“You thought the Dodo was extinct? The Owlet Moth? The Golden Toad? Oh, you are wrong, mate. There’s an island in the middle of a vast ocean. It’s called La Isla. It will be a difficult journey, but I can take you there. Are you interested? Hop aboard, we are leaving now.” ‘An island called the island with long thought extinct animals on it? How convenient. I’m an explorer you know, I explore things. Like animals. On islands. I think I will feel right at home on this ‘island’ island. Count me in, stranger!’
What do you get for your money?
11 Island pieces , 4 cardholders, 180 cards, 1 starting player tile, 40 small and 5 large animal tiles, 60 cubes in 5 colours, 32 explorers in four colours, 5 purple markers, 1 game board, a couple of summary sheets and the rules.
How do you play the game?
During a game of La Isla, you are going to explore a mysterious island and you are trying to find and research all kinds of rare animals.
First, you need to assemble the island. It consists of ten pieces that they are placed around a centre piece. When the island is ready, you can see that on the island there are green areas with numbers on them. These are surrounded by different coloured areas with icons on them, like a rope or a hat. The number on a green area corresponds with the amount of coloured areas around it. Before you begin, you must randomly place an animal token on every green area.
The goal of the game is to collect these animal tokens. Every complete set is worth ten points and each individual tokens is also worth some points, but how much depends on the value of that animal on the animal market at the end of the game.
You collect these animal by surrounding them, capturing them with your explorers. An animal that is located on an area with number three written on it, is surrounded by three coloured areas and therefore has to be surrounded by three explorers of your colour to be captured. When you collect an animal, you immediately get the amount of points equal to the amount of your explorers surrounding it. So, three points in this case.
So, how do we get these explorers on the island? Well therefore we first have to look at these cards. Every round, all players take three cards. On every card you find three pieces of information. On the top half, there’s an illustration of a special action. In the left, bottom corner, there’s resource cube in a specific colour and in the right, bottom corner an illustration of an animal. A round consists of four phases. Before the round starts, every player assigns one card to three of the four phases.
During phase A, players place their card into one of the three card slots in their cardholder. Only the top half is visible and as long as the action is visible, players can use this special action during the round. During phase B, players take the card that was assigned to that phase and take the cube that’s illustrated on that card. Then there’s phase C. No card is assigned to this phase, because it’s the explorer placement phase. Now you can place one explore on a coloured island space. To do that you have to pay two cubes in the same colour as the area on which you want to place you explorer. If you place an explorer on an area and by doing so, you enclose an animal with the right amount of explorers, you can immediately take the animal token and you will receive your points. During phase D, the last phase, players will move the marker of the animal on the card that they’ve assigned to this phase. This means the value of this animal goes up and at the end of the game that animal is worth more points. Players also get points for every token they have of the animal that they’ve just moved up the track.
The end of the game is triggered if, at the end of phase D, the combined value of all animals is equal or higher than a certain value, like nine points in a three player game. Then every player gets ten points for every complete set of different animal tokens, she gets points for every token multiplied by their specific value and one point for every two remaining cubes.
The player with the most points is the winner of La Isla.
For starters, the game is pretty easy to explain. You can give an overview of the general principles of the game and how it all works in five, maybe ten minutes. Then show and explain a couple of the special actions and you’re good to go.
La Isla is a light game. Easy to explain, easy to learn and also very easygoing in terms of gameplay. The rounds go by quickly. There’s no heavy thinking, just kick back, relax and enjoy the game.
Is there something there then, for us gamers? Oh, yes, I do think so. Although it’s not heavy thinking, you still have to put some thought into this game. To collect the right animals and the right amount of animals, you have make sure that you move your explorers around the island as efficiently as possible. Jumping around and collecting animals on every side of the island, one at a time, takes too much moves and time. So, you have to move around like a snake, gobbling up two animals at a time. To do that, you have to collect the right cubes or, if you aren’t able to get them, quickly adjust to the cubes you do have.
Once you’ve gathered some animals, you need to think about which animals markers you want to push up the ladder. You have to think about the immediate benefits, you can score directly for every token you already have, and you have to think about he points at the end of the game.
The placement of your men on the island, the gathering of resources and the market manipulation, it can all be more profitable if you choose the right special actions. These action can give you extra cubes, extra points, a discount or even an extra explorer. During the first three rounds you have an empty slot in your cardholder, but after that, you have to choose a card to be covered up.
Tough chooses? Yes, they can be. And then there’s also the fact that every card has three options. You want to use all the options, but you can’t. OK, I want a yellow cube, but I also want three points when I place an explorer on a green area. This gives me extra points this turn, when place my guy there, but I also need a yellow cube next turn or otherwise my opponent will beat me to a nice, juicy Dodo.
The amount of interaction depends on the amount of players and the distribution of the animal tokens. In a two player game you can claim your own side of the island and you may never meet. It’s up to you to make sure that you have the most efficient strategy and you have be a bit lucky with the drawing of the cards.
In a three and four player game, there will be more interaction. A player might take an animal right before you can. There’s just more competition.
The distribution of the animals has an influence on the strategy as well. Are they nicely spread out, then you might want to focus on sets. Are some animals cluttered together, then you might want to focus and that type and try to push the price up as high as possible.
It’s a Feld and his games are not known for their great theme. This one is no exception. You never feel like an explorer and the mechanisms make no thematic sense to me. It’s not a problem, but it has to be mentioned here.
I like the look of the game. The animal tokens and the board itself are nice and colourful. I also like the shape of the board. It’s a nice, fresh sight in combination with the plastic explorers and the cardholders
I do have a problem in distinguishing the colours of the cubes on the cards in low lighting.
Quality of the components:
I would say that the component quality is just good. The cardholders are nice, the plastic explorers are decent.
Maybe the market board could have been made out of cardboard instead of cardstock, but to be honest, I’m fine with how it is now.
Oh yes, La Isla is fun. It’s light, yes, but there are enough choices to be made, so the game stays interesting. You are not going to play on autopilot, don’t worry about that.
Although the game can be played with two players and I don’t discommend playing this with two, the game is more interesting, more fun, with three and four players. There’s just a bit more interaction and more competition. You try to manipulate the market, push up the animals you have and attempt to keep the other animal values as low as possible. You fight for position on the island and try to create a nice engine with the special actions. In this way, you get extra stuff during your turn and you won’t have to waste a turn doing nothing.
What’s nice is that the game doesn’t take any longer with more players. Maybe a bit, but three of the four phases are played simultaneously, so you don’t have to wait any longer before it’s you turn again in four player game compared to a two player game. I would say it takes forty-five minutes, max.
A filler for some, a nice light game on week nights for others, but definitely a fun one and one I recommend.