Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 1 August 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Tuki

Game: Tuki

Publisher: Next Move Games

Designer: Grzegorz Rejchtman

Year: 2019

Tuki has some big shoes to fill! Next Move's first game was Azul - now a Spiel des Jahres winner and probably one of the biggest selling games of recent years - a true modern classic. They followed up with Reef - another family weight game with stacking Duplo-like coral that really won me over and was actually a game that I enjoyed more than Azul. Over time, Azul has had the staying power, but both games are still in our collection.

Following suit, with a four letter name and an abstract feel, Tuki - themed around the inukshuk's of the Inuit culture. I've certainly spent some time on pebble beaches in Vancouver trying to recreate their well known inukshuk monument - symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympics. I am not so skilled at stacking pebbles, but I'm known to be pretty adept at speed games, so let's see how Tuki plays out.

Tuki is a dexterity, stacking game for 1-4 players...but there are only three sets of pieces in the game. A set of pieces consists of 4 coloured length 5 bricks and 4 white tetris-shape pieces. In each turn, a card will be drawn showing either three coloured sticks (on normal mode) or 4 coloured sticks (in expert mode) arranged next to each other. You need to build a monument that matches the card, but all the cards would be impossible to build without using the white 'snow' bricks as supports. A roll of the dice determines which of three orientations the card will be placed at and will also let you know if the coloured bricks should be build directly on the table or on top of a layer of snow. It's a race for all players to try and build the same thing. The last player to build it correctly (or the player who makes a mistake) will gain a point, and like golf scoring, most points loses.

In our household, speed games, especially those involving the part of the brain that is good at spatial reasoning and puzzles, are my domain. In general, Amy doesn't stand a chance because these kind of games just rely upon a skill that some people are better at than others. On the easy mode - speed won every time and so it was pretty pointless for us to even play the game. Fortunately the hard mode was truly challenging and it wasn't a case of who can build this fastest, but it was really a true puzzle to solve, which meant speed of building was a much smaller factor in who would win any given round. The hard puzzles are super satisfying and really rely on some creative thinking and counter balancing. We've found every puzzle to be possible, but if you're really stuck then there is a resource for all of the solutions online.

Tuki does not lack variety as a game. The stack of cards is huge, plus each one is double sided. Then each card has three orientations and you can build it with or without the layer of snow. I kind of think it hardly matters about the card variety though, since you're unlikely to recall a specific solution. In spite of obvious design efforts to include replayability, I just don't feel it when I play. Puzzles are fun, but ultimately I kind of feel like "if I've solved one, then I've solved them all" - I just don't have a desire to play again.

Next Move Games make great looking games and Tuki is no exception. It's quite basic when compared to Azul or Reef, with pretty heavy pieces with a weird soapy texture to them. The card holder works well as a way to prevent anyone from seeing an upcoming card in advance. When you stack the pieces you  create something impressive, although not as photogenic as many other stacking games, due to the skinny nature of the pieces. It's a game that might be interesting to the puzzle lovers in your life, perhaps those of a younger age group in particular.

I would limit my recommendation to groups of three players though. I'm at a bit of a loss to understand how it's a four player game. Player four gets to roll the dice each round, because there's only pieces of three players to stack. Was this a choice made for cost reasons to limit the number of parts in the game? Did something come up in playtesting? What's wrong with writing 1-3 players on the box? The only time I can see this being of any interest is if you want to teach a young player the skill of assessing the structure vs the picture to see if it's correct. Yes, this inactive player rotates each round, but why is it there?!

There's no way that a single publisher will put out consecutive hits. Days of Wonder are often thought of as a publisher who make their one big game a year and it's always a big one, but we conveniently forget Cargo Noir, or Mystery Express as games that didn't take off. I recall that Renegade Games had amazing early success, but as their catalog grew, they have hits and misses and that's just to be expected. Next Move Games were 2 for 2 with me and maybe I naively hoped for 3 out of 3 (excluding Stained Glass of Sintra which is also good, but a bit of a variant on Azul in my mind). Tuki is an average dexterity game, and an average speed game. I enjoy the puzzle, but it's barely a game and if it is a game, then it's 2 or 3 players only. For the Yellow Meeple it's an activity with short lived appeal and Tuki is a 5.5/10.

Tuki was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £38.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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