this game. It has some variable setup and a lot of random elements, but none of them detract from the strategic depth of the game. If it’s a game you like once, you’ll like it after many plays.

Who May Be Interested in it?
People who like Stefan Feld/Point Salad games should like this one. It’s a bit more high in conflict and meanness than some of his other games. Anybody who is looking for an easy to learn, difficult to master board game. Those that are looking for an interesting dice mechanic that isn’t about pure chance but fair and strategic should consider this game.

Who Should Avoid it?
People who find a lot of games to be “Spreadsheets”, or too much about numbers should avoid this one. It has great strategy but it’s a lot of number crunching. It can present a lot of analysis paralysis for players. If one is looking for a rich thematic experience, they should just walk past this one.

Final Conclusion
Bora Bora is complex and ever changing masterpiece of a puzzle. The task tiles have a lot to make-or-break you, and you need to be careful to make sure you dictate them and that they don’t dictate you. This is my favorite game designed by Stefan Feld, and one of my favorite games period. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, but for a baseline of what I like in games, this is a good sample. Casual and Social gamers may enjoy it, but it wouldn’t be one I’d reach for them. This will be more down the ally of Power and Strategy Gamers. Avid gamers may find themselves on either side of the fence.

About my reviews.
The purpose isn’t to teach you how to play the game. This review isn’t to reinforce any type of confirmation bias. While I may apply a numeric rating, it would be my desire you ignore that number while reading my reviews. What I want to do is highlight notable aspects of the game and critique the game to help you decide if you think it may be something that interests you. I don’t believe it is good for people to make uninformed purchases. Thanks for your time.

 
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5
Video Game Fan
Explorer - Level 3
Book Lover
6
128 of 138 gamers found this helpful
“Colorful and Inviting but Not for the Relaxed Gamer”

Someone in my weekend gaming group happened to ask if anyone wanted to play this and I jumped at the chance. It sounded unique and the board looked colorful and inviting so I thought, why not!

I won’t go deep into the scoring or how to play as the previous reviews do a good job here. To me, this feels like a mashup of Kingsburg and Lords of Waterdeep, but even more complex and with more to remember.

For a first game, it took about two hours so not too bad considering out of the four of us only one had played before. I imagine if we all played again then it would probably be spot on for the estimated hour and a half. Set up is easy but it can take a little bit of time organizing them, with a lot of small pieces needing to be set off to the side, so I would recommend Not playing with young children or pets around that could disrupt.

Pros: Great for the complex thinkers in your gaming group. Someone who is strategic and thinks ahead will probably enjoy it, though may find the randomness of the dice frustrating. A friend, who arrived late, was very interested in this game after seeing how many different mechanics are at play – so I think it is a very appealing game to some. If you have a group of players who are all into these complex style games, then I think they would have an absolute blast together.

Cons: It is a LOT to juggle in the back of your mind, I had a hard time maintaining focus throughout the entire game and probably could have benefited from a coffee break mid way through. Its not ‘hard’ but just a lot of different things to be thinking through at once. I was running a bit slow from being sick earlier in the week so perhaps if I play this again I won’t have the same sluggish feeling by the end, but even my husband who hadn’t been sick felt the same way just to a lesser degree. Because it a lot to process at once, I am not sure it could keep the attention of kids for an entire game so wouldn’t recommend for a family game. If you or your family prefer relaxed games, this is probably not the game for you.

Overall, I think everyone should try this game if they can. Its fun, different, and at the very least a colorful game to spend an afternoon figuring out.

 
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8
Norway
Plaid Hat Games fan
AEG fan
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
7
128 of 139 gamers found this helpful
“Works for beginners as well as more experienced players”

Bora Bora is a ‘worker placement’ euro game themed South Sea Islands with resources and gods (not goods).

The game is for 2-4 players and takes 60-120 minutes to play.
The quality of everything is great, from playing cards to the board and all of the cardboard pieces (money (shells), missions, men, women, offerings to the gods, etc.)

Each player is dealt their own game board. Left section of the board consist of a summary of the rules, the middle part is a sacrificial platform with sacrificial tiles, place for treasures and god-tiles, and the right side consists of cabins, room for male / female tiles and missions.
In addition each player get 3 dice, four priests and a few pieces for counting points and status.

The main board is divided into two parts where the left side is a map is the five islands that is Bora Bora and on the right you will find the status track (player order), treasury area (which also serves as the counting of rounds), available missions and men and women tiles.
Around the edge of the main board is the scoring track, here depicted as flowers (!).

In addition Bora Bora comes with 7 ‘action boards’ that determines which activities you can do.

Bora Bora plays over 6 rounds and each round consists of three phases:

A: Action Phase
Each player rolls their 3 dice. In the order of play you place your chosen die on one of the ‘action boards’ to do certain actions; build a hut on the main board to make room for a man / woman of your own game board, place a priest in the temple, build a ceremonial platform, use one-time property of a man or women etc. There are a number of things you can do. But – if you want to use the same action as another player has made, you can only place a die with fewer eyes than one already played on that ‘action board’. This means that you cannot always do what you want and that it pays to be first.
Once all players have placed their 3 dice and made the respective actions, you go to the next phase.

B: Using male / female characteristics (not the once-per-game ones)
In this phase each player get to use 1 man and 1 woman action among the inhabitants you have on your game board. If you don’t have either or any, you won’t be able to do anything in this phase. These actions may be building new cabins on the main board, recruit new men / women, get money, make offerings, draw god cards etc). If you have two or more of the same *** with the same property, you get the double or triple effect (eg one can take 2 or 3 “shells” instead of only one)

C: Final phase
The final phase (in lack of a better word) consists of four steps:
1. Count the points in the status track and score victory points according to the table there. This also determines the order of play
2. The one with the highest number of priests in the temple get the one God-chip (can be used as an optional god cards or points when counting point at game end). In addition, you get victory points based on how many priests you have the temple.
3. In (new) play order, buy 1 any treasure from the current rounds offer (if you have the money for it)
4. Solve a mission and score victory points

Before the new round begins you will have to remove remaining treasure and renew mission and male / female tiles on the main board – rinse and repeat!

This is a little above average complex worker placement game with excellent opportunities for strategy. At the end of the game you can acquire a number of points if you manage to do all possible actions per game round (build sacrificial platform, put out all of 12 huts, purchase treasure, fill up your village with male / female tiles etc).
This mechanism makes Bora Bora a game that you can introduce to new players (though a bit to familiarize themselves) and strategist who will try to exploit their actions to the maximum.

Although the game is partially dice-driven (and thus a bit of luck), Bora Bora comes with 5 different god cards. These can change the effect of your dice but you then have to pay an offering. This makes the game even more interesting.

I bought Bora Bora to have an alternative to Carcassonne when I play with my girlfriend. After playing it I see many layers (strategically) of playing this game and thus won’t think twice about introducing my gaming group to Bora Bora.

 
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2
Gamer - Level 2
6
109 of 137 gamers found this helpful
“"Boring Boring" despite tight mechanics”

Pros: The graphic art and components are well done, and are nice and colorful. The mechanisms in the game are well designed, and as is typical with Feld games there are a lot of choices (perhaps too many) and a lot of pathways to get points.

Cons: The theme seemed pasted on, in a two player game the hut expansion mechanic does not work very well, and the game in total (for me) was just simply un-engaging. There are too many choices and items for each player to keep track of necessitating analysis paralysis at almost every stage of the game (and given the lack of theme this AP just caused the game to drag on – even though overall it was not a long game). Unfortunately during the game, it seemed like I was performing actions just for the sake of performing actions (i.e. build a hut, place a pile of sand on the “ceremonial platform,” get a tatoo, receive a shell etc.). When I finished the first game I wanted to put the game away instead of giving it another go (never a good sign).

Conclusion: Overall, the game is well-designed but for me it simply was too much to keep track of and just not fun. If I am going to invest the time to set up and play a game like Bora Bora I would much rather play Terra Mystica or Belfort.

 

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