GTM #200 - Isle of Sky: From Chieftain to King

Has Mayfair ever made a bad game? Well, if they have, we haven’t come across one yet. Two things we can always count on when buying a Mayfair game is 1) we are going to have fun, and 2) when punching out pieces they are the BEST quality – never tear or snag – very well crafted. Isle of Skye attests to our two points and we think you’ll really like it, too.

Was this game easy to learn?

To be fair, when we first opened up the game and saw all the landscape tiles, we thought, “Hey, this is going to be like Carcassonne.” Isle of Skye has some of those qualities, and is still easy to learn, even though it is a much different game. Six pages of rules with numerous illustrations took us all of five-minutes to figure out.

How is it played?

Each player represents a different clan fighting for control of the Isle of Skye, and begins with a player screen showing the name of their clan, a scoring token in the same color, a discard tile, and a landscape starter tile in their color. The landscape tile is their castle. In this game, each player is building their own territory – your tiles never combine with any other player’s tiles. So, make sure you have enough room in front of you to build your landscape.

The small game board, placed off to the side, is used for tracking scores (scoring tokens are placed on zero to start), and for keeping track of rounds. There are six rounds to every game. Then comes a really cool feature: There are four spots on the board to put four “scoring tiles.” From a total of 16 tiles, you randomly choose four and place them face up on the spots marked A-D. Each tile shows what you need to score points during a round. For example, in one of our games we had a tile that said, “You receive 2 VP for each cattle that is connected to your castle via roads.” In another game, “You receive 3 VP for each vertical line of at least 3 contiguous land tiles in your territory.” Which means the game can be totally different each time you play! You have to figure out what is important to do with your tiles to get the most VP at the end of each round. Each round, the space shows which scoring tiles apply – so, for example, in Round 1 we are looking to meet the “A” scoring tile needs, but in Round 3 we are looking to meet the “A, C & D” scoring tile requirements.

Last, there is money in denominations of $1, $2, $5, and $10 to use throughout the game, and 73 landscape tiles shuffled in a bag prior to starting. Youngest player goes first – and is given a starting player token which is passed after each round. With two players it was not needed as much, but we used it. Here is what a round consists of:

  1. Each player receives income - $5 for the castle. Everyone gets that starting in round 1; in future rounds you receive that, plus $1 for each tile with barrels of whiskey that are connected by a road to your castle. Then, starting with round 3, each player gets additional gold for any players whose scoring tokens are ahead of you on the score track. So, you may be behind, but all that gold can help later!
  2. Each player draws three landscape tiles from the bag and places them in front of their player screen. Behind the screen, you then decide which of the tiles to discard and place your discard token there, and then place a cost of each tile for the other two.
  3. Everyone reveals how they priced their tiles, and the tiles marked for discarding go back into the bag.
  4. Starting with player one, each player than can buy another players’ tile. If anyone has any tiles left afterward, they have to place that money in the bank and purchase it for themselves. With two players, this happened each time since we could only buy one of each other’s first and had to keep the second. So, some strategy here is to put a high cost on the one you would rather keep if it gets you more points later by doing so.
  5. Place your landscape tiles on your territory, keeping in mind which scoring tiles are “active” and how you can achieve those goals for VP.
  6. At the end of the round, each player is scored based on the requirements of the scoring tile(s) that round.

Very easy! When your sixth round is over there is some final scoring to do:

  1. Some of the landscape tiles have a scroll on them to give you extra VP. For example, one of my tiles had a (1/two sheep) indicator which means I gained 1 VP for every two sheep on my territory
  2. Last, if you have any money left, you receive 1 VP for every 5 gold

Whoever has the most VP wins! Philip won BOTH games we played...  Hmph! Jane still had a good time, though!

How was the timing of the game?

This is a quick game for two people – took us less than 30-minutes each time we played. You can play with up to five, so we assume the rounds would be longer with more players, but it would still be less than an hour for a full group.

Fast Facts:

  • MSRP = $37
  • # of players = 2-5
  • Age range = 8+
  • Time to play = Less than 60-minutes for a full group
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