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Vanuatu - Board Game Box Shot


, | Published: 2011
29 4 2

In Vanuatu, you are a Vanuatuan who wants to prosper during the eight turns of the game. In order to prosper, you have to manage with natural resources, rare items, vatus (local currency) and tourists. To earn money or prosperity points, you may also draw on the sand, carry tourists all over Vanuatu islands, or trade cargo with foreign countries.

On each turn, the archipelago expands and you have to program your actions with five tokens. You put one or more of them on the chosen action spaces, and on your turn, you will only be able to play an action if you have the majority on its space. Thus, sometimes have to wait for other players to remove their tokens by playing their actions. If you are not in majority anywhere, you have to remove all of your tokens from an action and give up hope of playing this action. A good strategy lets you block other players; for example, they won't be able to sell fishes if they haven't caught them first – order matters! Islands and sea resources are rare, so be quick and take them first!

Vanuatu game in play
images © Asterion Press

User Reviews (2)

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Gamer - Level 8
Explorer - Level 5
Critic - Level 3
17 of 17 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A cruel and great design”

Vanuatu might be another point salad euro game, but it is for sure one of the cruelest and cutthroat euros around. It demands great planning from a player to get the most of your action pawns and sometimes an entire round will be wasted because of gamble. As the game only last 8 rounds this can seem very cruel and not fun for the victim, but this is also why Vanuatu stands out from the crowd.


Vanuatu lasts for 8 turns and each turn has 5 phases.
1) Turn setup (Preparing the board for a new turn)
2) Character selection
3) Action Planning
4) Performing Actions
5) Rest tokens (Determining start player)

On your turn you’ll have 10 characters to choose from which will aid in the 9 different actions available to you. The start player will choose character first, but he may only choose from the unselected from the previous round before putting back his previous which player two now may choose in addition to the characters left by the start player and so on until all players have picked a character. 9 of the 10 characters will aid you by making an action cheaper or earning more points/vatus for you while the last will help you get in getting an action done.

Action planning and performing them is where Vanuatu separates itself from the crowd. Each player has 5 action discs and in turn order everyone places 2 of these, then 2 and finally the last. After placing them you get a chance to perform actions but here is the catch. You can only perform an action if you have the majority on that space, in other words you’ll have to have more action discs on a space than any other player with turn order being the tiebreak which is natural you’re placing your discs first. The rather cruel part of this is if you do not have a majority you’ll still have to remove your action disc(s) for a space which in turn may have the change effect of destroying your entire turn which is bound to chase away casual gamers.


There are 9 possible actions to choose from on where to place your action discs and you really do not want to compete too much (which of course is inevitable).

Sail: Pay 1-3 vatus to move your boat (where your boat is will det
Build: Pay 3 vatus to build a stall
Explore: Take a treasure tile
Buy: Buy 1 good cube and place on a boat to earn points
Fish: Take a fish tile
Draw: Make a sand drawing to score 3 points
Transport: Ship a tourist to an island and earn vatus
Sell: May sell fish tiles to receive vatus
Rest: May choose from the available rest tokens

Several of the actions are depending on the placing of your boat. For example you may only explore and fish on the tile your boat is on and to perform an island action your boat has to be adjacent to that island.
Another feature of Vanuatu is that you’re never allowed to get rich. Whenever you reach 10 vatus you’ll receive 5 points and are set back to 0 again so it is very important to balance your economy.


Vanuatu is as mentioned not for the casual gamer and it is not for someone who takes blocking to personal because that will happen. A lot! Instead, those who enjoy a good brainburner and are rewarded for good planning will find a lot of pleasure here, evil pleasure but lots of pleasure.

On a final note, while Vanuatu is a game for 3 to 5 players, it will run mighty different between those numbers. With 3 players you will be able to get a lot more done as you can spread your action discs, while in a 5 player game you’ll have to pick your fights. Don’t forget, missing one action may render the other 2-3 actions you were hoping to get done useless so sometimes you will have to take sub optimal moves and rather wait a turn.

Player Avatar
Critic - Level 2
12 of 24 gamers found this helpful
“easy and deep”

Vanuatu is simple to learn and deep to play. There are many ways to do prosperity points. Most of its mechanics are taken from other famous games (like Puerto Rico) but they are well mixed togheter and work very well. The game has a good interaction during the “actions selection” fase where players can hinder each other especially if played in 5.
Currently I played the game 3 times and I like the different possibilities the game offers for victory. You can’t plan long-term strategies because there are too many variables to consider for this. You have to try your best in the short medium term.
The components are quite good, the graphics is ok (from my point of view it could be better…).

PS: sorry for my english: I have to improve it 🙂


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