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Isla Dorada» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Games That Disappointed: Isla Dorada rss

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Derek Thompson
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I know firsthand that it’s very difficult to write a negative game review that’s actually interesting and informative. Rather than try and give a long justification according to "review rules" of why a certain game didn’t click, I’ll instead give some brief insight into why this game found its way into the trade pile. Of course, if this is a game you love, feel free to leave a comment with your own opinion.

Since last Thanksgiving, I had been eagerly anticipating the release of this game and was finally able to snatch it up right after Christmas. I really enjoyed Bruno Faidutti’s Citadels and Mission: Red Planet, and this game had much going for it - it was based on a classic game by an awesome designer (Alan R. Moon’s Elfenland), the artwork was absolutely stunning, and the mechanics just sounded fun. However, there were two aspects of the game play that ruined the game for me - and no, I’m not talking about the mean Samedi/Panda cards.

The first is that the game is primarily just a bidding game, even though you’re allowed to do some weird things on occasion. When bidding is incorporated into a larger game system, such as in Cyclades, it can be a really effective mechanic. When bidding is the whole game, I have found myself disappointed almost every time. You win your bid, you lay down your card or collect your set or whatever, but then what? You just do it again? Other than the points you just collected, there’s no time to appreciate the effort of your bid. In a system where the bid earns you right to certain actions, you get both the satisfaction of putting your bid "to good use" and an assessment of how worthwhile your bid actually was. In a pure bidding game, until you understand what point values are "good" or "bad" - which can take quite a while - there’s no real way to assess, or to appreciate, your bid. That means you’ll unwittingly make a lot of bad ones, and even the good ones you make you may not really get to enjoy. Maybe I’m in the minority, but bidding just to bid is boring.

The second problem is that the game goes on for too long. It’s not that I begin to feel the sense of "Ugh, how long have we been playing? Is this game over yet?" like can happen so often in Catan, but it’s more that around turn 11-12 I realize that my treasures and destiny have been completed, and there’s nothing left to do but sit there. All that’s left to do is hope for an Antik card to appear or to deter my opponents away from their goals - but since I have no idea what their goals are, that’s a pretty unreasonable task. Watching other players crank out more victory points and win while you sit on your laurels, impotent, isn’t exactly a fun experience.

This game has the right pieces, but together they make an incomplete puzzle. I don’t know what the missing piece is - probably some sort of system where winning the bid lets you make some sort of action beyond moving the pawn - but after our last few games resulted in a collective "meh", this one was gone.

Originally posted on http://www.meepletown.com
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Billy McBoatface
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Lexington
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I am a fan of this game, but there is one thing in your review that I agree about: sometimes you have completed all your treasures and your destiny, and you have nothing left to do. It seems to me that treasures should be distributes more often or something, to make sure that players always have something to work towards.

But despite that, this is one my the favorite games of my 8 year old daughter, and I enjoy it as well.
 
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Derek Thompson
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I suppose there's some house rule that could work there. I was really excited for the game, and I'm glad there are people out there who really enjoy it. It'd be a darn shame for a game with this much love put into it to not appeal to anyone. Thanks for the comment.
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Wulf Forrester-Barker
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Nothing left to do? Even if you have managed to collect all your treasure (including the extra two cards from round 9?) there is still probably a cursed city to avoid on your own ticket. Furthermore, what about trying to figure out what the other players are aiming for (or aiming to avoid)? Unless you are well ahead on treasure points, have plenty of coins left and have completely fulfilled one of the more lucrative destiny cards, the result isn't clear and, even if you feel secure, you could always try to thwart your nearest competitors while perhaps boosting up someone who has been struggling.

Wulf
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Derek Thompson
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More likely scenario for us would be done with all your treasures, fulfilled your destiny, already got hit on one curse and are far away from the other, and so on. Yes, there's still trying to guess what your opponents are doing, but that was very difficult to do, in my opinion. But, if you like the game, I am glad for you!
 
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Dean Adam
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Hi Derek, we've had some similar thoughts - I wondered what you thought of some of these ideas to try and get a bit more tension in the end game:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/695614/speed-upintensity...

 
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Derek Thompson
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I'm a bit tired so I'll look in the morning, but I have to say, I can't really test them as I traded the game away a while ago... BGG works wonders that way!
 
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Kelly Bass
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Winning a bid is one thing, but I think the bidding rounds, especially in a game with hidden objectives, can tell you a lot about what other players are trying to do. For that reason, it is probably worth considering a low bluff bid in a direction that you are ambivalent about, just to make others think you want to go to that village.
And in this game, unlike Poker or Taj Majal, there is no penalty for bidding it up and then passing before someone takes it.
Though there's a fair share of Faidutti-chaos here, I would think that players will do well who pay close attention to the bids of others.
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