GAME REVIEW: Jeju Island

Grail Games is known for making small, but fun games.  I really enjoyed the 2-player game, One Zero One.  Even though I enjoy heavy games, I believe there is a time and a place for light games, and at times prefer to play those than heavy games.  Grail Games latest is an import from Korea called Jeju Island, formerly known as Play Jeju.  Let’s see how it is…

JEJU ISLAND (2016) Designed by Yeon-Min Jung, Gun-Hee Kim & Jun-Hyup Kim; Published by Grail Games – For 2-4 players and takes about 30 minutes. 

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This is an abstract game, but the theme is that players are traveling around Jeju Island, which is in Korea.  They will be sightseeing by collecting sightseeing tiles around the game board.  The object of the game is to collect certain kinds of sightseeing tiles to use to buy point cards.

There are 7 different types of tiles that are randomly scattered around the six island spots on the board.  Each player will also have 2 tokens in their color.  Additionally, there will be 6 black neutral tokens, which will be placed next to each island space.  Players will then place their tokens, in turn order, at islands of their choice.

On a player’s turn, they can perform one of two actions:  Travel and collect tiles, or purchase a point card.

Travel and Collect Tiles: A player will choose a stack of tokens that has at least one of your pieces (it doesn’t matter if it’s on top or not).  Then choose which direction to move (left or right).  They will then drop off a token at each location in that direction, starting with the bottom-most piece of the track.  Then, every player who has a token on top of a stack may take a sightseeing token from the island space they are next to.

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Additionally, if you are by the statue marker, you can move the statue to any island spot, taking an additional tile.  You may even choose to keep the island in the same space and take a tile from there.

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Purchase Point Cards: Instead of traveling, you may choose to buy one of the 5 face up point cards.  To purchase one of these, discard the indicated tiles listed on the card, then take the card and place it face up in front of you.

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Some cards also have an everlasting tile icon on the card.  This means that it will count as one of those tiles for the rest of the game, and it will never go away.

Additionally, the Haenyeo Diver counts as a wild, and may be used as any symbol when purchasing tiles.

And that’s about it.  Players will continue around the board traveling and buying point cards until either there are no longer any tiles on the board or if there are less than 5 point cards left.

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This is a very light game.  It certainly has a pleasant look about it.  I love the elementary school-style artwork.  It looks like a bunch of kids drew it, and that’s charming.   The tokens are nice wooden pieces that are thick and sturdy.

I like the gameplay.  It’s almost like a kid version of Splendor with a touch of Machi Koro thrown in.  It reminds me of Splendor in the way you buy point cards and how you are building an engine.  And then the Machi Koro element comes from everyone being able to get something on another person’s turn.  These 2 things should knock the game out of the park for me.

Unfortunately, about halfway through gameplay, it fell flat.  It just got too repetitve for me, without anything really changing.  You really can’t plan ahead too much here, and there are many times that you don’t have much of a choice on where to go.  It was almost as the game were playing itself at times.

My real problem was the end game.  Once a pile of tiles gets depleted from a space, there are fewer options.  And then when there are only 1 or 2 piles left, sometimes you can’t place your piece everywhere that would help you.  And then it takes a while for the game to just end, as players scramble to get that last piece in order for the game to stop.  Those last few minutes were kind of a slog for me.  I think the game would be better if it would end as soon as (one stack or maybe 2) gets depleted.  That would make the game quicker and less repetitive too.

I actually didn’t hate the game.  Grail games puts out great product, and the presentation of this one is solid.  The game just wasn’t for me.

That said, I played this with middle school and elementary school kids and it was a hit.  I think younger children will enjoy this game and will prepare them for deeper games.  If you play with kids regularly, you might want to try this one out with them.  But if you’re a serious gamer that only plays with adults, then this would be a pass I think.

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