One of the “Alpha Gamers” that I have grown fond of having in the shop was talking to me one day about new games that were coming out. Given the “Alpha Gamer” title, you might assume that he knows a lot about cutting edge games, and you would be absolutely right. He can wax eloquently about game mechanics and designers, and so when he mentions that he likes a game, my ears perk up a little extra. So when he mentioned that Island Fortress was getting a lot of good press, I was anxious to get it into the library and give it a try. And much like his other recommendations, I wasn’t left disappointed.
|Artist||Cody Jones, Dann May|
|Publisher||Frost Forge Games, Game Salute|
|# of Players||2 - 4|
|Mfg Suggested Ages||13 and up|
|Mechanic||Auction/Bidding, Pattern Building|
|Expansion||Island Fortress Promo Cards, Island Fortress: 5-6 Player Expansion|
|Family||Crowdfunding: Kickstarter, Crowdfunding: Spieleschmiede|
The primary driving mechanic each round is playing down a card that has some abilities. Everyone starts with the same hand of cards, so everyone has the exact same chances for success. Each card does something cool, like recruiting you workers, or gaining building blocks, or actually building a piece of the wall. Each round you play down three of these cards, so you are constantly assessing what you need as a player in order to make the biggest impact. While you are not actually physically placing meeples, this game’s driving mechanic certainly falls into the “Worker Placement” genre.
The one mechanic that I found particularly enjoyable is the “task master”. This is represented by one of the cards you can play down. However, the task masters primary ability is allowing you to play any other ability that you have already played down, for a small price. You can also pay a buy back cost to return the task master to your hand. Your turn in the r0und doesn’t end until you have played a card down to the table, so buying back the taskmaster means you can play another card, because the card didn’t stay on the table. This means that you can chain together several cards, if you have the resources to keep buying back.
Ultimately the game is all about scoring points, and points are only scored for building the wall. Placing the last tile in a row scores you points. Placing the last tile in a level scores you points. Having the most of your tiles in a row or level scores you points. Creating certain patterns in the wall scores you points. Placing the highest block in the wall scores you points. Points points points… everywhere! This leads to a “sniping” aspect of the game: waiting till just the right moment to build, when you will be able to pick off the end of rows, columns, and levels. But sniping alone won’t get you the bigger points associated with having the most.
Overall, while I enjoyed the mechanics of the game, the length of the game makes me take a moment of pause when deciding what I want to play. There are certainly two hour games that I jump to play, but this one starts to feel like it’s dragging by the end. However, with just a couple small house rule adjustments that could be easily rectified. While this isn’t my favorite worker placement game, it does hold up well in it’s genre.