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EOS: Island of Angels

Published by King Racoon Games and Grey Fox Games, EOS: Island of Angels is a heady thematic mix where the 2-5 players are pirate captains using worker placement mechanics to select actions, sailing through demon-infested waters and seeking to free frozen angels. The appealing art is by Felix MertikatMaxine Metzger and Sandra Süsser.

Players each have their own asymmetric faction with their own particular ability. On your turn, you take one of the crew pawns off your ship and you place it out on a character on your individual faction board to take the indicated action. You track your gold on your ship card and can spend it on upgrades and ranked-up character actions: the power of an action (for example, the distance you can move on a movement action) is determined by the extent to which that character has been raised in rank. Once you've taken a character's main action you can select a secondary action from the options at the bottom of your board but you can't usually repeat these actions in consecutive turns and you can't ordinarily activate a character you've already activated until you spend a turn recalling all your pawns to your ship. This isn't a wasted turn tho' as there are valuable bonuses available for your recall action - to the extent that the special ability of one faction is simply having one pawn less than the other players so they benefit from more frequent recall actions.

The main board is a circular seascape with a scoretrack surround. It's double-sided so the game comes with a choice of two different seascapes. When you move your ship on the main board, you'll encounter demons which will move you negatively on the track on your faction board. You are sailing your ship to land at locations where your 'epic deeds' will earn you rewards provided you can meet the relevant requirements. Collecting 'blessings' tokens on the main board will allow you to claim angels which give you additional powers or game-changing abilities which will better equip you to combat the major demons. These appear on the board periodically at key points during the course of the game and they impose 'curses' on all the players that mostly limit their abilities until that demon is defeated.

Felix Mertikat has designed this game with lots of cool elements. The ratchet slider on the top of players' faction boards alters the levels at which you benefit from a positive position and at which demons negatively affect your abilities. It's an interesting idea; it's just unfortunate that the slider can be quite fiddly to operate. It's unfortunate too that gold is tracked on your ship card with just ring markers - so all-too-easily jogged out of position. We found this so annoying that we simply replaced it for some of our plays by substituting coins borrowed from another game. With a multiplicity of tracks on your faction board, EOS is a game where dual-layer boards are pretty much essential. Happily, the deluxe and 'big box' editions incorporate these. The cards you can collect as an action and play are all worth victory points and have a wide variety of effects, with some combos proving especially helpful in racking up your score. It was apparent from our plays at Board's Eye View that, as well as some cards, some angel powers are much stronger than others. You just have to factor that in determining which angels to set sail for, so something to bear in mind in your choice of ship starting position.

Expect then a highly engaging mix of luck and strategy in EOS. It's a fun game with a sandbox feel where there are a lot of moving parts and there's a lot going on but you never feel bogged down with a heavy rules overhead. It's a game where players are mostly doing their own thing, in that player interaction is largely limited to reaching and completing an 'epic deed' or battling a major demon ahead of rivals. If King Racoon Games have plans on the horizon for further EOS expansions, we'd love to see mechanics for ship-to-ship combat to add in the option for more 'take that' player interaction and make fuller use of the underlying pirate crew theme. As it is tho', EOS: Island of Angels is a lot of fun at all player counts. And there's an extra joy when the synergy between your various upgrades and cards allow you to put together an engine that means you're able to trigger a cascading series of actions...

EOS: Island of Angels was originally published with a couple of separately available expansions: Nation, adding two extra factions, and Mission Cards offering alternative rewards for ocean areas that give 'blessings'. King Racoon Games have now published a 'big box' edition that provides the deluxe components and also includes the expansions. That's the one to go for now.

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