Shaman Island

Players 2-4
Length 30 minutes
Equipment Required piecepack
Designer RandyCox and JasonTrotten
Version Unspecified
Version Date2004-00 (unknown month)
License Custom License: Shaman Island is Copyright ©2004 Randy Cox and Jason Trotten. If you steal it, we'll have to shrink your head. These rules may be reprinted in any form, provided they are quoted in their entirety, including the copyright and this licensing statement.


Once your island was a Caribbean paradise. There used to be plenty of room for the different tribes that shared it. Sadly, the island has become overpopulated and the once-friendly tribes are now hostile toward each other. The tribes are on the brink of war, and all are counting on the magic powers of their shaman to help them defeat their enemies and claim the largest portions of land.


Reviews & Comments

Shaman Island is an area control game in which warriors (coins) and shamans (pawns) of different tribes compete for control of a land mass that gets magically transformed over the course of the game. A shaman can move over land like a chess queen (unimpeded by friendly pieces), magically sink or move sections of land around (with some restrictions), or in a special two-turn process, exchange places with a distant warrior tribe member via spirit movement. Warriors move over land like a chess rook (again, unimpeded by friendly pieces). Both warriors and shamans may also hitch a ride to travel with another shaman's spirit movement. The game begins with building the island, then placing shamans and warriors. The game then proceeds with a series of turns in which players jockey for position and control of land areas, and then ends when there is one more island than there are players in the game. At the end of the game, the locations of shamans and the (until this point, hidden) warrior values are used to determine control of the islands.

Our group found the rules to be generally well-written, with especially nice-looking diagrams showing many different examples of how sections of land may be moved. There were a couple of land movements that came up during our games that weren't covered in the rules, but it would be nearly impossible to explain and diagram every possible scenario. A quick question to the authors resolved our questions. The key mis-interpretation is that, if a land mass is moving, it has to be in contact with at least half of one face at the beginning, middle and end of its movement. If at any of these three points during the movement, the land is only in contact by a corner, the move is either not allowed or that half-move is not yet complete. It would have been nice also to have had a diagram showing shaman spirit movement and hitching a ride, but these were easy enough to figure out.

This is quite a good game, both mechanically and thematically, but it's more interesting with four players than with three players. The smaller number of islands in the three-player game can dramatically shorten the game and make it feel more random, especially if one player tries to hurry the game along by making one long peninsula during the setup phase and then sinking tiles quickly. More turns and more land and piece movement in the four-player game gives everyone more time to form opinions about the hidden warrior values. This adds a layer of richness to the game. Our three player games clocked in around 15 to 20 minutes, but four players extended that to 30 to 40 minutes. Incredibly (and unfortunately), Shaman Island was submitted without the required appendix! The judges didn't want to immediately disqualify the game, after all it was pretty good. So after a follow-up e-mail to the authors, this requirement was fulfilled, but we still had to mark points off for not including it in the original submission.

Conclusion: Certainly give Shaman Island a try when you have a foursome, especially if your gaming group is fond of games in the style of Leo Colovini, such as Clans or the Bridges of Shangri-La. The Shaman Island mechanics (once fully understood) are elegant, the theme is engaging, and the game is light, yet satisfying. Shaman Island also works OK as a three-player filler, but isn't quite as interesting. Score: 21.97

-- ClarkRodeffer

Oct 19, 2004