Toko Island Board Game Review
WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 1-4
You’ll like this if you like: Hanabi, Dodo, Memory
Published by: Helvetiq
Designed by: Marie Fort, Wilfried Fort
Designers Marie and Wilfred Fort, are the team behind many successful family games. Dragomino, Valley of the Viking, and Unlock Kids to name just three. I was excited to see what their partnership with Helvetiq was going to bring, seeing as Helvetiq always make such aesthetically pleasing games. Seeing this set up at Essen intrigued me. The box art is quite mystical to me, and board has some real table presence. Let's get it to the table to see how it plays.
Place the two boat titles down together and place the island board into the box to form the main playing area. Shuffle all the treasure pieces and place them into the holes face down on the island, making sure to fill in all the gaps. Note, some spaces hold up two or three treasure pieces. Then lay the Cupboard of Curiosities sheet down on either side A or B depending on which mission you are trying. Draw the square action tiles from the draw string bag and place them face down at random onto the boat onto the 16 spaces, then flip them over. Finally, draw the cards you are using the for current mission. There are four missions in total, each with their own ruleset and scoring mechanisms, with three levels of difficulty for each. Simply pick the cards with the correct coloured symbol on the reverse to match your desired level and adventure. Shuffle these card and place them face down into the boat, flipping the top card over. You are now ready to travel to Toko Island.
How to Play
Toko Island is a cooperative experience. Starting with the first player, then in turn, each player must choose one of the tiles on the boat. These represent two things. First, the symbol on the tile itself shows where on Toko Island you can dig. The rake lets you dig on the sand. The Shovel is for the forest. And finally, the pick axe lets you dig on rock in the centre of the island. And secondly, the x1, x2, or x3 symbol next to the tile tells you how many times you can carry out this action. Either digging up one, two, or three treasures from the area shown on the tile.
You can then flip over the set number of tiles in the designated area. You are looking to match a treasure token with the current card shown on the boat. If you do, you can move that token over, placing it into the cupboard of curiosities. This not only shows you what you have collected thus far, but also what is left on the island. Then, move the card you collected from the top of the pile and place it next to the boat, flip over the next card, and the turn moves to the next player.
If you do not flip over any matching tiles to the current card, then you must flip them all back over. Trying to remember what each one was, in case one of the upcoming treasure cards shows that symbol. The next player must now choose their tile and so on. This continues until either all of the treasures have been found, or you run out of tiles.
Each mission has its own way to score and interpret your success, but as with most family games, the fun comes from the matching of symbols. And the drama, when with only a few turns left, you manage to find that final symbol. Which seems to happen a lot on this game. The balance is spot on.
Is it fun
If you enjoy memory games, then yes. You will have a lot of fun with this game. It is quite simple, being advertised as for ages 6 and up, which I would very much agree with. I enjoy the beautiful aesthetics of this game, and the high production value with all the components. And I like the sense of adventure and history in this game. Each of the four missions is based on four real adventurers from history, and the prizes you can win are all based on real instruments used in the past. I enjoyed discussing these people and items with my children as we played... Prizes you say? Yes, I will get to that!
As you complete each mission on each difficulty you will be rewarded with cards to place into a folder that tracks your success through the game. These cards are double sided and can be flipped over to their silver shiny side when you complete missions at harder levels. Show me a child that won't get excited about this! To be fair, show me a gaming adult that won't get a little bit excited about this! I know I did.
As you complete rows and columns in this book with your cards, you can unlock special powers to use on later games. These comes in the form of tiles that can be placed into the front of your boat in subsequent games. They all have a one time only use, but offer a nice option to either carry out additional actions, flip over extra treasure cards, or transform any tool into one other type.
This is a nice development in the game, and you feel genuinely rewarded (both in shiny and useful things) for playing the game multiple times. Something I think is sometimes missing in other games. You should want to play games again because they are fun. It should be as simple as that. And this game is fun. But with a family game, it is nice to offer some gamification into the process. It works very well and adds to the replayability and satisfaction from 'completing the game' in a huge way.
Toko Island is a very simply game. There is not a lot of strategy in it. But there is more than you first think. As the cupboard if curiosities shows all the possible tiles available, as you mark them off as you gather treasure from the island; you can use this knowledge to increase your chances of success. For example, if you are looking for Fossil, and you have so far gathered two large fossils, you know from looking at the cupboard of curiosities that there are two medium and two small fossils left. As such, you want to pick a tool that will allow you to flip only this size of tile over. It is a simple strategy to employ, but it works well, increases your chances of success, and makes the hunt feel less random.
But of course, the main tactic and strategy is your memory. Working as a team to try and remember where that fossil was when you flipped it over three turns ago is the key. It is a fun team game to play and helping each other out in this way feels great. It is highly rewarding to remember correctly when others have not, and you manage to get the treasure you were after. There are many team cheers and high fives as we play this game. Thankfully, my children have a much better memory than I do, so we do ok most of the time!
I would recommend this game to any family looking for a new game to play as a group. It is perfect for younger gamers who want to feel like they are playing a more complex and heavy game, when in fact the rule set and strategy is very simple. But it looks and feels bigger as you set up and play Toko Island. And the rewards from the trophy cards and tokens keeps you coming back for more, game after game.
There is a delightful calming nature to this game. It just looks and feels so relaxing. But the later stages can be tense. When you only have a few tiles left to find the final few treasures, turns can be dramatic, stressful, but highly rewarding if you can remember correctly where the right treasure is. Or, just get lucky! Toko Island is a wonderful experience and a great game to win together as a family. If you loose, it sure is quick enough to just rack up and go again. Which you will want to do, game after game, to get all those shiny cards into your trophy booklet.