Wild Island Board Game Review
WBG Score: 7
You’ll like this if you like: Labyrinth, WolfWalkers, My Fathers Dragon
Published by: Value Add Games
Designed by: Maja Milavec
My Fathers Dragon is a movie that came to Netflix in 2022. The film is based on an illustrated 1948 children's book, written by Ruth Stiles Gannett. The book was the winner of the Newbery Medal. An award that recognises “distinguished contributions to American literature for children”. Perhaps you grew up reading this? Wild Island is a board game version of this story, set in the same beautiful, magical, and exciting world. Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
First, connect the four beach pieces to form a square frame. Then find the four tiles that show Elmer and Boris flying on the back. Below is the reverse of the tiles. Illustrated beautifully, and functionally to aid set up. But otherwise, this art serves no purpose in the game. It's just been done to make the whole experience feel more immersive. The inside of the box lids have the same touch. See below.
Place these four tiles into the four corners of the frame with the dotted circles orientated into the corners. Then fill the rest of the board with the remaining tiles, placed randomly. Each player will then choose a colour and place their playing piece into the corner closet to them. Then place the four coloured jigsaw pieces matching each players chosen colour face down next to each player. The jigsaw will show four icons, one of each piece. This will be the target locations for each player in the game. Finally, shuffle the courage tiles and form a face down stack next to the board along with the dice. You are now ready to play.
How to Play
Players will now take it in turns to move around the island, trying to get to the four spots on the board that represent the four icons shown on their jigsaw pieces. Each time they get to one of their locations, they can flip the corresponding jigsaw piece. The first person to visit all four locations and flip their complete jigsaw is the winner. However, nothing is as simple as you think on Wild Island. If you have read the book or seen the movie, you will know what I am talking about.
A players' turns starts with the Island Shaking! In the story, the Island is constantly sinking. In the game, this is represented by the land tiles shifting places. However, you may be able to use this to your advantage, and also, to cause some mischief to the other players.
At the start of your turn, apart from your very first one, players must pick up a tile next to one of the eight white arrows. They will move this to the opposite side of the board, rotating as they desire, sliding down the other three tiles. They will then place the tile they removed onto the other side of the board into the space created by sliding the others tiles down. This can move your own or other characters as this happens if they were on any of these four tiles.
Once the Island has finished "shacking," players will roll the dice and move the displayed amount, up to two times in order to get closer to their next target. If you end your first turn on an icon then you cannot roll your second turn. You must stop there and then choose if you want to carry out the icon's effect. The different icons offer different powers to help you move across the island more quickly. These are all optional benefits. They may not always be helpful. If not, you can simply stay where you are.
The Wings icon allows you to fly to any space on any adjacent tile. Even another icon space.
The Cave symbol lets you move to any other unoccupied cave symbol on the board.
An objective symbol, the animal picture, let you flip one of your jigsaws pieces. If it matches one of your own of course.
The Courage dragon symbol lets you draw the top Courage tile from the pile.
If it is one of the blue backed tiles, you can immediately use it, if you wish. The dice symbol lets you roll and move one more time. The Cave symbol lets you move to one of the unoccupied cave symbols on the board. And the arrow symbol lets you move in any direction for the amount of spaces shown on the tile. One, two, or three spots.
The brown tiles can be stored for later use. These allow you to subtract or add one movement from a dice roll. Very useful in this game! Moving onto an exact spot can be tough. But essential in this game. You can also re-roll dice, flip tiles, enact the Island Shakes action twice on your turn, or when you are enacting the Island Shacks action, you can choose to move the tile the opposite direction of the arrow during this part of your turn.
As you move across the island, you cannot go onto the trees or move diagonally. You can move over other players but you cannot end your movement on the same space as anyone else. You must complete your full movement and you cannot ever backtrack. As such, landing on specific spaces can be quite tricky!
During the Island Shakes phase, as you move the tiles, and re-arrange the board, you mind will be full of different possibilities. This works very similarly to Labyrinth, and is by far the best bit of the game. It's not just about the tile you move, but the other three that will slide along into its spot. How will this affect you? How will this affect the other players? It's a lovely decision to make each turn.
The first player to visit all four of their icons will win the game. You can also play a few variations by having just a single move each turn instead of two rolls, or by making each icon you land on a mandatory movement.
Is it Fun?
Wild Island is a delightful game. It is full of charm and character. Just like the book and film. If you are a fan of the original story then I think you will love this and I would strongly recommend checking this game out. Everything in this production has been based on the recent Netflix adaptation, and children who enjoy the film are going to love this game. As you can see below, the visuals are exactly the same.
So, the only question remains is if this game is right for you if you have no plans to watch the film, or simply do not want to, and were never a fan of the book. if that is the case, I am impressed you got this far into the review. But I would suggest, that maybe some of the charm has grabbed you. If you enjoy games like Labyrinth, then you will enjoy this too. It has the same mechanic and idea to it. It is perhaps too similar to own both, but if you don't have Labyrinth in your collection yet, and you prefer this theme, then this could be for you. Although, there are a LOT of different Labyrinth theme's now!
I can see this game being enjoyed a lot whilst my children are young. It is definitely suited to under 12's. Time will tell if the game continues to be enjoyed beyond then, however, either way, I will cherish this in my collection for years to come. As I love the movie and art style this is as much of a collectable as a great game for me.