TWILIGHT CREATIONS may be renown for their impressive range of all products Zombie, but they also have a lighter side which is demonstrated quite clearly in this colourful boardgame.
Designed by Kerry Breitenstein and illustrated by Dave Aikins, the Island of Misfit Friends is a cross-breed hybrid of Labyrinth, Three in a Row and Candy Crush with a modicum of back-stabbing, via Event cards, thrown in for good measure.
The 'Island' is an 8x8 grid with the central four squares melded into one large square which is where the King of the Island regales his visitors with sugary tales of scrumptious sweets. There are four huts just off the main grid of the Island, one in each corner (it's a square Island) and in these huts we presume the King's countrymen live, though all we see of the islanders are the resources they make available, a variety of colourful fruity Candies. These Huts also hold one deck of cards each, these being the Bribe card decks; Cloth, Rope, Wood and Tools, and anyone who visits a Hut can claim a card from the deck found there, but only one card from each deck per player. Collecting all 4 Bribe cards and completing the recipes on their flip-sides wins the game.
The Island of Misfit Friends is about manoeuvering tiles and Misfits (Meeples) and the object of the game is to collect the Candy resources to complete the Hut cards known as 'Bribe' cards of which players may only have one of each type. On the flip side of every Bribe card there are a number of candies, and to claim the Bribe card (flip it over so that everyone can see it) as part of the four required to win the game, the price of the card (ie the candies it displays) has to be paid. Each Bribe card deck is shuffled and one deck is placed on each of the huts so that player's pieces will have to move diagonally off the main grid of the Island to reach each hut to collect one Bribe card per hut.
The players each have a pair of adorable plastic miniatures, each pair are twins with the same colour and the same name, making 6 pairs/colours in total: Hugsy (blue), Funny (purple), Runny (black), Dumpy (red), Cuddles (pink) and Whoopsy (yellow). They all used to be friends but ever since the King had the Island covered randomly in candies they are more into squabbling over who gets to the sweeties first, and if they can't get them the legal way they aren't above stealing them from each other - naughty Misifts!
The King's Square has the numbers 1 through 12 inside it aimed at the surrounding tiles. At the end of each third movement the King rolls a 12-sided die and removes a tile from the orthoganal or diagonal line associated with the number rolled.
The Island has candies strewn over it, one randomly landing in every square except the King's Square, and by manipulating the rows and columns or moving their Misfits the players aim to end up with one of their Misfits sitting on one of the candies that are in a line of three (orthogonally or diagonally). If they can manage this they collect the candy they were sitting on, and this is how you get the candies to pay for the Bribe cards, this way or using event cards to steal them from opponents. Players have a hand of Event cards which can be played at any time in the game, not just on their turn and not just one at a time, although if playing more than one you must completely finish with one before activating another. The hand of cards for each player is made up to full ( 3 cards in most cases, 4 in a 2-player game) at the end of each Round of play.
The Movement of the Candy tiles and the Player's Misfits is determind by drawing cards from the deck of shuffled movement cards - these being the cards with the name and colour of the participating Misfits - and placing them one at a time underneath the spots on the board marked 1, 2, 3 King 3, 2, 1. There is a small possibility of misreading the rules here. They say that the 'Island Master' (the player chosen to be First Player) deals one card to each of the six spots on the Movement Track - one at a time. It then says to specifically resolve one card before dealing the next. These first two sentences can be read as contradictory, especially if you are playing as you read on your first game. If you read the rules prior to playing be sure to pick up on this.
The first card drawn from the deck is placed face up under the first '1' meaning that the owner of the Misfit shown on the card can either move one of their pieces one square (in any direction) or can move (push) one candy tile one space orthoganally. Usually moving a candy tile pushes other tiles and (like in Labyrinth) if they are pushed off the edge of the board they come back on at the directly opposite edge of the same row/column, thus pushing any tiles there until the square on which the pushed tile was on is again covered by a tile. Note: As tiles are removed from the game, either by the players or by the King, there will be empty squares on the grid. If there is a Misfit on a tile that is pushed the Misfit moves with it, and if a tile is pushed into an empty square then it stops.
If you move your Misfit across an empty square they count as one space (as far as I can tell) of movement but there is no rule (that I can see) which says what happens when a tile is pushed into a square with no tile but containing a Misfit. When pushing tiles across the King's square you do not count the King's square you simply move the tile as if it had been pushed acrosss so that it displaces the tile on the opposite edge of the King's square. The pushing ansd moving rules do seem rather complicated but once you get playing it isn't as bad as it sounds when reading it for the first time - honest!
The rules could do with a rewrite or at minimum a thorough proof-reading. At any rate they wouldn't be harmed by better explanations and clearer examples of play. This is unlike TC as they are usually very astute with their proof-reading and rules explanations.
Some of us like the rule about having the bonus action for the '1' movement - you can swap a tile you have collected for one that has been removed. This is not powerful and only really comes into play if a specific Candy is needed to complete a Bribe card recipe. Others in our group prefer to play that this isn't a bonus as the rules state, instead they count it as the Movement Action as it is the only way you get to swap tiles other than by Event card use.
Misfits and the Number of players: The players pieces are deemed to be in the King's Square to begin with, but can be kept in front of each player until it is their turn. For example with all 12 Misfits in play and thus only 6 minis (2 player game) they might as well be in there to begin with, but with more players the number of Misfits that would be in the King's Square would prevent the King's Roll Numbers from being seen. Players choice.
The Movement Track (six spots (bays) marked as already noted) have cards played on all 6 squares one at a time Left to Right and then Right to Left (in a 2-player game this will only be Left to Right as there are only 6 cards involved). I may be being a bit daft here but none of us can understand why the cards are dealt first to the left and then from the right because whether you deal 6 cards across in either direction the numbers above them will be the same. With more than 2 players the cards will double up on the track but the amount of movement is still only 1, 2 or 3 squares. The next round begins when all the cards in the Movement card deck have been played out; the next round beginning by playing a Movement card from the reshuffled deck onto what would have been the next space in order on the track. For example in a 3-player game each player has 3 Movement cards and thus the deck will expire on the third 3 of the Track and thus the next round begins on the 3 (1, 2, 3 K 3, 2, 1, 2, 3 K 3) at least I think that's correct.
When you are on a tile that becomes part of a row/line of three tiles you may take the tile you are on. The Chocolate tiles are somewhat special. For instance, if you are on a Chocolate tile it only has to be adjacent to, or moved adjacent to, a line of three, it is not part of the line. One assumes that if there are 3 Chocolate tiles in a row and you are on one of those 3 then that counts also as a tile you may take. If a tile is moved and a player's piece is on it, the piece moves with the tile, but when you are on a tile you can take what happens to the player's piece if you take the tile ? The rules do not mention this. We play that the piece comes off with the tile and starts again from the King's Square.
Island of MISFIT FRIENDS is not the best game to come from the generally excellent Twilight Creations but it is fun to play occasionally. It can be found online at under £10.00 and although its components, including the darling miniatures, make that price sound silly. Twilight Creations always ensure their games have interesting minis and a brief but colourful rules booklet but sometimes 'brief' isn't always best. The board and tiles are of heavy card whilst the two decks of cards are easy to shuffle and deal making them pleasant to play with. It is a truly an abstract game with no real theme per se - collecting candies to gather Bribe cards really makes very little sense, so basically it's a game for entertainment's sake, which isn't a bad thing, just as long as you don't expect anything intent.
Young players like it to look at but the 45-60 minutes is rather too long to keep them interested. Our thoughts, from the look of it, is that this should be a 15-20 minute game as there isn't enough substance to hold core players attention for three times that length. However, having said that, looking at the play-testers, many big names of the gaming industry, I can only believe that as these gaming dignitaries enjoy it so much I and my players must be missing something.