26 April 2017

Isle of Skye boardgame review

Isle of Skye was bought when Caroline and I were going on vacation a couple of months ago. I got this idea that we should buy a couple of small games to bring with us to play at the hotel in the evenings or if the weather would turn bad.

This was the game that I liked the most, and which also had the most "game" in it - surprisingly how hard it is to find good small scale games...

Isle of Skye has a resemblance to Carcasonne, a game I dislike. It's not the first time I like a game similar to another that I don't however. In this case I found that the artwork was better looking and the game less fiddly, and it also had a bit more player interaction which brought the similar experience above average to good.

Isle of Skye is a tile placement game, with an interesting bidding/money system and interchangeable objectives to keep the game fresh.

Each player takes on the role of a highland clan trying to build a kingdom using tiles. Points are scored for a variety of objectives, such as most watchtowers, ships, hamlets, cattle, beer etc.

It is in many senses similar to Carcassonne in this regard, however the difference is that in Isle of Skye all players have their own individual maps instead of a shared one. And also, instead of randomly picking and placing a tile like you do in Carcassonne, you pick 3 tiles per player each turn. After picking tiles you place them in front of your player sheet - and behind your sheet you do a secret bid.
The bid is how much you are willing to purchase each tile for, one of the three tiles also needs to be scrapped. 


As all players to this step at the same time you first see what everyone has drafted, and plan how to incorporate the tiles that other players drafted into your own kingdom. During this step you also need to carefully plan your economy - do you save money for purchase of opposite player tiles or do you really want to keep the tiles that you drafted yourself and make them expensive to avert purchase?

As players reveal which tiles are scrapped and how they have priced the remaining two tiles, players take a round of bidding and purchasing. Starting with the first player all players have the opportunity to bid on one tile located in front of an opponent, or pass. You are only allowed to buy one tile per round. Smart players will know what victory points their opponent aim for and price the desired tiles expensive. 

Should you pass during the bidding step you are not allowed to buy anything this round. After the bidding/purchase all players now place the remaining and purchased tiles that they have on their map.

Tiles need to match in terms of geographic features, roads must not connect but oftentimes there are additional victory points  to be made for linking resources by roads to your castle.

Isle of Skye is a simple but elegant boardgame that provides opportunities for tactical gameplay and planning alike. With a multitude of victory conditions the game will remain fresh as scoring elements alter in between games. Points are also scored in a irregular pattern, which has you plan for both short and long term purchase and placement of tiles as no single turn provides victory points for all 4 victory conditions at the same time.

We have played this game with 2-3 players and it works very well. I would recommend to play it with at least 3 players, and hope to get a 4 player game sometime. Isle of Skye is a perfect lightweight game with good boardgame depth to play with people that are not regular boardgamers, and as I would imagine a good family game. Quick rules, quick gameplay and you can manage several sessions during a single afternoon with no problem.

It's hard to me to imagine breaking this open with my regular boardgame group as we tend to play highly thematic and long boardgames when we do get the opportunity to meet and play one afternoon. But if we did it would be part of a boardgame afternoon with a mix of small/fast boardgames such as 7 Wonders and the like.

Isle of Skye 7,5 / 10

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