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Subject: Cooper Island Preview - Translated into English rss

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Carsten Burak
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I translated my preview of the upcoming Cooper Island into English:
with pictures:
https://bit.ly/2HB3C8J

or without...
Last weekend at Herner Spielewahnsinn, I got the opportunity to play Andreas Odendahl’s current prototype of Cooper Island, which will be released at Spiel’19 Essen.


Since I already playtested this exciting 1-4 player expert game 4 to 5 times between October and January, I knew quite well, what this game is about.

Editor Viktor Kobilke, who left eggertspiele to join Frosted Games at the beginning of 2019, took the helm and put on a captain’s hat for Cooper Island. I am pretty sure that I don’t lean too far overboard, when I say, that this ambitious project, with Viktor taking care of it, will turn out to be a huge hit!

Actually, Viktor Kobilke is no nobody in the business. Anyone familiar with great games like Mombasa, Great Western Trail, Village or Coimbra knows, what Viktor is capable of.


But without further ado, let’s talk about what Cooper Island is about. What kind of game is it? Which target group will be appealed by this game? Which tastes will be met?

Cooper Island is classic worker placement, tile placement and optimizing of the tricky kind! You place tiles and get different ressources from them. You erect buildings, statues, build income ships or supply trade ships with goods, depending on your strategy. Royal Order Cards and additional or more potent workers challenge players to do the splits. Specialize or diversify?

The game offers a challenging level of complexity, requires good planning and meticulous ressource management. Miscalculating your steps and plans will often make you bite your finger.


If Uwe Rosenberg and Alexander Pfister titles are your type of games, you cannot go wrong with this one, my friend. If you like Terra Mystica as well, this new Frosted Games title is an absolute no brainer.

So, how does it work?

In Cooper Island, you settle …. YES! Almost like The Settlers of Catan!…… NO! Seriously! I’m just kidding!…. on your own island. Using primarily two-piece landscape hex-tiles, you build and cultivate by placing them on your island plains and on top of each other. They come in dual-sided print with different landscape types which are available in various combinations, be it forest, meadow, rock or settlements.

The two-piece tiles are drawn from a bag. In each income phase your also place an additional one, consisting of a landscape and a small isle part. These small isles always offer an instant bonus.


Forests, as unlikely as it sounds, produce wood, while meadows harbor fauna. If it moos, bleats or grunts, is up to the player’s imagination. In a Rosenberg, it would most likely sound like bleating. But this is no Rosenberg. It’s an ode.

Rock produces stone, at height level 3 even offering gold as an alternative option and Settlements produce cloth. Once per turn, you can place a single hex tile in order to optimize here and there. The higher the landscape level, the better the ressource value. But the ressource cube is only produced once when placing the tile. Once consumed, the landscape won’t produce it again.

Ressources can be stored on the player board. By building storage houses, additional storage space becomes available. But storing often comes with a hook. A ressource cube from a higher level landscape gets its value reduced from x to one, when stored. So you have to choose carefully, where to take from, when paying for an action.

Scattered over the island plains, debris tiles prevent you from expanding freely. These can be removed and stored on the player board using the according action. By building churches you unlock additional space for them, garnished with a victory point each.


When expanding vertically, landscapes may only be placed according to the following rule: Forest on forest, meadow on meadow, rock on rock. Settlements can be placed on any landscape. Buildings and statues may be built on the highest level only. This reminds us of the value loss when a ressource is taken from a landscape and stored. For example, if you plan to erect a building or statue on the only one highest level tile available, say level 5, and it has still its food cube on it (level 5 = value 5), you have to remove and store it, reducing its value to 1. So, you better keep that idea and postpone it. Maybe you can use that cube in the coming feeding phase.

Feeding! The first two workers eat one food unit each every feeding phase. Additional workers claim either one or even two units, but if you manage to feed the greedy ones, each of them rewards you with a victory point. A starving worker punishes you with an anchor marker that is placed under one of your ships, hindering it from moving once before it can be removed. Subject victory point track, I’ll get to that in a minute.

What I intend to say digging deep into all these details, is that, at first play, this game mercilessly overwhelms even experienced players – easily. The fact that the action phase lets players choose between eight actions to perform, but allows each action once per round per player only, demanding a fee for using an action space already occupied by another player really doesn’t make things easier.


And ressources are scarce, coin in particular. Besides, this also occupies storage space. In Cooper Island, coins are big and heavy, maybe? Even worse, you have to pay another player a fee when using the same action he already performed. But cheer up! You are not always tree, but sometimes dog instead. Depending on which perspective you prefer, being tree can also be a good thing.

Apropos dog: The Starting Player marker shows a dog, which gave this game its name. Ok, Island did probably not quite make it into the Top 10 of dog names, I admit. Cooper didn’t either, I guess. Maybe we should look this up. But, in the end, it’s Cooper, trust me.

One particularity of this game is the victory point track. VP are scarce in Cooper Island. If you happen to win with 30 VP, you have all the reason to be proud! Every player harbors two ships in his home port. In the course of the game, these ships sail to new horizons. For every victory point gained, one of them, which one, is up to the player, advances one step on the waves buffeting the islands. Isle tiles are jumped over, granting the instant bonus gained when they have been placed, once more.


After five, ten, fifteen, twenty etc. victory points each the player receives a ship’s log, marking the steps advanced in steps of five on the victory point track and granting the instant bonus on its reverse side. Upon reaching the tenth or twentieth step, always located in another players home port, you are granted a new ship’s log, but a fee has to be paid in the form of a ressource cube or a coin.


Starting with two workers only, you can unlock additional or more potent ones by achieving milestones (two buildings, two statues or two income ships built or supplied two trade ships with goods). The better workers replace an active normal one, granting access to better versions of the main actions and allowing the use of the same action twice per round. The worker replaced can be placed onto a Royal Order Card which reward the player with victory points in three stages for certain achievements, i. e. for having built at least three buildings, three statues, three income ships or having supplied three trade ships, etc.

A new addition to the game made by Viktor Kobilke, is the cartographer. This track is located on the player board and can be advanced on over the according main action by moving its marker by three steps to the right and over subsidiary actions by x steps to the left in order to perform various landscape optimizations. A wonderful idea, making micromanagement a lot less stressful. It creates flexibility and helps players out when things get too fiddly.


Another point worth mentioning is the trade ship action. Shipping goods is rewarded with victory points as well as a coffer that can be turned in for coin or ressources. Once turned in, they can be reactivated for later rounds, which comes at a price – unless you have built a city. In this case, reactivation is free! Cool idea!

Trade ships harbor a round counter – a captain, that hops to the next ship at the end of each round, marking the conclusion of the game after round five for a final scoring. This guy is open to bribery, though. When the ship, he is in command of, is getting supplies from a player, he grants a discount of one gold or cloth unit.

Building storage houses or churches rewards the player with victory points and a building card. While storage house cards grant a permanent bonus, church cards come with a particularly valuable instant one-time effect.


Building income ships adds various ways to get additional income. Be it ressources, money, landscape tiles, a copy of the income of any one income ship built by any player etc.

Thanks to Viktor Kobilke, the project ode was working on for quite a few years, feels way more polished now. Actually, it offered a lot of fun before, don’t get me wrong. But after playing it two times in Herne, I clearly saw questions answered, gaps closed and fine tuning done in almost all areas of the game. At least, this was my impression.

Particularly appealing to me are the continuos, small rewards throughout the course of the game, be it gaining a new ressource upon placing a new landscape tile, especially on higher levels or a victory point from a statue in every income phase or hopping over an isle with one of the two ships for another small bonus or a newly performed cartographer optimization.

Frosted Games‘ Matthias Nagy has a real eurogame hit in the making. When asked, how far development of Cooper Island has progressed, he said that rules are more or less final. Now, illustrations would follow step by step. At BerlinCon in July, another Cooper Island prototype will be playable, he said. Release is planned for Spiel’19 in Essen.

I know for sure, that this autumn Cooper Island will move into my shelf and be tabled quite often, no doubt about it.
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Julian Steindorfer
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One of my must buys this year.

The grand-editor of expert games meets a game designer which trained his skills with some of my favourite people in the board game industry.
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Ruben
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Thank you Carsten for this preview. But the only confusing part for me is, will the game be 1-4 or 2-4.
 
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Matthias Nagy
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It will be 2-4 out of the box, plus a solo mode as an add on.
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Ruben
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darkpact wrote:
It will be 2-4 out of the box, plus a solo mode as an add on.


Thank you for the reply, but can you tell a little bit more about solo mode as an add on? Is it a card deck that we need to buy seperately, or will it be an expansion or...
 
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Matthias Nagy
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It will be a small bot of about 24 cards (final card count tbd). Plan is to give it to all preorders in Essen and sell the rest afterwards. But the final distribution is still not cleared for it. So consider this stc.
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