Fighting The Others--A Double-Take Review of Island Siege

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A former Navy SEAL is inexplicably a cook now, and it's up to him to save a ship from terrorists. Wait. That's Under Siege. Island Siege is a colonization/combat game that pits two players against each other as the try to colonize an island, while attacking their opponent to prevent them from doing the same.

 


Title - Island Siege

Designer - Dan Manfredini

Publisher - APE Games

Number of players - 2

Play time - 30 Minutes (This seems a little low to us.)

Category/Genre - Card Combat

Pros:

  • Interesting decisions.
  • Lots of player interaction.
  • A fun theme.
  • The awesome coins!

Cons:

  • Games can go on too long.
  • Randomness.
  • The dice.

Good for...

  • Family? Maybe! I could see a teenager enjoying this, but we both thought it would be too advanced for our grade-school kids right now.

  • Youth Group? No! But only because it just plays two players.

  • Gamers? Yes! Good (longish) filler for gamers.

  • Nongamers? Maybe! If you had someone ready for the next step, this might work.

Rating:

* Firestone: 7

Good gameplay and a fun theme. I don't play many 2-player games, so that's my only disappointment.

Jeremiah: 7

I think this is one of the rare times we mostly agree: it's a really cool and fun theme, and while I play games often as a 2-player game, having it designed only for 2-players is a draw back, I like options.



The Components

18 Meeples a.k.a. Colonists: 9 per player

27 Cubes: 9 of each color (Black, Gray, and White)

2 Fleet Tokens: 1 per player

13 Coins:split into different denominations--and they're made of real metal. Yay!

4 Attack Dice:Four dice that you have to put stickers on. Boo!

2 Imperial Cards: These act as player mats

2 Starting Forts: 1 for each player

18 Fort Cards: Each has a different cube arrangement and special ability

6 Ship Cards: Ships are pretty powerful and give you some cool abilities

12 Building Cards: More ways to get money and special abilities

2 Reference Cards: A quick guide for each player

And yes, the rule book.


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The Setup

Players take an Imperial card and place all of their meeples on it, in the three different tiers. Players take a starting Fort card and place it next to their Imperial card and place 1 white, 1 black, and 2 gray cubes on the corresponding flag spaces. The rest of the Fort, Building and Ship cards are shuffled and placed in a draw pile, and players are given 1 white and 1 black cube for their supply. Players then draw 3 cards into their hand, choose 2 to keep and then give 1 to their opponent. And now the game begins...


The Gameplay

A turn consists of 3 phases:

1 - Victory Phase (this is skipped at the beginning of the game)

2 - Colonize Phase

3 - Action Phase

Let's take a look at each of these, shall we?

Victory Phase

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The active player checks to see if he or she has fulfilled a win condition. There are two ways to win. A Colonist Victory means during the Victory phase all of your meeples have been moved from your Imperial card to Forts, Buildings or Ships. You achieve an Economic Victory by having more 20 or more coins.

Colonize Phase

During this phase the active player takes a meeple from the bottom-most tier on the Imperial card and places it on an open space of a Fort card--this is done for each Fort the player has in play.

It should be noted that as tiers are emptied on your imperial card you gain extra abilities. Tier 1 gives you an extra re-roll during an attack action. Tier 2 gives you an extra die to roll. Tier 3 gives you the win!

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Action Phase

This phase gives you a few options.

Draw Cards--You get to draw 3 cards, but just like the setup you give one of those cards to your opponent. Choose wisely...

Build a Fort--You can build a Fort by playing a card from your hand and placing cubes on it. If there's a flag in a space the player places a cube on it from the general supply of that flags color. The player then has the option to add cubes from their own supply, or any color they wish. You can also choose to not add any cubes.

Build a Building--To build a Building card a player must place it behind an existing Fort or Building card, then move the required amount of meeples from the Fort to the Building card. This often results in the player gaining some money and cubes, and a nifty special ability.

Build a Ship--This is just like building a Building, except the card isn't placed behind the fort; it's set off to the side.

Attack a Fort--Hang on, this is by far the fiddliest part of the game. If a player chooses to attack a Fort--note you cannot directly attack a Ship or Building--the player places his or her Fleet token in front of the Fort they're targeting, and start rolling dice. If a player rolls the leadership icon, it can give them special abilities depending on the ships they have in play. Rolling two leadership icons will allow them to destroy a ship.

Otherwise they roll in two waves. Once a player has rolled, and then optionally re-rolled, the dice (they can re-roll any, all, or none of them), they choose an attack color for the first wave. Then all of the dice showing that color are used in the first wave of the attack, and target cubes on the Fort of the same color.

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The player then chooses to either reinforce or make a second-wave attack. If they choose to reinforce they receive a cube that matches any remaining non-attack color dice.

If they choose to make a second-wave attack they destroy one cube for each red "Target" icon they've rolled. The attacking player gets to choose the cube that's destroyed.

Connected and Protected--Okay, this is where things get even more fiddly-er... If there are 2 cubes next to each other, they're connected and you can't take just one out with your first wave attack; you have to take them both out, or none at all. The second wave ignores this and you can chip away at them. Protected cubes are those that are behind another cube. These cannot be targeted in the first wave, but again can be targeted with the red "Target" icon during a second-wave attack. Then there are connected and protected cubes. These are cubes that are protected by a different color but connected to a cube of the same color. You'll have to roll enough of the same color to pick off the cube(s) that aren't protected, but the protected one will still remain until the second wave or a subsequent turn. There are some good examples in the rule book...

Once a Fort is destroyed, it's removed from the game and discarded, along with all of the Buildings built behind it. More importantly, all of the meeples on the Fort and the Buildings go scurrying back to the Imperial card.

Then it's the next player's turn. Play keeps going back and forth until someone meets a victory condition.

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The Verdict

Jeremiah--At first pass Island Siege seems to be a pretty light game, but it's deceptively deeper than it appears. I think for some this would be a turn off, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for a casual gamer or for younger players. It's somewhat bound by the luck of the draw, but there are plenty of hefty decisions to be made along the way.

Firestone--I blew this off as a light game, but there are some real decisions. And it's thematic and interesting. I agree with Jeremiah that it's a solidly gamer game, but that's not a bad thing at all. I don't need games to be all things to all men. Or women. 

Jeremiah--The components and I have a love-hate relationship going on right now. For the most part, I love them. The meeples, artwork, cards, etc. are all of fine quality and look great. The REAL METAL COINS are fantastic, and I love the way the jingle, jangle in my coin purse when I collect them... not that I use a coin purse when I play games or anything... really.... But the dice leave much to be desired. You're given plastic cubes and a sheet of stickers, and those are your dice. Blergh. Now I’ve played the game plenty of times and, yes, they roll and do what they are meant to do: randomly choose one of the six sides of the cube. But they're such a stark contrast to the awesomeness of those metal coins that those dice can sure look darn ugly sometimes.

Firestone--Yeah... I like practically all of the components a lot. And those coins are AWESOME. Super detailed and hefty. I would buy a bag of just those coins to use in games. But the dice are lame. Probably more lame because the coins are so great. Rather than go high-end on one component and low-end on another (especially an important one like the dice), I would rather have had them just do a good job on both. 

Jeremiah--The mechanics of defending your forts with the connected/protected/connected protected rules can be a little tedious at times and definitely increases the curve. I thought it was going to make attacking forts precarious and nearly impossible, but it actually evens things out a bit. Again, everything about this game was a little deeper than I thought it would be going into it. That’s not a bad thing.

Firestone--My eyes glazed over with the connected/protected/connected protected stuff. Once you get it, it's totally fine. But it's just one of the many reasons you probably shouldn't spring this game on an unsuspecting co-worker.

Jeremiah--I really enjoyed the variety of cards types and the strategies made available within the game. There’s no one clear path to victory, nor is there just one victory condition, so thinking quickly, adjusting, and re-adjusting your strategies as the game unfolds is key to navigating your way to a victory. I like that in a game.

Firestone--I liked the cards a lot. Each one is unique and has special powers. And they tried to make them thematic, too. My biggest complaint--other than the dice--is that there's not much pushing the game toward the end. Yes, you don't lose coins, so that kind-of does. But you can go from nearly winning to back where you started the game with one well-placed attack on a Fortress/Building. To see myself going back to literally square one after over 30 minutes of play was deflating. I wish there was something moving the game toward the end. 

Firestone's Final Verdict--This is good, gamery filler. It's a little long, but the play is varied and interesting. I like that there are multiple ways to win. Let's just fix those dice!

Jeremiah Final Verdict--The audience for this game is much more limited than I thought it would be. The learning curve is more in-depth and there are a lot of strategic decisions and adjustments to make in a game of such a small package. If there are two good players at the table, the game can get a little lengthy, but aside from that I’ve really enjoyed the game, and I love that there are different win conditions and that all of the cards have their own way of pushing you towards those conditions.

Hey! The fine folks at APE Games have given us a copy of Island Siege to give away to ONE OF YOU! All you have to do to be entered is subscribe to the blog. It's easy! This contest is for subscribers located in the US and Canada. Sorry! It's just too expensive to ship outside of North America! So subscribe right now, and you could be a winner! 

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