PECULIARITY Games present ROBBIE MUNN's "SUMMONER'S ISLE"
Plays in about an hour, or just under, with 2-4 players aged 12+
This is a very nice game that can be found online at a (compared to many games of this genre) very nice price of between £15.99 - £20.00. However, having said that about the price, it could possibly have been published at a lower cost if it had used regular D6 dice rather than having them specially made with a symbol, that has no specific ingame use, instead of the number 6 and a drawstring bag that's only use is to contain the game pieces while in the box, again, like the specific die symbol, it has no actual ingame use - it isn't used as a draw bag for example. Of course if it had cut those corners it wouldn't be anywhere near as visually admirable or as eye-catching as it is, and to we all know that the more attractive looking a game is the more likely players are to play it and more's the point, want to play it. Believe me, you'll want to play SUMMONER'S ISLE.
The board, a colourful folding board, shows the island of Thule in all its glory. This is the island where Mages who have summoning skills come to hone those abilities so they can protect the non-magical folk of the mainland. You may ask why the isle of Thule has the possibilities to bring out the best of the spellcaster's powers, and there is a perfectly plausible answer. In ancient times this was a gateway, a portal between Midgard and the Old Worlds, and now those ancient spirits that walked the island are bonding together to form pools of spirit energy which allow all manner of fantastic beasts to come through. If too many arrive they could band together and enslave the free-folk again, as they did in ancient times.
The board is of double-sided strong card, one side for 2 players the other for 3 or 4 with the main difference being the number of Summoning locations in each territory. Each side has a Rune Track, 1-6 and 1-7, which determine the length of play; there is also a 1-36 energy track on each side that is modified +5 (1-9) +3 (10-18) =/- 0 (19-23) -3 (24-29) and -5 (30-35). Players begin with 5 energy points that can be spent to bring your specific creatures into play.
The players have their own small army which they use to control the territories to gain more energy. SUMMONER'S ISLE is a land control game and it's a case of spending to accumulate and using the creatures to grab more land, and thus accumulate more spirit energy to spend etc, the cycle turns on and on. The strategy is to spend just enough to accumulate the most energy points by the end of the 6 (or 7) Rounds.
Each of these 'armies' is recognised by colour coding and name. Water Creatures are Blue, Metal Creatures are Gold (Yellow), Earth Creatures are Purple and Forest Creatures are Green. Each of these contains 1 Wyrm (large tile), 3 Trolls (medium tiles) and 9 Sprites (small tiles), they each also have their own specific colour D6, the '6' of which shows the icon of the 'army' the other sides are regular 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 spots. The four player cards are in army colours and each shows the Summoning Cost, 5, 3 or 1 depending on tile size, the number of Actions they can take and their Attack, Defence, Specials etc; the flip side of each card shows the Phases Per Round. Everything is covered for the players to have a great time without constantly referring to the rules book.
Players spend their energy to bring their creatures onto the island. They can be placed on any of the open (unoccupied) summoning spaces without any other conditions. At the end of each player's turn they regain energy depending on where their marker currently is on the energy track, area domination and control etc. Being the first player means that there are no other pieces on the board so you play with a blank canvas and should be able to gain some good ground and boost your energy points. However, once your turn ends the next player places their pieces, can gain unoccupied territories as well as attack your creatures to take over their territory and gain extra energy themselves, and so on and so forth. The circle of life!
Different creatures have or get different powers and abilities and are therefore more likely to win battles when positioned against weaker opponents. All creatures have attack bonuses and defence values but the Wyrm and the Trolls have a fixed defence while the Sprites have 1-6 (a die roll thrown for each combat), equalling or beating a defence number wins the fight. There aren't a lot of player options and most of the actions are well worn but SUMMONING ISLE has that so-called X-Factor which grabs hold and won't let you go.
There's an amount of too-ing and fro-ing, luck and strategy, thought and tactic. Play is fast, not like a race, but because there are only a certain number of things a player can do and the position of the pieces, theirs and opponents, on the board actions are often obvious - though of course there is no rule that says you have to do the obvious.
Although we enjoy playing SUMMONER'S ISLE immensely there are aggravating/frustrating points in it where you wish the game went just that bit further. For instance, I wish there had been a bit more to the 'summoning' than just spending energy points. When I saw the cloth bag my immediate thought was that the game involved drawing items from it, perhaps components to allow you to cast a spell to summon your creatures. Instead the game is about points conservation and manipulation andcontinually attacking Summons Points on the map to gain area control. Once you have control though there is no way of defending it other than with the units you moved in with. There is no 'move after combat' rule that allows you to defeat an opponent's creature and then move into the vacated space, for example.
The box art, by Sebastián Koziner, is intriguing, and if he is responsible for the maps he is shown to be very talented. The creature tile art is less impressive but that may be because they were large pieces of art condensed into miniature miniatures.
The mechanics flow neatly and the game is enjoyable to play. I wouldn't say it was addictive but it is definitely fun to play regularly with 2, 3 or 4 players. Good pieces, good quality, good rules, good fun; this is a good game!