Troyes, Lost Cities, Twilight Imperium, Rajas of the Ganges, and Dice Hospital are among the many board games that have been reimagined as roll/flip and writes. I can’t think of any that have made the transition vice versa though. Until now…
Tucana Builders is one of the first, if not the first, board game to have been created based on a flip and write game, Trails of Tucana. I enjoyed my plays of this route building game so I was excited to hear of the board game reimplementation. Let me tell you more…
Set up is really simple. Give each player a player board and a set of huts and a set of starting tiles, these can be stored together in individual bags for easier set up in the future. Set up the score board with player colours. Shuffle the starting cards and then play them to establish where the starting tiles should be on each player board. Do the same with the cards for the huts.
Tip all the other tiles out in a central pile and make sure they are all face down. Shuffle the terrain cards and keep those in easy reach. If playing with the advanced achievement cards flip two random cards over too.
Tucana Builders is played over two rounds. You score after each round and get points for how many animals you can link via a path back to the corresponding hut of the matching colour, Toucans are wild and add points to any hut. The game is played simultaneously. A card is flipped and each player takes a random tile and places it on their player board on a space that matches the terrain on the card. Once the deck has been exhausted, scores are tallied and then the deck is reshuffled for the second round.
To make life a touch easier, each player has a Wild card that can be used once per round, this enables players to place on a different terrain type should they wish.
After the second round you tally the scores for each different colour, yellow, red and blue and then add the score from your lowest scoring colour again. Add in points from achievement cards if using those and you can declare the winner to whoever has the most points.
What it’s like
Tucana Builders is a fast-paced puzzle where your hopes of probability being on your side is regularly dashed! Often, you will be trying to make the best of a bad situation!
Some people, my eldest son included, will find the restrictive game play super frustrating. I see these limitations as part of the game, a way the game conjures up barriers to stop it becoming a mathematical efficiency puzzle. The Wild cards really do help, and gives you at least one moment of freedom for placement per round. Regardless, most players will have moments where they groan as things haven’t quite turned out how they planned. There is a prominent tally of tile frequency on your player board that you can consult at any time to add probability to your planning.
I particularly like the two rounds of scoring, this means as a player, you have to decide to attempt short or long term goals. A longer term strategy does magnify the luck element, but if it pays off and if you have enough flexibility in your paths, it can reap serious rewards. In terms of game design I also really appreciate rescoring your lowest route again as this stops players focussing on just one colour.
The race to fulfil public objectives first shifts the focus and makes the game a little less insular. The multiplayer solo gets interrupted by cursory gazes around your opponents boards.
The architect Louis H. Sullivan would be pleased, as form follows function in this board game!
There is a lot to like with the production of Tucana Builders as it has an overall pleasant appearance. It does however, fall a little short of being particularly exciting. Everything has a feeling of being a little more utilitarian than spectacular. The antithesis of this, is that the game is clear and easy to play, with bold icons and clear paths to follow. A good example of this is the Achievement cards, which clearly tell you the objective on the card so you don’t have to consult the rulebook.
I’m not a fan of a scoreboard that snakes rather than goes along from left to right or around in a circle. I find my brain just doesn’t compute it correctly. Others won’t take issue with it I’m sure!
The box insert is one of the most curious I have encountered. There is a central well, which presumably should house the tiles, cards and player tokens, with the player boards and rules nestling aloft, supported by the cardboard edges. However, no matter what I try I cannot get them to not overflow the well, meaning everything that sits on top is wrestling to sit flat above it. I think I would be better off without the cardboard edge and just having the contents rattle around the box like an angry snake. It was only in removing said parts that I realised that two sides could be lifted up to store some of the components in – I hope this trend doesn’t catch on!
The rulebook was nice and clear and made perfect sense from beginning to end.
What the kids thought
Max (9): It’s good, I like it a lot. It’s quite easy to pick up and play.
George (12): Yeah it’s good, I enjoyed playing it. I’d like to play it more!
Harrison (15): I’ll play it, but it isn’t my favourite. I find it quite frustrating and I don’t like being able to not do all the things I want to do.
Final thoughts on Tucana Builders
I have enjoyed sitting down and playing Tucana Builders. It seems I am more patient and forgiving of the restrictive tile placement than others. I put this down to different perspectives: I see the board game as one of constant adaption of what the game serves you, rather than an efficiency puzzle that needs to be completed. I feel the necessity of balancing short and long term goals is a major part of the game rather than a flaw and the Wild cards add some freedom when it is really vital.
I do acknowledge there is a lot of luck involved and I have seen frustrations around that. Equally though everyone I have played it with from my youngest (9) to other gamers have enjoyed their time with it and had competitive scores. Ultimately, every player has the same groans at some point throughout the game, but this, for me at least, makes the game rather than breaks it.
Those who think of Trials of Tucana fondly will likely enjoy the tactile nature and familiarity of this version.
Number of players: 1 to 5
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 10+
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 2 minutes
Designers: Kristian Amundsen Østby and Eilif Svensson
Publisher: Aporta Games
I find Tucana Builders a really fun game but I know that the luck and restrictive tile placement will frustrate some. That’s how I felt about the flip and write too, so if you liked that, you’ll likely enjoy the board game iteration!
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Very little downtime regardless of player count
- Satisfying puzzle
- Easy to learn
- Restrictive tile placement
- Luck of the cards and tiles
- Can be frustrating
Buy Tucana Builders
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