Isle of Skye
Strategic Depth: Intermediate
Setup Time: 10 min.
Play Time: 40-80 min.
Players: 2-5 (Best with 3 or 4)
Mechanics: Auction/Bidding, Set Collection, and Tile Placement
Production Info: 2015 | Lookout Games | Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister
Isle of Skye is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with soft sand beaches, gently sloping hills, and impressive mountains. The landscape of Isle of Skye is breathtaking and fascinates everyone. This tile-laying game is for 2 to 5 players, with each player a chieftain of a famous clan trying to build their kingdoms to score as many points as possible. Each game is different and leads to different tactics and strategies. Every round, each player places two tiles in front of them and sets their selling prices. But if no one wants to buy them, then the seller must buy them at the same price. It is important that you have enough money and manage it efficiently, and to place kingdom tiles optimally to produce victory points. In the end, the player with the best kingdom will become the sovereign of the island, not the richest player!
- The Good -
Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this game is the auction phase. On each turn, players privately set prices for two of the three tiles they draw (discarding the third) and set them out for others to potentially purchase. The market value of the tiles can vary wildly based on what the scoring tiles are, how far along you are in the game, and how helpful that tile is to you and/or other players. With more players, there are more tiles to choose from which also makes the pricing more interesting.
While kingdom building is not a new concept to the board gaming world, Isle of Skye executes this component perfectly with beautifully designed tiles and a variety of different ways to expand your kingdom. For example, sometimes you might want to focus on connecting roads while other times you might be focusing on completing regions that have scrolls.
Isle of Skye is comprised of six turns (or five turns with five players), which sets a clear framework for the game. Unlike some games where winning or losing comes down to who went first or who buys the last province (looking at you Dominion), everyone will always have the same number of turns. Knowing where you are on the timeline also helps determine how to adjust your strategy if you aren't getting the tiles you wanted or if things are going better than planned.
On the macro scale, each time you play is different since you will be randomly selecting four of the 16 scoring tiles. On the micro scale, there is a ton of variety in how to price the tiles you draw and how to place the tiles you acquire to maximize your points. Because the primary method of scoring points is contingent on which scoring tiles are picked for each game, there is no safe-bet strategy for winning.
- The Bad -
There can be a luck factor in drawing the landscape tiles. Sometimes you draw good tiles, and other times you feel like everyone is drawing good tiles except you. If you continually draw undesirable tiles it may be difficult to purchase more expensive tiles as the game progresses.
Narrow Optimal Player Count
Isle of Skye is a well-balanced game with dynamic gameplay, clear structure, and aesthetically-pleasing artwork. Provided you hit that sweet spot of 3-4 players, this is a game you'll be able to pull off your board game shelf repeatedly. I recommend Isle of Skye if you like games such as Dominion, 7 Wonders, or Carcassonne.
- Overall -
While this game is simple enough to warrant the 8+ recommended age, it also has dynamic scoring that rewards careful planning. The two primary phases of a turn (the auction and kingdom building) are easy to understand, yet can be endlessly analyzed for optimal point-scoring. Towards the end of the game you can even start calculating how much each tile is worth to you and others. At the same time, unless you have little experience with board games or are just down on your luck with drawing weak tiles, you almost always feel like you are "in the game".
The following summaries are meant to be a high-level reminder of how to play this game. If this is your first time playing, we highly recommend that you read your board game's included rule book which will go into much more depth. You can download a digital PDF copy of the official rules by clicking the button below. There are also a few video tutorials near the bottom of this section to help all you visual learners out as well.
- Setup Overview -
Each player takes a starting tile (featuring a castle), a screen, and a scoring token of the same color. They also get an ax token each (Discard Marker). The players also get 5 coins from the bank as well at this point as everyone will earn that much income in the first phase of the first round.
The board needs to be placed in a central location and face-up according to the number of players (2-4 or 5). The black round\turn marker is placed on the round one bowl. The players place their scoring tokens at 0 on the score track.
The game comes with 16 Scoring Tiles and it is these tiles that create the game's variation and drive a large chunk of the player’s decisions over the course of the game. Only 4 Scoring Tiles are used in any given game and they are selected at random, with one tile being placed on each of the four windows on the central board (A-D).
The youngest player goes first and makes sure to put all landscape tiles in the bag for shuffling.
- Game Play/Player Turns -
Order of Play: Each round is played out over six phases:
1. Income Earning: Players earn a set income each round, possibly supplemented by additional income from tiles.
2. Tile Selection: Each player randomly draws three tiles, shows then openly, and then secretly sets prices for them. The player puts a discard marker behind one of the tiles, while he puts some of his money behind the other two tiles, setting prices.
3. Tile Discard: Players reveal their pricing and discard the designated tile.
4. Tile Purchase: Now each player gets the option to buy one tile from another player. If he does, he pays that player the set price and the player gets the money back that he used to set the price. Afterward, each player gets his own unpurchased tiles (but loses the money he used to set those prices).
5. Tile Placement: Each player has their own little country of tiles, centered around their castle. He places his new tiles in that country, edge-matching everything except roads.
6. Point Scoring: Each round of play ends with everyone scoring points. These points are based upon four random scoring tiles that were selected at the start of the game. Each of the tiles is scored three times over the course of six rounds.
- End Of Game -
All players receive victory points according to the scoring tiles of the current round. Which of the four scoring tiles apply in which round is indicated on the scoring track by letters A to D. For each victory point you receive, advance your token on the scoring track by one space. Each scoring tile will only be used three times per game. See the last page of this rulebook for an explanation of what each of them does. After scoring, pass the Starting Player tile to the next player in clockwise order. The new starting player moves the round token one space forward. After the final round, there is a final scoring.
- Winning -
After the final round, you receive victory points (VP's) for tiles with a scroll you placed in your clan territory. The tile scoring is broken down in the PDF rulebook but you add up all your victory points throughout the game along with scroll points and 1 victory point per 5 gold pieces that you own to determine the winner of Isle of Skye.
- Tie Breakers -
The player with the most victory points wins. In case of a tie, the player with the most leftover gold wins the game!
- Great Instructional Videos -
Here are a few helpful instructional videos you or your group can watch to learn how to play this game visually.
What is a complete region?
An area is considered completed if it is fully enclosed by areas of a different terrain type.
How do your scrolls work?
Scrolls within areas that are enclosed score double VP instead of just one.
How does connecting the landscape tiles work?
The tiles have to connect with the same type of terrain, like water to water or land to land. Different scoring possibilities change with how you connect the tiles but it does have to be the same terrain to be connected.
What does each round consist of?
Each round you choose 3 new landscape tiles from the bag. Behind your screen, you choose one to axe, and then if you want to sell both tiles. If one tile is not sold, then you have to pay for it and it connects to your tiles. Also, you can choose to buy one of the two tiles from your opponent but you must have enough gold for it.
Who goes first in each round?
The youngest player goes first in the beginning and then after that, each round starting player goes in clockwise order. This helps to balance out the mechanics for the buying and selling order.
During the buying phase, when a player buys my tile can I use that money to purchase another players tile?
Yes, and that can be the advantage of not having to go first.
The landscape tile has a cow and a road which leads to the castle. The picture of the cow is not specifically on the road. It's in a field near the road. Would this still count towards victory point?
Yes, if the tile is connected to the castle, everything on that tile counts as connected.
Can you rearrange tiles from previous tiles?
No, you can only rearrange tiles for the current round before your turn is over.
What type of terrains are there in the game and how does placement work?
There are three types of terrain: mountains, green landscapes, and water. Tiles must be placed so that terrain matches terrain on all sides
Do roads need to connect for tile placement?
Terrains must match but roads do not. For example, roads may end abruptly into the sides of mountains but will not score for roads connected to the caste.
Where do you keep your personal gold during the game?
It's kept a secret behind the screen so other players do not know how much money you have to bid, which is a key aspect of the game.
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Highest Price: $69.99 (Dec. 17, 2015)
Lowest Price: $10.95 (Dec. 31, 2016)
Average Price: $30.00
*According to CamelCamelCamel.com (4/12/2018)
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