Theme and What is it?
It’s time to unlock the secrets that can be found on the island of Papua only recently discovered in the 19th century. What wonderous animals and insects will you find on your adventure and will you manage to keep your intrepid party alive while trying to make these monumental discoveries?
Juggle the need for food but also the need for glory and prestige.
Papua using several mechanics together and uses them very well. Each player turn begins with rolling dice to establish where you can place your workers each turn. That might sound quite restrictive but the game allows several layers of dice manipulation using money and fish to increase your tactical options each turn.
Each location you can place your workers on has a different ability and depending on your focused objective you can maximise each area each turn.
For example, if you place 3 workers on the fisherman spot you will roll 4 dice (one more than workers placed) and receive fish equal to the difference rolled between your top and bottom dice.
So, you roll a 5 and 1 (amongst other results) you receive 4 fish plus 3 fish for the workers you placed there totalling 7 fish. So, you can take your chances and just place one worker there and hope you the two dice you roll are far enough apart or pile up workers to increase your chances.
However, you also have to use energy for every worker you place… and the more energy you use the more fish you have to pay. Also, the more energy you have left at the end of the game gets you points. Infact, almost everything gets you points at the end of the game which I really like.
You get points for the number of workers you’ve accumulated, the sets of individual species you find, the sets of the same species you find, the amount of money you have, the amount of fish you’ve produced and sets of events you’ve completed.
Oh, events, almost forgot about those… these are one of the only “take that” mechanics in the game. Often these events will force your opponent to lose resources or energy… but you also get points at the end of the game for the number of events you completed… so don’t feel too bad about it.
I was very impressed with the amount of content the designers have managed to squeeze into what almost could be called a small box game. The board is more than big enough for a worker placement game and looks great for what it’s trying to represent.
I also really liked the little touches for example the breakdown of maths for the fish and money sections… the math behind those could have easily been quite confusing but the visual reminder was really handy.
Game Build Quality
I can’t fault the build quality of this game at all. The card stock is excellent for the board, tokens and cards. The meeples are standard, I guess they could have been made a little more thematic but that’s not a gripe, just an observation. The meeples still work as required and the quality of them is still very good.
Special appreciation has to go to the player boards. These are fantastic quality and very well designed. They arch in just the right way to completely hide your pieces but also contain all the different ways to score making it very clear what to drive for.
I was very impressed with those.
Considering this is a fairly simple theme Pedro Soto has done a great job of making the board feel alive. I could absolute believe that the board was a map laid out on an old wooden table top and the score sheets and other peripheries were scattered on or around it.
The wild life art is top quality and events, that just needed to be different enough to keep them interesting, are all well designed. Overall a very good job.
We played this as a 4-player and a 2-player game to see how the 2 player rules would work. It’s clear that the game works better as a 3-4 player game, but only because of the random aspect that the 2-player rules introduce.
In a 2-player game you are forced to add a 3rd player into the mix when it comes to bidding in certain areas. It often forces you out of certain area’s because you can’t compete… but who wants it to be easy right?
That aside, I really enjoyed Papua. It was fun from beginning to end. I had apprehensions that the dice rolling worker placement mechanic would put me off but it actually just made me think more about how to mitigate the dice rolls and how to make them benefit me.
It made for a real headscratcher at times but in a good way.
Age Range & Weight
10+ sounds about right to me. There some maths that can be a bit tricky to get your head around. Although you could hold a younger person’s hand through it, I think it would take away from your overall enjoyment of the game…
Even I struggled at times and I’m a grown man with a job and stuff.
Papua is very good worker placement game with splashes of dice management and a healthy dollop of set collecting, all of which works fantastically well together. It plays very smoothly and the timing of about 75 minutes play time is spot on.
After a few games that would probably even drop to less than an hour making this a very easy game to pick up and play no matter the occasion. It was also very easy to teach which is always a refreshing change.
I’m looking forward to make the next game of Papua and I hope you all enjoy it too.