Dale Yu: Review of Tuki

Tuki

  • Designer: Grzegorz Rejchtman
  • Publisher: Plan B Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-40 min
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Next Move / Plan B Games

Tuki is a game where players are Inuit tower builders (Tukilik) – using stone and snow – but as things go, value is placed on how fast you are able to build said structure.    Each player gets eight building blocks, four colored blocks (one each of purple, blue, black and orange) as well as one of four different shaped blocks of snow. Each player has an identical set of blocks.  There are two decks of cards, a starter deck which has easier Tukiliks, made up of only three colored blocks, and an expert deck which has structures made up of all four colored blocks. Both decks are made up of double sided cards.

Before the game starts, the group must decide which deck they will play with in this game.  The chosen deck is shuffled and then placed in the base on the card holder. If you have four players, one player is chosen to be the scout – this player takes the card holder.  The other three players take an identical set of the building blocks.

The game will now be played in a series of rounds until someone has triggered the endgame by collecting their fifth Tukilik card.  In every round, a card will be placed in the card holder. There is a die which is rolled at the start of the round, and the animal showing on the die tells you which way to orient the Tukilik card into the holder (with the rolled icon at the bottom of the card).   Pay careful attention to the die. There are two faces for each icon, and one of the sides has a white square underneath the icon.

As soon as the card is placed in the holder, all players immediately try to build the shown sculpture.  Each of the colored blocks is 5 segments in length, and the pictured layout shows you exactly which segments need to be adjacent to other segments from other blocks.  Make sure to look at the die – if there is a white square under the icon on the die, no colored stones may touch the table – everything must be built on a snow block. If there is not a square, then at least one colored stone must touch the table.  As you build the structure, only the colored blocks matter. The snow blocks are just meant to be used as tools to prop other blocks on or perhaps to be used as counterbalancing weight at times. Since we’re Inuit builders, the while snow blocks must simply blend into the background and become invisible to the viewer.

Players continue to build until they have completed the statue.  They announce that they are done and wait until the round is over; at that point, the players can check whether the blocks are correct.  Play continues until all players but one have finished. If everyone else has correctly built the sculpture, the last remaining player collects the card as a penalty.  If someone has made a mistake, the incorrect player gets the card. If there were multiple mistakes, the player who earliest announced they were done (incorrectly) gets the card.

The player who took the card becomes the scout for the next round.  He takes the card holder from the previous scout and gives his set of blocks to that player in return.  Another round is played following the same method. This continues until someone has collected their fifth card.  That player is now eliminated from the game, but they will still play the role of the scout for the final round which comes next.  There is one final round in the game, and whichever player builds the Tukilik correctly is the overall winner!

My thoughts on the game

As modern gaming goes, there are plenty of times when a theme suddenly becomes popular. This year, it must be a celebration of the Inuit people.  This is I think the third game in recent memory which has somehow dealt with the Inuit culture. Tuki is a speed/dexterity game that has had a very polarizing response so far from the people that have played it with me.  The majority of gamers have liked it, but the one who have not liked it really did not care for it at all.

As with many speed games, there is essentially one task in the game, and it is repeated each round.  And, unless you have an exceptionally lucky draw, the relative abilities of the players in your game will likely be different for this particular task.   A player who is naturally better at building the structures will likely finish before the other players in a majority of cases.

The rules for Tuki try to mitigate this issue with speed games by giving out negative points – that is only the slowest player in each round takes a penalty; and this penalty is avoided if someone makes an error in their haste.  Additionally, as a reward, the player who just took a penalty card is asked to sit out of the next round to be the Scout, and this prevents any player from taking two penalty cards in successive rounds. This method allows the game to continue for awhile and also prevents one player from simply winning five rounds in a row and ending the game (if cards were instead given out to player who correctly finished first).  

The designer has a thing for speed games, as he is also responsible for the Ubongo family, Code Omega and Stack-a-Biddi.  I like the way that he has allowed the all the players to work on completing the sculpture each round. First, even if you are not the fastest, it gives most of the players a sense of achievement as they complete the task.  Second, as the round is not immediately over when the first person completes it, it gives the slower players a chance to work on their skills and get some much needed practice. Sure, there is still no remedy for someone who just sucks at it – they will almost certainly get a card every other round, and then the final round will be upon you – but I’m guessing that this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as I’m sure that the player who is sucking it up would be ready for the game to end after ten rounds anyways…

Finally, I have grown to like the final sudden death round.  When I first demoed the game, I thought that it made the overall winner somewhat arbitrary.  However, upon further reflection, I think that it is an excellent way to give the other players a chance to win the game.  Essentially, for the bulk of the game, you are just trying not to be the worst – because you just need to get into that final round.  And, sure, while it’s true that the better player will have a much better chance at winning that final round (just as he had a much better chance at winning every previous round), anything could happen in a one-off final round.  This type of finish has already happened at least once in my games, and though I lost that game, it seemed to give a much more satisfying result for all players. I wish more (well really, all…) speed games could use a similar strategy to increase the ability for players to compete.

The components are nice and sturdy, just heavy enough to stand on their own and resist toppling over when someone inadvertently jostles the table.  The insert is also nice as it has been made custom for the components, and this helps ensure that things stay where the are supposed to – even if you store the game on its side like I do.  

The challenges on the cards are of a good level.  I like the way the cards can be used in six different ways – three different icons and then on or off the table.  This makes sure that there is enough variety after repeated plays. The beginner deck is nice for kids or for introductory games/rounds; but for most gamers, I’d recommend playing with the expert deck that uses all four colored blocks.  Some of these can be quite difficult – and we even once had a round where two players just couldn’t see the solution, and they mutually decided to stop the round and ro-sham-bo for the penalty card. And, of course, just in case you can’t figure it out, the Next Move website has an online index of solutions for each card/icon.

While I’m still not a fan of speed games, Tuki alleviates most of the issues that I have with this genre.  In addition, the resin blocks are fun to work with and look nice on the table. I’d certainly be more likely to keep this over Ubongo or Stack-a-Biddi (more fun), and definitely instead of Ubongo 3D (too difficult!)

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Brandon Kempf: We’ve enjoyed the heck out of Tuki so far after a handful of plays. The sudden death is indeed a bit odd at first and I’m still not as big a fan of it as Dale is. While it does allow a more even chance to everyone to win the game, it can feel a bit swingy when that dominant player loses, but in a light stacking game this should probably get a pass from most. The other odd thing for me with Tuki is the fact that there are only enough pieces in the game for three players to be playing at one time. The game is advertised as a 1-4 players, but the fourth player in a round is simply playing as the die roller and the person who puts the card in play for the others. After asking about that player choice, the answer I have gotten is that the designer intended it to be played that way. It doesn’t kill the game for me, but it is a bit odd, considering just how affordable the game is with the components already there, and the components are top notch, heavy and well balanced, which is important for a stacking game like this. It really is fun to see how different players attack the puzzle. A lot of the puzzles will have multiple solutions and players attacking it from different perspectives makes for interesting play. We often find ourselves checking other builds just to see how we could have done it a bit differently. Fits well in that Next Move line of games. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Brandon K, Craig V
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me….

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Dale Yu: Review of Tuki

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: Review of Tuki – Herman Watts

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