Monday, 14 November 2011


Plays: 2Px4.

The Game

Maori is a tile placement game and a build-up-your-own-play-area game. The theme is about discovering islands, but it's pretty thin. I ordered this game a long time ago after reading some favourable reviews. I thought it might be suitable as a 2-player game with my wife Michelle. Something quick, easy to set up, but not too light. Now that I have played it, it turned out to be trickier than I had expected. And Michelle completely slaughtered me. And this is not even an accountant game like Power Grid or Factory Manager, so she doesn't have a professional advantage over me. I have yet to make my first win.

In Maori there is a ship sailing around a 4x4 grid of tiles. On your turn you must move the ship and then you can claim the tile next to the ship, or another one in the same column if you are willing to pay. You place these tiles on your player board, and when one player's board fills up, the game ends, and you score based on how well you have assembled your island nation. Sounds simple?

The 4x4 grid at the centre of the table, from which players pick up tiles to add to their player boards. I arrange the tiles so that all palm trees point at the same direction, so that it's easier to read.

What's tricky is the various restrictions on how you can place the tiles. The game comes with a number of variants, and each of them introduces additional rules, restrictions or scoring opportunities. We started with the basic game, and with each subsequent game, we introduced new advanced rules. In the base game, palm trees must point north. Islands stretch either north-south or east-west. The available spaces on your player board is itself a restriction, because to fill it up you need to get the right tiles. Single tile islands and ship tiles, although often not high-scoring, are attractive because they are convenient. You don't need to worry about finding a matching island tile to complete the island. When you add the first variant, you gain your own ship on your own board, which you can move around, but on your next turn you must place your new tile next to your ship. With the second variant, you can't move your ship anywhere you want. You must always move it to the most recently placed tile. These additional rules force you to plan well ahead how to construct and complete your board.

Ship icons allow you to move the common ship at the 4x4 grid further, giving more flexibility in picking tiles you want. Shells have various uses, e.g. picking tiles not directly adjacent to the common ship, moving the common ship further, moving your personal ship etc. Both also score bonus points at game end, but only if you have the most.

My player board. The game has ended, so I will have to remove the two tiles on the bottom right because the island is incomplete. Scoring methods are summarised on the right side of the player board.

Game components: common ship, shell, tile back, volcano tile (a special tile which cannot be picked by players, and blocks players from picking tiles beyond it), a regular tile with 3 palm trees.

The Play

In the first few games that I played, I might have been too ambitious and also too liberal in my spending of shells. In the end I couldn't complete some big islands before Michelle ended the game, and I had to discard those half-done islands. So instead of scoring big, I was penalised for the empty spaces on my board. Michelle had been thrifty with her shells, and had also been careful in collecting ship icons. These gave her many points at game end. I lost by a mile.

As we added more and more advanced rules, the game became more and more interesting. It plays as quick as a filler, but the long-term planning of how to move your personal ship, the denying your opponent of tiles she wants, the push to end the game before your opponent is ready, the positioning of the common ship to help your next turn, all make the experience very fulfilling and challenging. This game is not as easy as it looks. Well, at least not when playing with all the advanced rules. This is not Carcassonne-like at all. It is tighter and tougher. It is just different; they should not be compared.

I still have not been able to beat Michelle. I came close, and really thought I could win, but alas, it was not enough. Rematch!

Michelle's completed player board. She even has a completed flower circle, which is worth 10pts (which is a lot).

My player board, using the advanced rules (that's why you see my green personal ship). This is a big improvement compared to my first few games, but I still lost to Michelle.

The Thoughts

Maori looks pleasant enough, but is actually quite tricky. I guess you can play in a more relaxed way by only playing the basic game, but I prefer to have the advanced rules added, at least the first two variants. It becomes a game with lots of tactical opportunities and lots to think about, and yet is still quick. I wouldn't call this a filler game though, or recommend it to be played as one, unless you stick to the basic game.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).


Anonymous said...

thanks for the review.

I played it online at yucata and didn't like it much, but I just played the basic game.The truth is that I really felt it was a bit "carcassonnish".

I will give it another try.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hope you'll enjoy the advanced versions more. I find that often something is lost in translation when boardgames are ported over to the computer platform. Perhaps it's just the fact that boardgames are designed and meant to be played face-to-face. With computer implementations, I find that sometimes things move too quickly and you don't get to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak.