Feld-ruary #8 – La Isla

21 Feb

First, I need to get this out of the way.

Sorry, had to do it. The stupid song starts playing in my head every time I look at the box, for no good reason.

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In La Isla, players are exploring a mysterious island in search of animals most people believed to be extinct. The player able to collect the most points based on the popularity of the animal tiles collected is the winner.

I’m going to say this right now. The hardest part of the game is setting it up. The board is cut into these strangely shaped jigsaw style pieces. We tried putting them together in the way that looked logical. That was wrong. Once we finally got it done, we got this neat looking little circular island, covered in various colored spaces.

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On each of the green spaces, a random animal token was placed. There was a large deck of cards that was shuffled. The small secondary board was the score track, and the animal “popularity” tracks. This series of tracks was also how the end of the game was determined (more on that later).

La Isla is an area control game, with heavy set collection aspects. Both of these aspects are controlled through a programmed action phase. At the start of each turn, players draw 3 cards. In front of each player is a small cardboard “console” split into 4 sections with 3 pockets on top. The A,B, and D sections are for your cards. IMG_0820Players have to program their turn based on the icons on the cards. Each card has 3 distinct parts. Each part triggers during a different phase of the turn. Phase C is where you use the resource cubes you’ve collected to do actions on the main board. Let’s briefly go through each phase.

Phase A is when you put a card into one of the three pockets at the top of your console. Each card there allows you to take a special action during the turn. I would go through them all, but there are 26 different possible actions on these cards. Most of them fall into the “Move an explorer onto a specific space, get a resource” or “Brown cubes are now wild” vein. One of the most important actions is “Move an explorer onto a given color or icon space, move any animal track up 1 space”.

The tough part of this phase is that you are limited to only 3 active action cards EVER. Every turn after turn 3 you MUST cover one of your previous actions. This forces you to constantly change your strategy in the game. Even the strongest combo is only going to work for a turn or two at best if you get lucky.

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The action cheat sheets

Phase B is dirt simple, you get a resource cube matching the one on the card you placed there.

Phase C may place one of your explorers on a color space on the board (or move one if they are all already on the board) by spending a pair of cubes of that color. If you have completely surrounded an animal tile on all sides, you collect that tile, and get points equal to how many explorers it took.

Finally, Phase D you simple move the shown animal up one space on its animal track on the score board..

The game ends once enough of the animal tracks are at a high enough level that the numbers / multipliers add up to a certain amount (depending on the number of players).

Final scoring is only slightly more complicated than the game. Players get a flat 10 points per set if they have completed a set of all 5 animal tokens. Players then get points for their animal tokens. Simply multiply the number of token with the multipliers shown on the track. It’s important to note that it takes 4 movements to get the animals up to just a 1 multiplier. So if you don’t get the tokens past the first line, your animals of that type are worth 0. It usually takes a little bit of cooperation in order to get anything up to a really high score. Finally, players get 1 point for every 2 remaining resources.

I enjoyed my time on La Isla. It didn’t feel much like the other Feld games, and was a very nice, light segue in between the much heavier Bora Bora and (next article’s) Aquasphere. I did find the 3 card hands very limiting. Because there are SO many possible combinations on the cards, it was more luck than skill at play when you got to take a really strong turn. Still, the decisions when you have a completely useless hand are as much fun as putting together a super successful turn. La Isla fits will into that “Super Filler” category of game. If you want something that plays right at an hour, but has some crunch to it, give La Isla a try.

Next time, I play the game that’s scared me more than any other during this quest: Aquasphere.

 

 

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