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Isle of Skye Overview

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King (Isle of Skye) was designed by Alexander Pfister and published in 2015 in the US by Mayfair Games. This 3 times 2015 Golden Geek Awards Nominee and 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner is rich with details, and a wonderful game for 2-5 players.

In Isle of Skye players will assume the role of chieftain of a different Scottish clan, each one working to grow their realm in size and prosperity. Over the course of 6 rounds players will auction off tiles from their collection, buy tiles from other players, then lay out the newly purchased tiles to form their kingdom.

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Read our interview with Alexander Pfister.

How to Set Up Isle of Skye

To set up the game, each player receives a castle, player shield, and scoring token in their color, along with an axe token. Players will also receive an initial income of 5 gold with the opportunity to increase that amount as the game progresses. Each player then draws 3 landscape tiles from the bag and place them face up in front of their player screen. Behind the player screen each player will place their axe token near the tile they’d like to discard, and at least 1 gold behind each remaining tile.

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How to Play Isle of Skye

Once everyone is ready, all players lift their player screens and reveal their bids. In clockwise order each player will have the chance to purchase a tile from one of the other players for their set price. At the the end of the round any tiles still left in front of a player are purchased by that player for the amount indicated.

When the auction phase is complete, these tiles are used to build your kingdom by laying the tiles into specific arrangements. Each of the landscape tiles display various combinations of land, water, animals, whiskey barrels, roads, ships, lighthouses, and even unique end of game scoring options in the form of scrolls. Players will receive points at the end of each round based on the unique scoring conditions for that game.

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The scoring conditions are at the heart of Isle of Skye’s immense variety and replayability. At the beginning of the game players will select 4 of the 16 tiles and lay them onto the board. Throughout the game each tile will be scored an equal number of times. What do the tiles do? The scoring tiles offer points for placing tiles in a square, or having the most ships in their kingdom, or having sets of different buildings. Since you’ll only be using four of these tiles each game, you’ll likely never play the same game twice.

In addition to the diversity of scoring conditions offered by the landscape and scoring tiles, Isle of Skye also ups the variability by only scoring certain tiles in certain rounds. Each scoring tile is assigned a letter at the beginning of the game, and during each round only certain tiles are scored. For example in round 1 only scoring tile A is used while in round 5 A, B, and C are all scored.

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This requires players to not only be thinking about what will net them points in the current round, but also several rounds ahead to what might score later on.

What I Like About Isle of Skye

At it’s heart, Isle of Skye is about supply and demand. Each player can see what will be valuable both in the game as a whole, and for this specific round. You can be sure that players will all be clamoring for the tiles which are beneficial this turn, but will they have the foresight and opportunity to snatch up tiles which will score in later rounds? Even though each scoring tile will be tallied the same number of times, certain tiles greatly benefit from being scored near the end of the game as opposed to the beginning.

What I Dislike About Isle of Skye

Honestly there’s very little that I dislike about this game. If I had to pick one thing though, I’d wish that the player shields were about an inch wider. I always feel like I’m having to really crowd things in behind there.

Final Thoughts on Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye is a wonderful game to teach to friends and family alike. Since you’re only doing one thing on your turn, the mechanics are simple. Because there are so many different ways to score, it’s hard to get too terribly far behind. I love Isle of Skye because it’s colorful and detailed, clever and well balanced, and because it’s from one of my favorite designers, Alexander Pfister. Isle of Skye isn’t just a Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, it’s a must have for your collection!

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Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor of MeepleMountain.com, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.