Review: Island Fortress – tough prisoners life

Island Fortress - packaging

The fort’s construction started. Important people cut the ribbon together, but the hard work remains to be done by us. Prisoners have been transferred to the island from surrounding jails. I am one of them. Everybody talks about us as a dispensable work force. I have alredy heard, that no one from us will return from building these huge walls. Never. We will perish to the last soul.

But I will not wait for this to happen. I revealed their evil plans and want to escape. This prison is guarded not so well, because we are on the island. Biggest obstacle is the water flowing around the fortress, firmly locking it around its two shoulders. In night I will quietly creet out of the camp and plunge into cold water. I must swim to the mainland. Others do not have the courage, but it’s better to die free at see, than here. I look back at our executioners silhouette. Bloody wall, that’s what they will call it..

is a game from designer , who published it under brand. We should also thank for the final form of the whole pile also to backers from server, who made its publishing possible. Gentlemen from helped Bryan by the end to tighten everything. And these guys are also the main distribution network. Game was released in late 2012, and illustrations were created by .

Island Fortress - game is ready

Full unfinished fort is waiting for you in a larger square box, that has the classical dimension known from Dominion. You can see all the work, that awaits you, on the cover. The island fortress is already under construction and different people are spinning around. From expert builders to ordinary prisoners, who help to build their own cage.

But now we let ourselves be tempted by curiosity and peek inside. There are hiding four walls surrounding the fort. They are spread over four boards of regions. Each of them has three rows and fourth for the corner guardhouse. Below the fortress is always a small prison camp for both types of workers – workers and involuntary prisoner. Four large boards are complemented by two scoring towers, that stand by their sides and serve as a hint to the different rows and their values during evaluation.

Each player gets square pieces of the wall in their color. There are eighteen for each – times four makes it to 72. Another twelve of them belong to governor and belong to noone in the beginning. There is also set of twenty cards designed for player, containing several roles easily distinguishable by rear side, which also features a portrait of your leader. Inventories of your raw materials (gems and jade) will be tracked on the player’s plan, which also includes a clearly written round course. Figurine of a taskmaster is the last component for players.

Island Fortress - game is ready

But that’s not all, because the game will also use two sets of cards. The rest is smaller. We start with the tokens, you get, when you punch out the sheet together with the already mentioned square pieces of walls. There are reinforcement tokens, but also treasures of two different values (66 pieces of them) and eighteen buyback tokens. Rare jade is in the box present in sixty specimen and is represented by transparent green cubes in two sizes and values. Necessary for the whole work will be cubes of 45 workers and 75 prisoners.

We forgot to mention one big board with paths winding around the whole island. It contains numbered boxes and it is clear, that it will serve to monitor your points gained during gameplay. On these routes, tokens in player colors will move.

As you can see, there is really quite a lot of components inside the box. Fortunately, it does not necessary make a complex or challenging game. Conversely Island Fortress is a simple game with a role choice. At the beginning, therefore, you disassemble all the components mentioned in your chosen color (five role cards, score track marker and taskmaster), but also the gaming board. Only the walls remain yet in general stock and need to be obtained later.

Island Fortress - game is ready

In the middle of the table are then prepared the very foundation of walls: a building, consisting of two or three regions according to the number of players. On its both sides will sit towers, where are written scoring rules for each line. Among the wall tiles, you will find a special governor ones, shuffle them alone and put them aside in the number dependent on the number of opponents in the game again.

Each player places his score marker on zero, and taskmaster at the camp on the left. Each player begins game with 12 jade and five favors, from which he has to choose three to keep. The other two are thrown back on the deck and shuffled. Favor cards present no action, as it might initially seem. Instead, they show a pattern, you have to build on the wall from your own bricks. This way, you get a reward for the assembly in a varying form.

Rounds are always divided into three phases. The first two are played together, while the third is split into turns and gradually performed actions of played cards. First players get a basic income, which may be increased by card effects, but you will get always at least 3 jade.

Island Fortress - game in progress

Now is the time for auction, where players compete for favor of the governor for one round. To do this, use precious jade stones, including new gleaming cubes you just received as income. Their reward is one wall tile from governor pile, which also counts down game time. Second advantage is a chance to play as first in action phase. Sometimes this can mean a lot.

Then they all take up their five role cards. It is up to players, which characters they choose for this round. Everything begins with the player, who won the auction and gradually go through all three chances to play a card. But you do not have to worry, that there is not enough options (three of five for each round would be not enough really). Fortunately each card offers several options (two to three) and is dedicated to a specific character (recruiter, planner, builder, taskmaster and treasurer).

Basic option, which is reflected through all the cards, is income. Whether it is the jade, favor cards, wall tokens, prisoners or workers. All of these sources will be used to build the wall, which is the main activity in here. Each piece of wall (square) can be built using only the builder or even replaced already constructed tile with one of yours to claim ownership of larger part of the wall.

Island Fortress - game in progress

Players each have a wall in a custom color and gradually fill the available building space from the bottom up. Victory points are awarded for a largest portion of the wall occupied in a particular row, after it is completed. Then rivals are awarded points or divided, when tied.

You need a good dose of manpower for the construction. These men you have to spend from your supplies. In addition, manpower is added to game board to camp (workers) or prison (prisoners) due to a variety of events. You can then for the price of one action pick them up from one camp.

Players collect and score points for finishing the walls, but also for its top position. Game may end up either by completing the whole wall or prematurely, when the governor tokens run out. And because there is always one given out each round, game can not last longer, than eleven or twelve rounds.

Island Fortress - cards

Island Fortress looks like a slightly different game, than it actually is. Basically, it is a common majority fun, but the most important fact is, how you work to be dominant in a wall section. And here an important topic comes into play and brings atmosphere, that thrives throughout whole game.

The most important is the fact, that everything in the game really makes sense for building the wall. Prisoners are force one to use during game and each stone of whole fort is covered with their blood. During the construction will perish also plenty of laborers, because only half of them returns from every work day.

The entire game depends entirely on the management of raw materials, and how you can cope with it. At the same time, you also need to be able to conveniently choose between roles, you want to use in actual round. A also accomplish favor cards, because they provide an important bonus income.

Island Fortress - tokens

Totally unique thing is called the „buyback“. With this token (or taskmaster ability) you may get up to three actions during one round. The actual repurchase lies in the lifting already played action card back. Subsequently, you can play a new or the same card and use its skill again. Using this option is very important and can be a way for a little edge over your rivals.

It is good, you are not limited in the choice of roles across turns, such as for example in Space Bastards. All cards get back into your hand after the round ends and you can use them again in the next move. Actual tuning principles is well done and match is balanced to the end. The reason for this is the fact, that VPs are distributed continuously until the final round and nothing is clear.

Game has clearly set a finish line and thus also quite clear timeline. One battle fits in two or three players in an hour, with a four game stretches a little bit more, but not over the edge. You can think of your turn in advance, so actual turn is not long, it takes only time for actual execution of tokens and stones movement.

Island Fortress - cards

Reduced gaming area ensures, you’ll have fun in the two opponents as well, although we enjoyed building walls marginally a bit more in more players. Processing and illustrations are really detailed and nice. The game is from graphical view real success and once you break it down, it will attract a lot of curious onlookers.

Island Fortress brings back popular majority mechanism rolled out of hand. Each card has multiple use, which are mingled. If you like to work with lack of resources and fighting with rivals in a limited space for dominion over the territory, then you definitely will like this game.

DesignerBryan Johnson
ArtistDann May
PublisherFrost Forge Games, Game Salute
Year Published
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(10 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages13 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(5 voters)
Language DependenceSome necessary text - easily memorized or small crib sheet
(9 voters)
CategoryCard Game
MechanicAuction: Sealed Bid, Pattern Building
ExpansionIsland Fortress Promo Cards, Island Fortress: 5-6 Player Expansion
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter, Crowdfunding: Spieleschmiede
Primary NameIsland Fortress

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Island Fortress – tough prisoners life
Final word
Island Fortress tells a story of state prison construction on a lonely island. Players are sending their specialists on the spot to carry out different actions on their behalf, starting with collecting materials and finishing with building itself. You are using usual workers, but also convicts, who must build their own cage. Using your wall tiles, you are trying to get a dominant position in rows and also in a whole wall block. You fulfill secret assignments at the same time, where you are trying to build a specific shape of your color on the wall and gather some bonus points for doing so. There is also a unique option to buy your cards back after they’re played and use them twice per round. Fortunately, these action cards return to you nevertheless at the end of the round and you don’t have to plan their return back into hand. Game has a nice pace and all activities fit together well. Its not overcomplex and yet it can provide fun for more demanding players. All boards and tokens have nice detailed graphics. And yet the processing is source of the only bigger complaints about this game, although they are pretty individual. Boards are not made of cardboard, but of thick paper instead. It definitely helped to lower the costs and you would not mind, if your wall tokens would not slide on it sometimes too much. This way, you have to be a little more careful, when putting wall together and adding tiles. But the overall impression of the game is in grain positive and with its topic, Island Fortress will truly engage some strategical thinkers..
Reader Rating0 Votes
interesting processing and detailed graphics
combination of roles and dominance
excellently interconnected mechanics
buyback option
large choice of actions
you have all action cards available each round
secret favor cards with wall shapes
someone might find game board made of thick paper insufficient
wall tokens have tendency to slip on smooth surface of paper boards
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