Island Hopper

RRP: £46.99
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RRP £46.99
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You and your friends all make a living by selling goods amongst a chain of beautiful tropical islands. Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a problem. None of you are successful enough to buy your own seaplane, so you all pitched in and bought one together, which means that each day you all have to use the same plane to make all of the day’s deliveries and some of you aren…
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-FRD102097 Availability 1 in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Fun dexterity element
  • Plenty of player interaction
  • Nice art by Kwanchai

Might Not Like

  • Often dependant on other players
  • Oversimplified negotiation
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Description

You and your friends all make a living by selling goods amongst a chain of beautiful tropical islands. Sounds great, right? Well, there's a problem. None of you are successful enough to buy your own seaplane, so you all pitched in and bought one together, which means that each day you all have to use the same plane to make all of the day's deliveries and some of you aren't going to get paid. To make matters worse, the plane is in such disrepair that the instrumentation is broken, the compass demagnetized, and the windshield is covered in cracks, duct tape, and the remains of a few unfortunate seagulls, so the pilot might as well be flying blind...

Each day in Island Hopper, players auction off the Captain's seat; the player who becomes the Captain is in charge of flying the plane for the day, but cannot make any deliveries of their own. To make their deliveries, the other players bribe the Captain to fly to the islands to which they need to go, thereby earning themselves cash. When it's time for the Captain to fly, the Captain must close his eyes, pick up their goods tokens, and attempt to land them in an island's harbor. A successful landing means that players can fulfill their contracts and the captain collects his bribe but if the goods splash into the sea, you might find yourself under water...

The good news is you live in a gorgeous archipelago of paradise islands. The bad news is you’re skint! See you and a bunch of business associates/competitors make your living selling goods to customers on nearby islands. But not a single one of you can afford your own plane to deliver said goods. So what did you do? You clubbed together to buy the best dang seaplane your collective fortunes could afford. Unfortunately, that amounted to a tired old wreck of a vehicle. Your plane’s so beaten up that whoever is lucky enough to outbid the others in order to fly it that day quite literally can’t see where they’re going! Island Hopper is a game of bidding, bribing and flying blind.

Island Hopper is a 2017 2-6 player family weight dexterity style game that very much flew under the radar (pun intended). Now for this kind of lighthearted family weight game that leans more toward the party end of the spectrum than may be expected. However, reading through the names on the credits the pedigree of this game caught me completely off guard. Designed by Scott Almes of Tiny Epic fame. Art by Kwanchai Moriya of Dino World fame. Published by Eagle-Gryphon of Kanban, On Mars and Age of Steam! So what kind of board game baby did these tabletop superstars make?

Hopping Along

The play area in Island Hopper is centred on Compass Island, where the 6 different goods tokens start each round. Then a ring of small island tiles are placed around the Compass island. Then a ring of larger island tiles is placed around those. Players can use their imagination when setting up this archipelago but the rule of thumb is no island should be within 6 inches of another. This means the ‘main board’ area is at least 2 feet in diameter. Now the round cards are shuffled with the ‘last round’ card being placed randomly in the bottom 3. This means the game will last somewhere between 7 and 9 rounds. Each round card, revealed at the start of a round, will declare either demand or off season. In off season rounds money is removed from islands and in Demand rounds money is added to certain islands.

Island Life

Each player is dealt 3 contract cards and a row of 3 available contracts is placed next to the play area. Players also receive a money screen to hide their wealth and 10 starting dollars. A note on contract cards. Cards in the contract deck can be Island Contracts, these specify a particular island as well as the amount of $ you will receive if the captain successfully drops goods to that island. They also have a symbol that can be collected for set collection bonuses at the game’s end. The contract deck also contains Tourist cards, these can only be used by the current captain and they’ll reward him $’s for each island successfully visited that round. After the round card is revealed and resolved, players bid to be Captain for the round. Bidding proceeds with players either raising or passing until one player remains. That person now pays their proffered bid and receives the captain token. The captain now flips the minute timer and the negotiation phase begins. Players can ‘negotiate’ (read: bribe) the captain by placing coins next to an island they want him to visit. This is the only way to bribe a captain and you can split any money between any islands however you see fit.

Pretty Fly

Next, the captain has the difficult task of actually flying the plane. They can make one flight for each player in the game. They’ll choose one good token on compass island, close their eyes, lift it several inches in the air and attempt to move and drop it on an island with a symbol of that good. If the captain makes a successful drop on that island he will pick up all coins next to it. Then players can resolve their contract card that rewards for that island. I mean one would assume they had such a card otherwise it was pretty pointless putting a bribe next to that island, get it? If the captain played a tourist card that round he collects their payments too. Each other player gets 3 directions tokens for the round. Each token can be used to say exactly one word while the visually impaired captain is flying. The usefulness of that word is entirely at the player’s discretion! After the captains last flight players draw back up to a hand of 3 contract cards and the next round begins. At the end of the game, players gain money for sets of symbols on their completed contracts. They’ll add this to money accrued through the game and the player with the most dollars wins!

Hop Or Flop?

As you can see from the above, Island Hopper is an eclectic mix of mechanisms. A bit of bidding, a dash of dexterity, a dollop of luck, a smidge of social negotiation and a sprinkling of set collection. Do these all work together? Hmm, kind of! With the right group in the right setting Island Hopper can be a right giggle. It’s firmly family weight and pretty lighthearted fun. The components are of decent quality. It does however definitely have its issues. The rulebook feels rushed and is peppered with contradictions and grammar mistakes. The bidding makes perfect sense but the negotiation phase feels a little lacklustre. In fact, it feels like another bidding round but with rewards that are in no way guaranteed. Also for a game that’s target audience appears to be younger, you need giant long arms to reach the entire play area. In fact, the only way our 6-year-old could play was to set it up on the floor!

Final Thoughts

With the right group in the right mood Island Hopper can be enjoyable mayhem. Especially if people have fun with their direction tokens, trying to throw the captain off or redirect him mid-flight. That said, and bearing in mind the production team, all in all, the game is less than the sum of its parts, or contributors. It usually leaves you entirely dependant on someone else that you’re competing with to do what you want them to.

Whether that’s drop cargo to your island or help you out while you’re flying. Even when it does go well for you it kind of feels more by luck than judgement. It’s a unique mix of mechanics and I admire what it’s trying to do, but usually, there’s other family games I’d rather play with my kids and other strategy games I’d rather play with adults. Unfortunately, Island Hopper doesn’t really bridge that gap. It’s one I’ll reserve for when I get the itch to play some loud, blindfolded dexterity madness!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Fun dexterity element
  • Plenty of player interaction
  • Nice art by Kwanchai

Might not like

  • Often dependant on other players
  • Oversimplified negotiation