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Subject: Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Bound for Awesomeness in Islebound With Two rss

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Milena Guberinic
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Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Bound for Awesomeness in Islebound With Two


I love Ryan Laukat's games. Ancient World and City of Iron were my top two favorites until Islebound walked in and upset that world order.



The Overview


In Islebound, you will become a trader, conqueror, and/or diplomat in a mystical archipelago. You will travel from island to island, collecting resources, trading those resources for other items, hiring crew, recruiting pirates and sea monsters, conquering towns, and building or buying buildings to add to your capital.

The game includes a mobile archipelago board made up of 4 sea boards and 4 sea ports. The sea boards are double sided, with one side of each being suitable for the "basic" game and the other for the "advanced" game.



There is also a renown board that shows spaces for event cards, which you can trigger when you find yourself in a corresponding town in order to place your cubes on the influence track, renown cards, which you can trigger by going to Farwold to gain renown points, and crew members.



The deck of building cards is shuffled and placed separately from the boards, with 3-book, 2-book, and 1-book symbols above the buildings closest to the deck.

You will start the game with a ship board, a ship speed of 2, 7 coins, 3 crew (two with administrative abilities and one with a work ability).



On your turn, you must move and then may perform one action and any number of free actions.

1) Move
You MUST move your ship on each turn, moving from one island to the next up to the speed of your ship. If you end up in a space with another player's ship, you must exhaust one of your crew members with an administrative ability and indicating this by moving that crew member below deck on your ship board.

2) Actions
*Visit
You may visit the town in which your ship is located and complete its action by paying the entry cost. All towns not under a player's control require that you pay a coin to the treasure map on the renown board. If the town is owned by another player, you pay that coin to the town's owner. If the town's owner is you, you don't pay a coin. Some towns also require that you exhaust a crew member.

Town actions include things like resting your crew, acquiring pirates and sea serpents, using books to place your influence cubes on the influence track, triggering renown cards, acquiring fish and wood, building buildings using their wood/fish resource costs, acquiring renown, acquiring new crew members, and various combinations thereof.



*Attack
You may attack the town in which your ship is located if the town shows a red banner. You roll a number of dice equal to the number of pirates and sea serpents you have and assign one die to each to determine your attack strength. If you have enough attack strength, you take over the town, return the pirates and sea serpents that helped you to the supply, receive a number of coins equal to the town's strength, and may visit the town if you wish. Some crew members have powers that allow you to exhaust them in order to roll additional dice. You may also use wood to re-roll dice.





*Diplomacy
You may use diplomacy at the town in which your ship is located if the town shows a blue banner. You remove cubes of your color from the influence track to equal or exceed the influence of the town. Some crew members have powers that allow you to exhaust them in order to obtain additional influence. You then take over the town, gain coins equal to the town's influence, and may visit the town if you wish.



*Hunt for treasure
Take the coins from the treasure map.

Free actions
You may perform any number of free actions on your turn. These include:
*Event
If your ship is located in a town with an event marker, you may trigger the corresponding event to place your influence cubes on the influence track.

*Buy a building
You may buy buildings from the building row for their coin cost. You must have a number of books equal to the marker above the card you wish to buy.



The game ends when one player has 8 buildings in a 2-player game. At the end of the game, you get points for
1) Each unspent coin
2) Value of your buildings
3) Special building powers
4) Renown tokens you have gained by moving up the renown track during the course of the game
5) Residual renown on the renown track


Every time you get to space 7 of the renown track, you gain one of these tokens


The Review


Played prior to review 5x






1. Beautiful, highly functional, and well integrated art and graphic design
What is it about the calming blue waters of Islebound that put my mind at ease and make me forget the world? Ryan Laukat always succeeds in creating a vibrant and immersive world through his art, but in Islebound, he's managed to go beyond this to marry his art, theme, and mechanisms in a three-way union of wonders!

The artwork certainly goes a long way to creating a spectacularly thematic world, but it also goes to work! Ryan has done a great job of creating a graphic design aesthetic that is unobtrusive and integrated perfectly into the art while being highly functional. Despite the relatively large number of symbols in the game, they are internalized very quickly. At least, we barely needed an introduction to what they meant, which may or may not have much to do with our familiarity with Ryan's other games. Either way, this world is not only beautiful but smooth to sail through!

2. So many routes to victory!
Islebound may be Ryan's most strategically involved game to date! Though I have yet to play Empires of the Void, I have played the rest of his games and would put Islebound at about the same level of strategy and involvement as City of Iron, as it presents you with numerous routes to victory and you can choose to follow all, some, or one and do well in any case. Which path you choose will, of course, depend on the arrangement of villages and the assortment of buildings on offer and charting your course for the game based on that information is a key part of the strategy in the game.

So what are these delightful routes to victory I speak of? Well, you can focus your energy on producing books and converting them into renown, you can focus on taking over towns through diplomacy or aggression and hoarding coins/using them to buy buildings to help you collect more points, you focus on chasing after bragging rights for various aspects of your city at Farowld, you can focus on collecting resources to build buildings for both in-game and end-game points...You get the picture. There are many ways to go in this game and many ways to go about any single way. And that gives Islebound enough depth to satisfy the most discerning of

3. A very satisfying route-planning element
I love games with maps. I don't know what it is about planning an effective and efficient route and then executing that plan that makes me so happy, but that's how my brain works. And Islebound gives me a very satisfying map to work with! At the start of each game, you have to survey the lay of the land to determine which strategy would work best. Will you try to take over a bunch of towns through diplomacy first or start with amassing a powerful crew? Will you instead focus on attacking? The buildings that are available at the start of the game will undoubtedly also influence which group of towns you focus on, as they can provide additional incentives for certain actions, such as providing extra points every time you take over a town through diplomacy or attacks or every time you build a building or give you extra resources every time you visit a specific town. Events that will give you influece for later diplomacy actions may also influence the route you select initially and throughout the game depending on their location and required resources. And as the game progresses, your plans will have to adjust depending on the locations of your oppoents and the availability of your crew. As such, when you are making navigation plans at the start of the game and adjusting them throughout the game, you constantly have to cosider a multitude of factors, which makes the process very interesting.

4. Satisfying nature and level of player interaction
As much as I enjoy games that are completely solitary, I do love it when games force me to make plans based on what I think my opponent is going to do or create some form of interdependence between players. In Islebound, player interaction is generated by the fact that a) you have to exhaust crew members if you want to sail to the same location as an opponent (or the same board as an opponent when playing with only two players), b) you must pay an opponent to visit his towns and he must pay you to visit your towns, and c) the game ends when one player builds his 8th building.

The fact that you have to exhaust crew members based on you and your opponent's relative positions means that you have to consider both where you want to head and where you think your opponent is heading, as well as the availability of crew with administrate abilities on your ship and on your opponent's ship when you are planning your route through the archipelago.

The fact that you must pay your opponent every time you land on a town owned by him and that you will get paid every time your opponent lands on a town owned by you means that you should plan to take over towns that would both be most beneficial to advancing your strategy and would be desirable for your opponent to visit.

Finally, the game ends when one player owns 8 buildings, meaning that you have to keep a close eye on the rate at which your opponent is acquiring buildings. Islebound is a funny game in that it doesn't really have a set pace; the pace of the game depends on the rate at which players choose to push the end game forward. As such, it is vital to keep a close watch over your opponent to determine how long the game might last and what your best options are at any given moment based on that.

Islebound is not a directly interactive in-your-face game and I'm glad for that, but it does feature some elements that encourage you to keep an eye on your opponent's movements and strategies, which contribute to the game's demands.

5. Comborrific!
Recognizing and exploiting combinations that will yield maximal points is key to playing Islebound well. And discovering and exploiting synergies between the buildings you acquire and the relative locations of towns on the board/powers of your crew members to make explosive amounts of points is intensely satisfying and fun! In one game, I had a building that would give me a point every time I acquired a building and another that gave me a point and a fish every time I acquired a building, so I just took over Stratic (the town that allows you to use resources to build buildings), spent my money on buildings and then built more buildings for more points. Triggering the renown cards, which will give you point for having achieved certain things over the course of the game, at just the right moment can also yield tonnes of points, which can help you complete events or build buildings, as you gain renown marker bonuses every time you reach 7 points on the renown track.

6. Very high replay value
As I mentioned above, Islebound presents you with a multitude of routes to victory, which means it inherently has plenty of replay value as you can explore each of the ways to win and combine them in different ways in each game. Beyond that, the game has a number of variable setup features, including a double-sided map with different functions for many of the towns on each side, a map that is made up of a random arrangement of tiles, building cards that become available at different times in each game, and renown and event cards that also become available at different times in each game. The combination of depth and variable setup features that encourage different strategies and tactical maneuvers makes every session of Islebound unique.

7. EXPANSION for Above and Below!
Do you have Above and Below? Do you love Above and Below? Do you wish you had more explorers to help with your cave spelunking in Above and Below? Well, Islebound has your explorers! Each of the crew members in Islebound is double sided; one side shows its Islebound function and the other its Above and Below function! Neat!



8. Brilliant two-player variant included!
We have played a couple of games of Islebound with the basic rules as written and several with the "close quarters" variant, which makes the map feel much more like it would when playing at a higher player count. According to this variant, when your ship ends its movement on the same BOARD as your opponent's ship, you must exhaust a crew member with an "administrate" ability. So instead of only having to do this when you end on the same space, you have to do this when you end on the same space and most nearby spaces. This increases the need to effectively plan your route to include rest stops along the way and feels quite a bit more demanding than when playing with the basic rules. I won't be playing Islebound without this variant.

9. The world is captivating and makes it easy to get lost in the game
The world of Islebound is magical. With its azure waters, nautical theme, and multitudinous options, the game pulls you deep into its waters and leaves you spinning. Because you can do so many things in the game, it is easy to get lost in doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of the other and taking a long time to arrive anywhere. Our first game of Islebound took close to 2 hours for this reason. Both Peter and I were having so much fun exploring the world, collecting crew members, taking over this and that, building a bit of this and that that we completely lost track of the ultimate goal of the game! It was like we had fallen under some sort of delightful watery spell. Since then, we have learned to focus on the goal of the game (i.e. collecting as many points as possible and ending the game at an opportune moment with buildings), but we still find it easy to get lost in this world. And to me, this means that Islebound succeeds at creating not only a deeply strategic game, but also a thematically immersive one.

10. The game allows you to be an equal-opportunity employer...or not
I love it when a game allows me to choose characters with whom I most identify. Islebound does just that! If you browse through the characters in the image in 6, you will notice that they feature an array of races, genders, and species. You want to build an all-female pirate crew? Go for it! You want to have a pirate crew manned by humanoid creatures of unspecified species? You can! The fact that you have cosmetic choices about the makeup of your crew (particularly when it comes to your initial crew) makes the game feel more "fun" than it would otherwise. I get more joy than I thought possible from simply having the option to choose the makeup of my crew.

soblue


soblue 1. There is quite a bit of stuff to set up, but setup and teardown becomes faster and easier after a session or two
Islebound takes a while to play and, at least initially, takes a while to set up. There are multiple boards and chits and things to arrange, which makes setup feel a bit fiddly initially. Once you have played a few times, that process feels a lot less daunting, but it can take a bit of time the first time you play.

soblue 2. Sometimes, combos can seem a bit crazy
As much as the combos in Islebound are satisfying and fun, we have had a bit of trouble with one. Keep in mind that this is a very situational point. Here's the story.

The town of Zilliam allows you to turn fish or wood into books by exhausting a crew member for each. The port town of Thundrake allows you to rest your crew and convert any number of books into two renown points each. The Library is a building that gives you renown points for each book you gain. When Zilliam is next to Thundrake and an easy source of wood is next to that, this combination can provide more renown points in fewer turns than any other point source. The only recourse you have against an opponent who is shooting up the renown track with this combo is to try to end the game as quickly as possible by collecting as much money and goods and building as many buildings as possible. You could potentially try to minimize the damage by blocking one of the towns with your ship or taking over the town to gain coins, but that would only require that your opponent exhaust an extra crew member or pay an extra coin and may not be worth doing. With more players involved in the game, it would be easier for more ships to get in the way, but this particular arrangement of towns appears to be quite powerful, particularly when one player manages to get a Library on his side. In the future, we will avoid placing these two next to each other just to diminish the ease with which the library strategy could be exploited.

soblue 3. With two players, you see fewer buildings each round, which can limit combo-making potential and occasionally lead to luck-based advantages/disadvantages
As I mentioned above, recognizing and exploiting combinations that will yield maximal points appears to be key to playing Islebound well. Many of the synergies that you can create with your strategy lie in the buildings that provide renown points for doing certain things. Above, I mentioned one example in the Library, which gives you points for each book you gain. Now, I think the reason the above combination can be problematic when playing with only two players is that you will see far fewer buildings in a two-player game than you would when playing at a higher player count. In the particular game I described above, Peter acquired the Library on his fist turn and no other cards that provided such easy sources of renown became available until much, much later in the game, which left me at a disadvantage. Now, this only happened once and it was most likely an outlier-type situation, but it did happen. And the situation is easily ameliorated by playing the "sixth building" variant presented in the rulebook, which simply adds another building to the display.


An all-female crew


Final Word


Peter has a friend. Peter's friend once popped into his mouth what he thought was a chocolate at a dinner party. It turned out to be a piece of rose-shaped bacon. When he realized this, he felt confused. The bacon was delicious, but he didn't expect to taste bacon; he expected to taste chocolate. For me, Islebound was a case of rose-shaped bacon. In Islebound, I expected to find a relatively simple and relatively typical Ryan Laukat set-collection affair. Not that there is anything wrong with that! In fact, I love relatively simple and relatively typical Ryan Laukat set-collection affairs! But Islebound did leave me confused. Sure, it has Ryan's signature artwork on it, but it doesn't feel quite like any of his other games. It is heavier, it is more strategically demanding from the outset, and it features a dynamic spatial element. These are all features I love and crave most from games. Islebound is further elevated by the fact that it is set in a joyful world that comes alive not only through lovely and lively artwork, but also through the game's mechanisms. Indeed, I truly adore everything about Islebound; from the artwork to the route planning to the building synergies to the crazy combos. I simply cannot get enough! Ultimately, in this case, reality trumps expectation and rose-shaped bacon beats chocolate!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart heart ALL LOVE ALL THE TIME (IT GIVES ME JOY!)



Midway through our first game



***



***


Mina's Love Meter


angry Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)



To see my other reviews, visit this geeklist.


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Jeremy Avery
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I've just started researching this game for purchase. Such great timing you have, Mina! Great review!

My only concern is that I haven't played a Laukat game yet, so I'm not sure how I will enjoy his style.
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and i'm Subbed !
long time im reading your reviews! keep up the good work ! if by chance its also possible to do reviews for more then 2 player it will be epic !
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Felix Rodriguez
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The review seems to give me a Yokohama feel. Am I wrong?
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Milena Guberinic
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familygaming wrote:
I've just started researching this game for purchase. Such great timing you have, Mina! Great review!

My only concern is that I haven't played a Laukat game yet, so I'm not sure how I will enjoy his style.


Hi Jeremy! Thanks! The only way to find out is to jump in! Which of his games will most appeal to you really depends on what you are looking for. If you like a spatial planning element and enjoy a medium-weight game over a medium-light or light game, then Islebound might be for you!
 
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Milena Guberinic
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kushnir wrote:
and i'm Subbed !
long time im reading your reviews! keep up the good work ! if by chance its also possible to do reviews for more then 2 player it will be epic !

Haha! Thanks!
 
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Milena Guberinic
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Kaelistus wrote:
The review seems to give me a Yokohama feel. Am I wrong?


Not quite, but there is a similar spatial planning element.
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I love your reviews, Mina. Thanks for doing this.

I have not played Islebound yet, although a friend has it. I've found all of Ryan Laukat's games to look great, but ultimately underwhelming in gameplay. I can't quite put my finger on what it is that turns me off. They don't feel especially innovative, and they're okay, but I don't love them. Still, I'm looking forward to giving this one a try.
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I really enjoy your reviews, I too play a lot of games with my SO and you seem to have similar taste so its nice to be able to see a review like this before deciding to buy a game or not. Keep up the great reviews and Awesome Pictures.
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Jeremy Avery
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milenaguberinic wrote:
familygaming wrote:
I've just started researching this game for purchase. Such great timing you have, Mina! Great review!

My only concern is that I haven't played a Laukat game yet, so I'm not sure how I will enjoy his style.


Hi Jeremy! Thanks! The only way to find out is to jump in! Which of his games will most appeal to you really depends on what you are looking for. If you like a spatial planning element and enjoy a medium-weight game over a medium-light or light game, then Islebound might be for you!


I like highly variable, asymmetry starts like Agricola. Is Islebound the most variable of the Laukat games? I love the art and theme, so I just need a little kick to cross the purchase line...
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Shawn Hilliard
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Your review sold me! Thank you!!
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Milena Guberinic
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futhee wrote:
I love your reviews, Mina. Thanks for doing this.

I have not played Islebound yet, although a friend has it. I've found all of Ryan Laukat's games to look great, but ultimately underwhelming in gameplay. I can't quite put my finger on what it is that turns me off. They don't feel especially innovative, and they're okay, but I don't love them. Still, I'm looking forward to giving this one a try.


Thanks for the comment! I think Ryan does manage to put a unique spin on all his games, but if they aren't for you, they aren't for you. Islebound is my favorite of his so far. I hope you enjoy it too!
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AhandsomeNerd wrote:
I really enjoy your reviews, I too play a lot of games with my SO and you seem to have similar taste so its nice to be able to see a review like this before deciding to buy a game or not. Keep up the great reviews and Awesome Pictures.


Thanks, Stephen!
 
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familygaming wrote:
milenaguberinic wrote:
familygaming wrote:
I've just started researching this game for purchase. Such great timing you have, Mina! Great review!

My only concern is that I haven't played a Laukat game yet, so I'm not sure how I will enjoy his style.


Hi Jeremy! Thanks! The only way to find out is to jump in! Which of his games will most appeal to you really depends on what you are looking for. If you like a spatial planning element and enjoy a medium-weight game over a medium-light or light game, then Islebound might be for you!


I like highly variable, asymmetry starts like Agricola. Is Islebound the most variable of the Laukat games? I love the art and theme, so I just need a little kick to cross the purchase line...


Hi Jeremy!

I don't know if I would call Islebound the MOST variable of Ryan's games, but it is certainly up there. There isn't really as much asymmetry between players at the start of the game as there is in a game like Agricola. In fact, the only difference is your starting position on the board. The variability comes in the form of buildings, the map layout, and the events and things you can trigger. I am curious about the expansion, as that seems to add even more variability to the game.
 
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shawnchilliard wrote:
Your review sold me! Thank you!!


I hope you love it!
 
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Marius Friedrichs
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Wow, thank you very much for this greatly written and detailed review.

I wasn't sure about this game when I first found out about it but reading your review really peaked my interest and I'll definitely find a way to (at least) play this game.
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Zakoholic wrote:
Wow, thank you very much for this greatly written and detailed review.

I wasn't sure about this game when I first found out about it but reading your review really peaked my interest and I'll definitely find a way to (at least) play this game.


Thanks,Marius! I hope you enjoy it!
 
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Loved your review and I love the game.

I thought in passing through your comment soblue3 - Why not have buildings rotate off? At the end of a round, when play returns to the 1st player, have 1 building rotate off of the building track? At least for two player games, this might help create more movement of available buildings.

Maybe instead using a 6 building variant with 3 buildings available with no book cost (rather than the suggested 4 book variant).
 
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My first Ryan Laukat game was Above and Below, and it fast became one of my favourites. Your review has motivated me to get this game. Just one question - the Above and Below characters have goods symbols on them as well as the normal symbols - what are the rules for these?
 
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