Review: Jackal Archipelago – skull-shaped island story


Unicorns and cuddly kittens. Exactly the kind of birthday I wanted! And then, with fear in my mind, I awoke from that terrible dream. I was dreaming, that I was imprisoned in some strange body. Fortunately, I am back on my ship with a credible crew, holding a sharpened machete in my hand and stopping at nothing. Within a few seconds, I remembered what I was doing here: treasure!

Battle for an archipelago full of treasures is hidden under name and was created by designer . The game was produced by Russian company and they transformed their new addition with illustrations by K. Kritseva and and presented it at the Spiel fair in Essen.

All those interested in the box are guessing pirates at first glance, because its shape and the lid design together create the impression of the skull. In the beginning, players are surprised by several numbered boxes. Players get instructions from the rules to open them all. This means their content is not secret and its therefore not a legacy game. But even like this, not all components are described in rulebook.


At the beginning, players will be interested in box number one. There are thirty-three tiles, that offer three different types of terrain (forests, beaches and mountains). They will randomly drop several pieces, that will not be used in the game and form an island of the prescribed shape from the rest. Each of the opponents then places his rowing boat to one side and places the pieces of his four pirates on it. Even before that, however, all participants must choose the color.

In his turn, a player can choose between two options. Either move his ship and all pirates on it around the island (the more pirates on the ship, the faster it can move) or he can land and move one of the pirates down the mainland. The figurine can then move in any of the eight possible directions. As soon as a one-legged parrot explorer arrives on a new unexplored field, the player immediately turns and evaluates its effect. But the pirate can also swim and try to get back on board, if he finds himself in need.

Thus, pirate can explore not only a harmless position on the island, but can also experience the urge to move in either direction (according to the arrow) or move in direction of horse from chess. On the ice, they slip one field further, other times they fall into a pit and need to be saved by one of their buddies. But there is also a difficult crossing through jungle, dangerous crocodiles (attack means a return to the ship), beacon or shrines. Players can perform various actions, that allow them to attack enemy pirates or avoid future misfortunes. There are a lot of action pieces types, so the description is spread over ten pages.


Some spaces for their rules are empty yet, because they are hidden in boxes with higher numbers. And players are not playing with them yet. When a pirate finds a treasure, he gets several coins. The purpose of every pirate’s life is to get rich, so everyone is trying to pull one heavy gold coin safely to their ship. However, he may not pass through an undiscovered part of the jungle or swim, when dragging the coin.

Pirates of different teams often encounter themselves on the island. If a player decides to attack, his opponent returns automatically to the ship, but he does not die. Somewhere on the way, however, heroes may also encounter some unpleasant clashes, such as encountering an ogre, enemy ship, or darting arrow. In all cases death follows, but it is not ultimate for the pirate. Player can be revived at the shrine. Once all the gold on the island is stolen, game ends. Players now add up their coins and the one, who has most of them, is the winner.

But all your adventure with Jackal Archipelago are just starting by this. In other boxes, there are lots of new pieces and rules, that will enrich the game. But for the beginning, but also for the full experience, components described by us are still enough.


First of all, game does not take itself seriously. In the rules and on the tiles, you will find a lot of humorous moments, whether it’s a shooting of pirates from a cannon, jumping on a trampoline or a missionary, who turns the pirates to good. Experiences you enjoy with the game are always great, unexpected and differently organized. All of this is, of course, totally random, because tiles are completely unknown before the discovery.

But if you do not mind, that your character meets some terrible tragedy and you are able to laugh at it, then Jackal Archipelago will certainly be for you! The game is quick, rules are simple (only move, with or without coin) and gameplay different every time. But as soon as you start exploring different places of the island, you will often have to get into the rules. This slows gameplay down a bit and because there’s a lot of them, it’s hard to remember every one and their effects.

Thanks to its simplicity (and despite a certain level of conflict), this game is greatly suited for young children. They are able to handle it from six years up and because the game contains a lot of exploration, they will really enjoy their pirate adventure. Both boys and the girls.


And if it is not enough for you, there is also a variant for solitaire. There are puzzles, that you need to solve and move the pirates appropriately. You cannot die in this version. Each card offers the exact location of the island and conditions. It will not last for a long time (there are only ten cards), but it keeps you busy for a while, when no friends are around.

Expansion boxes are also equipped with skills for pirates, which move the game further in its complexity. It is no longer so friendly to the kids, because there is something more to be watched out for.

The biggest fun is with coins. Imagination of the huge golden coin, that pirate drags with him is fun by itself. And trying to get it up to the ship, avoiding all the pitfalls, and climbing the rowing boat to the right place, all this guarantees great fun. All the more, if the other players will thank you for bringing the coins to the coast and stealing it from you!


Searching for coins on a large island (it’s purely about your imagination) may take unexpectedly long. The very unpredictable length of the game, which can be significantly stretched, has to be mentioned as the main drawback of this game. From the conflicting focus, it is clear, that all the fun will be the best in higher numbers. Processing is very solid, enjoying wooden pieces of pirates, but even a bear.

Jackal Archipelago is one of the best games in its category. It reminds us a bit of Talisman. Too much control is not here and game laughs at you, but it can also be fun! In addition, the game is very variable and great for everyone – both young and old. Jackal Archipelago surprised us very much and ranks among our favorite family games.

DesignerDmitry Kibkalo
ArtistTatiana Maifat
Year Published2017
# of Players1 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 1, 2, 3, 4 players
(6 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages6 and up
User Suggested Ages6 and up
(4 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(1 voters)
CategoryAbstract Strategy, Adventure, Pirates
MechanicAction Points, Area Majority / Influence, Modular Board, Pick-up and Deliver, Point to Point Movement
ExpansionJackal Archipelago: Ben Gunn's Island, Jackal Archipelago: Friday's island, Jackal Archipelago: Island of Thousands Caves
FamilyDigital Implementations: Tabletopia, Mechanism: Legacy
Primary NameJackal Archipelago
Alternate NamesШакал: Архіпелаг, Шакал: Архипелаг

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Jackal Archipelago – skull-shaped island story
Final word
Jackal Archipelago is now one of the cornerstones of family game. For children, box is packed with fun, but it does not disappoint even adult players looking for relaxing fun. Everything is random, but always with the appropriate dose of your own influence. Game is thrilling, but sometimes the whole game may be unnecessarily long. Most of the time, however, you will enjoy constantly different events on the island, which are enough to make you still laugh after many repetitions. Jackal Archipelago is a prototype of family funny games.
Reader Rating0 Votes
great fun
lots of tiles with different effects
gradual expansion of the game
bears and cannon shooting
great for little children and parents
pulling coins
different match length every time
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