07 October 2023
Glory Islands is a two to four-player game of good-natured piracy set against the sunny backdrop of 17th century Tortuga. Players must sail around the Caribbean islands, collecting loot and claiming territory to attain enough glory to be crowned “King of the Pirates.”
What is Glory Islands?
Much like the similarly themed Jamaica, Glory Islands is a race game, with elements of area-control, hand-management and set collection, all mixed in to elevate the game above the dated roll-and-move trappings of the genre. With that said, the level of complexity here shouldn’t deter those under the game’s 14+ suggestion.
How do you play Glory Islands?
Each round begins with players choosing one card from a hand of six. The number at the top of the card serves two functions: indicating the maximum number of spaces a ship can move and how deep into the islands a crew member can venture. The board’s six islands are squeezed together in a five-by-five grid, with ships travelling clockwise around the outside. Consequently, crew members can embark from either a column or a row, as well as three of the four diagonals, with the game ending once a player’s ship completes one lap of the board.
Whilst a key part of the game is the race, players must balance this with the placement of their crew. Glory Points are awarded to players with the largest presence on islands once they have been filled. Furthermore, each space on an island grants an immediate reward in the form of barrels (for triggering special abilities), treasure (set collection) and Glory.
Whilst the limitations of a small and easily manageable hand of cards opens up the game to younger players, Glory Islands is not without its intricacies. Playing larger value cards will put players higher in turn initiative, allowing them to reach exactly the spot they need to. Racing ahead does come with its own risks, thanks to the ‘sailing track,’ a taxi-meter of sorts that saps points with each card played. High value cards cost more and will tip
the track into negative points if overused. It’s an interesting system, although as players must advance along it to a relatively large extent, the threat of penalties is somewhat lacking in tension.
Despite this, such mechanisms influence tension elsewhere, as players ponder how and to what extent they play the long game. Thanks to a tight board, all of this plays out in a nicely interactive manner, as each opponents’ moves constantly influence choices. Trying to predict an opponent’s intentions is engaging, figuring out how your cards can either interrupt them or present yourself with alternative opportunities. It’s a fun puzzle to navigate.
What do we think of Glory Islands?
Where Glory Islands begins to falter is in its dated aesthetics. The wooden barrels, pirate meeples and ships are nice, but graphically the game does little to draw players into its world. Another issue - which could have perhaps been remedied by more considered graphic design - is the ease with which players can miss vital upkeep steps. Indeed, if the gameplay ever feels unexpectedly snappy, it’s likely that players have either forgotten to advance the sailing track, or trigger any glory-scoring pirates in the relevant rows or columns. It’s also worth mentioning that the two-player variant (with the use of a particularly speedy automated player) provides a more fleeting experience. It works, but with its length cut short, much of the interactivity and tactical play of the normal game is stifled.
Overall, Glory Islands never fails to find some way to be puzzling, but lacks the visual or mechanical flair it needed to rise above the tide of great family games.
Review by Chad Wilkinson
Should You Play Glory Islands?
A nicely interactive puzzle, but one that doesn’t always flow as smoothly as it should.
Play Glory Island if you like...
Both games are great for light and breezy pirate action.
On The Box
Designer: Arve D. Fuhler
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Time: 30-40 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Double-sided Game Board
- 4 Player Boards
- 24 Sailing Cards
- 4 End-game Scoring Reference Cards
- 35 Treasure Tokens
- 10 Expansion Tokens
- 8 Barrels
- 4 Ships
- 8 Marker Discs
- 23 Pirate Meeples
- Draw Bag
Gaming In Your Hands
Find reviews, news, and features in Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
There's more to see...
What's the best game to play with your family? We run through ten of the best of them, and why they'd be just right for everyone involved. Perfect for playing new games with younger kids, or even getting Grandma involved.Ten of the Best Family Games
Sign up to be in the know
Be the first to hear about the things we're excited about, whether that's new games and launches, our own magazine, gaming news and interviews or a few surprises, you'll be the first we tell if you sign up for our newsletter.Register for the newsletter
Have you visited our game store? We have everything from mystery boxes to games and accessories, so you're bound to find your newest favourite. Today is a great day to cross that game off of your wishlist, so take a look around!Visit the Game Store
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products