Very notionally set on a Hawaiian beach, Maui is an essentially abstract tile drafting and placement game designed by Frank Crittin, Grégoire Largey and Sébastien Pauchon. It’s published by Next Move Games as part of their series of otherwise unconnected games with four-letter titles, of which the best known is Azul.
In Maui, the 2-4 players take turns to draft beach towel tokens from a small market comprising two rows of three. The towels all have three patterns on them and you’ll be trying to draft and place out on your individual beach board towel patterns that connect up. These earn you points-scoring progress on a patterns track. For connections in the middle part of your board, you’ll usually advance one place on the applicable track but you gain up to three places per connection at the outer positions on your board; the downside is that whenever you find you have to position a tile beyond the extremities of your beach then you’ll take a one-point penalty. As you progress along your individual beach board, you’ll also be able to collect beach brolly tokens that will either give you a boost on one of the pattern tracks or which will contribute to a set collection bonus.
When you draft a towel tile, you can always take from the left-most column for free but you have to pay sand dollars to take towels from either of the other columns. The sand dollars get added to piles on the market board, making it increasingly attractive to eschew a tile pick that turn and take instead one of the dollar piles: you’ll want to keep some sand dollars to ensure you have more choice: you’ll find it frustrating if you are always limited to taking towel tiles solely from the free left-hand column.
Tho’ Chris Quilliams’ artwork helps to bring the beach theme to life, don't expect the gameplay in Maui to transport you to the Hawaiian Islands: the theme isn’t this game’s strongest point. Maui is really an abstract game but it is nonetheless very accessible. This is a light game that can be quickly picked up and played by all the family. We’ve enjoyed it at all player counts but you’ll find it is notably more strategic with two players than with four. That’s because at higher player counts, the towel tile market is likely to have almost completely changed before your next turn comes around so you can’t really plan ahead.
The game comes with a 'sand crab' variant in the box. This is played using the flip side of the player beach boards, with sand crab tokens replacing the set collection bonus beach brollies. The key difference is that instead of incentivising you for covering the token, players are penalised whenever a tile covers a sand crab, so this variant can push players towards a different path...
Maui may not have the depth of Next Move’s extended Azul series but it nonetheless makes for a light very accessible family game.