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Out of the dust comes a classic in every sense of the word.  Tigris & Euphrates, long considered Reiner Knizia’s masterpiece was fir...

Tigris & Euphrates Tigris & Euphrates

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Out of the dust comes a classic in every sense of the word.  Tigris & Euphrates, long considered Reiner Knizia’s masterpiece was first released in 1997.  One to 4 players will take turns to take up to two actions in developing their Kingdoms.  However whereas many more-modern Euros struggle or eschew player interaction, T&E provides it in bucketfuls.  Not only will you decimate your opponent's Kingdoms but they will yours as well.  If you don’t like seeing your brilliancy ruined then this is not the game for you.  If your group thrives on aggressiveness (over the board) then you’ve got to give try this.


Gameplay

Despite the seemingly lightweight rules it took me a good while to wrap my head around these 20-year-old, but still brilliant, mechanics.  The biggest thing I struggled to grok was the different coloured player pieces.  Maybe I’m a dullard but none of the rules would sink in until I had this concept down.  Instead of receiving all the red tokens for your pieces, you receive all tokens i.e. 'leaders' of the same shape. The leaders you receive are black - that's a king, green - a merchant, red - a priest and blue - a farmer.  The shape is what denotes ownership, not the colours.
The dawn of civilization...
The most common action players take are to either place civilisation tiles or one of your leaders.  Both these actions may wreak glorious destruction on your opponent's kingdoms, but may also damage your own.  There are two different types of combat in this game, if a leader has been placed into a kingdom and there is already a leader of that colour then a revolt will be resolved.  Each kingdom can only have one leader of one colour but there may be leaders from multiple players in each kingdom.  

If a civilization tile has joined two kingdoms together then a war between those two Kingdoms occurs, in which each leader of the same colour will battle each other regardless of which players own it.  The winner will effectively resolve multiple conflicts until there are no longer two same-coloured leaders in the joined kingdom.


A revolt between the Pot King and the Bull King.  Adjacent red temples and red tiles played from the hand count
Each combat follows similar principles and once you’ve seen two or three they are easy to conduct. Revolts will be augmented by red tiles (temples) that are adjacent to the two leaders and any supporting tiles red tiles played from each players hand.  The defender wins ties and the winner destroys (out of the game) the loser's supporters and returns the losers leader.

Full-scale wars take the shape of multiple revolts but in a battle the individual strength of the leaders (calculated by totalling how many tiles of their colour they can connect to) plus additional supporting tiles from their hand (of the same colour).  The defender wins ties again and the winner not only destroys their opponent's supporters but also destroys the tiles their leader was using to calculate strength.  This can have huge consequences on the board.
Lion has placed a tile connecting two Kingdoms.  War will break out between the Lion and Bull King, and between the Lion and Pot trader.  All connected tiles of the same colour and played tiles from the hand will count.
These fighting concepts sound simple when written down, but I felt like a true dullard trying to learn this.  However, there is a beauty in their simplicity (once understood) and the limited actions each player has, occupies a rare space in board game design in which the board and pieces appear to take on a life of their own.  As your kingdom's power ebbs and flows it really does invoke the ‘cradle of civilization’ theme slapped onto this abstract game; it is. despite the simplicity brutal and very engaging to play.

As you place tiles that are connected to your similar coloured leaders you will gain victory points of that colour.  Your final score will be the lowest of those four victory point totals.  This design creates a constant tension between what you want to do on the board (i.e. an opponent’s leader is vulnerable and you have lots of red tiles to support a conflict) vs what you should do to collect more victory points of your lowest colour.
Endgame, Lion wins with 19 victory points.

The essence of this game is simple but it does create a lot of options and planning for each player.  However, before it’s your turn again, the board may be completely different, but it’s far from chaotic; an experienced player will win this every time.


Components



Beautiful board bits
I rarely have anything negative to say about Z-Man-published games, Z-Man have taken Dr Knizia’s masterpiece and just updated it with chunky plastic monuments and leader tokens.  The rest of the components are either tiles (in one of four colours) or victory points.  These plastic components are particularly nice looking on the board and are functional, in that it is very easy to determine what is a leader versus a tile.


Advanced variations included in the box

Criticisms

I can’t criticise this. I acknowledge it is absolutely genius design and I just might not be clever enough to play it (well).  It’s not a hard game to play but the number of options and forward planning possible does remind me of chess to a large extent.  I am also, in general, not a fan of abstract games, however, I would readily recommend this abstract.  My only criticisms are for my own brain and pre-conceived ideas of how board-games work.


My puny brain struggled with these rules. despite being well written

Conclusion

I can understand why this is widely considered to by Knizia’s masterpiece.  It has simple actions that create complex kingdoms that appear to take on a life of their own.  It is the epitome of a wargame or at least a competitive game if we don’t want to start that argument again…  Taking part in an experienced (i.e. 10 + plays) four-player game of Tigris is a fantastic way to spend 90 minutes.  However, being the learning player where two or three others already know the game is no fun at all.  However, the rewards of that act of self-flagellation i.e. playing amongst experienced equals make it absolutely worth it.

Massive thanks to Asmodee for sending this review copy.  Most game stores I've visited have had this in stock and quite often at a discount. You can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest in the UK or support them using their online web stores if you can't make it in person. 

Publisher: Z-Man
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/42/tigris-euphrates
Players: 2-4
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Playing time: 90 minutes


SAIGON 75 from NUTS PUBLISHING ANNOUNCING THE FORTHCOMING KICKSTARTER Recently I was fortunate enough to receive a proto...

SAIGON 75 SAIGON 75

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

SAIGON 75

from

NUTS PUBLISHING


ANNOUNCING THE FORTHCOMING KICKSTARTER

Recently I was fortunate enough to receive a prototype copy of this game to be launched on Kickstarter next week.  Consequently what I'll be sharing with you now is intended just to give you a flavour of the final finished professional production.  Above all the aim is for a swift playing game that can be completed in about an hour.  Quite an achievement and one which, for those of an older generation like me, has its acknowledged antecedents in  The Fall of South Vietnam from Yaquinto games.

Like that game and other companies more recent efforts such as Fire In The Lake and Hearts and Minds,  Nuts Publishing have gone for an area movement map.  For me this has always been my preferred way of treating the geography of this war when handled in its entirety, whether as a full blown simulation or a lighter treatment as here.


Though the prototype is on a simple paper map that needed to be assembled in four sections the final product is to be a mounted map and, if you've seen the quality of their paper maps from Urban Operations, I expect the standard for a mounted map to be very high.

For the components, like Fire In The Lake, the company have gone for solid wooden pieces.


However, considering the much lighter treatment and fast play-time there will be considerably fewer to consider!  As you can see from some of the prototypes, the dice are going to be customised with icons, a factor I've always enjoyed as in the Command & Colours series.  To round out the physical elements in the game will be a set of Event cards, which judging by these preliminary ones will certainly add to the thematic atmosphere of Saigon 75.


I've always been a fan of using period photos and these are just what I like in a game.  The current rules provide for using them in two different ways.  The way that they consider best when first learning the game is to start with a hand of three cards, play one each turn and draw a new card or the other way they suggest for players with more experience is to begin with a full hand of eight cards.  Personally, I like the first method as it adds a greater element of uncertainty as to what will occur and which player will ultimately be the one to play the Event.

There are a small number of colourful counters, some - those marked Quyet Thang -  to indicate NVA control, which is absolutely essential to victory, others are US airstrike markers.

At the moment the rule book is physically a very simple, black and white production with no examples or illustrations.  Though it certainly will not need the high quality illustrations and production values of the excellent rule and scenario booklets seen in Urban Operations, I'm still expecting a very attractive presentation.   Even as it stands, I found it very well organised and easy to understand, even without any illustrated examples.  So, no worries there.

As expected the North Vietnamese field both NVA Divisions and VC Battalions, while the South Vietnamese possess ARVN Divisions and an assortment of Ranger Battalions and Marine and Paratrooper Brigades along with a small contingent of River Patrol boats.  Despite its low unit density I was intrigued to see that both sides have to roll for the number of activations that they're allowed each turn, giving each player pause for thought as to where the focus will lie each turn.

All in all, this looks a smooth design, quick to learn, swift to play, but with its own distinctive features.  I look forward to seeing its progress on Kickstarter.

Once again, many thanks to Nuts Publishing for the chance to preview their upcoming game.






WW2 DELUXE: EUROPEAN THEATER FROM CANVAS TEMPLE PUBLISHING As quality of components has been a consistent thread in the majority...

WW2 DELUXE: EUROPEAN THEATER WW2 DELUXE: EUROPEAN THEATER

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

WW2 DELUXE: EUROPEAN THEATER

FROM

CANVAS TEMPLE PUBLISHING

As quality of components has been a consistent thread in the majority of my reviews, I felt on pretty safe ground when I saw the word "Deluxe" in my current game's title.  Canvas Temple Publishing is a new undertaking that proclaims that it's "founded by Jon Compton and friends to publish games they want to publish without the pressure or angst of a publishing company trying to make a fortune."  Well, all I can say is that I'm glad they chose this as one they wanted to publish.  It's more than worth their effort and the quality shines out of it, especially the mounted map board.  

Apart from the large sized hexes to match equally large counters and the clear, but clear graphics, it stands out as the first eight-panel board that folds perfectly flat immediately on the very first play!  The subject is as obvious as the title announces and its treatment is at the opposite end of the monster spectrum of my recent review of Thunder In The East.  Here we've got the whole European war, West to East and beyond as far as Saudi Arabia and from the Nordic countries to the whole North African coastline.  As you can see the map is surrounded by a series of Sea Boxes that take you from America to the Persian Gulf


Just in case you don't want to play on this great mounted map, an identical gloss printed paper map is also included in the package.  Along with that is a large gloss card display for game set-up, plus three A4 sized gloss, double-sided scenario cards that allow you to begin the game from six increasingly later start dates.  Of these, three start dates will probably attract most attention Barbarossa, Overlord and Wacht Am Rhein. 

Set-up for the whole WWII 1939-1945

An important point to note about all these shorter scenarios is that you are still dealing in each scenario with the whole set of the European theatres.  So Wacht Am Rhein is not a focus on the Battle of the Bulge [you'd be fighting over a single hex!], but simply begins at that historical point.  With the low unit density and speed of play, even if the Barbarossa scenario had focused purely on the German invasion of Russia, it would have provided little more than a learning exercise for the system - and an interesting system it is.

Both the rule book and the double-sided player aid provide a thorough, detailed sequence of play, which appears to be exactly what you'd expect, but does contain some rewarding novelties.

Its essence is as follows:

Strategic Warfare
Production
Axis Player Turn
Allied Player Turn
Armoured Action
Supply
End of Turn Adjustment

I'll outline the basics of each Phase with some comments on original or unusual features.

Strategic Warfare Phase

This begins with alternating player use of their air units to bomb cities, with any loss destroying a city's one production point ability.  Interception is allowed and results in air to air combat prior to the bombing attempt.  A notable rule is that units used now can still operate in later Movement and Combat Phases, whereas units used in those later Phases will be marked Ops Complete and unable to take part in next turn's Strategic Warfare Phase.
A very helpful example is given of key concepts
-above is the Convoy attack-
This is followed by an Axis Convoy attack in the Atlantic Box.  Initially the Axis fires and the losses are taken in Production Points.  Then both sides fire simultaneously and losses are taken in fleet steps, or air/submarine steps if they are present.  Here I feel a mite uncertain about being able to take losses from air units to avoid fleet losses.  However, it does provide further choice and decisions needing to be made which I always like as a feature in any game.  I also like the little detail that as the war progresses, the Allies improved ASW & Convoy ability is reflected by having the fleet combat occur before the Axis Convoy attack.  This means that if the Allies score more hits than the Axis, the losing Axis will have to withdraw and no Convoy Attack occurs.

Production Phase

This is a fairly standard process, with Production points being provided by each friendly city and applied to the relevant nation to upgrade [i.e. flip a reduced unit on the map back to full strength] or create a unit at reduced or full strength from a player's Force Pool. 




A few simple rules give an appropriate flavour to this process, such as Britain receiving 2 pts from overseas Dominions or US production being used purely for Lend Lease until they enter the war.  Minor powers' production is extremely limited, producing only a single point every Winter turn, and here it's important to point out that each year is made up of 4 turns with Winter being the first turn in each new year! Beware, this creates some confusing nomenclature, as a result e.g. the Wacht Am Rhein scenario begins technically in what is marked on the Turn track as "Winter 1945."

The meat of the game then takes place over the next three Phases:

Axis Player Turn

Allied Player Turn

Armoured Action


The basics are conventional, with Axis units moving and fighting, followed by Allied units moving and fighting.  Then in the Armoured Action section, the Axis move only their armoured units, but ALL Axis units have combat again.  This is mirrored by the Allies doing exactly the same, moving only their armoured units and then ALL Allied units having combat again.  Fortunately the low unit density makes what may sound a slightly lengthy process much quicker and easier than it seems.  



Also the limited terrain and its effects on movement and combat help to make both processes very straightforward.  However, despite the rules' overall simplicity, ease of understanding and application, there are some very interesting aspects.  The first being the single integrated Combat Table that has separate lines for each type of combat.


Just cross-reference the type of Combat with each player's total strength and both players simultaneously roll two dice, apply the hits and the player taking most hits retreats.  Should both players allocate applicable air and/or naval units to a land combat then separate Air v Air and Sea v Sea combat occurs first and surviving winning unit strengths are factored into the land combat.   Again the limited number of naval and air units make this a minor, but satisfying sub-process.

I also appreciate the fact that air and naval units do not actually move to the combat site but can be applied if in range.  Such units are then marked as Ops Complete and cannot be used again until the markers are removed in each individual Player Turn.  This achieves some interesting effects.  When the Axis player attacks any naval or air units they use will be unavailable for defence in the Allied Player's turn, but those Allied air and naval that defended will become available to attack on their own part of the turn at the expense of being unavailable on the following turn's Axis section.
A close look at some of the Allied Force Pool
Each player's identical movement part of their turn has its mix of familiar and not so familiar factors.  Simple movement factors coupled with the very limited terrain modifiers makes for ease of learning and execution.  What is most unusual is that all units [air, land and sea] can move in any order that you like within the Movement part of a turn, as well as employing normal movement, rail movement and amphibious assault where applicable.  Consequently, I'd strongly advise some simple practice of turning each unit to face a specific direction once it is moved to avoid confusion.

ZOCs too are slightly more unusual.  For land units they're perfectly normal, extending into all adjacent hexes, halting enemy unit movement, free to enter in the phase when all units can move, but costing +1 in the Armoured  phase.  But air and naval units project different ZOCs with different effects.  Naval ones extend three hexes, cause a special type of attack [a transit attack] whenever an enemy naval unit enters any of them and Naval ZOCs also interrupt the supply lines for all units in all hexes they extend into. 


Early Axis domination 

In what is generally a very straightforward set of rules the ramifications and intricacies of the different ZOC rules are probably the most complex element and have caused a few queries and uncertainties.  As is often the case, playing the game and using the rules tends to clarify their usage very satisfactorily.

On the other hand, occasions do occur when applying two different rules, do throw up some anomalous instances.  For those who demand absolute certainty this may cause problems or for  those who are simply rules-lawyers this may be a happy hunting ground!  As the latter type of gamer is generally one to avoid, enough said.


In the main then WW2 Deluxe lives up to many of its promises and expectations.  It does provide a fast playing game with its core of solid rules clear.  Though there are some uncertainties they tend to occur in more peripheral areas of minor importance.  As such this may not make it the best choice of game for a beginner, but for the experienced gamer it certainly provides a lighter experience of a massive topic that still manages to pack in many of the important historical factors of WW2 in the |European theatre.

The one thing I have wished for is a section of designer's notes, so often an element in many games.  Obviously not a requirement, but I'd have loved Jon Compton to share a few thoughts on the design. especially as among his many previous hats is that of editor of the magazine Fire & Movement, many of whose issues I still possess. 


Many thanks to Canvas Temple Publishing for providing a review copy and I look forward with great enthusiasm to the appearance of their next two WWII projects.  Both of them are topics that I think many of you will share my excitement for:  Admirals War which will cover the whole European and Pacific conflict at sea and Wacht Am Rhein, a perennial favourite.


RRP $79.95

Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition by Stuart Reid   Bonnie Prince Charlie, or 'The Young ...

Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition by Stuart Reid Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition by Stuart Reid

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!




Culloden 1746

Battlefield Guide Third Edition

by

Stuart Reid










 Bonnie Prince Charlie, or 'The Young Pretender' if you like, and the last battle in Scotland to try and put the Stuarts back on the throne. Charlie's legend is based solely on roughly one year of his life. The culmination of which would be the Battle of Culloden, and his flight to the Isle of Skye. These are the end of the last time the Highlands, or at least some of them, rose for the Stuarts. It is also the last battle to take place in Great Britain


 Culloden cannot be looked at and dissected without the history of the year of 1745. One can make the argument that once the bulk of the Duke of Cumberland troops (and his bulk) had landed in Great Britain the gig was up for Charlie and his shoestring revolt. Therefore, Culloden was somewhat of a foregone conclusion. However, the attempt of Charlie to retake the throne for his father has passed down into myth. 

 This book is short at only 150 or so pages. However, it is one of the if not the best one on the battle itself. The book is filled with pictures. These are of the area as it is today along with many illustrations from the time. It is also full of maps. If there is one thing I want to change about military history books is the absolute need for maps, and plenty of them. With this book my personal crusade for maps is unnecessary. 

 The author spends the first twenty-six pages on the campaign leading up to the battle. After that the book takes on every aspect of the battle, and does it extremely well. The author walks a tightrope between all of the myths that have been built up on both sides of the battle. Charlie's almost successful campaign is the stuff of legends. However, his bad decisions , especially in appointments, has also to be looked at. The book does a great job of showing the reader the real history. It goes into the fact that the MacDonald's did charge, unlike some earlier books that follow the earlier accounts. As a bonus it is also a battlefield guide for those lucky enough to be able to travel to the area.

 My suggestion is buy this book, and put on the song 'The Isle of Skye' and have a great time reading a great book (that also has a lot of maps). I have read and reviewed a few of the authors other books. Do yourself a favor and take a look. 

Robert

Book: Culloden 1746 Battlefield Guide Third Edition
Author: Stuart Reid
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Hell in the Trenches Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers and Italian Arditi in the Great War by Paolo Morisi    Arm...

Hell in the Trenches by Paolo Morisi Hell in the Trenches by Paolo Morisi

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!




Hell in the Trenches

Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers and Italian Arditi in the Great War

by

Paolo Morisi











  Armies at many times do not get to choose the conditions and topography of where they fight. This was as true in WWI as in other wars. From the mud of Flanders, to the heat of the Near East, armies contended against each other. One of the oddest and roughest places to be fought over were the Alps between Italy and Austria-Hungary. It is absolutely amazing when the terrain is looked at that whole armies waged war on these rocky crags.

 This book is about the Italian Arditi and Austria-Hungarian Stormtroopers that fought over the above terrain. The book tells the story of both of these elite forces from inception to the end of the war. In doing so, the author also shows the reader all of the campaigns and battles that took place on this front. However, this is not all. Mr. Morisi also goes into all of the technical marvels that took place for both armies to fight a WWI trench campaign at these dizzying heights. The book is jam packed with pictures of the Arditi and Stormtroopers. It also has pictures that show how these armies actually fought at these altitudes.


 Both the Arditi and Stormtroopers were not copies of the German Stormtroopers. Both of these forces were thought up by intelligent officers on both sides of the wire at roughly the same time, while both sides were trying to break the stalemate of their trench battles.

 The author should be heartily congratulated on a book that is not only extremely well written, but is also about a very little known part of the Great War. The bravery and audacity of the Italian and Austria-Hungarian troops shows in every picture and almost every page. Mankind's ability to overcome nature is shown in the book to be absolutely astounding. The fact that both sides had to, at most times, use explosives and sheer manpower to cut their trenches into the very rock of these heights is mind boggling. 

 Robert

Book: Hell in the Trenches
Author: Paolo Morisi
Publisher: Helion & Company
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Leningrad '41 by VentoNuovo Games  The city enraged Hitler and he wanted the cradle of Bols...

Leningrad '41 by VentoNuovo Games Leningrad '41 by VentoNuovo Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!




Leningrad '41

by

VentoNuovo Games














 The city enraged Hitler and he wanted the cradle of Bolshevism utterly destroyed. However, once his troops got there, he was so afraid of the house to house fighting in a city that he decided to surround it. So, Leningrad was forced to suffer a siege of almost three years. What went wrong, and could you have done better than von Leeb in 1941? This game was produced to answer that very question.



Map


 This is a block wargame, just like all of VentoNuovo's games. The map is a beautiful piece of work (as are all of their maps). The map is divided into areas, and is large at 62cm x 84cm. This is the second game of this series on campaigns from the Eastern Front. Moscow 41 and Stalingrad Inferno on the Volga are the other two, soon to be followed by Kiev 41. The blocks are 15mm x 15mm, so they are smaller than most used in block games. Some areas on the map are small, so even with the smaller blocks there is congestion to deal with. The stickers are, again, small pieces of art that really should be larger to show them off. The whole game production exudes quality. The game comes with four full sized and thick full color players' aids. There is a five page historical analysis which is excellent all by itself. Here is a list of what you get with the game:

Heavy Cardboard Map 62cm x 84 cm
110 Wooden Block Units
124 PVC Stickers
100 Other Wooden pieces for initiative, Bombers, Defensive     Positions etc.
2 Lightly Laminated Player's Guides
3 Short Scenarios, and the Campaign Game




Stickers



 This is the sequence of play:

Logistic Phase (2nd,3rd,4th,5th,and 6th Turns)
Impulse Phase (Combat, HQ Activation etc.)
Final Phase




Soviet Navy Counter



  The game itself is a challenge for both players. It plays almost exactly like Moscow '41 (a favorite of mine) except for the addition of the new terrain. The German player can, if he is good enough, take Leningrad. The Soviet player seems weak, but he can forestall his opponent's attacks, and slow him up to take the win. The game is very finely balanced between playability and history. All of the scenarios start after the Germans have already captured Riga. There are tactical HQs for both Zhukov for the Soviets, and Mannerheim for the Finns. Both can be game changers if used correctly.
Random reinforcement makes the game a very good solitaire game. Once you get closer to Leningrad, the terrain is heavily forested with some swamp. This means that the German player has to slow down regardless of the opposition. The German player can make good time through Estonia etc., but then has to slog through these areas along with tougher Soviet opposition. The German player also has to decide what he is to do with the Finns. Historically the Finnish troops only moved to take back what territory they lost in The Winter War in 1939, so they were really not much help to the Germans. The rules allow the Finnish troops to attack first in any battle (a nice touch). As the German player, you also have to decide whether to spend any resources to try and take Murmansk. So, the game comes with the chance to blitzkrieg, but also attack and defend in swamps. The varied terrain taxes both sides to play their best. As with the rest of Vento Nuovo Games this game is also very suitable for solitaire play. I will caution the German player that Leningrad looks a lot closer on the map then it will turn out to be.




Playtesting shots



 VentoNuovo has been able to take the simplicity of block games, and add in rules, while easy to understand, that represent the historical campaigns to a tee. So a player gets the best of both worlds. The game is easy to setup, learn, and play, but still be deep enough for us grognards. The formula is a guaranteed success, and it shows by all of their games' ratings by players. Thank you VentoNuovo for the chance to review Leningrad 41. Here are links to the game and company, and some links to other reviews I have done on their games. I cannot wait to do a review on Kiev 41.


Accessories you can buy


Vento Nuovo Games:
www.ventonuovo.net/

Treasure Island from Matagot is loosely based on one of my favourite stories from my childhood.  The game allows for 2 to 5 players to t...

Treasure Island Treasure Island

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Treasure Island from Matagot is loosely based on one of my favourite stories from my childhood.  The game allows for 2 to 5 players to take on the role of a pirate hunting for Long John Silver’s treasure or Long John himself, giving out black spots and misdirecting the player pirates as much as possible.  It is a one-against-many game in the same vein as Whitechapel or Fury of Dracula but plays in a fraction of the time primarily due to the hidden treasure being in a fixed location; meaning the hunting pirates are able to quickly narrow down the possible areas each turn.

Gameplay

The game is played in a series of days in which the Long John player will manage the board upkeep and frequent daily events after which one of the hunting pirates will take one or two actions, normally consisting of moving and/or searching.  These actions are drawn on the map of the island which makes up the game board.  After a pirate has searched, the Long John player may give the searching player a hint token (!) or move the game into the next day.  
In full swing, Long John is about to escape...
It is bizarrely in Long John’s interest to give hint token to the hunting pirates as this will allow the play of some of their more helpful cards i.e. those that give less information to the other players.  Although the Long John player does have a miniature for their character it will only come into play near the end of the game and will mostly be locked in prison for most of the game.  The game for the Long John player is really one of Game Master and may not be as much fun for some players.

Only one player can win the game, which will be when the active pirate successfully searches for the treasure or the Long John player succeeds in getting to the treasure before any of the other pirates.  The focus of the players subtly changes depending on the phase of the game and is a nice mix of competition and cooperation.  Players are actively encouraged to lie about the hints that Long John has revealed to them, they’re pirates after all, but their actions on the board afterwards will probably betray them.
The hints quickly reduce the search areas
Long John also has a limited opportunity to lie to the players.  Whenever a hint card is played, Long John has to play an information token.  The information token will either indicate that the hint is genuine or a bluff which could mean the hint is false…but not always.  This is where the majority of the game is for the Long John Player – deciding which hints and information tokens to use.  However, they will only have access to two bluff tokens throughout the course of the game so must use them carefully.

Over the course of the game, Long John will give all players 7 hints, 2 of which will have bluff tokens.  However, the players can only see the information token if they use a once-per-game special action to reveal to themselves a single information token.  They are free to discuss it with the other players, they’re just not allowed to reveal it to anyone else.  This permits and encourages a bit of good-old-fashioned skulduggery between the players and will hopefully even things out, just a little bit, for the Long John player who in all likelihood will not often win this game.
Uh Oh, Long John loses again.
Instead of taking a normal action, (move and/or search) the players can also do a limited number of special and unique actions.  These are crossed off as they are used but they do enable private information to be collected by each pirate.  This information may never be shown to the other pirates but the players are free to lie about it.  This felt a bit redundant as a rule as any discussion by the active player was often assumed to be a lie.  In my game groups, we most often resorted to not revealing any private information as anything offered was considered a lie and only served to confuse the picture.  The only time this was not true was when a pirate looked at the information tokens – that often started some healthy debate around the table.  

A pirate’s private information is stored on a mini-map and mini is definitely the right name for it.  Visually impaired players, by any degree, beware.

Components

This game follows the modern trend of absolutely gorgeous components.  The protractors are a unique game accessory that often got passers-by commenting.  The game comes with a variety of Perspex markers to indicate distance and compass directions which all look great.
Thematic bling
The art throughout the game is sumptuous and this is shown on the player screens and on the board (I’m a sucker for any type of map).  You also get a little treasure chest in which Long John will pass the searching pirate a clue or treasure token.  After a while, we stopped using the treasure chest and just passed tokens in a closed fist as it was less faff but we definitely felt that a little bit of the fun was lost doing that.  
Beautiful
The box insert is almost a bog-standard cardboard trench but in this, you get a liftable flap.  I don’t know what they intend you to store in there but I find it very useful and wonder why more publishers don’t have nearly as simple, but far more functional box inserts like this.
Loving that flap!

Criticisms

A lot of the components use a thin (but glossy) card stock.  I presume there are challenges (and expense) with getting the glossy finish onto a thicker card stock but I would prefer the card to be thicker. However, I haven’t noticed any fraying or damage as yet after half a dozen plays or so.  I do have some concerns over replayability after a higher number of plays but at the moment I’m still enjoying it and I know everyone that’s tried has had a good time with it, especially the hunting pirates.
Endgame private pirate scribbles
I’m not sure this game is balanced fairly for Long John Silver.  It seems that it is quite hard for that player, albeit they’re usually more experienced, to win.  I think the next time this hits the table I will try different starting locations for the pirates, i.e. maybe all starting on the same beach or 3d print some slightly smaller templates to use in the game.  However, never winning as Long John Silver didn’t necessarily bother me and this is a fairly unique and fun game to both newcomers and experienced gamers.
The rulebook is fine, despite what some naysayers say

Conclusion

I love the theme of this game and although there is very little plot from its namesake (black spots aside) the pirate theme and buried treasure game all shine through the components and simple ruleset.  Set-up is fairly quick and if the pirates are lucky, i.e. find the treasure, a game can be finished well inside the 45’ minutes on the box.  If the game goes into the endgame and Long John is trying to dig up his treasure then those games will, obviously, go a bit longer but no more than an hour (ish). 
Long John loses again...
I would describe this as a long filler, it can be a bit of a brain burner for the Long John player, who may try to balance the hints given to each player and the additional hints revealed throughout the game but you shouldn’t really be playing this if you’re attempting to work out every permutation.  It was designed to be played quickly and for fun and it succeeds at both.  It’s not exactly in my wheelhouse, I would prefer something a bit heavier, but I know that it will hit the table regularly at one of my game groups and I will be happy to take part in it and try out my best pirate voice.

I would like to thank Asmodee for sending this review copy and if you’re interested in purchasing this game I would recommend supporting your local game stores or game cafes, you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest in the UK or support them using their online web stores if you can't make it in person. 

Publisher: Matagot
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/242639/treasure-island
Players: 2-5
Designers: Marc Paquien and Vincent Dutrait (Art)
Playing time: < 1 hour.
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