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Island Fortress» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Positive First Impressions rss

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Jeff Lingwall
United States
Kirksville
MO
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After playing my first game of Island Fortress, I was impressed enough to put down some thoughts or first impressions. I'm definitely putting this in the "Sessions" category, since this is a deep enough game that I wouldn't attempt an actual review after one play. But, it was a very enjoyable session and it seemed like a fun idea to make a record of it. The big caveat here is that it's a fairly abstract game, so the narrative is fairly dry. That being said, I thought it was an excellent game-- tense, interactive, engaging, tight, and well-designed.

We played a four-player game, with Gregg, who is responsible for the great pictures, teaching us.

Our Budding Young Fortress Architects

We started off pursuing pretty different sections of the board, with each player carving off what looked like initial territory. Gregg completed an early Favor Card for a convict and a point, and I focused on a longer-term strategy that combined two larger Favor Card structures. (As an aside, I suppose it's thematic, but given that people criticized Puerto Rico for even oblique references to slavery, should we really be killing off convicts to build a wall? In my mind they were retired to a happy place in the country. But I digress . . . .)



Competition at the Midpoint!

As the game progressed to midpoint, one player had developed a substantial lead in points by dominating one section of the wall and completing a number of favor cards, at the cost of very little action in the other quadrants (you score bonus points for having tiles in multiple quadrants at the end of the game). I was focusing on accumulating treasure, which required having majorities as levels were scored.




The Endgame

There was a lot of interaction in the endgame. Spaces to build were tight, there were a lot of row-majority points up for grabs, though the spaces were now pretty expensive to build in. We had our first play of someone removing another player's tile, I managed to complain the majority treasure bonus on the third level, and was hoping to be in contention for the win. Ultimately, I came in second (if I recall . . . ), as the game ended with the completion of the wall, I mean, er . . . of the fortress.






Some Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed my first play of this game. I hadn't heard much buzz coming in, so I didn't come in with any sort of high expectations. Yet, I found the game to be tense, extremely interactive in a non-threatening way, and pretty full of interesting decisions. It played pretty quickly given that there were four players with three new to the game. The artwork is great, though the boards (thick papers?) the fortress was printed on were already visibly warped. I guess I would compare it to Ticket to Ride route-building (from the favor cards), with Puerto Rico-ish action selection (except there are no secondary roles and you have multiple options per card), with [insert your favorite area majority game] area majority scoring, with a bit of a logistics puzzle thrown in to sequence everything correctly. The theme is thin (okay, almost nonexistent except for the fact that you're building a wall and blocks can't suspend themselves in thin air), but the game was engaging enough that I didn't mind.

As a final, final thought, another game I played for the first time recently was Tzolk'in, which has gotten a tremendous amount of buzz on BGG. While Tzolk'in and Island Fortress are both heavier, abstract Euros with great art, I found Island Fortress much more enjoyable. Tzolk'in was obviously a very-well designed game that I enjoyed, and this opinion could change with repeated plays as each game reveals its true nature, but for now, Island Fortress is on my wishlist while Tzolk'in is in the "happy to play again" category.

Happy gaming!

Jeff [And, if I've gotten something wrong in describing the game, it was one play, after all.]
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Gregg
United States
New Caprica
Connecticut
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Thanks for the compliments Jeff! It was great to finally get the game to the table (I've had it on preorder since last last July) and play it with an enthusiastic group.

The level of humidity must be affecting the boards depending on location. At home they stay completely flat. I'm considering mounting the region boards and scoring strips on thicker stock to eliminate the problem.

Although I do own Promo Cards due to preordering the game, I didn't use them since it was the group's first play. They're additional goals which reward players with additional Victory Points at the end of the game. Before the game starts, the players decide whether to use the "Community" deck, which means all players can attempt to achieve a goal available to all, or the "Secret" deck, meaning that each player's goal is hidden from the others, and is unique to them.

I also played the game earlier that day with my wife, and with two, it holds up very well. The fact that you have to build player blocks in all regions to ensure specific bonus Victory Points at game's end ensured that we couldn't simply avoid each other (each staying in our own region). Conflict = better gameplay!

Another thing I'd like to add is that the art really is top notch. Every piece is gorgeous, from the green Jade to the detail in the wall blocks, and for me, that makes me want to play, plus makes the theme stand out.

Finally, special thanks goes to Game Salute, who promptly responded to questions I had about my order, and especially the developer, Bryan, who continues to go out his way to enthusiastically assist me with all questions/comments I have regarding Island Fortress.

-HM (Gregg)
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