Isle of Skye: from Chieftain to King

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RRP £31.99

Do you believe in love at first site? Or in this case first play? Because after my first play of Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King I was hooked. The attraction of the game of was, and still is, it’s simplicity combined with the depth of choices on offer. Isle of Skye is a tile-laying game with auctioning to obtain the tiles you will be using to build your tableau. Placement ru…
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Awards

Golden Pear

Rating

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

You Might Like

  • Excellent for two players or more.
  • Easy to learn.
  • Different every time.
  • Not much downtime.
  • Perfect next step after the standard gateway games.

Might Not Like

  • Slows down at five players.
  • Economic and auction aspects may not click for some.
  • Very light theme.
  • Your Carcassonne box will start gathering dust..
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Description

Do you believe in love at first site? Or in this case first play? Because after my first play of Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King I was hooked. The attraction of the game of was, and still is, it’s simplicity combined with the depth of choices on offer.

Isle of Skye is a tile-laying game with auctioning to obtain the tiles you will be using to build your tableau. Placement rules are incredibly simple, you just have to match the terrain type, roads can lead to dead ends, but terrain must match. Speaking of terrain, there are only three types, grass, water and mountains. Each tile will display some of these in various configurations but also may have buildings, animals or other decorations that have point scoring potential.

Each round you will draw three tiles from a bag and place them in front of your player screen. Behind your screen you will assign two of the tiles a value from your own money, and mark one to be discarded. The key thing here is setting the price, as during the next phase you and the other players will choose whether or not to buy tiles from each other at the price set. The good news is that if another player does buy one of your tiles you get the money, the bad news is you may end up without tiles to place in your own tableau.

This creates an great game of cat and mouse as you play out various strategies, do you tempt players with low costing tiles you don’t want? Potentially giving them scoring opportunities or set your prices high on the tiles you want?

At the start of the game you will have randomly drawn four scoring tiles from a good selection, scoring happens at the end of each round but not every tile scores every round, meaning you have to play for immediate and longer term goals and at some point scoring tile A will not score again this game.

This variety adds to an already delightful game that works at every player count and is worthy of a place in any collection.

Player Count: 2-5
Time: 45-60 Minutes
Age: 10+

Do you like Carcassonne? If you answered yes then you can skip straight to the “add to basket” stage for Isle of Skye. If you answered “Meh, kind of. I wish it had more depth” then again, you are going to want Isle of Skye in your life. Still here? Fine I will get on with the rest of the review.

Isle of Skye is a tile placement, auction, territory building, strategy game for two to five players from Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan. In Isle of Skye, players take on the role of clan chieftains on the Scottish Island of Skye. They must build up the landscape around their castle with lakes, roads, mountains and farmland. They must take the best areas of land for themselves as they compete for gold, dominance and glory to see who shall be crowned King of Skye.

Once I was a lowly Chieftain

Each player begins the game with a player screen, a discard token, and a single castle tile that will make an income of five gold each round. Four scoring tiles are randomly selected and placed on the scoreboard. These tiles will trigger in a variable order at the end of each round. To succeed in the Isle of Skye, players must try to work with and prepare for the scoring tiles that will trigger each round.

Gameplay is simple and split into five phases. First, we take income, which is five coins plus one for each whisky barrel connected to your castle by a road. Unlike Carcassonne, roads do not have to be complete, nor do they create boundaries. In fact, it's completely fine to have a road going straight into a lake. But you will find that to make money, and points, linking your roads up is a wise move.

In step two, each player draws tree tiles from a communal bag and sets them in front of their screen. Next, hidden from view, the players select a tile to discard and assign values to the other two. They do this by placing some of their money next to the two remaining tiles. Don’t use all your money here though! You will see why soon.

After the screens are removed and tiles discarded, players take it in turns to buy a tile off another player. They play the value and take the tile. The seller gets the money plus their own coins back. However, if the tile does not get bought by another player then you get to keep the tile but lose the money you put on it.

Next it’s time to place the tiles in your territory. Tiles must match up correctly with other landscape such as grassland, mountains and lakes. This is where you can get your tiles placed for both maximum points and income, both for this round and going forward.

Now I am King

When I explain the part about assigning values and buying tiles it’s like Christmas morning seeing all those gamer’s little faces light up. Here’s the bit where people start to grasp the simple genius in the design of this game. You can only use the money that is not currently assigned to a tile, so you might not want to put all your money on the tiles to raise their value as you won’t be able to spend it.

Selecting a value isn’t as easy as you might think. You need to think about whether you want the tile or if there is demand for it elsewhere. Putting a high value on a high demand tile is a great way to make money, but what if nobody can afford to buy it? Not only have you locked up all that cash for the round, but you will lose the money at the end.

What if you want to keep the tile? How should you value it then? What if you don’t want the tile? Should you put a low price on it to encourage a sale? I’ve found people pay more attention to high-value tiles, so you can sneak tiles you want under the radar but not valuing them highly.

Playing the System

Where you come in turn order has an effect on your strategic options. Going first means you have the most choice but you don’t know which of your tiles you will be left with. And your money is locked up in the tiles in front of you. If you go later in the round you have far fewer options to buy, but if people have bought tiles off you then you now have lots of money to buy and that high scoring tile that’s still available. Thinking about where you will be in turn order going forward can help you plan your finances better and not end up too broke to buy anything.

Predicting who might buy what tiles can help you work out how much cash you may have on your turn. Pushing your luck with the economic aspects of the game is a strong strategy for winning by a mile, but if your opponents see what you are playing at you can quickly find yourself languishing in last place as your opponents tactically block your access to money or important tiles.

The High Roads and the Low Roads

With Isle of Skye every game is different, with mountains of replay-ability. Not only are you randomly selecting four scoring titles from 18 every time you play, but how the tiles combine together makes a big difference. One game you may need to cover all bases to do well, the next you may need to put everything into farms and animals. Of course, this means that the value of each tile you pull is different each game and with the changing game state. The variety of scoring further prevents that game from becoming repetitive. This all combines for a unique game every time you play.

I enjoy how the point scoring builds throughout the game encouraging you to plan ahead. It also eases the player into the game making it more accessible to new players.

As much of the game can be played simultaneously there is decent player engagement and limited downtime. The only time you need to wait for others if when players are buying tiles. I found at five players, especially towards the later stages of the game, analysis paralysis can set in. I played at five players with all new people and towards the end, we all felt the game was outstaying its welcome, but this is less of a problem for experienced players. Still, I don’t think I’d recommend this for five.

Final Thoughts on Isle of Skye

For a long while, I’ve regretted giving away my copy of Carcassonne. Although Isle of Skye is only superficially similar to Carcassonne it does fill that gap perfectly of an easy to teach, low downtime, tile laying game. I’ve played Isle of Skye more than any other game this year and I’ve only had it about six weeks.

Isle of Skye does what it does perfectly. It’s entertaining, and it has a good amount of depth without being overwhelming. It doesn't outstay its welcome at 2-4 players, and it plays smoothly. The game is easy to teach and pick up with no fiddly rules to remember or complicated mechanisms. I love playing it at two players, it really works nicely when you are duelling it out for supremacy. At three and four players the extra options really encourage more strategic plays.

Isle of Skye will suit anyone looking for a short to medium length game that gives you something to think about. It suits playing with non-gamers and I’d call a “next step” game. If people are enjoying playing Carcassonne, Pandemic or Ticket to Ride then this is a great next step.

Isle of Skye will be getting a lot more plays and will be staying in my collection for a long time to come.

Isle of Skye is a tile placement, auction, territory building, strategy game for two to five players. In Isle of Skye, players take on the role of clan chieftains on the Scottish Island of Skye.

They must build up the landscape around their castle with lakes, roads, mountains and farmland. They must take the best areas of land for themselves as they compete for gold, dominance and glory to see who shall be crowned King of Skye.

The Aim

The winner in Isle of Skye (designed by Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister) is the player with the most victory points at the end of the game. Players score victory points by fulfilling objectives on scoring tiles, from coins, and from fulfilling objectives on scrolls.

Set-Up

  1. Place the game board down showing either the 2-4 or five players mark in the bottom left corner.
  2. Shuffle the window-shaped scoring tiles and place one on each window on the board.
  3. Place the black round marker on the first plate of the round track.
  4. Create a supply of coins on the table.
  5. Give each player a screen and castle tile of their colour, a discard marker (axe tile), and put the score markers on the zero space of the score track.
  6. Put all landscape tiles into the bag and shuffle them.
  7. Give one player the starting player marker.
Isle of Skye - Main Board Set-up

How to Play Isle of Skye

1. INCOME

Simultaneously, players take an income of five gold for their castle and one gold for each whiskey barrel symbol connected to the castle by a continuous road.

N.B. From round three, players also take three gold for each other player ahead of them on the score track.

2. DRAW & SET PRICES
  • In turn order, players take three landscape tiles and place them in front on their screen.
  • Hidden behind their screen, players select a tile to discard using the Axe tile.
  • Hidden behind their screen, players set prices (at least one gold) of the other two tiles by placing money behind them. TIP: This sets the price others will pay you for this tile. However, you can't spend money on the tiles. Also, if nobody buys the tile you lose the money.
  • Once all players are done, remove the player screens.

3. DISCARD TILE

Place discarded tile back in the bag.

4. BUY A TILE

  • In turn order, players may take one tile from another player by paying the amount of gold on it to the player.
  • The receiving player also takes back the gold they originally placed on the tile.
  • If you can’t, or don't want to buy, then you must pass.
  • Unsold tiles are kept, but the money on them is lost to the supply

5. BUILD

Simultaneously, plays add their new tiles to their territory.

  • Tiles must share an edge with an existing tile.
  • The terrain on adjacent tiles must match up to create continuous areas of grassland, mountain, or lake.
  • Roads do not have to be continuous.
  • A completed area is one fully enclosed by a different terrain type.

6. END OF ROUND

  • Each player scores victory points according to the scoring tiles of the current round.
  • The first player marker is passed clockwise to the next player.
  • The round marker is moved forward one space.

7. END GAME SCORING

  • After the final round is complete. Score victory points for the tiles on your territory with scrolls on them. If the scroll is on a completed area, score it twice.
  • Score one victory point for every five coins you have.
  • The player with the most victory points wins.
Isle of Skye - Discard tile and set values behind the screen

Tips for Isle of Skye

And that's it. The rules are pretty straight forward in Isle of Skye. The main points that can trip up first-timers are:

  • The rules about tile placement. An illegally placed tile can make a big impact on the game.
  • Players need to remember that money used to set the value of tiles is no longer available to them unless someone buys one of their tiles.
  • Money used to set the value of tiles that remain unsold at the end of the buying phase is lost.
  • Roads do not enclose areas or need to be complete.

Learn more about the game by reading my review. Happy Playing!!

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • Excellent for two players or more.
  • Easy to learn.
  • Different every time.
  • Not much downtime.
  • Perfect next step after the standard gateway games.

Might not like

  • Slows down at five players.
  • Economic and auction aspects may not click for some.
  • Very light theme.
  • Your Carcassonne box will start gathering dust..