One of the surprise hits from last year's Essen Fair was a little independent game called Vanuatu, designed by Alain Epron. It's fast become one of the more popular games in my game group. Who knew that seeking fame and fortune though Vanuatuan tourism and trade could be so fun?
+ Awesome with 5: One of the few games that plays well with five players yet has very little downtime in between turns.
+ Mechanics: A perfect blend of Action Selection (think Puerto Rico) and Worker Placement mechanics.
+ Cutthroat Interaction: You want an interactive game? Vanuatu has it in spades. The ability to block people out of actions is what makes this a great game!
+ A Pleasant, Unimposing Theme: The theme doesnt get in the way of the game, yet the designer added some nice Vanuatuan tourism flavor through the roles, art, and scoring elements (fishing, sand drawings, treasure divers, etc.).
+ Income Track: The on-board income track manager eliminates the need for paper money or poker chips and adds another timing twist whenever you get more than 10 Vatu!
- Unforgiving: The cutthroat, unforgiving nature of the game can put some people off. More experienced players will have a heavy advantage in the first few games with newer players.