If you haven’t realized it yet, I realllllly like games that have good art. Not just good art, but art that makes them stand out. I love when I walk past a game being played and stop just to take an extra look at the board or the pieces. One designer whose art style I absolutely love, is Ryan Laukat. If I had copious amounts of money, I would buy his games, just so I had extra boards to hang on the wall. Today’s review is one of his designs.
Designer: Ryan Laukat
Player Count: 2-4 players
Play Time: 60-120 minutes
Islebound is a resource management game published by Red Raven Games, where you are trying to increase your influence over an archipelago. The board is composed of 8 different sections that fit together to make the seascape.
Each player will have a player board, on which they keep their crew, their goods, their money, and other assorted pieces. On you turn, you travel to a new island where you can do 1 of 4 actions. You can either attack the island, interact diplomatically with the island, visit the island, or hunt for treasure. All islands have an action available that can be performed while visiting, which costs a coin and occasionally exhausting a crew member. These range from getting fish or wood, hiring new crew members, increasing your knowledge or renown, or hiring mercenaries to increase your ability to take over new islands, to name a few. Attacking islands and interacting diplomatically have essentially the same result, where you gain control of the island. You can now visit that island for free and the coins that are payed to visit that island now go to you. Lastly, if you’re running low on cash, you can hunt for treasure, where you take all the coins that everyone has payed to visit unclaimed islands. You can always do free actions, where you buy a building for your seaport or you complete an event in the city you’re in. The winner of the game is the player with the highest renown (most points) at the end of the game.
Things I liked
- The artwork. Let me once again swiftly tap the deceased steed with my foot…
- Actions. Overall, attack and diplomacy have the same result, but the way that you do each of them is completely different. In the game I played, I focused on attacking, and it was supremely satisfying to send pirates, sea serpents, and Ichon, King of the Sea Serpents, to attack one of the towns. That being said, you could interact diplomatically and still get a great benefit. It allowed each player to have a different strategy, but the game stayed balanced with neither feeling more powerful than the other.
The Sea Dragons and Pirates
- The Renown Track. As you scored points by doing various actions, you move your tracker up the renown track. Once you reached 7, you got a bonus of more resources, money, etc.…, and then you went back to 0. The more points you scored in that way, the more bonuses you could rack up. It was a really neat way of scoring.
- End Game Rounds. Once a player triggers the end game, you finish the current round, and then play one more round. It doesn’t seem like a lot of games allow you that much time to set up a big last turn, and that felt good.
- The characters. This had nothing to do with the game, but the back of all the Islebound characters are printed to be an expansion for Above and Below, another game by Ryan Laukat and my favorite title of his. I’d love to use them in that game.
Things I didn’t like
- The Renown Track. While I like the way the renown track operated, I really didn’t like how it ended. In the game I played, all the renown track bonuses were claimed. Once that happened, it felt like we just needed to hurry up and end the game. There wasn’t really anything else to play for. I’d be curious to know if other people encountered this problem.
- The buildings. Typically I like games where you can buy buildings that give you cool bonuses, but in this game the bonuses didn’t feel hugely compelling. Coins count as points 1:1 at the end of the game, so you don’t get any benefit from buying buildings other than the bonuses, but they were pretty small for us. I think the most end game points one player scored in our game was 5. And the winning score was 111. The other issue I had was that the buildings were the only timer in the game. Once one player built their eighth building the end game was triggered. But with the buildings not being very attractive, no one was in a hurry to buy them, lengthening the game.
Some of the Buildings
Out of all the games I’ve played by Red Raven Games, this one is near the bottom of their library for me. That being said, it was a lot of fun sailing through the different islands with lots of different choices, but like I mentioned, there were just a few things that didn’t sit with me as well. I still had a lot of fun playing it and hope to add it to my collection one day, but I’m not in a huge hurry to get it on my shelf. Still worth your time to check out, and if you’re a fan of seafaring themes, it should fire on all cylinders for you.
GLG Rating 6.5/10