Island ruled by a single king. He will not be easily unseated. Since he does not rule in true sense of this word and does not make any statements. He is only silent eminence in the background, which controls everything, that happens on the mainland. He is called Grog. And to constant flow of alcohol, even existence of this place can be grateful to. Pirates live their landlocked life peacefully here and try to earn gold coins in other ways.
We get among crazy traders and decide to them you in board game Grog Island. Its author is Michael Rieneck (Cuba, Around the World in 80 Days). His new game is published under logo of Pegasus Spiele and illustrations were taken care of by Klemens Franz. Game was released in 2014, but we can drink out of its cup only few weeks ago this year (2015).
In a medium-sized square box, players find big game board first. It is on this island, where your adventure will take place as it consists of five islands laid into columns. On both its sides are printed two scales, one for tracking of money and one for pirate points. But very important are also special areas, that are below those islands and represent auctions and workshops.
Furthermore, players will receive also three decks of cards (objectives, treasures and parrots) and four help cards. All new owners also can look forward to sheets with cardboard pieces, that represent clouds, boats, and especially 75 pieces of goods. With several other small tiles (marking more points or starting player), we get five dice and colored crew figures for players. Round wooden tokens make them company.
At the beginning of the game, everyone can choose one color to receive from seven to nine (depending on number of players) figures, big auction token and help card. Two more round tokens are then laid on the money track (eight gold coins are marked at the beginning) and zero on the other side with pirate points. Starting assets for every pirate is one parrot and treasure card and also one token of goods by players choice. Each participant gets six cards and selects four tasks to keep and try to complete.
Board is then fitted with pieces of clouds, that players randomly spread to individual columns / peninsulas. On the completely opposite side, down under the board, good tokens are divided by color and only a little higher above them, players randomly place ship pieces. Then, dice and tokens are placed next to the board, while dice on their designated spot on the board.
Each round starts with most important action, around which the whole game revolves. Starting player rolls five dice and puts them into the bottom part of the board on appropriate color spots. After that, players need to choose one by one amount, they are willing to pay for available actions. To express their choice, they can only use polka dots on the rolled dice. They can choose whichever they want. Those selected are moved to special offering line on game board.
Following players in order can arbitrarily rearrange dice and combine them in a way to overcome the previous bid. Players have to bid higher or pass, until winner is decided, when everyone else has passed. After that, players who have lost this auction get their rewards for passing – good tokens. But only those, which dice places are free (= dice are used at the moment for the bid) and they also have option to trade. Winner may then pay amount by any combination of public money and treasure cards, that he secretly keeps in his hand (having a value from one to three coins). So no one ever knows, how much money rivals have.
Throughout this auction, players must always follow descending order of dots. Dice color plays then very important role in the next phase, which is played only by the auction winner. He can get not only pirate points (third and fifth positions for dice) or lock a place on the peninsula, but also could occupy some building (first and second position). Color of the targeted peninsula must match shade of the dice. Player can put one of his worker on any building in the entire height of the peninsula.
Game ends, when one player has placed all of his workers on the board. Points are summed up according to occupancy of a particular building type and added to those obtained during the game. But also other players (without majority) receive points – although only one point for every building in their possession. Most important of all though is the completion of objective cards, that player received at the beginning of the game. After adding points for remaining finance, winner is player, who accumulated most pirate points of all.
Grog Island is a very unique and interesting auction game. Everything revolves around that auction and its winning or losing determines your chances in the round. Range is offered to players randomly and designed from start of each round through dice roll. Their combinations can be used towards target money amount. But it is also necessary to pay attention to colors of those dice. Actions are being taken in consideration of these colors and extend only to some islands each round.
Constant moving of dice guarantees, that players will harm each other. Interaction between opponents is at a high level on the board. The more the players are greedy and try to steal actions, the more good their opponents receive, once they pass. Thus, each round is a big showdown and balanced thrilling of events.
Auctions are then topped by fight for supremacy in specific types of buildings. In connection with the private task cards, game offers enough variety and is interesting even after multiple matches. Overall, however, rules nor the gameplay are difficult. Big part of the game is controlled by luck and unpredictability could get parrot cards into hands of some players, while others will have none. They allow player to alter results of the dice and mix with chances of others.
Game is simple and above all fast. Auction is always attended by all and while some receive rewards for their efforts, only winning bid equals true actions. Total playing time does not exceed sixty minutes, which is nice in such a game. Additionally, thanks to the modified rules, it works well in the two adversaries, which will be appreciated by many players. And this is definitely not something we are used to in auction games.
Grog Island is a game, in which everything is only about auction. It is the only and basic way to get to options each round. But only, when price is not too high, so choose carefully. In addition to the auction, there is actually not much in the game, but maybe that is the main reason, why it works so nicely and it is great fun!
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Review: Grog Island – pirates have a merchant spirit
Grog Island is a great simple game, which puts main emphasis on auction. It remains unpretentious, yet has enough depth to interest and entertain you even after multiple matches. Players must weigh good placement of dice, which will decide on use of actions, with rewards for their rivals and color of the dice itself. Now auction mechanism works well and even in two foes! Although much of the outcome will be decided by chance, it fits the game perfectly and you are no slave to fortune in the end. It works very nicely and is suitable even as a light strategy game for families and beginners. Grog Island is certainly a very pleasant gulp of fun.
+ pleasantly simple + terrific auction mechanism + awesome processing + plenty of interaction + quick playing time + works well in two