Die Inseln Im Nebel aka The Islands in the Mist
This is a 2-4 player 60 minute game that includes 3 modules which are the basic game plus 2 additional advancements. It is a tile-laying strategy game published by Schmidt, designed by Volker Schächtele, and with illustrations from Michael Menzel. The basic game (Module 1) must always be part of the play but the 2nd and 3rd modules can be played together (with Module 1) or separately (with Module 1).
DIE INSELN IM NEBEL can be found online priced between $20.00 - €40.00 but first check out your Local Game Store.
It is called 'Islands in the Mist' because each player has their own island (player board) over which they fly their balloon to discover the layout of the land below which is heavily guarded in fog. Each side of the hexagonal map (player's board) has a different terrain type. The idea is to connect all sides to the central space (City). Any tiles can be placed next to any other tiles as long as they are adjacent to their low-flying balloon (the balloon flies so low you cannot place a tile underneath it). Places where tiles can be laid have a number in them which when a tile is placed on it gives the player that exact amount of energy; energy that is very useful and extremely necessary. Energy is marked at ther top of the player board; each player has their own energy unlike the wind direction compass which although it is on every island counts the same for every island; shown by a green arrow (not THE Green Arrow).
The dice are rolled by the player to the right of the starting player at the beginning of each Round. Both dice are rolled and the roller gets to decide whether to roll none, one or both again, each die can opnoly be rolled one extra time. The English translation may be correct or there may be a loophole in the rules on dice rolling. It says the player can decide for each die whether they want to roll it again. After some discussion (and calls of me rules-bending) we decided that if you are going to roll both dice again you have to roll them at the same time. I was rolling one and then deciding if I wanted to roll the other depending on the result from the first re-rolled die. I argued that it wasn't cheating but the concensus was that I was rules-bending or not playing in the 'spirit' of the game (I was well out-voted, but I still think the way the rules are written it allows for my way of doing it). One of the dice determines the direction of the wind and the other the Bonus all players gain.
Depending on the number of players a fixed number of clouds are placed out as a display. At the start of each Round one terrain tile is placed randomly on each cloud whether the cloud is empty or not, up to three tiles. If there is a cloud with three tiles on it when the Round begins then all tiles are removed from that cloud and it begins the round with one new random tile on it. There were a few disgruntled groans when it was understood that players take all the tiles from one of the clouds on their turn but that the cloud remains empty once cleared until the start of the next round as it means that each player has one less cloud to select tiles from. In a 3 player game there are 5 clouds on the display, thus the second player selects from 4 clouds and the third player from only 3 clouds, until the game starts flowing the third player is at a small, but sometimes frustrating, disadvantage.
When players take tiles from a cloud they place them onto their Spy-Glass spaces, of which each has 5. Before placing the tile/s on the Spy-Glass they can instead exchange it for energy, the amount gained is shown on the back of each tile; tiles played onto the Spy-Glass may not be later removed to exchange as energy. City and Monument tiles can be placed on the island but they do not count as terrain pieces and thus if they are placed in a line connecting an edge to the centre they break that connection. Placing tiles is the main strategy of play and to help you with your plans you may spend energy to prevent your Balloon moving with the wind so as long as you have the energy you can generally move your Balloon in whatever direction you want, as long as it is in a straight line.
Once tiles are taken from the cloud and placed in the Spy-Glass spaces (or exchanged for energy) the next phase of play allows you to place them onto your island. You can place any or all of the tiles you have collected, so ensuring you pick the best cloud/s to remove the tiles from you should be able to connect the edges of your island fairly quickly, and hopefully using matching terrains.
When a player connects all edges the round continues until all players have had an equal number of turns, and then scoring occurs. Spaces around each City earn 1 point while Monument tiles score for the players with the most placed down (3 pts per) second placed (2pts per) the third placed player scores 1 point per and the fourth player with Monuments on their island score zero points for them.
The Second Module introduces the 'Harbour' which adds additional display spaces for terrain tiles and slightly changes a couple of the basic rules such as allowing Balloons to move over the island edges and onto the surrounding sea area (using the Harbour spaces as sea spaces). The third module, the 'Expansion' introduces 8 Eyepieces and 20 extra tiles. This Module also allows for additional building tiles once your energy can accommodate them. Adding one or both Modules changes the game play, as does using the flip sides of the islands (the ones with the Silver Compass ) which allows players to draw extra tiles and gain additional energy.
For this review we played the basic game several times over many game sessions before playing once using each of the Modules separately, then together, plus we tried the flip (Silver compass) side. Then we went back to playing the basic game several more times because we really enjoy it and whenever we bring the game to the table the vote goes for basic game instead of a Module based game. The Modules do add to the game there is no argument there, but we found the basic game to be good enough to sustain pleasant games without need of the variations.
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