Tabletop Game Review: Miaui


Miaui by Z-Man Games
3 to 6
20 minutes
Perfect for: 
Players looking for a bluffing/strategy game that is easy to pick up, plays quick, and has strong replay value

Miaui is a game where bidding accurately against your opponents is key. A simple game to learn, Miaui is all about deducing what your fellow players will do, and what cards they will play, in order to score the most points. Before talking more about how Miaui is played, here is more background on the theme, as described by the publisher, Z-Man Games:

As the tide changes on the island of Miaui (MEOW-ee), it’s time for the fishing festival, a competition where the most skilled Miauian divers try to bring back the most valuable fish from the lagoon for the evening feast. All kinds of fish are served at the feast, but beware the gooey jellyfish and the thieving seagulls!

In Miaui all players begin with a set of cards, number 1 to 12. Three fish are then placed on the board in an ascending to descending order randomly. The top fish is in the shallowest of the water, while the bottom one is the deepest. On a turn, each player will randomly choose one of the cards from their hand and place it face down. Players then all reveal their selections at the same time—the card with the largest number out of the choices wins the deepest fish, the card with the smallest number gets the shallowest, and the card with the second largest numbers gets the fish in the number (or next deepest).

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The silent auction mechanic in Miaui is affected by a few variables. First, players can only play each of their 12 cards only once (the game takes exactly 12 rounds). This means that individuals must be strategic about when they play their cards over the course of the game. Next, some trophies that come out randomly from the fish deck on to the board have adverse effects if they are inadvertently caught such as the seagull which flies off with your most recently acquired fish, or the jellyfish which have negative point values. Finally, ties are broken with a signaling token that rotates throughout the game.

What works in Miaui is the simplicity and the replay value. Miaui is the type of game you can pull out at tabletop party or gathering and teach within a few minutes. It’s highly engaging, goes quickly, and nearly anyone could jump in and out. Because the game moves so fast with just the right level of interaction and strategy, it’s likely to get a few consecutive plays. After learning the core mechanics, the actual board is rather unnecessary so Miaui could become fairly portable, if desired.

While Miaui is incredibly accessible, its core gameplay isn’t truly novel, so individuals who already have a favorite card-playing bluffing game may not get anything new here. Also, for groups that have that one friend who excels at card counting, you may want to exclude them from this one, as players who had a knack for keeping track of has and has not been played will certainly be at an advantage. Finally, Miaui plays best with bigger groups. Playing with three is still fun, but ties get a little wonky (which is a bit of a rules issue in that it’s not entirely clear what happens to the loser of the tie. A good house rule is that they get no trophy).

Miaui is a wonderful little bluffing game that is great for quick play among groups looking for something light and interactive.

Recommended if you like: Love Letter, Coup, Masquerade

Final Grade: A

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Fox Troilo

Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.

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