Erect Villages and Moai to Control Volcanic Isle - But Don't Fall Into the Sea! | Casual Game Revolution

Erect Villages and Moai to Control Volcanic Isle - But Don't Fall Into the Sea!

Volcanic Isle

An area majority game from designers Andrea Mainini and Luciano Sopranzetti, Volcanic Isle challenges players to control much of the island without causing too many volcanic eruptions and island loss.

Gameplay

Volcanic Isle is a 2 to 4 player game that offers players variable actions on their turns, all with the goal of building villages and moai across an island full of active volcanoes. Play begins by setting up the board, which offers a basic setup or more advanced setups as players become more comfortable with the game. This includes placing three-dimensional volcanoes and lava tokens in the designated spots.

Players will collect all items of their color (settlers, villages, and moai) as well action point (AP) chits to help them navigate through each turn. Players will have four action points available to them on their turn, each costing a different amount of AP to perform. Actions costing one AP including moving a settler to an adjacent space, populating a space with another settler (if the space also contains one settler and a village), and sculpting or erecting a moai. Building a village costs two AP, and buying prayer tokens has a variable cost with the first token being acquired at the cost of one AP, the second at two AP, and so on. 

The idea of the game is to gain the most area and avoid causing parts of the island to fall into the sea due to volcanic eruptions causing too many fissures. Fissures can occur when players choose to erect a moai, and this will occur by blocking one of the open geysers on the tile. Once the moai has been erected, the player will roll a die that may cause a volcanic eruption. If an eruption occurs, a fissure is added to the nearest border of the tile that is drawn from one of the numbered volcano tokens, and lava tokens will take the place of any erected villages on the same tile. 

Once an island area has been surrounded by fissures, it will fall into the sea and be removed from the game. This is where prayer tokens will come in handy, as spending them will allow players to move their moai and villages to adjacent islands. Play ends when only two volcanoes and their respective island tiles are left standing. Points are scored by how many villages, settlers, and moai occupy the remaining island with bonuses granted to moai that are adjacent to each other as well as any remaining prayer tokens. The player with the most points wins the game.

Volcanic Isle components

Review

Volcanic Isle is a solid game and introduction to area control and action point systems. It’s easy to know what to do on each turn and the consequences of those moves. Similar to this year’s Caravan, having a plan of action form when it’s not one’s turn happens based on the movements and actions of other players, so trying to think multiple turns in advance will not be advisable or a sound strategy. This keeps analysis paralysis in check, but also promotes some fun player interaction without it necessarily being negative.

This does not diminish the amount of strategy to be found in the game. While controlling areas may be central to the game, there’s also a bit of gambling involved in trying to decide where to populate without having to spend precious AP on acquiring prayer tokens to save villages and moai later on. Therefore, it will be hard for players to be an island unto themselves to gain massive moai adjacency bonuses or completely dominate one area of the island map. Likewise, such a strategy may prove foolish due to the luck of the dice and volcano tile draft. There is no way to determine where a fissure may form with each eruption — and without a way to mitigate those fissures and a loss of villages due to an eruption, focusing on one’s own game can be costly. Again, Volcanic Isle wants players competing for area in a friendly, yet competitive atmosphere that can punish lone gamers believing they can just puzzle out the board without interacting with others. 

The modular board also adds replayability, with advanced setups and scenarios for more experienced player groups. However, the game’s graphic design and art direction leave something to be desired, so getting players to keep returning to its richness may ultimately prove to get multiple players out of the game. While the gaming pieces and components are great quality, staring at a very granular red, green, and tan board is not eye pleasing. 

But with this in mind, invest in a pair of sunglasses. Despite the lack of graphical beauty to lend the game a true polish, Volcanic Isle offers plenty of fun, variable, and interactive gameplay, which makes sense considering one of the designers (Andrea Mainini) is known for designing games and expansions that feature varying forms of player interaction with cascading consequences. Look past the unflattering island art and give Volcanic Isle undivided attention if area majority interests you.

Pros: Modular board and luck of the dice promote variable gameplay, plenty of choice on actions, great introduction to area majority without sacrificing strategy or depth

Cons: The graphic design of the game leaves something to be desired

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