What: A game about building totems by a Hawaiian volcano whilst skipping a boat around the shores.
Time: 20-30 minutes
People: Two people looking for something easy to learn but with room for thinking and strategy
Available: Get it here US or here UK
Why we recommend it
We love 2 player games and Haleakala might even break into our best board games for couples. It’s a game set on a lovely Hawaiian island as you build totems and try to score points whilst watching a boat skip along the shore. If it wasn’t for the constantly erupting volcano it would probably be paradise.
On first viewing the game seems incredibly simple. So simple in fact I wasn’t really sure why it was supposed to be interesting. However it becomes immediately obvious as soon as you start playing.
There are really only 2 things you can do in the game place a numbered disk or pick up a numbered disk. What happens when you place them isn’t even at first viewing that exciting.
Placing one anywhere on the board means you can move your shaman (the pawn thing) 2 spaces. Place one next to the boat and it moves that many around the outside.
What you quickly discover though is how strategic these placements really are.
When the boat lands somewhere anyone with a numbered disk there gets the card from the shore and whoever has the highest picks first. The cards are all mostly various ways of scoring points to win the game.
So picking first becomes very important when you want to make a pair of points cards, or build a new statue or often very importantly shift some lava.
Oh lava? Yeah that’s coming from the Volcano I mentioned. Ominously looking up at you from the centre of the board. At the end of a round it erupts and the lava spills down destroying anything you’ve built that is in it’s way. So that “picking the card first” starts to really make a difference.
It becomes this deep game of trying to think many moves ahead. Looking at the numbers your opponent has left trying to force them to move the boat just where you want it when it’s worst for them. Inevitably they spot a move you didn’t throwing all of your future planning out of the window and you have to quickly recalculate what to do.
You win the game by getting the most points after 2 rounds. Those points come from building totems and collecting cards but that isn’t important to understand why this game is so interesting. It’s interesting because with just a couple of very simple inputs a whole strategy unfurls before you. You might focus on trying to build as many statues as close to the volcano as you can (they’re worth more points this way) or you might stick to the coat and focus on collecting points cards.
It’s a thinker of a game, but never too deep. There are never too many options to consider but just enough to keep it interesting. Some nice Hawaiian music in the background and a cocktail, it’s the perfect game for a chilled evening.