Regular readers of Geeky Hobbies will already know that I am a big proponent of not making board games more complicated than they need to be. My thought is that if a mechanic doesn’t really add anything to a board game except for difficulty, it shouldn’t be added at all. Most of my favorite board games are those that are simple enough to play and yet have enough strategy to keep all of the players interested until the very end. Today I am looking Tiki Topple which I hoped would fit nicely in this range of being accessible and yet still having enough strategy to remain interesting. Tiki Topple is a fun little game that the whole family can enjoy but does have some issues with players not having a lot of control over their own fates.
How to Play Tiki Topple
- Place the gameboard in the middle of the table.
- Sort the cards into two piles: action cards (colored wood) and secret tiki cards (tiki face).
- Each player chooses a color and takes the pawn and set of action cards of that color. In three and four player games each player returns one of the Tiki Up 1 cards to the box. Each player puts their pawn on the zero space.
- Place the tikis on the gameboard using the following process.
- Turn over the tikis and sort the tikis into three groups based on the symbol on the back.
- Randomly choose one of the groups. Choose one of the three tikis randomly and place it on the top space. Then choose another and place it on the second space. Place the third tiki on the third space.
- Choose another set of tikis with the same symbol on the back and randomly place them in the next three spaces.
- Randomly place the remaining three tikis on the bottom three spaces.
- Shuffle the secret tiki cards and deal one card to each player.
- The last player to eat something coconut flavored will start the first round of the game.
Playing the Game
Tiki Topple is played over a number of rounds depending on the number of players.
- 2 players: 4 rounds
- 3 players: 3 rounds
- 4 players: 4 rounds
Players will begin each round by looking at their secret tiki card without letting the other players see it. Each player is trying to get the tikis on their card into the top positions at the end of the round. If a player is able to get the tiki at the top of the card into the first position the player will score nine points. The middle tiki on the card is worth five points if it ends up in the first or second position. Finally the bottom tiki is worth two points if it ends up in the first, second or third position.
On a player’s turn they will play one of the cards from their hand for its effect (see below). The card is then discarded and can’t be played for the rest of the round. A player must play a card on their turn even if they don’t want to.
After a player has played a card, play passes to the next player clockwise.
There are three different types of cards in Tiki Topple which all have different special effects.
There are three Tiki Up cards in the game: Tiki Up 1, Tiki Up 2, and Tiki Up 3. When a player plays a Tiki Up card they will choose one of the tikis to move (it does not have to be one of the tikis on their secret tiki card). They will move this tiki up the number of spaces indicated on the card. For example a Tiki Up 2 would move a tiki up two spaces. The tiki is moved up and at the same time shifts down all of the tikis that it passed.
When a player plays a Tiki Up card the tiki must be moved all of the spaces indicated on the card. For example you cannot move a tiki only two spaces if you played a Tiki Up 3.
When a player plays a Tiki Topple card they will choose one of the tikis. The chosen tiki will be moved from its current position to the bottom space. All other tikis are pushed up in order to fill in the gap.
When a player plays a Tiki Toast card, the tiki at the bottom of the board is eliminated for the rest of the round. This tiki is removed from the board and will not be returned to the board until the next round. If a player only has Tiki Toast cards remaining they will still have to play it even if it eliminates one of the tikis from their secret tiki card.
A Tiki Toast card cannot be the first card played by any player at the beginning of a round.
End of Round and Scoring
A round of Tiki Topple can end in one of two ways:
- Only three tikis remain on the board.
- The players have played all of the cards from their hand.
When the round ends all of the players will reveal their secret tiki card. Players will score points as noted above. Players will move their pawn around the track on the gameboard by the number of points they scored.
To start a new round the following steps are taken.
- All of the tikis are removed from the board. The tikis are placed back on the board as described in the setup section.
- Each player discards their secret tiki card and draws a new one. They look at the card without letting the other players see it.
- Each player takes back all of the action cards they used in the previous round.
- The player to the left of the player who started the previous round will start the next round.
End of Game
The game ends when all of the rounds have been played. The player who scored the most points during the game wins. If there is a tie, all of the tied players will play another round to determine who wins the game.
My Thoughts on Tiki Topple
I began the review by talking about appreciating board games that don’t make themselves more complicated than they need to be. This fits Tiki Topple perfectly. The game may have a recommended age of 10+ but I don’t really see it. The game is simple enough that I don’t see younger children having any trouble playing the game. The game is quite straightforward. You basically just play a card which will rearrange how the tikis are situated on the gameboard. The ultimate goal is to get your secret tikis to the top while keeping the fact that you are helping them secret from the other players. Tiki Topple is simple enough that the whole family shouldn’t have any troubles playing the game. The game is simple enough that it can even appeal to people that don’t play a lot of board games.
If I had to classify Tiki Topple I would probably say that it is an abstract family bluffing game. The main purpose of the game is to manipulate the position of the tikis to get yours to the top while eliminating the other players’ tikis. This involves choosing the right time to play each of your cards which raise, lower or eliminate tikis from the gameboard. You need to keep your intentions secret though or the other players will figure out which tikis are on your card. Once players know which tikis are yours they are likely to send them to the bottom of the stack and eliminate them from the game. This means that you need to use some bluffing by helping tikis not on your card or even possibly hurting your own tikis.
Tiki Topple is not a highly strategic game but it has enough strategy to keep you interested in the game. Most of the strategy comes from how you choose to use your cards. At the beginning of each round you are given the same cards as all of the other players. This means that all of the players will get to take the same actions each round. The key is figuring out when is the best time to play each card. You have cards that raise tikis, send tikis to the bottom, and eliminate tikis from the board. If you focus too much on using one type of card early in a round, you won’t have those cards available later in the round when you may need them. You need to leave enough options where you don’t have to play a card that will end up hurting you.
These mechanics aren’t super deep but they are pretty satisfying. Tiki Topple is simple and yet the gameplay is fun. The game gives you enough options where you have the opportunity to make decisions that will impact the game. People who like games with straightforward mechanics that still have a decent amount of strategy should enjoy Tiki Topple. On top of the simplicity the game plays pretty quickly. This is one of the reasons that I think the game will work quite well as a filler game. I would guess most games would end in around 20 minutes which seems about right for the game as it doesn’t take too long or end too quickly. I can see Tiki Topple working really well as a game to play at the beginning or end of a board game night or even when you don’t have much time to play a game.
In addition to the gameplay I thought the game’s components were quite good. I liked the game’s tiki/island theme and I think the game uses it pretty well. While it doesn’t impact the gameplay at all, I love the tikis as they are made from wood and show a surprising amount of detail. I think the game also does a really good job using the theme for the game’s artwork which is quite good. Gamewright games are usually cheaper than many similar games. Yet the quality of Tiki Topple’s components is really good for the price that the game originally retailed for.
While I had fun with Tiki Topple, the game does have some problems.
The biggest issue with Tiki Topple is that the game relies on a lot of luck. While I commend Tiki Topple for having a decent amount of strategy for how simple it is, the strategy doesn’t have a huge impact on the game’s outcome. The problem comes from no individual player having a lot of control over the game. Unless you only play with two players your actions can only have so much impact on the game. All of the other players combined will always have more impact on the game than you could ever have individually. It doesn’t matter how good your strategy is if the other players want something else to happen as they can easily “override” your decisions.
This all comes to a head where you basically have to share some of your secret colors with other players in order to have any chance of doing well in a round. As no individual player has much control over the game, good luck getting one of your colors to the top of the board if no other players help you out. You may be able to get some help from a player that is bluffing, but it is much more likely that your colors will be eliminated from the game. At the same time if two or more players share the same color it is going to be hard to eliminate that color. Basically your fate in a round will likely be determined before it even begins based on how many colors you share with the other players. If you share colors with other players you should do pretty well. If you don’t share colors with any other players though you likely will score zero points in the round.
The other major issue I have with Tiki Topple is that the game’s concept is not particularly original. There probably aren’t games that play exactly like Tiki Topple, but the main mechanics are very similar to several other games that I have played in the past. The idea of each player having secret colors that they are rooting for has been used in quite a few games. Even the idea of moving pieces up and down the board while trying to get your pieces to the top has been used in other games. I unfortunately can’t think of the names off the top of my head, but I have played other games that play quite a bit like Tiki Topple. This isn’t much of an issue if you don’t own one of these other games. Tiki Topple is not unique enough though to really distinguish itself if you own one of these other games.
The final minor issue I have with Tiki Topple is that I wish the rounds would be a little longer. In three or four player games you will at max be able to play six cards. This doesn’t allow for a lot of movement each round. If your colors are stuck at the bottom of the stack at the beginning of a round, it is going to be hard to get them up to the top of the stack. If each round would have had a few more turns I think the game would have had more strategy as you would have had more time to manipulate the order of the tikis. I appreciate that the game plays quickly, but I think the game would have been a little more enjoyable if each round was a couple turns longer.
Should You Buy Tiki Topple?
Tiki Topple may not be perfect but it is still a pretty good game. Tiki Topple does a good job being just as difficult as it needed to be. The game is simple enough that the whole family should have no troubles with the game even if they don’t play a lot of board games. For being so simple the game still has quite a bit of strategy. The game is an interesting combination of an abstract strategy game of positioning your secret colors, while bluffing so the other players can’t figure out which colors are yours. As each player gets to take the same actions each turn, most of the strategy comes from figuring out the best time to use each of your actions. I had fun with Tiki Topple and I think people who like these type of games will enjoy it as well. The biggest problem with the game is that individual players don’t have a lot of control over their fate in the game. If you don’t share colors with other players you are going to have a hard time scoring points in a round. Tiki Topple is also not super original and the rounds tend to end a little quickly.
People who like really strategic games will probably not be big fans of Tiki Topple as the game is meant more for families. If you already own a game similar to Tiki Topple, I don’t think it is unique enough for a purchase. If you like more accessible board games that still have quite a bit of strategy though, I think you will enjoy playing Tiki Topple and should consider picking it up.