What is it?
The peaceful and prosperous island of Tahiti needs your help to collect goods from neighboring islands (they have outgrown their own). There are dangerous seas and reefs ahead as you race other chieftains seeking blessings from the Gods.
In Tahiti, a board game by David E. Whitcher, you are using your canoe to explore the archipelago of nearby islands in order to find much needed goods and resources. Each round goods (represented as cubes) are pulled from a bag and placed on islands of specific color. You must move your canoe to these islands collecting resource cubes and returning to the island of Tahiti to drop them off. Your actions are dictated by the number of rowers you have on your canoe. Replacing rowers with extra recourses will slow you down but will progress you faster on your tableau.
Tahiti is basically a pickup-and-deliver game with a small push your luck element. The islands have lines representing reefs that are dangerous to cross. If you decide to cross one you must pull cubes from the bag. If any pulled cubes match the resources on your canoe then you lose that resource. This cleverly creates paths that are more risky than others.
You can tell the designer put a lot of thought into this game with the mechanism used to explore the island. Each turn you move the fertility goddess Haumea around the edge of the board, new tiles are placed next to her and two other tiles. Resources are then placed on them, and the action is repeated next turn. Once all tiles are out she disappears and resources become scarce. This mechanic is easy to understand and also creates a nice story arc.
I am a huge fan of pickup-and-deliver games. However most of them take a long time to play and have rules that are complex for new gamers. Explaining and playing “Merchant of Venus”, for example, can sometimes take a whole game night. I was pleased to hear about Tahiti as a light and approachable entry into the genre. Tahiti is very much a family game, although it may be a bit too light for most players. I find the game to be fairly abstract yet pleasant. There isn’t much player-on-player conflict and decisions are few and fairly easy to make. I do wish deliveries were scattered around the board. Instead, I get this “out and in” again feel for each game as you always return to the center to drop off goods. Also, the rule where you can not have more then one good if you have different resources on your canoe feels puzzley to me and not thematic.
Overall, I liked the game. But found myself wishing there was more. There is nothing technically wrong with the game and we all had a good time playing it. However, I feel multiple games will become a bit similar to the last and hurt the longevity of Tahiti. I think the “sweet spot” is as a family friendly “pickup-and-deliver” gateway game for people new to gaming.