There is a tipping point in the play of Gamewright’s Tiki Topple. It’s a phenomenon that exists in other games but I noticed that it manifested particularly early and intensely as we jockeyed to arrange our tiki pieces before the last card could be played. I’m going to call the tipping point the Spite Horizon and it marks the point at which players collectively agree that yes-that-is-the-way-we-are-going-to-play-now. No more nice gamers. No more apologies when you remove your opponent’s best tiki piece. No more false sympathy. Gamers red of tooth and claw scrabbling over each other to reach the top of the tiki pole while the bottom pieces fall away.
Tiki Topple consists of nine colorful pieces (nine different colors) carved with Polynesian inspired tiki faces, a board to hold the pieces, a few pawns for scoring, and two kinds of cards: tiki cards and action cards. At the beginning of the game, each player starts with seven action cards and a tiki card. The action cards are the same for each player. These control how players move the tiki pieces. The tiki card tells each player what three tikis they want in the top three spots at the end of the round. For example, if my tiki card shows yellow, green, and brown then I want yellow to be on the top, green, to be second (or on top), and brown to be third (or higher) when the last action card is played.
At the beginning of a round the tikis are randomly arranged in a line and players draw tiki cards. Play proceeds clockwise. Each player must play one of their action cards. Action cards move the tiki piece of the player’s choice. Tiki Up cards move one piece up a given number of spaces (1, 2, or 3 spaces). Tiki Topple cards take one piece and moves it to the bottom of the tiki pole. All of these cards advance your tikis toward the top and can present a challenge for your opponents. But it is the Tiki Toast card that is most capable of triggering the Spite Horizon. Tiki Toast cards remove the bottom tiki from the game.
No points for that piece. Was it supposed to be your top tiki? Your highest scoring piece? Tough. And that look on your face? There’s a tiki that looks a lot like you.
The play is quick, intuitive, and there is a lot of opportunity for dramatic shifts. Strategy for a two-player game is much different from strategy for a four player game, but there is always a great mix of finesse and daring that makes play exciting. And the game is gorgeous. Gamewright makes some of the loveliest games on the planet and Tiki Topple does them proud—Major Fun on a sensory level and for those who can still laugh on the other side of the Spite Horizon.
Tiki Topple by Keith Meyers. Illustrations by Will Terry. © 2008. Published by Gamewright.
William Bain, Games Taster