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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Thursday 5 April 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Ilôs

Game: Ilôs

Publisher: La Boite de Jeu

Designer: Frédéric Guérard

Year: 2017

Ilôs is a newly discovered archipelago, full of resource-rich islands, which are so far unexplored. Rival naval forces have encountered these islands at the same time, but as you all begin to explore, you'll also be in competition to raise the value of the different resources and to hinder you rivals by launching pirate ships and taking advantage of their resources with trading posts.

I initially noticed Ilôs when it was released at Essen 2017. It had some early positive reviews and then completely fell of the radar. I still had it in mind when it was released in the UK. As well as looking really inviting, with great art on the box, it comes from a good publisher pedigree too - with Outlive probably being the biggest hit to come from Boite de Jeu.

So, let's take a look at the game of Ilôs.
Gameplay set-up for two players
On each turn you'll draw a hand of hand of cards and choose which actions to take. Most cards require you to use other cards to pay for them, with more powerful cards taking more cards - you can either expand with new island tiles, move boats onto new islands or place pirate ships, start a plantation for basic resources, mine for gold, set-up a market or fortress or start investing int he market. At the end of each of your turn you will earn one resource per plantation you own and at the end of the game each of the resources you own will give you victory points based upon the final market value.

I typically really enjoy games where you have to manage your hand and decide which cards should be your primary actions and which should be the cards you use to pay for the others. In this game I'm always tempted to play all of my cards every turn, but I know I'd be better of saving some key card for future turns. As you place more boats you'll draw more cards each turn, but sometimes you won't draw cards you want for your strategy in later turns, so it's best to hold something back.

The market manipulation is definitely a race and you need to make sure to work on your own strategy, but be mindful to jump onto the work of other players when they start to improve the market value - it's very easy to fall behind and get onboard too late with a particular resource.

I very rarely spend any time thinking of ways that a game could be improved, but I enjoyed my first game of Ilôs so much, that I was really disappointed when the following games didn't live up to the first. With Ilôs, there's two things that have frustrated me where I feel like the game has conspired against me.
  • The first is the random set-up - in two players you only have 8 tiles and I've found that in the first couple of turns I've focused on a strategy and then no further tiles have come out for that resource. I think this is primarily a 2-player game issue, but it could be overcome with some standard variable setups, with each tile given a unique identifier, perhaps one on both sides to maintain variability. 

  • My second concern is luck of the draw - at the end of the game the market manipulation cards and exploration cards become quite useless and I've been left with a handful of those cards an a very disappointing end to the game - maybe a secondary ability with very high cost that would at least allow you to do something might be a good solution.

Ilôs is a really nice looking game. It's a lighter stock market game, which is definitely quite rare in board gaming. It's actually quite heavy on the hand management side of the game, where you need to plan really carefully to ensure that you have enough options later in the game. It's great for a thinky game in a short time frame, but for me, I have been stung by some of the randomness in the game and probably don't have the heart to try it with more players and see if it solves some of the tile drawing problems for me.

With some reluctance, the Yellow Meeple gives Ilôs a 5.5/10.

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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