A mere glance at the box of Blue Lagoon and the soundtrack of Disney’s “Moana” starts playing in the back of my head. Both board game and movie are set in a Polynesian archipelago, against a background of exploration and discovery.
In Blue Lagoon by Blue Orange Games, players are seafarers exploring new-found islands and making them their home. Playing as rivalling tribes, there’s a tough competition for land and resources.
What is Blue Lagoon like?
Blue Lagoon is a game of route-building, set-collection and area control. It consists of 2 distinct phases and score is counted at the end of each phase. The player with the highest total score is the winner.
The exotic setting compels minds to wander, but only the observant and sharp-minded player will make his tribe thrive. Points are awarded on no less than 6 objectives, causing mind tingling dilemmas on each turn.
The game board consists of hexagonal spaces and depicts 8 idyllic islands surrounded by clear blue ocean. Every player gets a number of explorers – depending on the player count – and 5 wooden huts. At the start of both game phases the islands are randomly seeded with statuettes and 4 different kind of resources (bamboo, water, precious stone and coconut)
A random start player is chosen and play continues clockwise with each player placing a single piece on their turn. Every hex can only hold one player piece.
In the Exploration Phase a player can freely put down an explorer on any ocean hex. Inland exploration is then possible from those purposely acquired ocean spots. On the mainland a player can choose to put down an explorer or to build one of their huts. When a player puts a piece on a spot with a resource or statuette they require it.
The Settlement Phase is very similar, except that the previously built huts stay on the newly seeded game board and players can only expand and explore starting from huts of their color.
Strategic placement of huts in the 1st phase is thus crucial for the 2nd game phase.
A phase ends when all resources and statuettes are claimed, or when all players run out of game pieces. After each phase end score is counted.
Every acquired statuette is worth 4 points. Resources give points per set of all 4 kinds and per set of 2 or more of the same kind. Players looks for their longest uninterrupted chain of player pieces and gains 5 points per island linked by their chain. Every island generates an amount of points for the player who holds the majority. In case of a tie the points are split.
Despite its abstract character – not my favorite genre – I was drawn to Blue Lagoon as by the pull of the ocean. I like the added theme: it’s thin but ties in with the mechanics. I love how the tension ramps up quickly with a 3- or 4- player count. Turn by turn players need to divide their attention between collecting resources, connecting routes and creating majorities. The various ways of scoring prompt mental arithmetic: which goals to pursue and where to cease efforts? It’s also very much a battle of minds – trying to figure out another player’s intentions. A mix of bold moves and precautionary steps will lead one player to victory.
- Easy rule-set
- Fast paced
- Steep tension curve
- Cardboard tokens will wear and tear
- Tokens don’t stay tuck in the box insert
- Themed artwork makes for a busier look than needed – but it’s oh so pretty!
Reiner Knizia is praised for flawlessly applying “less is more” in board game design. Blue Lagoon is yet again a game by his hand with a minimal rule set but yet depth in gameplay. A handy scorepad serves as a reminder for the multiple ways of scoring. The suggested age on the box is 8 years and up. I fear though it might leave young children feeling blue, as it’s quite mathematic and highly confrontational.
- Players: 2 – 4
- Playing time: 30 – 45 minutes
- Suggested age: 8+