Updated: Nov 20, 2019
There’s a surprising amount going on in this charming game designed by Frederic Guerard, published by La Boite de Jeu and distributed by Blackrock Games. You’ll be laying out tiles representing newly discovered islands, placing out workers (explorers), collecting resources and managing and manipulating market prices. The game is card driven, with players able on their turn to play as many cards from their hand as they like and take the specified actions, provided they can pay for the cards by discarding other cards. This means that, among all the other mechanics in Ilos, hand management is crucial.
An interesting feature of Ilos is that each player’s resources are collected behind a screen. Players will always know what resources other players have picked up but they aren’t able to see at a glance exactly how many their opponents have accumulated over the course of the game. This is important because cards that allow a player to push up the value of a commodity benefit other players too – so you won’t want to play and pay the high cost of these cards if you fear that a rival will benefit from it more than you will.
There is certainly some player interaction in this game. You will be competing for resources and periodically subjecting rivals to piracy (which will mean the other players suffer an increased cost to play cards) but you will mainly be trying to maximise your own resources and their value. That means you will usually be able to plan your actions while others are taking their turn. If you do, the game jogs along quite quickly. Ilos ends in the turn when a player has placed out all 10 of his explorer meeples, so you can typically expect to finish a game in around 30–40 minutes.
Ilos is undeniably attractive (artwork is by Paul Mafayon). Its visual appeal will help get it to the table and will invariably draw in other players. And for a game which incorporates elements of so many different game mechanics, Ilos nets out as a light euro game that is surprisingly easy to teach and learn: so much so that it works as a family game and as a ‘gateway game’ for introducing mechanics that are developed at a more complex level in other games. It helps here that Ilos benefits from very clear iconography: you won’t find you need to refer back to the rules to work out what the symbols on the cards mean. Definitely one to check out.