“South Sandwiche Islands? It’s a game about sandwiches?”, my opponent asked, with more than a hint of confusion in her voice.
“No no, it’s a game about trying to get a pretty girl alone on an island”, I answered. At which point a room of more than a dozen people all seem to stop, and in unison, turn towards me.
“You’re playing what?!”
“Did I hear that right?”,
“Does she at least get a rape whistle?”, come the bemused and overly interested questions from around the room.
While the premise of this game has raised more than a few eyebrows, the nature of it is really quite innocent I assure you, just as I assured my other gamers. You and your opponent play as English gentleman who want to get a young lady alone so that they can talk to her. However in order to accomplish this, they must break away from their own servant, their opponent and his servant, and even manage to send her servant slyly away as well (they are all English lords and ladies, it wouldn’t be proper for them to go out without their servant in tow, right?). If you can manage to get the young woman alone with you on three different occasions to “talk” you may declare yourself the winner of this strange soap opera.
The game components of the game are quality. The copy we were sent has a sizable sturdy board with a high gloss finish. The board is made to last, without warping, and thus is thicker than your average cheap set of checkers. The game comes with a small spinner to set the initial starting locations, which is made of the same thick card board as the board, and actually spun really well. The characters are represented by glass beads that come in three different colors: red, blue, and beige. Each team has two of these beads, one that is “swirly” that represents the lord or lady, and a solid color version that is the servant. A small velvety drawstring bag is provided to store your pieces in, which was an extra nicety. Lastly, the box is constructed of very durable thick cardboard as well. I would feel comfortable stacking other games on top of this one without any fear of the box crushing. This whole game screams “Quality”!
So what is the game play like? Surely it is all fluff and dice rolling, right? Despite the flowery theme, that really isn’t the case. This is a highly strategic game, much on par with games such as Chess or Go. The only luck involved at all is with the initial piece placement, but once that is set, the players have perfect knowledge of the board, making this a true abstract logic game.
On your turn you can either move your lord or your servant, not both. However, all of the “people” on the board are of proper breeding, and would never be so rude as to refuse to walk with someone, nor would they be so rude as to forgo extending an invite to walk. So when you move one of your characters, all of the characters on the same spot as them will attempt to move with them. However, the board is laced with bridges, and each bridge can only support the passage of a certain number of people at a time. By manipulating the use of the bridges you can split up the group and draw characters away from you and the lady.
In addition to the movement that you and your opponent will make, the lady and her servant will move as well. These women move along a predetermined path, and will stick together as best as is possible. Clever young men can anticipate the movement of the women, and thus allow the women to come to them, rather than appearing to continually chase after them. I think we can all relate to this in our own waltzes with romantic encounters, sometimes it is best to let them come to you, or at least appear as if a meeting was happenstance.
When my opponent and I sat down to play this game, we were expecting a pretty light strategy game, and thus were surprised (pleasantly so) about the amount of meat the game had. While the theme and the board is whimsical, the game play is anything but. However, doing a little bit of research into the history of the game, I can’t say that I am surprised. This game is a re-imagining of a similar game from the 1800’s. Maybe it’s an unfair association, but it seems that many of the great logic games are from this era or before.
This game, like many others of an off beat nature that we have been graced with lately, was a KickStarter project. This means that its creation was paid for by individual donations from board game lovers. While not all projects get funded on that site, I am pleased to say that this one did. This is a very different, and very interesting, game. Unlike many of the games we see in America, this is not simply a rehash of an already popular game. This game is unique, whimsical, and really has character. If you enjoy abstract logic games, I would highly suggest adding this one to your collection.
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