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Set sail in a mystical archipelago filled with bustling towns, sea monsters, pirates, and gold.

In Islebound, you take command of a ship and crew. You sail to island towns, collecting resources, hiring crew, and commissioning buildings for your capital city. Each building has a unique ability, and your combination of buildings can greatly enhance your strength as a trader, builder, or invader. You also recruit pirates and sea monsters to conquer towns, which, once conquered, allow you to complete the town action for free, and charge a fee to opponents if they want to use it. Alternatively, you can complete events that give influence, which can be used to befriend towns.

Set in the same world (Arzium) as Above and Below, all of the characters provided in Islebound can act as a micro-expansion for A&B.

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I play blue
El Dorado
Guardian Angel
12 of 13 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A Good Sail Lost in the Fog”

Islebound takes place in the seas surrounding a generic fantasy archipelago. Each player controls a fledgling nation striving to build an empire. The theme is fairly well represented in the game. The object of the game is to construct buildings, conquer and/or ally with towns and collect gold to become the best sea-faring nation which scores the most Renown. Islebound is for 2 to 4 players ages 12 and up and plays in about 1.5 hours. Islebound is at its best with 4 players.

The components are very good. The double-sided modular Sea boards are mounted on thick cardboard, but are prone to slight warping. There are thick cardboard tokens, wood playing pieces and plastic dice. The large and small size linen stock cards are durable and have average artwork. The artwork on the boards and cards is a bit cartoonish but colorful and well done. The artwork uses some pastel colors which gives the game a very warm feeling. The rulebook is only 14 pages, is well written and organized, and has some examples of play. My one and only complaint with the components is the box insert. It is completely worthless and should be thrown away.

Set-up for Islebound is easy but does take a few moments. Each player receives a ship board, three starting crew members, seven gold, player cubes in their choice of color and a reference card. The Event and Reputation decks are shuffled and placed in their respective places on the Renown board along with a few other tokens. The building deck is shuffled, and then five buildings are drawn and placed face up in a row. The Sea boards are arranged to form the game board and players pick a home port.

Starting with the first player, and proceeding clockwise, each player takes a turn. The game continues in this manner until a player has eight buildings, then each player receives one more turn. On their turn a player moves his ship and then performs one of the following actions:

The player pays the fee to visit the town and perform the listed action. A player can gain resources such as fish, wood or knowledge, construct buildings, rest their crew, gain Renown and Influence, recruit crew members and pirates or enlist the aid of sea monsters.

Players use their accumulated Influence to ally with any town which flies a turquoise flag. The player spends Influence Points equal to the town’s value to ally with the town. The player then receives Spoils or gold equal to the town’s value and may then Visit the town. The player places one of his cubes next to the town’s flag to claim ownership and no longer pays a fee on future visits to the town.

Players use their pirates and sea monsters to attack a town flying a red flag. A player commits a certain number of his pirates and/or sea monsters to the attack and rolls 1D6 for each. The pirates and sea monsters give attack strength according to the die rolls. If the sum of the attack strength is equal to or greater than the town’s value then the attack is successful. The player discards any pirates and/or sea monsters used in the attack and then takes Spoils and may Visit the town similar to the Diplomacy action. The player places one of his cubes next to the town’s flag to claim ownership and no longer pays a fee on future visits to the town.

The player simply takes the gold that has been accumulating due to fees for Visits to towns.

If possible, players may also perform any number of the Free Actions below:
The player may purchase one of the five face up buildings for gold equal to the Renown value in the upper left corner of the card. The player places the purchased building in front of him and receives any of the building’s special abilities for the rest of the game.

If the player moved his ship to a town where an event is occurring he may perform that event. There are always two events occurring at any given time. Events generally require paying resources and/or exhausting crew to gain Influence.

Once each player finishes his last turn, each player then tallies his Renown from buildings, gold and the Renown track. The player with the most Renown wins.

Islebound is easy to learn and play. Turns play quick with minimal downtime. However, Islebound offers a good amount of strategy than at first glance. There are many paths to victory which offer players interesting decision-making. For these reasons, Islebound will appeal to casual as well as avid gamers.

The designer, Ryan Laukat, really stepped up his game with this design. He rectified the criticisms of his first game, Above and Below, to produce a masterpiece. Gone is the steady march to game end, replaced by a variable game end mechanic which allows players a bit more time to develop an economic engine. He made it much easier to ready crew members by eliminating the need for beds. In Islebound, each crew member is readied when the player rests his crew. Ryan also eliminated some of the luck/randomness and incorporated more player interaction in Islebound. There is much more planning in Islebound and a very nice balance of luck/randomness to provide good variety in game play. The base game has limited player interaction, players can attack other players’ towns. However, there are optional rules which allow players to trade items and raid each other’s ships providing a more than adequate amount of player interaction.

Islebound is a fun, light-hearted, easy play wrapped in a package which features player interaction, nice game length, decent components, minimal downtime and good replay value. It was lost in the fog of the Cult of the New, but really is a beacon which shines bright. Islebound would make an excellent addition to your collection.


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