Siva Afi board game box and components on table

Siva Afi Review

Siva Afi board game box and components on table

Name: Siva Afi – The Fireknife Dance of Samoa

Year of Release: 2021

Player Count: 1 – 4

Playing Time: 30 – 45 Minutes

Designer: Peter Drake

Publisher: Peter Drake

Primary Mechanisms: Push Your Luck, Set Collection, Take That

A copy of this game was provided to the site for free in order to review it.


Admittedly, there are millions of subjects and topics out there that I’ve never even heard of, much less, that I even know anything about.  This number probably grows exponentially when you start talking about things outside of my known culture.  But even with all this available subject matter, a lot of modern board games seem to mine the same themes repeatedly.  Farming, in some form, is popular.  Exploring space and settling planets is another common theme.  Lastly, how many games place you as some sort of leader of a random European piece of land, tasking you with growing your land and power?  “A lot,” is the correct answer.

So, it was with quite a bit of surprise when I stumbled upon Siva Afi.  Designer Peter Drake sent out a “toot” on Mastodon inquiring about any board game review sites being interested in reviewing his 2021 release.  I responded and asked what it was about.  His answer was it’s about “…Samoan fireknife dancing (an overcrowded niche, I realize.)”  After re-reading a few times, I had to go look it up, wondering if I was going to be putting myself in danger while playing.  Thankfully, I wouldn’t actually be doing any “dancing” (as nobody wants to see that) but would instead be attempting to put on the best dance by playing cards in a specific order against my opponents.  A week or so later, a box showed up with the game packed neatly inside, and I was ready to try my hand at fireknife dancing!

Rulebook & Components 

Siva Afi comes packed in a card box that is about the size of two regular card boxes stacked on top of each other.  Inside the box, players will find the main deck, comprised of 88 Move Cards and 12 Mistake Cards.  Outside of the main deck, a few player aides are included to help players remember the actions involved in the two phases as well as six two-sided cards declaring whether the player is actively Drumming or Dancing.

Siva Afi board game cards with firedancers

The cards are nicely illustrated by Troy Safotu, with bright splashes of color behind a figure performing the dance move that the card is named after.  The move’s name is printed across the left side in both English and Samoan, adding a nice cultural touch to the cards.  You can tell that Drake has a lot of respect for the theme and wishes to portray it accurately.

I do have one slight negative about the artwork on the cards and this lies in the usage of the suit’s symbols.  There are nine suits (each representing a different move category such as Rivers or Passes) and these suits are denoted by large and colorful geometric shapes.  The aforementioned Passes suit is an orange diamond whereas Spins are all labeled with a bright yellow circle.  This choice might have been made for accessibility purposes (as I know that players afflicted by color-blindness can have a more difficult time when hues are too close together) but I wish that the symbols and colors matched the Samoan theme more.  This definitely doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay, but if I were to nitpick something about the cards themselves, this would be it.

I’m very impressed with the small rulebook that comes with the game.  While the game isn’t at all hard to understand, the rulebook has nice examples of legal and illegal plays to squelch any confusion.  There are also tidbits about the history of fireknife dancing as well as some Traditions you can try while playing, to make the atmosphere more like an actual fireknife dancing event.  Or at least, as close as you’ll come when drawing from a deck of cards.


Players start with a hand of seven cards with the rest of the deck being placed in the middle of the table.  The game is broken into two phases: Practice and Performance.  Each game starts in the Practice phase and players will be concentrating on building up cards in their hands.  There is no hand limit so players take turns either drawing one card from the center deck, or they can discard X cards and then draw X amount from the center deck.  Play continues around the table like this until a player decides to start a Performance.

At this point, all players will end their Practice phase and now must perform a dance.  Each player will flip their two-sided card so that the Dancing side is face-up.  Starting with the player who initiated the performance, players will take turns playing cards from their hand, constructing a fireknife dance.  The twist is that certain card suits have to be placed down in a certain order and there can only be one suit per dance played.  Once a player has ran out of card that are eligible to be played, they turn the two-sided card over to the Drumming side to signify that they are done creating their dance.  Once all players are done and have turned their card to the Drumming side, the points in the top left of each card that has been played are summed up and the highest amount wins that round.  The winner’s total is the only one marked down, as all other players are awarded zero points.  Depending on the player count, the first to get to a specific amount of points wins.

Siva Afi board game cards on a table

I really enjoy the “push your luck” factor within each round.  There are times when you just know that you will not win the round, thus getting zero points, so it’s best to cut your losses and save the balance of your hand for the next dance.  Other times, it might be worth it to keep laying cards down as you or another player might have a Mistake Card to play, sabotaging another player’s dance.  I’ve made mention before that I don’t care for “take that” mechanics in games, and even though many of the Mistake Cards are truly brutal (sometimes you have to discard your whole dance), the game is structured in a way where it is easy to get back into the game fairly quickly.

I will make mention that the game felt fuller when we had more players.  When it was just my wife and I playing, the Practice phases felt a little empty, just drawing cards back and forth but the feeling was definitely different as we added players.  I do like that if any player performs a dance that contains all nine suits, they automatically win the game.  This stops constant drawing in the Practice phase as you never want to give your opponents the chance to collect all nine suits.


Siva Afi is a wonderful card game, easy enough to learn for all levels of gamers.  My wife, and even kids, have had a blast playing, especially when a well-timed Mistake Card comes out, wreaking havoc amongst the players.  As a bonus, we found out that Peter Drake is not only a professor and board game creator (amongst other things), he also is an actual fireknife dancer!  I have to congratulate him on finding a truly novel way of combining his passions and making something that we can all enjoy.


Ratings are based on 5 main criteria: rulebook, setup, components, art & graphic design, and gameplay.  The first 4 criteria are rated 1 to 5 and the gameplay is rated 1 to 10.  These scores culminate in an “overall satisfaction” score that is rated from 1 to 10.  If the reviewed game has both a solo and multiplayer mode, I have assigned scores separately to give context to which mode we enjoy more.  

Kristofer Solomon

Hey, everyone! I’m Kristofer Solomon and the creator of Board Game Breakdown. I’ve been playing board games since I was little, typically spending days on top of days playing Risk with kids from my neighborhood. As I moved into college, I started playing Magic: the Gathering with a group of guys and my love for board games slid to the wayside as I progressed into gulp adulthood (not to mention a long obsession with World of Warcraft.) Eventually, I fell back into the hobby in its current state when my wife (then girlfriend) bought me a copy of Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition for my birthday in 2008. This simple to grasp, but strategic train game blew me away. I didn’t realize at the time that board games could be much more than your average game of Sorry or Trouble. We eventually got Catan, Small World, and other well-known titles and the rest is history.

I’m hopeful that the content of this website and its associated YouTube and Instagram channels can be informative to those who are either on the fence about getting a game, or maybe just looking for something new. About 50% of my gaming time is spent solo gaming so I enjoy touching on that subject when I discuss games as this is an area that is typically not focused on.

Thanks to all who spent even a minute perusing this site, it means a lot to me. Happy gaming!

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