Published on May 1st, 2013 | by Greg0
New Board Games: Island Fortress And Sunrise City
Today, we have four different board games to discuss, all from publisher Game Salute. In our previous companion article, we covered two very different games, one abstract strategy and the other a worker placement style game. In this part, we’ll be looking at two others- both were actually successful Kickstarter project and have great themes. One features a prison island and another that is a stacking city-building game with some interesting twists. Uniting them is one downside- they both try to do a bit too much, and end up more complicated than necessary.
Island Fortress is available for pre-order and is coming soon, after their Kickstarter success grabbed some headlines for an interesting concept. Basically, players collaborate to build a wall, but compete to form specific secret patterns and reach certain objectives. There are multiple ways to victory- owning the majority of a row, adding the last block in a row, and more. We were excited and curious to see how the strong theme translates, especially considering the long road to production (it was originally a game called Huang Di, about the Great Wall of China). Out of the box, the materials were impressive, if a bit confusing- the basic idea seemed slightly overwhelmed by the additions of extras like “Treasures”, even during setup.
We played a few times, and it works best with three or four players. We had budgeted 90 minutes, but our first game took over two hours, though later games were closer to the estimated timeframe. The rules are complex and explained in the manual with mixed success- if you’re all learning for the first time, expect some rocky moments while you work everything out. There are a lot of elements, in fact- bidding for first player rights, building the wall, trying to balance the limited actions. It felt awkward but interesting- tense, and with a lot of potential fun buried. Why do you need two different types of builders? Why make getting and completing the objective cards so painful? Why bother with the tokens that prevent you from chaining shapes? Also, it’s fairly easy to lose a game early on, and be forced to struggle on with no real chance of catching up. There’s very little luck, and lots of possible strategies, and the strong theme made this try several times- but each time, it was just more frustrating than it needed to be. Island Fortress runs $50.
Sunrise City faces some of the same issues, in a different way. Once again, the game is a pleasure to look at and use- solid pieces, lovely art, and a strong style that helps draw a crowd. Think Sim City with dominoes. The claim: “it’s simple enough for kids of a reasonable age, friendly enough for family game night, and meaty enough for experienced gamers.” And we found that to be the case, thanks to a good bit of luck, and some fun interactivity that keeps it fresh. It’s tough to build long-term strategies though, as it’s practically unpredictable. Also, for two players, it didn’t work so well, but plays fine with three or four.
The scoring mechanic is unusual, and takes some getting used to- you get points, but rather than going for quantity, you’re trying to hit specific goals. You can thus mess with opponents by forcing them to take points. We like the gameplay- laying tiles is pretty much always fun, and these stack in fun ways- but there are still some weirdly artificial rules and constructions that make it feel a bit too heavy and mean you’ll be checking the instructions for restrictions on sidewalks, water, etc. Still fun, and definitely worth a try if you like a game that doesn’t take much setup or room and plays easily. Available now, for $50.