Pakiaka Game Guide

Pakiaka Icon



1-8 PLAYERS  |  10-30 MINUTES  |  6+ YEARS
WARNING! Choking hazard — small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.

Pakiaka is a fun and educational word game in te reo Māori which encourages players to challenge and improve their Māori vocab knowledge. Pakiaka is a game of speed - the aim is to finish your crossword grid first, but accuracy is just as important to ensure you get as many points as possible. There are extra challenges available, as well as play variations, to give players options depending on what type of game is desired.


  • Place all 120 tiles face down in the centre. Use a flat surface with enough space for each player to create their own crossword grid.
  • Everyone then takes a set number of tiles from the centre pile and lays them in front of them, face-down. The number of tiles you take depends on the number of people playing:

2-3 people: Each player takes 15 tiles
4-6 people: Each player takes 10 tiles


Goal: Be the first to use up all your tiles.

  • Once everyone is ready, the youngest player starts the game by saying “KARAWHIUA!”. Everybody then turns their tiles face up and starts forming their own crossword grid of intersecting words in te reo Māori.
  • Words can be horizontal or vertical, going from left to right or top to bottom. Players can rearrange their own words as often as they want. Everyone works on their own crossword grid, independently of each other.
  • When a player successfully uses all their tiles in their crossword grid, they say “KIA RUA!” and every player must take two tiles from the centre pile to add to their collection, including the person who called “KIA RUA!”.
  • A player can return a troublesome tile back to the pile (face-down), but they must take three tiles in return. The player declares this by saying “WHAKAWHITI!”. This doesn’t affect any of the other players. It can only be done twice per player.
  • The game ends when there are fewer tiles in the centre pile than there are players (e.g. if there are only two tiles left between three players). At that point, the first player with no remaining tiles shouts “KĀTI!” and is awarded 10 bonus points for finishing first.


  • The players now inspect each others’ crossword grid for misspelled or incorrect words (see ‘important’ section for which type of words are unacceptable). If any word(s) are unacceptable, then no points are awarded for that word.
  • To score, players tally up the points from their horizontal and vertical words from their crossword grid. Points are calculated by squaring the number of letters in each word (e.g. a four-letter word would equal 16 points). See example provided for how to score your crossword grid.
  • The player with the highest total score is the winner and is labelled the RANGATIRA of that round.


Crossword Example





























(finishing first)





 *‘nga’ is missing the macron on the ‘a’

 **this figure is incorrect in some of the printed game guides

2 letter word

4 pts

3 letter word

9 pts

4 letter word

16 pts

5 letter word

25 pts

6 letter word

36 pts

7 letter word

49 pts

8 letter word

64 pts

9 letter word

81 pts

10 letter word

100 pts

11 letter word

121 pts

12 letter word

144 pts



  • Tiki tiles’ are wild tiles which can be used in place of any letter.
  • You may use the Māori dictionary at any time to check if your word is correct.
  • Macrons must be used correctly for the word to be counted as acceptable.
  • Dialectal variations are acceptable as long as all players agree on the word
    (e.g. wēnei vs. ēnei, ngaa vs. ngā).
  • Players may not use words which are made up of multiple words (e.g. ‘ata mārie’ is not counted as one word, but ‘ata’ and ‘mārie’ can be used as separate words in your crossword grid).
  • Players may use a separate ‘w’ and ‘h’ tile to form the ‘wh’ character if needed.


If you want to make the game extra challenging for more knowledgeable Māori speakers, then try a few of the following variations below:

  • Remove the ‘tiki tiles’ from the pile.
  • After the first player announces “KĀTI!”, the other players can challenge them to provide the meaning of each word in their crossword (without using the dictionary). If they fail to provide a correct answer, then the points are not counted for that particular word.
  • Remove the option to use the “WHAKAWHITI” rule.


Waka Ama

This version is all about speed! There is no point system at the end. Whoever finishes first is labelled the RANGATIRA of the round. However, if the other players discover any misspelled or incorrect words, then the player must return all their tiles to the centre and the remaining players continue until there is a new RANGATIRA.


This version accommodates larger groups. Players can pair up in teams and work on the same crossword against other teams of two. This makes for a faster game as two brains are better than one!

Boil Up

This version requires all the tiles to be divided up equally between the players, remaining face-down. Players then continue to play the game, but without “KIA RUA!” and “WHAKAWHITI!”. The first player to use all of his/her tiles shouts “KĀTI!” and then points are calculated as normal to determine the RANGATIRA of that round. If the game ends in a stalemate, the player with the fewest remaining tiles receives the 10 bonus points.


This is a one player version of Pakiaka. Place all tiles down on the centre of the table. Take 15 tiles and proceed to play the game. Only “KIA RUA” when needed. Try to beat your own best time in using all 120 tiles. This is a good way to hone your reo Māori knowledge.