Ever since Carcassonne came onto the scene at the turn of the century, there has been a massive increase in the number of tile-laying games, many adapting from the now classic game of Carcassonne. Isle of Skye seems to fit the bill in this instance. So, is it just another reskin or does it bring something new?
I discovered Isle of Skye on Steam during the pandemic for a bargain price, so couldn't resist. Whilst I've not had a chance to play it online yet (so many other games ... don't judge me!), I've enjoyed playing it locally with my wife and against the AI.
Players: 2-5 Ages: 13+ Game Time: 30-60mins
Isle of Skye is a competitive tile-laying game for between two and five players. Players draft and auction tiles to build their clan territories, with a veritable points salad of end of round scoring, to see which clan leader has the best territory at the end of five rounds.
Isle of Skye is not particularly rules heavy and is very simple in its basic premise, but has some interesting twists on a classic tile -laying game.
The first is probably the most impactful to your gameplay. At the start of each round, you will draw three tiles in secret and choose two of these to keep, and one to discard. "Great!", I hear you say."More choice so I can't be left with bad tiles!" Well that would be true if it didn't also include an auctioning phase...
You have to put your hard-earned money down to set the cost for the remaining tiles. Then, from first player going clockwise, you take turns to chose to buy one of the other player's tiles. Any player whose tile is bought gets their bid back plus the payment from the purchaser, but has now lost that tile to the other player. Once each player has had a chance to buy a tile, players will play the remaining tile(s)... if any... into their territories.
Unlike many tile-laying games, you each have your own territory meaning that other players can't mess you around too much, except with the bidding process.
Tiles can be laid in your territory with matching features (roads don't have to connect however).
At the end of each round, a set of two or three end round bonus points will score.
Once all five rounds have been played. Players will score additional points based on the scrolls within their territory and any money they have left over.
With the vast array of end-of-round points scoring, and the different combinations of these, the same set of tiles can lead to very different games. Also, your group dynamics of pricing can lead to an immense amount of replayability.
The Steam app is a little disappointing to be completely hones; it barely manages to secure the badge of functional as it has some major bugs which crash the game, and based on the community feedback it looks like the developers have put this one on the shelf, so don't expect any changes any time soon.
It looks like the developers have put this one on the shelf, so don't expect any changes...
For me, the biggest gamebreaker was that you can't seem to mix local players and AI players without it causing the interface to freeze on another player halting your ability to progress the game.
There are a number of awkward glitches too where the interface graphics don't update, making it difficult to tell whose turn it is.
Overall, the feel of the game is great and while there are much better graphics implementations out there for other games the simplistic style works for me in this case.
The basic game play is great, and I love the twist that the auctioning draft adds to a tile-laying game; suddenly your choices matter and there is a lot less luck involved. Equally, there is loads of replayability; the random end-of-round objectives changing the dynamic of game play, as you need to focus on different types of tiles.
That said, I can't recommend the Steam game. There are too many bugs in the software, and even at the bargain price I paid of ~£2 it is really only just acceptable. So, it's a two for me. If Asmodee fixed the game-breaking bugs however it would easily score a four.
If you can get your hands on a dead-tree copy of the game, originally by Lookout Games, I'd maybe give it a go. It's certainly sufficiently different enough to the classic Carcassonne that it would make an interesting alternative if you like tile-laying games.
Your friendly DoaLG Rules Lawyer
George E Ohh