Monday, October 07, 2013

It's Pretty...But Is It a Bora?

In the world of game publishers, Alea is one of the better known companies -- especially when it comes to eurogames.  Alea publishes several lines of games, but their most famous is known as the Alea Big Box Series.  Some pretty successful titles have been part of this lineup -- including Puerto Rico, Macao and Castles of Burgundy.  Now there's a new addition to this all star line-up: Bora Bora.  This is yet another 2013 release from Stephen Feld (Castles of Burgundy, Rialto and Trajan being the others) and the fourth of Feld's designs to be included in the Big Box collection.  So what's it all about and is this a title that might be of interest to you?  Well, here are a few thoughts by way of introduction to this fine title.

First of all, from a thematic perspective, in Bora Bora you'll be discovering, settling and suriving in the islands of French Polynesia. Well, you would be if this game had any thematic content at all! Friends and neighbours, in classic Feldian fashion, Bora Bora is about as euro as it comes. In fact, the only game I know of that's any more of a blatant VP grab is Troyes! Bora Bora is a euro game through and through, at every step it's all about maximizing the return on investment for every action that you take.

From a  production standpoint, there is a tonne of stuff inside this weighty box!  Bora Bora is simply chalk full of components, all of which have been beautifully and durably constructed.  The main board has been lavishly illustrated, the various tokens have been constructed from good thick cardboard stock and the individual player boards are clearly laid out and provide helpful player-aids. Ultimately, this is very well produced game that looks great on the table.and, in terms of bang-for-your-buck, you're definitely getting your money's worth here.    One further comment by way of the relationship between aesthetics and game-play: there is a great deal of iconography employed in Bora Bora.  As a result, although the icons are on the whole quite intuitive, there will definitely be a learning curve involved in terms of your first few plays.

Having said that, the rules are actually quite straight forward to learn and the game flows quickly and cleanly from stage to stage and turn to turn.  In terms of mechanics, Feld employs dice that you'll role and place as 'workers' in a manner that is quite similar to Castles of Burgundy.  In terms of overall game-play, this is wide open game that allows you to generate VP in multiple ways -- and in this regard it has a 'feel' that's quite a bit like Trajan.  Bora Bora has been designed to play with two to four players, and it plays very well with any number along that spectrum.  In particular, it provides a surprisingly satisfying two-player experience, one which plays in about sixty to ninety minutes.  With three or four you can count on a more tense and competitive game that plays out in a solid ninety minute timeframe.  Bora Bora also offers considerable replayability, in so far as your strategic and tactical choices will be guided by task tiles which are randomly assigned from a large supply at the start of the game (although later tasks can be chosen from an available supply).  As such, you'll be forced to acquire points in different ways each game.  Ultimately, this is solidly middle weight euro that, while not inaccessible to new comers, is probably best appreciated by a relatively seasoned gamer.

So, if you're looking for a true-blue euro that's beautiful, scales well between two to four, offers challenges and tough decisions without melting your brain, and allows for lots of replayability, well then Bora Bora is definitely worth checking out!

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