Saturday, 10 December 2016

Jeju Island

Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

Jeju Island is a famous tourist destination in South Korea. The art style in this game certain reminds me of a tourism brochure.

The game board in lovely cartoonish style.

When setting up the game, you shuffle all the square tiles and distribute them evenly to the six locations on the board. During the game you will be collecting these tiles. In this photo each location has one black neutral disc. Each player will have two such discs in his own colour. As part of setup, you will place your discs on two different locations on the board.

During the game the most common thing you do is travel. You pick one stack of discs which contain one of yours, and distribute it clockwise or anticlockwise. First, you pick up the whole stack. At the next location in the direction you choose, you drop the bottommost disc. Then you move to the next location and drop the next disc. You continue until you empty your hand. The result of traveling is you empty the location where you start from, and distribute the discs originally there evenly to other locations. The newly distributed discs will be at the top of the stacks at their new locations. Once the distribution is done, everyone checks whether his disc is on top at any of the six locations. Anyone who has such discs gets to collect the topmost tile. When you do traveling, you want to do it in such a way to allow both your discs to be on top, while minimising helping your opponents. You also need to think about how your move will affect your next one.

This is the Harubang statue. If you claim a tile from a location when this is there, you get a bonus. You may move the Harubang statue anywhere (or leave it where it is) and then take the topmost tile from its new location. This is yet another consideration when you do traveling.

The tiles you collect are cute, but what are they for?

This is the answer. You spend tiles to buy scoring cards. There is always a pool of five to choose from. On your turn you may forfeit traveling to buy a scoring card. You pay the tiles as specified on the card. On the left, the question mark means you may use any tile. On the right, the Harubang icon means you get to trigger the Harubang statue when you buy this card. The numbers are the victory point values.

The two cards on the right are special ones. They give you a permanent tile icon. In future whenever you need to pay a tile with that icon, they stand in for the tile. These cards can be significant savings if you use them a lot. It's good to get them in the early game.

The Play

The game looks cute and simple, but it can give you some mental workout. Jeju Island is an open information game, so if you want to, you can spend the time to work out in detail all possible moves and their consequences. You have only two discs, so at most there are two stacks to choose from. You can choose to travel clockwise or anticlockwise. So there is a max of four possibilities. However there are many impacts you need to consider - which tiles you want, whether you get to trigger the Harubang statue, whether you will help your opponents, where the discs will rest at the end of your move. Simple actions, but many considerations.

I spent much effort grabbing the cards with permanent tile icons. This was engine building. I was strengthening myself to be more competitive for the rest of the game. I collected quite a few such cards, and put them to good use. The benefits added up. I used these cards to get more of such cards. This was like playing a development game. There was a snowball effect. However I did not win the game. One drawback of these cards is their point values are low. Allen managed to collect some high valued cards. He didn't have as many permanent tile icons, but the quality of his cards won him the game. So there is give-and-take between card powers and card victory points.

The Thoughts

Jeju Island is a light strategy game, suitable for casual gamers, non gamers, children and families. What's most special about it is the travel mechanism. This aspect feels like an open-information abstract game, but the cute artwork hides the dryness and seriousness of abstract games. There is plenty of player interaction. You are always seeking the best move to let yourself claim more tiles while denying your opponents. Your action affects the locations and positions of your opponents' discs. Since it is possible to collect tiles on other players' turns, you feel engaged all the time. This is similar to The Settlers of Catan. It makes you pay attention on others' turns. Part of Jeju Island feels like Splendor too, because you collect, collect, collect and then swap tiles for points and special abilities.

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