Tahiti Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 60 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Island hopping is the new resource gathering


  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek mixed!


American playwright, essayist, and figure in twentieth-century American theater, Arthur Miller, said “Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action?” In this game, you live on a beautiful tropical island that is rich with beauty, but not with resources. You must brave the ocean and visit nearby islands in hopes of finding what you need to survive. Be smart or your paradise will turn into a hell.

Tahiti, designed by David E. Whitcher and published by Minion Games, is comprised of 1 Haumea pawn, 80 Goods cubs (in five different colors, 16 per color), 4 Canoe (Wa’a) pawns, 4 Player boards, 1 Start player marker, 1 Home Island tile, 18 Island tiles, 3 Water tiles, 7 Favorite Crop tiles, 14 Depletion tokens, 1 Turn Sequence reference tile, and 1 bag. The component quality is excellent (which is what I have come to expect from Minion Games). Solid wood pieces and thick tiles. Artist Chuck Whelon has made each game bit colorful, further enhancing the game playing experience.

Prepare to Launch the Wa’a

To set up the game, first place the Home Island tile in the middle of the playing area. Use the side that matches the number of players in the game.

Second, place the Water tiles on the side of the Home Island tile that is open and free (i.e. “a gap between”) of any reefs. Depending on the side of the Home Island tile being used, this will be either two or three Water tiles.

Third, find the “Starting” Island tiles and place them on the side of the Home island with reefs, ensuring that the reef depicted on the tiles are adjacent to each other. “Starting” Island tiles will have a (A) butterfly. Each island in the game will depict different (B) goods and have one or more (C) reefs.

Fourth, place the Haumea pawn on the Home island and fill the Goods spaces on the in play islands with a corresponding Goods cube color (brown to brown, green to green, etc.)

Fifth, shuffle the rest of the Island tiles and place into roughly two equal stacks with the island side face-up. Next to the two stacks of Island tiles, place the Depletion tokens face-down and randomize.

Sixth, give each player a Canoe pawn and matching Player board. Have each player place their Canoe pawn on the Home Island tile.

Seventh, shuffle the Favorite Crop tiles (per the number of players in the game) and randomly distribute. Players should keep these tiles a secret, as they are used at the end of the game to give the player bonus points.

Eighth, remove a specific number of Goods cubes from the game per the number of players. The removed cubes should go back in the game box. All other cubes go into the bag.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and give them the Start player tile.

Getting to Know Your Player Board

Each player is given a Player board at the start of the game. This is where all the magic of cube management happens. There are two sections of the board.

The first (top portion) is the Canoe hold, which depicts an open canoe with open spaces. Guess what goes in those spaces? Correct! Goods cubes! And also, no, you are somewhat mistaken. Each canoe can hold goods, but it also needs to hold people (referred to as “Rowers”). Each canoe has, at minimum, one Rower. Three of the spaces in the canoe can hold Rowers or Goods cubes and two of the spaces can only hold Goods cubes. Rowers in this game determine the number of actions a player can take on their turn. As such, each player has by default one action. Depending on the number of Goods and how the player distributes them in their canoe, they can have up to four actions.

The second (and lower portion) is the Harvest chart. Goods cubes that the player has transported back to the Home island are taken from the Canoe hold and placed on the Harvest chart. Each square space can hold one Goods cube of a matching color. The Harvest chart also depicts specific bonuses the player can earn if they collect a certain number and type of goods.

On the Hunt for Good Goods

Tahiti is played in rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. A player’s turn is broken down into phases, which are summarized here.

Phase One: Exploration

The player has the option of moving the Haumea pawn if the pawn is currently located on any tile that is on the far reaches of the known ocean (i.e. a tile that has open sides not connected to another tile). If the Haumea pawn is moved, it can move to any tile to its left or right that is also on the outside. Reefs have no effect on the pawn movement. In this way, the Haumea pawn is always moving outward, further away from the Home island.

After the Haumea pawn has or has not moved, the player now selects a face-up Island tile from the available stacks to play and place. When placing the selected Island tile, two rules must be followed.

  1. The Island tile must be placed to an adjacent Island tile that currently holds the Haumea pawn.
  2. The Island tile must be placed so it’s adjacent to at least two previously placed Island tiles.

The player has no restrictions when deciding the orientation of the Island tile. They can have reefs adjacent to each other or not.

If all the Island tiles have been played, this phase is skipped. Upon placing the last Island tile, the Haumea pawn is immediately removed from the game.

Phase Two: Haumea’s Bounty

The player now blindly draws Goods cubes from the bag and places them on matching Good spaces on the Island tiles if at all possible. If the Haumea pawn is in play, the player draws three Goods cubes. If the Haumea pawn is not, the player only draws two Goods cubes.

If any of the Goods cubes drawn match an open space on any Island tile in play that does not have a Depletion token on it, the Goods cube is placed and fills the empty space. Any Goods cubes that cannot be placed are returned to the bag.

Phase Three: Take Action(s)

The player can now take, at minimum, one action. Depending on the number of uncovered (wherein, “covered” means a Goods cube is currently occupying the Rower space on the Canoe hold), they can take one additional action per available Rower.

A player could have started their turn with four actions, but can only take three because they covered up their Rowers during their turn. To put it another way, a player starts their turn with a number of actions per the uncovered Rowers in their Canoe hold, but can reduce the total number of actions they can take by covering up those same Rowers via actions. This also works in reverse. A player could start their turn with Rowers covered with Goods cubes, but by using actions in a clever sequence, could uncover them. The player then gets additional actions this turn as a result. The maximum number of actions players can have is four.

The player has the following actions available to them.

Action: Paddle Canoe (i.e. “Move”)

For one action, the player can move their Canoe pawn to any adjacent Island tile. If the Canoe pawn crosses any reefs, the player might lose a Goods cube in their Canoe hold. Each time a Canoe pawn crosses over a reef, the player draws one Goods cube from the bag. If the drawn Goods cube matches a Goods cube in the player’s Canoe hold, the drawn Goods cube and the matching Goods cube in the canoe are returned to the bag. If not, just the drawn Goods cube is returned to the bag.

It’s possible for a player to cross two reefs during one action. The reef depicted on their Island tile where they are moving from and the reef depicted on the adjacent Island tile side they are moving to. If such is the case, the player draws two Goods cubes from the bag.

Action: Harvest Goods (i.e. “Collect Cubes”)

For one action, the player can take a cube on an Island tile where their Canoe pawn is currently located and place it on an empty space in the Canoe hold. When doing so, the player must follow a short list of simple rules.

  • A canoe can never hold anymore than five Goods cubes
  • A player cannot discard a Goods cube in their Canoe hold to make room for another Goods cube (players can deliver goods, however, to make room)
  • A player can load as many Goods cube of one color as they like as long as they have no Goods cubes of any other color in their Canoe hold
  • A player can load only one Goods cube of each color if they have more than one color of Goods cubes in their Canoe hold

Action: Go Fishing

For one action, the player can stop rowing and drop a line into the sea in hopes of catching a passing fish. This action is only possible if the player’s Canoe pawn is not located on the Home Island tile. The player draws two Goods cubes from the bag. If any of the cubes are fish (white), the player can place it in their Canoe hold, but only one. If the player draws two “Fish” Goods cubes, they must throw one back into the sea (that is, put it back in the bag).

If the player’s next action is fishing, any drawn Goods cubes are set aside and not returned to the bag. The player then draws two Goods cubes again.

When the player stops fishing, any drawn Goods cubes are returned to the bag.

Action: Deliver Goods (i.e. “Move Goods from Canoe Hold to Harvest Chart”)

For one action, the player can unload all the Goods cubes in their Canoe hold if their Canoe pawn is located at the Home Island tile. Goods cubes are placed on the Harvest chart in the matching colored boxes, starting from the left and continuing right. Each space can hold only one Goods cube. Each Goods cube track can hold a maximum of nine Goods cubes of that color. If the player has more Goods cubes than can be placed on the Harvest chart, any extras are put back in the game box (out of the game).

Phase Four: Depletion

If the Haumea pawn is still in play, this phase is skipped and the player’s turn has ended. If it has been removed, each Island tile is now checked to see if they have Goods cubes. If there is at least one Island tile with no Goods cubes, an Island tile is selected and a random Depletion token is drawn. This Depletion token is then placed on the selected Island tile.

Any Island token with a Depletion token no longer receives Goods cubes for the duration of the game. It’s essentially a dead island, as far as collecting goods is concerned.

Some Depletion tokens have a fish symbol. When a player takes the Go Fishing action and is located on the same Island tile as the Depletion token, the player draws one additional cube.

The player’s turn is now over and the next player in turn order sequence now goes.

The Final Trip Home

The endgame is triggered when only four Island tiles have not been depleted. This indicates the final round has begun and each player is given another turn, meaning every player will have an equal number of turns per game.

After all players have had their final turn, points are counted. The player’s Harvest chart displays the number of points earned from collected Goods cubes, wherein the value earned is equal to the first empty space to the right of the collected Goods cubes.

Players are awarded additional points  if they collected the most Goods cubes shown on their Favorite Crop tile, which are now revealed. Five points if they collected the most or three points if they collected the second most.

Finally, players can earn bonus points based on the variety of Goods cubes they collected during the game. For each completed set (wherein a completed set is one of each of the five Goods cubes), the player can earn an additional one to eleven points.

After all the points have been counted, the player with the most points wins the game.

Game Variant

The “Starting” Island tiles in the game gives the players some much-needed and easy to reach resources right from the start. More experienced players can forgo this boon by randomly selecting which of the Island tiles should be used instead to set up the game.

To learn more about Tahiti, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had no problem learning to play the game, but they did have problems learning to love it. According to one Child Geek, “I like the game and I like how it plays, but I hate the reefs and how long it takes to play.” Ah, the reefs. Lots of comments about this ocean-going obstacle from our younger players. Turns out that the Child Geeks love to travel the open waters, exploring new islands, but really disliked it when they lost their cargo due to an unlucky blind pull from the bag. This in and of itself, however, was not a detriment to all. In fact, it was found by many to be a boon. According to one such Child Geek, “I like how there is danger when traveling. You could lose what you have and that makes me think twice before I travel to a distance island.” When all the villagers had returned to the island, the Child Geeks voted and the results showed that Tahiti was a mixed bag for our youngest players.

The Parent Geeks were a different story. They really enjoyed the game for its light strategic and tactical game play. According to one Parent Geek, “The way the game plays is very straightforward and easy to grasp. I like this game for two reasons. First, it is fun. That’s very important. Second, it provides enough of a challenge to keep you thinking that you might lose it all, but you push yourself regardless of the possible danger.” Another Parent Geek said, “A fun game for the family and when I am with my older friends. I like how the danger of exploration is in the form of losing cargo instead of lives.” When the games were over, the Parent Geeks voted and fully approved Tahiti.

The Gamer Geeks found the game to be well designed, the game play cleanly executed, and the strategy and tactics to be deep enough to make them lean forward at their elitist table. But this was not enough to please them all. According to one Gamer Geek, “A bit too light for my taste. Not a bad game, but not a game I would consider playing with experienced gamers. Still, a solid game.” Another Gamer Geek said, “I always struggle with my review comments when you give us a game like this. On one hand, I think the game was good. It was well thought out and published. On the other hand, I found myself getting a bit bored. It plays a bit too long for a game that is pretty light weight.” After the last cargo was deposited, the Gamer Geeks reflected upon their journey and decided that Tahiti was an OK game, but not necessarily for them.

I always find myself smirking when the Gamer Geeks struggle to determine how best to endorse a game. The Gamer Geeks are, by design, meant to provide a point of view that is heavily influenced by a true passion for the gaming hobby. They know their games. Or, at the very least, have a very strong opinion on what they believe they know. Games like Tahiti are intentionally light, but play well. In the end, Gamer Geeks just want to be challenged and have a good time, but they also want the pain. One Gamer Geek told me it was like hot sauce. You want the flavor and the heat. Both are good on their own, but suffer when not in balance. This would appear to be the case here. Tahiti provides the flavor and the heat, but not in proportions that benefit the whole.

Or something like that. Look, when people start explaining to me their opinion of a game using spicy condiments, I get a bit lost.

For my take, I found Tahiti to be a fun and light weight game I could put it on my gaming table quickly and consecutively walk away from with a smile on my face. It’s not the most difficult game on my shelf, but it continues to be asked for and played. Why? Because it’s rememberable. There are a lot of pick up and deliver games out there, but for reasons that I have yet to fully understand, this game among countless others is a perennial favorite. Especially around winter when all there is in Minnesota is cold snow. Escaping to a warm island paradise, even one where you are starving, is a great alternative to long cold winters.

I do agree that the game stays a bit longer at the table than you think it should. Never to a point where the players are looking at their watches wondering when things will end. More along the lines that it becomes obvious towards the end of the game who the winners are going to be, but the game keeps going anyway. For some, that is something of a deal breaker. For many others, nothing more than a side observation while they kept playing and having a good time.

Do try Tahiti when the opportunity presents itself. It’s a great way to learn more about pick up and deliver type games using rules that are easy to understand and game play that will challenge you.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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