Based on the animation film My Father’s Dragon, which launched this month on Netflix, Wild Island is an easy-to-play family game from Value Add Games in Slovenia. It’s designed by Maja Milavec, with charming art by Cartoon Saloon and Clara de Frutos.
Wild Island is played on a modular board. The 2-4 players are moving through a maze with the aim of landing on the four icons that match those on their four jigsaw puzzle pieces. You flip a piece when you land on the corresponding creature or crystal (energy icon). Flip all four of your objectives ahead of the other players to assemble your puzzle and you win the game.
Aside from the icons to collect (some tho’ not all of which will differ from the objectives of other players), there are icons you can land on to give you extra movement and short cuts, and icons that let you pick up ‘courage’ tiles that will either give you an immediate boost or a special action you can save for a future turn.
Even quite young children will understand the core roll & move mechanic: you roll the custom six-sided die (sides 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4) and move that exact number of spaces along the maze. You must move the exact number on the die and can’t move diagonally. If you end your move on an icon, you take the appropriate icon action. If not, you get a second roll & move. You can move through but not onto the same space as another player: a rule that gave rise to our one rules query... If the exact movement would put you in the same space as another player, what do you do? We house ruled that you simply couldn't attempt that move; if necessary you'd have to move in another direction.
The trick feature tho’ in this game is that the maze you are moving through is fluid. At the start of every turn, you ‘shake the island’. This means you have to lift one of the end tiles, slide the other tiles along and replace the tile you picked up at the other end of the row or column you just moved. The very youngest players may find this initially tricky and perhaps frustrating but it adds an interesting touch to the game. Players can use their ‘shake the island’ action to push their standee nearer to an objective or to move an objective so it’s easier to reach. However, the ‘shake the island’ action can equally be used to set an opponent back: a shift in the maze might, for example, turn a clear path into a dead end.
Tho’ there’s scope for subtlety in the way players shift tiles to their own advantage and other players’ disadvantage, Wild Island remains a light accessible game that players quickly. Even with four players, games rarely take more than 15 minutes.
If family members have enjoyed watching My Father’s Dragon then Wild Island could be the perfect choice as one of this year’s filler-length stocking fillers.