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The frequent tremors, the looming clouds over the crater, and the increasing harsh smell of sulfur tell us it is time to escape. Direct your tribe through the waters of the Pacific to seek a new home, safe from the impending eruption of the volcano. Explore new sea routes to unvisited islands, gather resources on those islands to offer to other tribes in exchange for their knowledge, and keep sailing in search of a safe place — all this is being done to save as many of your tribe members as possible and lead them to new lands to prosper. The most successful individual will be named the supreme chief of the Polynesian tribal group.
In Polynesia, players must save their tribe members from the perils of the volcano by taking them to the islands that give them the most points. At the same time, players must try to reach the goals set by the tide cards, which will differ from one game to another. To succeed, players must gather resources in the form of fish and shells that will let them explore new sea routes, use the routes of other players, and sail from island to island.
Polynesia is played in rounds, each round is split into two phases. In the action phase, each player has three turns where they can perform one of three actions: sail, explore, or populate and fish. In the maintenance phase, the volcano is checked for activity, and each player can gather resources depending on the islands where they have tribe members.