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Seth Brown
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OVERVIEW
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King is a tile-placement game with a twist -- each turn, you'll be setting prices on your own tiles and buying one from another player. This will allow you to build up your kingdom to best fill the variable goals selected for your current game.

COMPONENTS IN BRIEF
Big bag of landscape tiles, sturdy player screens, chipboard money, goals, and axe chits, central tracking board with wooden player discs.

GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
To set up, four goals are chosen (from a possible 16) to serve as goals A, B, C, and D for the game, and each player is given a start castle. Then the game is played in 6* rounds, each consisting of:

1) Income - players gain 5 coins, +1 per road-connected whiskey barrel.
2) Draw Tiles and Set Prices - players draw 3 tiles to arrange in front of their screen, and must put a price for each behind the screen. One tile will get the axe token, the other two must have at least 1 coin each.
3) Reveal and Discard - players remove their screens. All axed tiles returned to bag.
4) Buy a tile - In turn order, each player may buy one tile from any other player by paying that player the set price. When you are paid for a tile, you also retrieve the money you used to set the price. After each player has (optionally) bought one tile, all players purchase their own unbought tiles by paying the price-setting money to the bank.
5) Build - Players must add tiles to their board, matching landscape edges.
6) Scoring - Players receive VP based on the goal(s) of the current round. (The six rounds are A, B, AC, BD, ACD, BCD) These can range from "1 point per cow" to "5 points for most ships" to "3 points per landscape region fully bounded by other types."

After the last round, bonus points for money and scroll tiles are scored, and the highest VP wins.


GOOD POINTS

*Good and Sturdy Components. I feel like 2-3 years ago, I was writing multiple reviews of games that included complaints about cheap fraying bags and wafer-thin player screens. This game has a nice high-quality bag to hold all the landscape tiles, and very thick assemblable player screens, which are never going to fall over even if you knock them with your elbow. And the player screens are printed on the inside with a player aid, which all player screens totally should be. Thumbs-up for the components!

*Aesthetically pleasing. Like Carcassonne, by the end of the game, you will have placed enough tiles to assemble a pretty little array of various landscapes connecting in interesting ways, some finished regions, some unfinished regions, and various special features dotted throughout your kingdom. Although pretty components isn't enough to save a bad game, it's always a nice bonus on a great game like this.

*Simple and Accessible. With easy-to-understand rules, and just 6 short rounds of pricing your tiles and then buying one, Isle of Skye is quick to learn and moves along at a good pace. Another nice feature is that after the first two rounds, a Mariokart mechanic gives extra income each round for each player that is beating you -- so someone in last place in a 4 player game will get 12 free coins in the final round, meaning their total income will likely double that of the player in first.

*Well-blended strategy and tactics. The goals for all 6 rounds of the game are revealed at the beginning of the game, so you can strategically plan whether to rush for points that score now, or start building up for the goal that will score in the last 3 rounds. But you also have difficult tactical decisions about whether to price your best tile high and hope to get paid a lot for it, or axe your best tile to discard it so nobody else can buy it.

*Tremendous amount of replay value. Naturally, the available tiles drawn from the bag randomly differ every game, so some games may see lots of whiskey barrels to raise income, while another game may see more Scrolls that offer bonus VP at the end of the game.

But what completely changes the nature of the game are the different goals. Sure, "cow points" vs. "boat points" merely swaps the symbol everyone wants on a tile. But "points for completed landscapes" means suddenly you are angling for certain landscape combinations on a tile, which aren't what your opponents may need. And "points for squares of 4 tiles" just rewards the raw number of tiles on your board, regardless of what's on them. Games with different goals will play out very differently -- and this is a good thing.


BAD POINTS

*Random draws can make one tile unexpectedly essential. If you randomly draw two goals for C and D that each require lighthouse tiles to score, and only one lighthouse tile shows up in your game, whoever buys it will almost assuredly win the game. This is mitigated by the fact that your opponents get first dibs on what you draw, that you can use the ax to discard a powerful tile so your opponents don't get it, and that such tiles if priced will likely have a high price no matter who buys them. But the fact remains that the randomness means it is possible for a single tile early in the game to decide the whole thing, which I view as a flaw.

CONCLUSION

Isle of Skye is a pretty neat game and, at the risk of over-selling the latest new thing, may be an instant classic. Heck, I'd recommend it replace Carcassonne as people's tile-placement gateway game. It has quality components, pleasing visuals, accessible rules, short play time, interesting decisions, tons of replay value, and plays 2-5 players. I haven't yet managed to get 5 players together (where the game is shortened to 5 rounds), but can attest that it works great with 2, 3, or 4. I think this is a game that will be very easy to get to the table, and it has earned a place on my keeper shelf for sure.

IS IT FOR YOU?

Probably? If you like tile placement games, this one is very pretty. If you like games with variable goals, this is a neat one that plays in a reasonable amount of time. If you like games where you price things, this one has good components. I guess if you get easily frustrated when someone buys the thing you want so you can't have it, maybe this game would bother you? But honestly, I'm hard-pressed to think of a reason not to at least try this game. From my perspective, it has all of one flaw, and only if you count randomness as a flaw.

*Review copy provided by publisher
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David B
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The box says 2 to 5. There are 6 player screens and 6 ax tokens, but the rules claim those are extras. There is no starting castle for a 6th player. The designer explained why the extra components were included and it had to with the space on the punch boards. He claimed that very little, if any, play testing was done with 6 players and he does not think it would work very well.

Great review, though.
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Jimmy Okolica
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Great review. I'm not sure if it'll be a classic or not, but I expect I'll rank it in my top 10 of 2015. Great replayability, easy to teach, good filler for gamers, good family game for normal people, great components. I expect this will at least get a nod from the SDJ committee.
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Seth Brown
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pfctsqr wrote:
The box says 2 to 5. There are 6 player screens and 6 ax tokens, but the rules claim those are extras. There is no starting castle for a 6th player. The designer explained why the extra components were included and it had to with the space on the punch boards. He claimed that very little, if any, play testing was done with 6 players and he does not think it would work very well.

Great review, though.


My mistake; edited. Never got around to trying it with 5. Is a very different game with 2 and 4 though.
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Tally C
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Very nice review, Seth! I feel like I'm bumping into you all over the Geek recently for some reason.

I agree that Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King somehow feels like a classic. While some people seem to not like it very much with two, I've played several games with two players so far and agree with your opinion that it works at this player count. I especially like that it's lightning quick with two. I have not yet had a chance to play it with more, but hopefully will soon (there's a bit of a game queue for 4-player weekly game night right now!).

My only minor, minor quibble about the game is that some of the scoring objectives are worded a bit ambiguously. For example, we were a bit unsure with the objective that concerned boats and lighthouses, but in the end decided that the lighthouses had to be next to the boats, and not that the lighthouses had to be next to the body of water that contained the boats. Again, though, this is very minor - and ultimately, shouldn't really matter as long as all players are abiding by the same understanding.
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Seth Brown
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xelissa wrote:
Very nice review, Seth! I feel like I'm bumping into you all over the Geek recently for some reason.

I agree that Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King somehow feels like a classic. While some people seem to not like it very much with two, I've played several games with two players so far and agree with your opinion that it works at this player count. I especially like that it's lightning quick with two. I have not yet had a chance to play it with more, but hopefully will soon (there's a bit of a game queue for 4-player weekly game night right now!).

My only minor, minor quibble about the game is that some of the scoring objectives are worded a bit ambiguously. For example, we were a bit unsure with the objective that concerned boats and lighthouses, but in the end decided that the lighthouses had to be next to the boats, and not that the lighthouses had to be next to the body of water that contained the boats. Again, though, this is very minor - and ultimately, shouldn't really matter as long as all players are abiding by the same understanding.


We definitely enjoyed it with 2, although some may dislike the stability that comes from knowing you will end up with exactly 2 tiles nearly every round. More players means more rounds where nobody buys your tiles and you end up with 3, or both of your tiles get bought and you end up with only 1. But everyone seemed to enjoy our games no matter how many players.

I felt the goals were reasonably clear from the back page of the rulebook; with the specific one you mention, the lighthouse just has to be on the same body of water as the boat. The iconography across goal tiles is pretty standardized; the symbology on that tile shows a lighthouse 2 tiles away from the boat but on the same body of water -- it's the third one in this picture:
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Serious? Lee
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Thanks for the review. I'm eager to try this one out myself.
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Alexander Pfister
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Thank you for your great review!

xelissa wrote:
For example, we were a bit unsure with the objective that concerned boats and lighthouses, but in the end decided that the lighthouses had to be next to the boats, and not that the lighthouses had to be next to the body of water that contained the boats. Again, though, this is very minor - and ultimately, shouldn't really matter as long as all players are abiding by the same understanding.


You are right, the word adjacent is unclear. It just means, that a light house is not in the water but on the shore.
So there is a lake and in it a boat. If there is at least 1 lighthouse at the shore of this lake, you score 3 points. In case of a big lake, the lighthouse does not have to be adjacent to the boat.
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Tally C
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AlexP wrote:
Thank you for your great review!

xelissa wrote:
For example, we were a bit unsure with the objective that concerned boats and lighthouses, but in the end decided that the lighthouses had to be next to the boats, and not that the lighthouses had to be next to the body of water that contained the boats. Again, though, this is very minor - and ultimately, shouldn't really matter as long as all players are abiding by the same understanding.


You are right, the word adjacent is unclear. It just means, that a light house is not in the water but on the shore.
So there is a lake and in it a boat. If there is at least 1 lighthouse at the shore of this lake, you score 3 points. In case of a big lake, the lighthouse does not have to be adjacent to the boat.

That makes sense. So the tiles with lighthouses in the water not along a shore don't count for this objective then? We hadn't considered the possibility that not all lighthouses could score for this objective.
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Alexander Pfister
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xelissa wrote:
AlexP wrote:
Thank you for your great review!

xelissa wrote:
For example, we were a bit unsure with the objective that concerned boats and lighthouses, but in the end decided that the lighthouses had to be next to the boats, and not that the lighthouses had to be next to the body of water that contained the boats. Again, though, this is very minor - and ultimately, shouldn't really matter as long as all players are abiding by the same understanding.


You are right, the word adjacent is unclear. It just means, that a light house is not in the water but on the shore.
So there is a lake and in it a boat. If there is at least 1 lighthouse at the shore of this lake, you score 3 points. In case of a big lake, the lighthouse does not have to be adjacent to the boat.

That makes sense. So the tiles with lighthouses in the water not along a shore don't count for this objective then? We hadn't considered the possibility that not all lighthouses could score for this objective.

Hmm, some seem to be more in the water than on shore. But all lighthouses are treated the same, whether they are in the water or on shore.
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Tally C
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AlexP wrote:
xelissa wrote:
AlexP wrote:
Thank you for your great review!

xelissa wrote:
For example, we were a bit unsure with the objective that concerned boats and lighthouses, but in the end decided that the lighthouses had to be next to the boats, and not that the lighthouses had to be next to the body of water that contained the boats. Again, though, this is very minor - and ultimately, shouldn't really matter as long as all players are abiding by the same understanding.


You are right, the word adjacent is unclear. It just means, that a light house is not in the water but on the shore.
So there is a lake and in it a boat. If there is at least 1 lighthouse at the shore of this lake, you score 3 points. In case of a big lake, the lighthouse does not have to be adjacent to the boat.

That makes sense. So the tiles with lighthouses in the water not along a shore don't count for this objective then? We hadn't considered the possibility that not all lighthouses could score for this objective.

Hmm, some seem to be more in the water than on shore. But all lighthouses are treated the same, whether they are in the water or on shore.

Ah, I got you. Thanks for the clarification, Alexander =]. Sorry for the derailment, everyone (especially Seth!).
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Mike Stevens
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Great review. We just played our first game of this last night and all 4-players really enjoyed it. The winner was only 1 point ahead of 2nd place and 3 points ahead of 3rd place. Looking forward to playing this again.
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Baramon
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other than setting too high price for a tile can you really screw your opponent?
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Alexander Pfister
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Baramon wrote:
other than setting too high price for a tile can you really screw your opponent?

Also by buying tiles he needs.
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Seth Brown
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Baramon wrote:
other than setting too high price for a tile can you really screw your opponent?

My main method was to ax/discard the tiles your opponent needs so they never even enter the game.
 
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James Rousselle
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Does anyone have a problem with the catch up mechanism?

A mere difference of one point can mean a lot of gold.

Plus, this game has far too much randomness for me.

I know a lot of folks like this game, but the catch up mechanism ruins it for me.
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Alexander Pfister
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The later you earn your victory points, the better. This means that scoring tile D is more valuable than C and C is more valuable than B etc.
Therefore the order of the scoring tiles is very important. The extra income just makes later points more valuable than early points. Maybe you would get a similar effect if the scoring tile on field B would give you 10% more points, C +20% and D +30%.
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Murr Rockstroh
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JGRno5 wrote:
Does anyone have a problem with the catch up mechanism?

A mere difference of one point can mean a lot of gold.


James, no (on what you choose to call a catch up mechanic, which I don't think it is) and if you want to see why, go read this thread since it has been discussed there already.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1461691/catch-mechanic-op

JGRno5 wrote:
Plus, this game has far too much randomness for me.

I can say I don't mind what little randomness is in the game, it is, after all a tile laying game. I wouldn't say there is "far too much" it makes it sound like the game is very random, when it is no more random than any other tile laying game where you draw tiles from a bag or stack of shuffled tiles.

JGRno5 wrote:
I know a lot of folks like this game, but the catch up mechanism ruins it for me.
Personally I really enjoy and am so glad it got the proper recognition it deserves. (Again, not a catch up mechanism in my opinion)
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Murr Rockstroh
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Good review except I completely disagree with your "Bad Points" section. In our 23 plays of this game, luck has never been what decides who wins the game in my opinion.
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Rich Charters
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Osirus wrote:
Baramon wrote:
other than setting too high price for a tile can you really screw your opponent?

My main method was to ax/discard the tiles your opponent needs so they never even enter the game.
Agree with this, although in our experience, we quickly rebag the tiles we axe....and don't dwell on what could have been.

The most personal "attack" for us is when they've priced a tile high and it is obvious that they want to keep it, but you buy it out from under them....that can feel a bit like an attack....at least for kids/teens it can.
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