by Thomas Rauscher
Some people like chaos in games, some people don't. One of the objections I've heard to chaotic games is "lack of control". I don't like games that have a lack of control, but I don't think "chaotic games" necassarily have a lack of control. Rather, a chaotic game is exactly about control and coercing a complex system (usually with some random elements) to produce the desired effects while other players attempt the same. This conflict sometimes causes the game machinery to produce dramatically variable effects. Some games I'd put in this put in this category include RoboRally, FinstereFlure and Druidenwalzer. I very much like the first two and am somewhat more moderate in my enthusiasm for Druidenwalzer. I'd put Tongiaki in this category, somewhere between the two groups in quality.
I've only played with 3 and 4 players, as I heard the chaos makes the game less pleasant with more, unless that's the desired effect. (side note: I feel much the same way about FinstereFlure). The game machinery and randomness make many of the moves substantial risks, with often unexpected side effects, but the machinery of the game is predictable enough to allow for interesting play and a (to me) very engaging experience. I even think it manages to fairly reasonably evoke the theme. The key mechanic of the game, sending expeditions off into the uknown provokes the decision: send an expedition of mostly my opponents, assuming they will fail, or participate substantially oneself to receive the reward. As the game progresses, there are opportunities for clever play that can mitigate some of these simpler risks and complicate the decisions further.
The randomness introduced by the tile draw is substantial, but no more so than in many games, and the expedition rules are not so hard to fathom that they are unexploitable. To me, this is the pleasure of the game: trying to coerce the complex system into producing effects more beneficial to me than my opponents. Overall, this is definitely a chaotic game, and I'd try it with 4 before 6, but the chaos is largely of the pleasant kind. Further, the fact that it plays quickly and is fairly light in feel make the chaos and complexity feel appropriate. Recommended, if you like controllable chaos.
Tongiaki info on boardgamegeek
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