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Tongiaki by Uberplay Entertainment
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Manufacturer: Uberplay Entertainment  Visit their site
Designer: Thomas Rauscher  "Interview"
Players: 2 to 6
Time: 30 to 45 Minutes
Mechanics: Tile Placement
Ages: 10 and up
Availability: Unavailable 
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Our Price:  $14.35 - Retail $19.99
Reward Points: 1,435
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From the Publisher...

300 AD: The Polynesians embarked on daring sailing trips and explored thousands of Pacific Islands. Driven by overpopulation and a desire for adventure, they set forth into the unknown on simple catamarans called Tongiakis. Each trip was a life-threatening journey, as land was often impossible to reach or the way home was cut off by strong currents. Suspense was their constant companion. Would the next current bring them to their goal or would it bring only the endless and dangerous sea?

Read more information at the Board Game Geek website

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Customer Raves - Write your own Rave about this game!
(Click on a person's name or game group to see other raves by the same person or group.

Lee Kok Khing

This is quite a fun game with a fair bit of luck elements. As such, it is quite a good candidate to introduce to kids as well. The kids especially like the idea of sinking other's ships and claim island as their royal island, "It's mine, my island" :-)

Nice exploration game with a nasty twist. I like that way you can send your opponents followers on doomed trips.

Theme is rather appropriate in this game about pacific islanders sailing off into the unknown - it's hard to know if you'll be blessed or cursed with each sail, and the greater the risk the greater the rewards (of sharing points with opponents). While this may seem unpredictable, experienced players can work to gain influence in already charted islands. All in all, it's light and fun, full of chance yet deceptively ripe for strategy. Also accommodates anywhere from two to six players deftly.

Theme is rather appropriate in this game about pacific islanders sailing off into the unknown - it's hard to know if you'll be blessed or cursed with each sail, and the greater the risk the greater the rewards (of sharing points with opponents). While this may seem unpredictable, experienced players can work to gain influence in already charted islands. All in all, it's light and fun, full of chance yet deceptively ripe for strategy. Also accommodates anywhere from two to six players deftly.


Smooth Sailing For One First-Time Designer

An interview with Thomas Rauscher

Uberplay's first release this year is Tongiaki, a unique tile-laying game designed by Thomas Rauscher. For those who haven't yet tried the game, Tongiaki offers a good mix of luck and strategy and it's presented very nicely with colorful tiles and plenty of little wooden boats. When it seems so many new releases are simply familiar mechanics and components, just combined in different ways, it's not surprising that a simple, fresh game like Tongiaki would easily catch the eye of a publisher. Still, I was a bit surprised to hear how quickly Mr. Rauscher found his way from idea to published game!

With some help from Jeremy Young of Uberplay, I had a chance to ask Mr. Rauscher a number of questions about his first published game. Here's what he had to say.

Mike Petty: Thomas, first of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Since this is your first published game, your name is very new to us. Could you start off by telling us a little about yourself?

Thomas Rauscher: Sure. I am 37 years old, married, having two children ages 5 and 6. In my regular job I am working as a software engineer for the IT Services of a large German insurance group. I have studied statistics which is, in Germany, quite less common than it is in the U.S.. I think that both my work and my studies form quite a good background for inventing games because I have learned to develop complex working systems as well as I am familiar with calculating probabilities - which helps you a lot while balancing a board game.

But surely these are not the only things one needs for designing a game and so I must also confess that my capacities concerning graphics and design are very very poor. But luckily there is good software around for these matters.

I am also very interested in geography and history and some of the things I read about may find themselves as the background for a board game - like Tongiaki.

Apart from this I enjoy normal hobbies like reading, music, soccer and, naturally, playing board games. I try to avoid computer games as much as I can because it would cost me too much time. Note I have two small kids so my free time is scarce. I have only played Tongiaki online two times in the Brettspielwelt.

MP: When it comes to gaming, then, what are some of your favorite games to play?

TR: My gaming interests are very widely spread. In general I mostly like games with strong ideas, whether it is a game of 30 minutes or a game of two hours and wether it is an abstract game or a theme-driven game. I prefer games with short rules although I don't fear long rules if they are due to real complexity. Amongst the complex games I love the most I can mention Vinci, Ursuppe, La Citta, L÷wenherz (by far the best Teuber game). By this choice you can see that I mostly like games where each player can following a different strategy, more than games which are merely tactical (like, for Example, El Grande or Puerto Rico - brilliant games, but not my first choice).

Amongst these games with strong ideas and short rules I can mention:

Blokus - Only with 4 players - an absolute mind twister.

Can't Stop - Not as much luck as one might think

Egghead -A game only for mad Mathematicians.

I don't like party games. I don't like Trivial pursuit, but I love Anno Domini. I don't like war games and stuff like Tabletop, but I love long historic games like Civilisation or Brittania. That's the only exception when I play four-hour games. I also love word games which few regular gamers do by my experience.

MP: Who are some designers that have most influenced or inspired your own designs?

TR: I am not really influenced by any particular designer. I try to evolve my ideas out of my regular life and out of the themes I am interested in. This does not mean that one cannot learn from other designers. I think that it is very important for a game designer to be a game player too, because by playing good games one can learn how good games are constructed. At least this is true for me because I have definitely learned a lot by playing all the games I just mentioned.

At least I am influenced by other games or other designers in the sense that I know about the ideas I would not use because too many designers already used them. A good example is scoring by majority. There are so many games nowadays where majorities are scored. I thought it would be a good idea for Tongiaki to develop a scoring system which does just the opposite--you must try to be in as many regions (islands) as possible regardless if you have any majority there or not.

MP: Speaking of your game, how did the idea for Tongiaki come about?

TR: The idea came from reading an article in GEO-Germany's leading geographic magazine, comparable to National Geographic-about the evolution of the Polynesian culture. A core theme of this article was about relics found on Tonga by some archeologists. These relics should prove that after 1000 years of stagnation the people suddenly sailed off from Tonga thus colonizing the rest of the Pacific ocean in a time span not longer than 300 years. Although there are some theories about overpopulation and desertification, nobody really knows why the first Polynesians stayed so long in Tonga and then suddenly went off so fast.

This story came into my mind and formed the basis concept of Tongiaki

MP: Do your ideas generally develop from a theme first like this?

TR: Not generally, but in many cases. As I am a little bit crazy about maps, I often start with a geographic or historic scenario which also gives me an idea about the board or the tiles. Sometimes the scenario also gives me an idea about the game mechanism, but sometimes I just start drawing a map for the board and then look for ideas. In fact I still have some maps which are looking for those good ideas.

One problem is that the 'World Game Map' has very few blank spaces - which means that there are not so many fresh themes left. Even with Tongiaki it is the case that it is only one of many games which are located in the Pacific Ocean. Take Kahuna, Clippers, or just recently Bonobo Beach.

MP: How long did you work on the game from the initial concept to the finished prototype?

TR: I almost do not dare to tell this, but it took, no kidding, only one month of work from the idea to the first prototype. We did three weeks of testing and it worked perfectly. After this I took another month to build a real pretty prototype which I then handed the agent of Schmidt Spiele. But this is not the normal case. I also have games I am still working on after two years.

MP: Wow, that is a quick design process! You say the game worked perfectly after some testing. What sort of things were you looking for from the players when you brought the prototype to the table?

TR: Three basic things:

1. Did they like the game?

2. Is the duration of the game stable and does the game lead to a thrilling end? It is always important to figure out if a player can ruin a game, for example, create a blocking situation and stuff like this by doing odd things.

3. Does the game offer the players the opportunity to follow different strategies and are none of these strategies dominant? If this is not the case you have a game that's working but not interesting. In Tongiaki there are three basic strategies:

  • stay on Tonga as long as you can and come over from behind.
  • go out fast but try to keep your boats together.
  • go out fast and try to spread out as much as you can.

Additionally--one could be cooperative or be mean. Any of those strategies can lead to a victory dependent on the position of the tiles and of the behavior of the other players

MP: So, do you have a playtesting group that meets regularly to test your designs?

TR: Yes. It is not my group but a group which meets every Wednesday and of which I am just a member. The people there play every game which is new at least once and they also normally are the first people who play my prototypes. Many small ideas you find in Tongiaki come from those people, for instance the red circle indicating where you place a tile.

The host of this group, Carsten Wesel, also runs a web site about games. Incidentally it has almost the same name as your website in German: So if you don't fear the German language, just have a look there. It's worthwhile. You can also find a photograph of me there but it's a very bad one.

MP: So you had a game you were very pleased with. Did the process of finding a publisher for Tongiaki prove to be as easy as the design process?

TR: In this case it was pretty easy because the agent sort of fell into my arms while we both were sitting in the same playing group. So I could play Tongiaki two times with him and afterwards I told him that he could keep the prototype if he liked. He did and not much later I had my first contract.

A circumstance which may have helped was the fact that at that time I had just achieved the first prize in the yearly Hippodice game designer competition. The game I won the contest with is called 'Aquadukt'. The game was much more complex than Tongiaki and I am still looking for a publisher for that one. So I'm quite aware of the fact that the publication of Tongiaki was a whole lot of good luck for me as an unknown game designer.

MP: Congratulations nonetheless-for Tongiaki and for being selected for the Hippodice competition!

How did it feel seeing the published version of Tongiaki for the first time?

TR: Very pleasing, although I was involved in the whole process of design and had seen the drafts for the tiles and the ships. But it was still different when I had the first game in my hands.

MP: Now that you've seen your first published game go from concept to mass production, which part of the process do you most enjoy?

TR: Definitely the part of game testing. Playing my own games with other people who don't mind if the first run is complete junk, then working on it and playing again till it's a good game.

MP: I've done a fair share of playtesting myself over the last few years, both with my designs and for other designers. I have to agree that it's a wonderful part of the creative process.

What has been the reaction of gamers to Tongiaki, particularly after its debut at Nurmberg?

TR: As far as I've heard, many people liked the game. Especially for three reasons: It's simple to explain, you can play it with two players as well as with six and it looks very colorful.

MP: Those do sound like great selling points! Thanks again for the time you've taken to do this interview. and we wish you the best for Tongiaki and your other designs!

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