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Subject: Islebound - Overview and Initial Impressions rss

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Greg Syferd
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Hilliard
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Admittedly, I am a late comer to the Ryan Lauket multiverse for any number of reasons that escape me at the moment. While I had heard the hype for Above and Below, City of Iron, and several other games from Red Raven I wasn't bought into the theme and mechanics enough to give them a go.

Enter Islebound, which is his newest title. After watching several videos, I decided this would be my entry point and gauge if I wanted to jump into his world.

Islebound
Set Above and Below (and soon Near and Fear) universe, Islebound is an island hopping game in which players are trying to accumulate wealth and reputation. You do this by sailing your ship around the board to acquire crew members, purchase buildings, and gather resources. Using these, you gain fame and reputation by completing missions and meeting objectives.

Each player has a board representing their ship, which is used to hold crew and resources. The crew, which uses the art and design from Ryan's previous games, are used to take actions and influence dice rolls. Your hold contains fish and wood (the two resources of the game.) Players may acquire renown (used for diplomacy actions) and book resources. Finally, a marker is used to indicate how many spaces your ship can move each turn. Additionally, players will have money and need space for building cards they have procured.

The board is a series of pieces which include four home ports (placed in the corners and where players start) and four larger pieces containing the various ports of call your ship can visit. Each port provides a unique ability, such as acquire fish, recruit pirates, or rest your overworked crew. You will likely need to visit each space at least once throughout the course of the game. Finally, there are two decks of cards, representing missions and objectives you can complete to acquire more resources and victory points.

On a turn, your ship must move at least one space. This requires you to think a turn or two in advance to optimize the current strategy you're pursuing. Since each space is a port, you will always end your movement with a decision you must make. Will you visit the port to utilize its ability, use diplomacy to win the people to your side, or forcefully take it over?

Each player gets one main action after moving. Visiting a port is simple enough. Each space has an entry fee in the form of a coin payment and sometimes exhausting one of your crew members. Once paid, you can utilize the port's abilities.

You may also use diplomacy to make the port ally with you. This is done by spending renown, acquired throughout the game, equal to or greater than the printed value for each port (ranging from I believe 5 - 12.) Once allied, place one of your control markers on the space and in the future you do not have to pay the entry fee. Additionally, other players must pay you in the future to utilize the port's services.

Hostile take over of a port works similar to diplomacy. Throughout the game, you will acquire pirates and sea serpents who do your dirty work. When used, a player chooses how many of each they will commit to the battle. A die is rolled for each unit and compared against the results show on the card. For example, a sea serpent produces no results on 1-2, adds two to the combat if a 3 or 4 is rolled, and adds three if the 5 or greater. If the total combat value is equal to or greater than the printed value, the town is marked with one of your control markers and the spent pirates/sea serpents are returned to the pool. Crew can be wounded to add 1 to the combat, which means they will be unable to help you for several turns until they've rested (an action space on the board.)

A couple of notes on diplomacy and combat. First, if you are successful, claim spoils in the form of money equal to the printed diplomacy/combat value of the port you just acquired. You may still take the port's action for your turn. Secondly, some of the ports can only be taken over by battle, while others are only taken through diplomacy. Finally, in either case, if you are attempting to wrest control from an opponent you must add 2 to the printed value (however, you still only get the printed value in spoils.)

Finally, the last action you may take is hunting for treasure. As mentioned previously, when you visit an uncontrolled port, you must pay an entry fee of at least one coin. These coins go on a space and will slowly start to accumulate. As an action, you may claim these coins for yourself. However, you will not take the action of the port space.


A player may also take any number of free actions on their turn. One is to resolve a mission. There are two face up mission cards at all times. A typical mission may say go to port ABC and deliver 4 fish. Each mission has a reward, usually in the form of renown (used for the diplomacy action above.)

A second free action is to purchase a building. There are five buildings available for purchase, although three of them require you to have 1 or more books available in order to purchase them (you won't spend the books, you just need them in your pool.). Buildings have a cost and provide many special abilities such as each time you acquire a fish, acquire an additional fish. They may also provide game end bonuses, such as having control of specific locations. Finally, buildings also provide victory points equal to their cost.

A final aspect of the game is reputation. Reputation is used to acquire bonus tiles and a one-time benefit. For example, one may provide 7 victory points and 4 fish you can immediately add to your hold. Reputation is gained throughout the game using various actions and tracked for each player. Once a player has gained 7 reputation, they take the top tile off of the stack and restart on the track again. To be successful, a player will likely need 2-3 of these tiles to be competitive in end game scoring.

The game ends when a specified number of buildings, based on player count, have been built by a player. Players add up coins, buildings, bonus tiles, and reputation to determine a winner!

Impression
As my first Red Raven game, I already knew they had reputation for high-quality components. This game did not disappoint. The box is nice and beefy, the artwork is pleasant, and the components are all wonderfully done. There are tons of building and mission cards, making re-playability quite high. As an added bonus, the crew can be used in Above and Below (and I assume Near and Far when it's released.). While it is not a story telling game, there is flavor text that draws you into the Islebound world.

While it may seem the game is complex, mechanically it's quite simple. Move, take an action, end turn. It's a basic resource management/worker placement mechanic, with just a touch of area control. There isn't anything revolutionary by any means in this game, which isn't a bad thing.

What makes this game stand out is how silky smooth it plays. You do not need to anguish over the better of two moves or plan ten turns in advance where you want to be. You can decide that you're going for, determine the 2 or 3 ports you need to visit in order to meet the need, then move on to the next goal. If someone beats you to something, no worries...those goods you acquired will come in handy in some other way.

This leads to a fast and pleasant experience for all. Turns, even for the most AP prone player, rarely last more than a minute or two. There are a number of decisions to be made, but none of them so difficult that you will hopelessly fall out of contention if you miss the mark.

While there is not a ton of direct player interaction, you are still aware of where everyone is and you need to anticipate just enough to know if they are going to make a run on a mission you want to complete or grab a building you might want. An optional trade variant, which allows the exchange of goods between players in the same space, would certainly spice up interaction. Finally, a second optional rule adds a little more to the player vs. player combat, again increasing player interaction.

As my first game from Ryan Lauket, I couldn't be happier with Islebound. There is ton of game in the box, it plays 60-90 minutes top, and has good decisions without inducing a ton of brain burn. It's also beautiful to look at and draws you into this little world. I'd recommend this for anyone who is dabbling into medium weight games as a next step up or for heavy Euro gamers who every so often just need to step it down just a bit to take a break from the norm.

8/10





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Curt Carpenter
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Kirkland
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gregor1863 wrote:
As my first game from Ryan Lauket, I couldn't be happier with Islebound.

8/10

Apparently you could be.
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Joshua Jacobs
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Maryland
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curtc wrote:
gregor1863 wrote:
As my first game from Ryan Lauket, I couldn't be happier with Islebound.

8/10

Apparently you could be.


Heyyoooooo
 
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Derek Field
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curtc wrote:
gregor1863 wrote:
As my first game from Ryan Lauket, I couldn't be happier with Islebound.

8/10

Apparently you could be.


lol
 
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