Take to the high seas and compete to be the most prosperous pirate of a nation gorged with bountiful boon and treacherous tides. Islebound is a highly rated game for up to four players, published by Red Raven Games, and another gem from the endless talent of designer Ryan Laukat. Each player takes on the role of the captain of a ship, with a crew to command and a capital to build. But there can only be one victorious ruler of the best sea-faring nation.
What is Islebound?
Islebound is a area control and engine builder game, in-which players compete to conquer a mystical archipelago and form a nation by recruiting crew members and constructing buildings in a fight to become the most powerful ruler. Resource and risk management, alongside worker placement, are also key aspects of building your nation, through collecting supplies and engaging in combat which is swayed by the roll of the dice.
Unlike Laukat’s other main titles, Islebound can take a few more games to grasp a good strategy and to figure out how victory points are obtained, so be ready for a fair few trials and errors until you find your sea legs!
Playing the Game
The way in which you conquer lands is a choice between diplomatic favour, which can be earned through good deeds and recruiting crew members with good negotiating skills, or perhaps the role of the wicked invader fits your desired playstyle better, by building up your military power and taking the land by brutal force.
Build up your crew by recruiting members who can fulfil various rolls of administrators, negotiators, sailors, workers, fighters, and even sea monsters. Depending on who you recruit will impact the abilities you can perform and the synergies you can create, so chose your friends wisely.
Similarly, each building within your capital grants different abilities and generates victory points at the end of the game. Buildings can either be bought or constructed by yourself, depending on whether you wish to follow the route of a wealthy gold hoarder or a hands-on builder, whatever floats your boat!
The only potential downside to the gameplay of Islebound is that in comparison to Laukat’s other popular games, there is no adventure story book. The adventures within the story books are often the highlights of Laukat’s games, and of course a pirate themed adventure book would have been fantastic. Those who are not as successful at refining a strategy and scoring victory points may have less fun without the adventure story book.
However, as to be expected from a Laukat game, the art style is vibrant and charming, creating an all-round enticing world that players can immerse themselves within. The components are all high quality, ranging from cards, resource tokens, map plates and dice, with the nautical aesthetic enhancing every inch of the game. Overall, the attention to detail is fantastic!
Final Thoughts on Islebound
If you enjoy other games designed by Laukat, such as Above and Below and Near and Far, then Islebound will certainly please your board game appetite. The character tokens of Islebound can also be used within Laukat’s other games, creating an impressive and ever-expanding universe which flows throughout each game. Although there is no adventure story book within Islebound, the modular board alongside the various roles to take on and strategies to play creates vast replay-ability.
Overall, Islebound is a well-rounded game which has something for all players, from builder, trader to diplomat or invader, the pirate life is yours to make!