Published by: Red Raven Games
# of Players: 2 to 4
Designer/Publisher Ryan Laukat not only publishes and designs his games, but also does all the art work. Ryan may be one of the most gifted artists in the industry. Islebound continues that trend and delivers a beautiful world for us to venture and conquer. The art will attract many to this game and it is displayed in each component of the game. The board is made up of 8 tiles that are double sided. The "B" side of the non-port sea boards has an advanced side that slightly changes the action available on that island. Player's influence on islands is tracked by colored wooden cubes that are also used for the diplomacy and renown tracks. The cards that are used in the game are your standard quality card stock. Everything else is cardboard punch out, but very thick to hold up with many game plays. The rule book is also beautifully illustrated to show each detail for Islebound. There are a ton of examples and explanations of each town action. The crew pieces are double sided. The back side of each crew is designed to be played in Above & Below by Red Raven Games. I like this addition of being able to use the crew on another game and provides a little added bonus for owning both games. The quality of the components may be standard, but the art is far and above one the shinning points of Islebound.
Islebound is about traveling to various islands and taking an action with the goal of getting the most renown at the end of the game. Islebound will end when one person has built either 7 or 8 buildings depending on player count. Each player starts in your home port on one of the corners of the board. You will have a ship standee that will move to various locations during the game. Each player will have a ship board in front of them that holds their crew, coins, and goods. You will start out with 3 crew with 1 skill each. (2 administrate skill and 1 work skill) During your turn you must sail your ship at least one space and can not return to the same spot you were on the previous turn. Each ship starts out with a sail speed of 2, but that can be increased by crew that you recruit.
After you have moved, you will choose one of 4 actions. You may visit the island which has a cost of money and possibly exhausting a crew member. You will then take the action the island provides. You can choose to attack the island and gain control of the island. Each island with a red banner will have a number in the banner that you must meet or exceed to place your influence cube. During combat you will select which pirate and sea dragon cards to use and then roll a die per card. The pirate and sea dragon cards have strength values depending on what you roll. For example pirates provide 1 strength for a roll of 1 or better, or 2 strength for a roll of 4 or better. After you have rolled and assigned a die to each card, you will total up the strength and if it meets or exceeds then you won the combat and take control of the island. You also get spoils, which is coins based on the strength of the island you defeated.
Another action you can take is to hunt for treasure. If you take this action you will take all the money that is on the treasure map on the renown board. Money is added the treasure map from the coins players used when visiting locations. The final action that you can take is diplomacy. The islands with blue banners will have a number on them to show how much diplomacy must be used to gain control of the island. Diplomacy is earned from visiting certain towns and from completing event cards. The diplomacy track has spaces from left to right with different values. When players earn diplomacy they will place a cube on the left most empty space on the track. When you need to spend diplomacy on an island, you will remove cubes of your color till you have met or exceeded the value on the banner. Diplomacy also earns spoils based on the value on the banner.
There are also two free actions that you can take on your turn. You can buy buildings for their coin value in the top left corner of the card. The other way to build a building is by taking the action at Stratic island, but you will use goods based on the bottom of the card to build instead of money. The other action is to complete an event card. Each event card has a little story of what is going on followed by the requirement on how to complete the event. The top of the card shows how many cubes will be placed on the diplomacy track. Events must be completed in the island that is listed on the card. Once a player has 7 or 8 buildings, everyone will finish that round and complete one more round of turns before the game ends. Players will then total up renown from the renown track/tokens (you get a token for every 7 renown earned on the track), each coin is worth 1 renown, and the coin value of buildings you own. Buildings may also provide end game renown for left over goods or other requirements. The player with the most overall renown wins the game.
Islebound was very hit and miss with me. I loved the art and the various elements of the game, but the experience I had with the game was very bland. I liked the diplomacy track and trying to maneuver to get the most value for each cube placed. I really disliked the combat system. You have to collect pirate cards and sea dragon cards, each have the same value (pirates 1 or 2 strength and sea dragons with 2 or 3 strength) and roll in hopes that you get the higher value. If your successful you lose all the cards you used. I do appreciate that you only lose 1 card if you failed. Just seems like a lot of work that takes too long to gain the benefit. Each game just seemed like a race to get the required buildings as fast possible to end the game. People who own Above & Below will appreciate the addition of new crew that can be used in that game. There was plenty of player interaction in trying to block islands (if you stop on an island with another player's ship on the island you must exhaust an administrative crew) and by influencing the various islands. The game is easy to teach, but requires going to the rule book to clarify things and figure out what the symbols mean exactly. I think people who really enjoy Ryan Laukat's other games will really enjoy this game. The game is solid mechanically but felt underwhelming to play. I would recommend this to those who love sea explore themes, Ryan Laukat games, and/or light to mid euro style games. This will not be entering my collection but I would play it again if someone wanted to play it.
+Awesome art that is very eye catching
+Sea Exploration theme
+How the diplomacy works in game and the track
+ Easy to teach and learn
+Ability to use crew in Above & Below
- Felt underwhelming for everything going on
- Combat system
- A lot of icons