I first set eyes on Isla a few years ago at the UK Games Expo, I had a brief introduction to it, and it sounded interesting. I liked the tangible parts to the game too. Every so often the game would creep into my mind wondered where it had got to. The following year I saw it again at UKGE and realised Ocean City Games had just been tweaking and playtesting Isla more. This is never a bad sign, I like it when a game has been revised and adjusted over and over again. So, I jumped at the chance of playing a prototype copy.
Isla set up
How it Plays
Isla is a roll and write where players will be marking their path across an island collecting trinkets for research along the way.
There are five different sided dice that are rolled each turn. These range from a D4 to a D12. Everyone will take it in turn to roll the dice. All players use the value of one of these dice to move around the island that many spaces. This exhausts that die for future selection. As players navigate the sheet, they will refresh dice and gather items which can be used to buy a card from the always changing research market.
When you are an active player, i.e. the dice chucker, any dice that is rolled as a one carries a forfeit in the form of a threat card. These are generally as nasty as you would expect, but occasionally offer additional point scoring.
Isla exhaustion tokens
Isla threat cards
You will score points relative to how far off the island you travelled, and whether you were first off. Points will also be tallied for research cards collected and dice that aren’t exhausted. You will lose points for blank spaces. The player with the highest score wins.
There is a solo mode that sounds interesting, but I haven’t ventured into that I am afraid.
Isla treasure card
Final thoughts on Isla
Traversing the island is not a sunkissed walk on an idyllic beach. Isla is a taxing efficiency puzzle that throws up plenty of obstacles and booby traps. Rolling ones can be punishing, the threat cards can really hinder and while you can never have more than one card with the same title, rolling multiple ones can be game changing in a negative way. That said, in all my plays I only had one game where I felt totally bewildered by threat cards.
The way dice are exhausted and refreshed is very clever and the most unique feeling aspect of the game. This adds to the complexity of planning your route nicely. There is risk and reward on the majority of turns as you decide where to move. It’s a puzzle I really enjoy trying to solve!
While roll or flip and writes can be fairly solitary affairs, the competition for research cards, and the race to the finish, will see you casting cursory glances to your opponent’s sheets and up the interaction from the norm!
Just a reminder, I have played a prototype and things are still being tinkered with by Ocean City Games and so do bear that in mind when looking at photos and reading about gameplay. I have really enjoyed exploring Isla and look forward to following along to see the final game that is delivered!
Follow the campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/oceancitygames/isla-0
Isla treasure cards
Isla solo opponents