Dale Yu: Review of Maui


  • Designers: Gregoire Largey, Frank Crittin, Sebastien Pauchon
  • Publisher: Next Move Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Next Move Games, 6 plays so far

Locals and tourists in Maui are heading to the beach for a chance to find a nice spot to lay their towels and enjoy the amazing view of the Hawaiian ocean. In Maui, you want to find and place beachgoers on your sand so that they create pleasing patterns, while also placing their towels close to the ocean or under the shade of trees or umbrellas to earn the most points. However, getting too close to either of these areas is risky and might ruin their plans!

In the game, you have your own beach board with room for 13 towels, the board has seven rows in which towels can be placed, and during set-up, you randomly place eight umbrellas in designated locations on your board. Each player places one random towel in the left most column of their board; each towel has three different patterns on it. Note that the orientation is important – place the towels with the stones matching the illustration on the board.  The towels will keep this orientation throughout the game (that is, if you are sitting such that the towels are “upside down” to you, they will always be that way when placed on your board.)  Place six random tiles in spaces on the market board and one sand dollar in the area next to each row of towels.

On a turn, either take all the sand dollars from either row of the market or take a towel from the market; towels cost 0, 1, or 2 sand dollars, with those dollars being placed in the area next to the market row. When you place a towel, you must match at least one pattern with the towel that’s rightmost on your beach board and you want to match as many patterns as possible. For each match you make, you advance that pattern’s scoring marker 1-3 spaces on the score board; the closer to the ocean or the shade the more points you score, but if you place part of a towel outside the play area, you’re penalized.

If you cover an umbrella, you receive its bonus, whether that’s advancing a pattern’s scoring marker or receiving one of two types of pearls.

When someone places a towel in the final column of their beach board, you complete the round, then see who’s scored the most points from patterns, pearls, and leftover sand dollars, which are each worth a point. Instead of playing with umbrellas, you can flip your beach board to find a septet of sand crabs. Whenever you cover a crab with a towel, the crab crawls onto that portion of the towel, costing you both that pattern and a few points.

My thoughts on the game

The trio of designers is well known to me – they worked together on Wangdo and 8-Bit Box which I have played in the past.  Their games tend to have a math-y, pattern-y feel to them, and definitely fits into that box.  In this game, you are challenged to match up the towel varieties on your tiles, but you are limited both in the selection choices as well as the limited number of spaces on your board.

When the game starts, you have a single sand dollar, so this means that you can take either of the first two towels in either row.  You need to carefully spend your sand dollars, because there is a closed economy in the game, and you also have to spend an entire turn to recover any sand dollars from the market board – so it’s definitely a valuable resource.

I have seen some games where a single player holds all of the sand dollars, and as long as they don’t spend them, the other players have no choice but to take from the two free tiles – and this can lead to some super sub-optimal plays; worst case being that they have to take a tile with no matches and start over in the center of their board –  Essentially losing an entire turn, but also losing the opportunity of scoring for one of their 13 turns…

While you are free to lay your towels in whichever direction you like, my initial plays have definitely shown that the pearls (found on the umbrella tokens) are a big component of the final score.  Getting a total of 18 points for picking up all of the pearls is a huge benefit, especially when our final scores are in the 50-70 pt range.

That being said, if you’re able to get a nice string of towels in the extreme ranges, where you get 2 or 3 bumps on a track at once, you might not need those pearl points – and just try to max out the points on the tracks.  If you race up the right side of the score board, you can pick up the blue and orange one-time use tiles, and these can definitely be deployed for a 3-step move up on their respective track.

Overall this game is on the lighter end of the complexity spectrum, but it is a very enjoyable experience if you’re looking for that sort of game.  The game certainly feels different with different player counts; it is much more strategic at 2p – as you often can play for a specific tile in the future, whereas it is more tactical/reactive at 4p as much of the towel market is changed in the time between your turns.   Though the artwork is evocative of a beach vacation, the game itself is an abstract, and there is little in the gameplay to connect it to the beautiful art.  I personally have no issues with that, as I’m a big fan of this casual game, and I don’t need that theme connection personally.

This one has gone over well with family members at the holidays, and when played with gamers at a recent convention, many of them remarked that this was a great super-filler.  I would agree with that assessment, and I plan to likely move this up to the lakehouse to serve as both an introductory game for family/friends as well as a filler for more serious gamenights.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:

Doug G (Garrett’s Games Podcast): Shelley and I enjoyed this one quite a bit as a 2-player. The quick play with some solid decisions make it a good super-filler we will keep on the shelves. We discussed it in depth on Episode 862 of the podcast.

Adam K (1 play, 3 players): This one was perfectly fine but seemed to lack any sort of high moments or soul.  Looking ahead to what towels may come your way and trying to position yourself to ride the 3-bump lane was moderately interesting, but there didn’t seem to be enough agency to make any plans.  As a strategic game, it seemed too difficult to control or predict and as a tactical game, the choices weren’t that interesting.  The game worked fine, but ultimately left me a little bored.  I could see 2 player with more agency over future towels being a more enjoyable experience.

Jonathan F (1 play, 3 players) – I was in the same game as Adam and felt the same way. It has no real interaction other than ‘you took the towel I wanted’, so I ended up just looking at my board and the options when my turn came up. If I had two viable options, I could look up to see what Adam might need to pick one over the other, but it is more a calm zen game that happens to have scoring.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Doug G, John P
  • Neutral. Adam K, Jonathan
  • 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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