Isle of Skye is an outstanding game in its own right and was wonderful for feeling like it didn't need an expansion. However, the Journeyman expansion is a welcome addition if you are looking to spice things up.
The Journeyman expansion makes a couple small additions and one major one. The most significant change to the game is the addition of the titular journeyman who brings with him a whole new board called the progress board!
At first glance, these progress boards are pretty intimidating, but fear not! These boards do add complexity to the game, but the iconography isn't as scary as it looks.
This expansion adds a 5th phase to the game. After adding the landscape tiles you’ve bought, each player simultaneously maps the movement for their journeyman and then executes that movement. The goal is to get the journeyman to visit tiles with specific icons on them. The icons you want your journeyman to visit are determined by your progress board – remember, that scary thing with all the symbols?
On each board, there are three separate tracks that you are trying to move across. To move along a track, you must visit the next icon showing in that row. The journeyman would need to visit a tile with a whiskey barrel to progress the cube on the top track.
Reaching certain points along each track will unlock bonuses like victory points, extra income, more movement for your journeyman, and more. If you reach the end of any given track you unlock a permanent special power such as being able to buy two tiles each round. It is unlikely that you’ll get to the end of every track, so your best bet is to focus on one or two.
But Wait, There’s More!
Besides the progress board, there are a couple other minor additions. The first is a handful of tiles that feature a new journeyman icon. Placing one of these tiles in your tableau lets you progress on any of the tracks on your progress board.
There is also the addition of roads that can be unlocked on your progress board. This enables tiles to be connected to your castle via roads when they wouldn’t be otherwise. It also allows your journeyman to travel between those tiles faster.
One More Thing!
The final addition to the game is 4 new scoring tiles to make the game even more replayable. Two of these scoring tiles include elements from the Journeyman expansion, but the other two can be used even when you aren’t using the expansion. The extra landscape tiles can also be used with or without the progress board.
Using the Journeyman expansion completely changes the nature of Isle of Skye. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on what you’re looking for. If you loved the quickness and simplicity of the base game, this probably isn’t for you. This definitely makes the game both longer and more complicated than it was. However, if you want to add a little complexity and to really cook your noodle and open up the decision space, this expansion is excellent.
The need to balance the requirements for the scoring tiles and your progress board makes every decision more important and more complex. It also makes determining how valuable each tile is for your opponents more difficult. Besides the usual considerations, you must determine what icons each player wants according to their progress board.
All players program their journeyman’s movement simultaneously, which moves things a little faster. Still, this expansion definitely risks dragging on a little too long at higher player counts. It takes a long time for each player to figure out what tiles they want, to price their tiles, and to puzzle out where their journeyman should travel.
The best thing about this expansion is that it doesn’t feel necessary. That sounds bad, but it isn’t. Sometimes I really want a crunchy puzzle and added complexity, and having the expansion gives me that option. Other times, I just want the quicker, lighter experience that the base game offers. This expansion is definitely worth adding to your collection if you are looking to make the base game of Isle of Skye more complex and puzzley, even if it's only every once in a while. It really is a lot of fun if that’s what you want, just make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into.