02 November 2023
Reiner Knizia 'hexplores' new ideas in this follow-up to tile-laying legacy title My City, for a cozy and contemplative experience
Written by Tim Clare
I’ve said before that designer Dr Reiner Knizia is constitutionally incapable of making a duff game. This is almost certainly an exaggeration – he is legendarily prolific and nobody has a one hundred percent hit rate – but the somewhat less hyperbolic version of this statement is that he maintains an astonishing consistency across his output. If you pick up one of his games, you can be assured of a certain base rigour in the design and you’re probably in for a fun time.
What you won’t know is what the game’s about, because with his prolific output has come a willingness to try all sorts of different mechanisms. There isn’t really a signature Knizia style or feel, except that, at their core, the central mechanism or challenge of each of his games tends to be relatively simple. Most of the time – though not always – you won’t find a buffet of scattered ideas, but a central prime engine driving everything else.
So it is with My Island, the sequel to My City, which was a polyomino-laying competitive legacy game about building a city. You can already guess what My Island asks of you. If you’ve played the original, a reasonable analogy is that My Island is to My City what Yellow & Yangtze is to Tigris & Euphrates. While many elements will feel familiar – and clearly grew out of the predecessor – there’s a step change in depth and complexity created by the move from tessellating polyominos to arranging hexes.
How do you play My Island?
This being a legacy game, some elements are revealed after a game, so I’ll keep this review spoiler-free (since part of the pleasure is that these are supposed to be surprises.)
Each player gets their own game board showing a portion of the island. Each turn, you’ll reveal a card and simultaneously place the tile depicted, or discard it if you can’t find a legal – or advantageous – placement. Tiles feature two-to-four connected hexes with fields, houses, paths and the like on them, clearly differentiated with blocks of colour. Each turn you’re going to be placing a hex and trying to maximise your score, which starts by players earning points for every house tile on the beach and losing points for any uncovered beach tiles by the end of the game.
These rules change or are added to over twenty-four games, split into eight chapters of three episodes each, as players arrive at the island and begin to develop it. Within these chapters emerge new goals, constraints and means of scoring. By legacy game standards these are relatively light, but this is not to say they’re not interesting. They absolutely are and if you find yourself enamoured by the core tile-laying mechanic, each offers (here it comes) exciting twists that refresh and revitalise the central challenge.
Although a full story or campaign is twenty-four episodes, I suspect most groups, if they warm to the game, will end up completing it by playing multiple games a session, hence the chapter format giving a slightly more accurate sense of how long you might take to get through it.
Is My Island a good game?
In a word? Yes. It's an ideal game if you like contemplate, somewhat abstract puzzles that require planning ahead which accelerate in difficulty as your placement options shrink. Luck is definitely a factor – you have incomplete information and depending on how you lay things out, you may find yourself desperate for one specific tile – but the simultaneous play and speed of each game mean that, even if you have a disaster, you quickly get the opportunity to put it behind you. The experience is essentially nerd bingo, which is absolutely my jam.
Play It? YES
What's included in My Island?
My Island has the following contents:
- 4 double-sided gameboards
- 112 tiles
- 28 cards
- 4 scoring tokens
- 8 envelopes with additional game materials
Who designed My Island?
My Island was designed by Reiner Knizia and published by Kosmos.
What Games are like My Island?
If you enjoyed the award-winning, co-operative hex game Dorfromantik, but are after an equally cosy but more competitive experience, My Island should be your next port of call.
This review originally featured in Tabletop Gaming Magazine Issue 82 (September 2023)