Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 3 April 2018

Dying for some Dyes:- Ilôs

Game: Ilôs

Publisher: La Boite de Jeux

Designer: Frédéric Guérard

Year: 2017

Ilôs is a 2-5 player tile laying card game in which you seek to raid the islands of Ilôs for gold, dyes and spice. Of course these treasures will always be worth money back home, but with clever use of exploration, piracy, and market manipulation you can ensure that you will be the richest of the explorers of Ilôs.

 At the start of a game of Ilôs you create a stack of island tiles that will be used throughout the game, at the start of the game each player will select one of the 3 face up tiles to add to the island map along with placing one of their boats along an island's shore. During the game every time someone plays an explore action they can choose to expand the island map by adding a new tile. Tile placement is very clear, you simply have to match land to land and sea to sea in order to create a functional, and rather pretty, island chain.

You start the game with a hand of 5 cards, and each turn you will draw a number depending on your number of boats and forts. These cards act both as action cards and the currency to fuel cards, for example the explore card requires 1 other card to be discarded with it, while the raid temple card requires 7 other cards to be thrown away. Most of the cards revolve around way to gain resources, you can build markets, set up workers to mine/gather resources or even raid temples for a quick influx of gold. When you create a mine you do not gain any resources, but instead you add a resource token to your income sheet that is kept for all to see. At the end of your turn you get to take a copy of every token on your income sheet into your secret reserve. In this way you can have a good feel for what resources your opponents have got, but you will struggle to know the exact numbers.

Ilôs in the middle of a 2 player game. workers have been placed out to claim fields to gain resources and the value of those resources has been increased at the market.

At the end of the game these resources will be worth points, but the number of points varies based on the market. Market cards are special in that they don't require you to discard other cards, but instead discard one of your stored resources, when you do so you may move a marker onto the row for that resource, increasing the end game value of it for all players. There are only 8 markers, so you cannot cap the market out, making early investments can be a good way to make a lot of points, but you have to ensure that you are staying on top of that resource, since you have to throw away a token to increase it's value you can win the game by letting your opponents spend the tokens while you piggy-back on their investments.

Ilôs is a nice and simple card management game, while it does have some take-that elements involved as you can pirate islands to increase the card costs for actions on them, you are mainly just competing for the limited number of available resources on the islands. The game has a good presentation, with tile laying creating suitably pretty island maps and the wooden boats/worker meeple keep things clear as the game progresses. We have noticed some balance issues in the two player game, due to the limited number of tiles used it's quite possible that one resource will be under-represented. While this does create for a variable game, it can mean that you get unfairly victimized if you decide to invest in a resource early on only to discover that it's rare.

All the different player actions; market cards, setting up fields to generate common resources, exploring/pirating, setting up a gold mine, raiding a temple and building a fort/market.

I enjoyed the way the market manipulation worked, deciding whether to invest in something early on is quite difficult as there is always the risk of your opponent turning the tables on that resource later in the game. Leave the market alone for two long though and you'll run out of opportunity to change it, then all those market cards just become dead weight. While I enjoyed Ilôs there are certainly some flaws, there are only so many places to build on the islands which does lead to competition over resources, but also leads to a lackluster last for turns. You often end the game by picking up the last few resource locations despite them being worth almost nothing, just to trigger the end game condition. Overall Ilôs is enjoyable, but not going to be one of our favourite games, while it does everything simply and functionally it doesn't have that special something to make it stand out in an ever-crowded board game market.


Ilôs was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £32.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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