Skylands (2018) Review
When you see the cover of the box, you could almost believe that you were back in the world of Avatar. Here though, the inhabitants are green in color but moreover it is not at all the same story. If that's not the introduction that’s completely outside of the subject ...
Okay ... Skylands is a magical world apart. Unfortunately, following a cataclysm, this world has been completely destroyed. Up there in the sky, if you really care, you can see floating fragments of islands here and there. The inhabitants of Skylands have not all disappeared at the same time as their territory. They managed to regroup on a huge island. As always, they divided again into caste: blue, green and purple. Together they try to recreate new islands and provide energy to their cities. For that, they will use their magical powers coming directly from mountains, forests or crystal mines. But the people of Skylands are not necessarily what we can call a united people. Each player will take charge of one of these "tribes" and help it to rebuild their own archipelago.
Skylands is a game of Shun and Aya Taguchi. These two authors also worked together recently on Little Town. Skylands is a game that released during Essen 2018 with Queen Games.
Composant level, the box is rather busy. Many tiles, meeples, a central tray to simply mount, some pawns, a scorecard and individual trays. Yes, Skylands is generous enough. The installation of the game is done fairly quickly. The longest is to separate unused tiles according to the number of players. And once again, the publisher has chosen not to put a few more plastic bags. Too bad it could have facilitated storage and installation time.
Each player starts with an individual board in front of themselves. This plateau represents the space allocated to the archipelago that you will have to create. The trays are double-sided. On one side, three spaces are already occupied by three fragments of islands. These starting layouts are all different for each board. Each player therefore starts with two islands already formed (ie closed or complete) and two "openings". On the other side, it is a totally untouched area. This side is used for a variant that allows to start with a little more customization.
Each player also has a token associated with their color. This piece is positioned on the central board and will be used to indicate which action the player chooses. It can be quibble by reproaching the fact that the board is large enough compared to its use, but it does not interfere in the gameplay. Attached to the island welcoming all the inhabitants, which serves as a general reserve, you’ll find the four boards of action. Each is different in terms of graphics but also in its use. Each of them has a great illustration and a smaller reminder of the action of that board.
In turn order, the players will have to move their pawn onto one of the four actions. Once chosen, all players will benefit from this action. But, a bit like a game like Puerto Rico, the active player will receive a bonus, as a thank you.
The first possible action is the discovery of new islands. The active player will draw as many tiles as players + 1. If you are three, you will draw four tiles for example. These tiles are placed face up and in turn each player chooses one that they add to their individual board. You are free to put this new tile where you want as long as it respects the positioning rules. Be careful to choose well to avoid blocking yourself. You can also decide to take nothing and pass. The active player, once it comes back to them, can take a second tile as a gift.
The second action available is to bring people to your home. When you go to enlarge your archipelago, you will reform independent islands. When this action is chosen, you will select a complete island, except for one city, and place residents of the color corresponding to the city on each empty square. The active player can populate two instead of one. These characters are taken from the general reserve.
The third action will be to be able to use its inhabitants wisely. During the installation, you formed a reserve of special islands. These islands with special configuration or special powers can be bought by sacrificing inhabitants of the indicated color. Once purchased, the tile joins your archipelago and your "exhausted" inhabitants join the main reserve. These tiles have immediate, permanent, end-of-game powers or simply serve to fill your board effectively. Their cost varies but their interest is undeniable. On some special islands, you’ll find in the costs a white character. This corresponds to an inhabitant of any color to discard. The active player does not have to pay this.
The fourth and last action available is energy conversion. In terms of gain points, this is one of the most interesting actions but also sometimes one of the longest to achieve. Each player chooses a complete island consisting of crystals (blue) and a complete city island. Then each player fills the city squares with the blue inhabitants of the selected island. Once in the city, the inhabitants sacrifice themselves and disappear (return to the general reserve). In exchange, they offer a victory point for each square in the occupied city before the disappearance. These points are taken from the Victory Point Pool you formed at the beginning of the game based on the number of players. The active player they can choose to convey inhabitants from two blue islands into an island city or vice versa. In addition, they will earn two bonus points. This is one of the most interesting actions especially if you have managed to create a big island of crystals.
I told you that you had to change actions every turn. There is still an exception. Each player receives at the beginning of the game a tile of their color. This tile has 2 victory points on one side. If it is not used, it will pay this amount at the end of the game. At the beginning of you round, you may decide to use it to stay on the same action space and redo the action from the previous turn. This can sometimes be very practical even if this ability can only be used once per game.
The end of the game comes from the moment at the end of a turn, the reserve of victory pieces is exhausted or a player has only one place on their individual board. You’ll then move on to the final counting of points.
Starting by subtracting two points per empty square, then adding one point per pair of inhabitants still present on the archipelago, one point per island complete, the points of the special islands and finally the points tokens recovered in the course of the game. Not to mention the player marker if it has not been used. Of course, the player with the most points wins.
Skylands is a very colorful game. Patricia Limberger's illustrations honor this magical world. Depending on taste, it would please or tend to rebouter. But it is clear that this gives a particular charm to this game.
Skylands is not really an original game, but is exactly what is asked of it? It borrows many mechanisms known and proven by many games, including the most respected. It finally makes a mix with no real surprises but works pretty well. This allows the player to quickly make their mark, making a return to the rule useless. You will sometimes have to make long-term choices and those choices may be important. The game does not suffer from any downtime and the interaction is ubiquitous. So yes, you can not directly influence the choice of others or you can not directly attack the neighboring archipelago, but the choice of one inevitably affects the choice of the others. A real good idea of this title being, to combine the fact that all perform the action with the construction side which is in itself quite individual.
The game is simple to set up. Everything is clear about the iconography. This makes it a perfect family game. You can get it out easily with family but also with new players. In particular, it can serve as a stepping stone to more complex tile placement and resource management games.
Not without interest, Skylands offers you the opportunity to play in different ways and try different strategies from one game to another. This allows a fairly appreciable replayability at this level.
Playing can be quite short. One of the big bonuses of the game is the fact that it forces the players to keep an eye on the game all the time because even when it's not their turn, they still play through the choices of others. Chance, quite present, can be counterbalanced by the choices of strategy offered to the players.
However, it must be admitted that the expert players will quickly find fault with the depth and replayability. On the other hand, with an adequate public, Skylands will have its place in a toy library and especially on the tables of the players. A good family game that deserves to find its audience.
Technical Score 7.5 / 10
Skylands offers a fairly abundant material in style but still no extra storage bags. Tiles are good qualities. The rules are clear. The iconographies do not ask questions. You'll quickly enter the game.
My BGG Score 7/10
(Good game. I play it with pleasure)
A simple family game, easy to set up and explain. Skylands suffers no downtime and actually mixes playful mechanisms that have proven themselves. A good game of discovery in the universe of tile placement and resource management.
Combined Score 7.25 / 10
Now it's your turn...