Posted by James (admin) on October 10th, 2014
Grog Island is a bidding game but with a healthy amount of different elements riding on the bids so it sounds interesting. It is designed by Michael Reineck whose games include Cuba, Santiago de Cuba, and Palastgeflüster.
Each round 5 coloured dice are rolled and players take turns using these dice to make increasing bids. A player can select any combination of the rolled dice and their total bid is equal to the total of the values of the dice they have used. If a player doesn’t want to increase the bid they can pass, and they get a reward for passing too.
The board shows 5 coloured peninsulas with buildings on them (which players will claim during the game) and there is a ship is next to each peninsula (although the ships move around during the game).
The last player remaining in a round wins the bid, pays the value in coins, and receives a benefit for each dice used in the bid (which must be placed in descending value order). The player can claim a building on the peninsula that matches the colour of the first dice and the second dice in the bid. They gain a pirate point for the 3rd and 5th dice (regardless of colour), and locks off a building on the peninsula matching the 4th dice. Players only get rewards for dice used in the winning bid so won’t get all the rewards if all the dice weren’t used.
A player who passes gets 1 goods tile for each dice used in the current bid (as each colour dice matches a colour of good). Also, the player gets to trade with 1 of the ships on the board (allowing them to discard goods tiles that match the colour of the peninsula where the ship is located for the reward shown on the ship). Also, a player can claim a building on the peninsula next to the ship by spending enough tiles of the matching colour.
In case that wasn’t enough, whenever you claim a building, you also get the effect shown on the cloud tile above each peninsula (which change each game). Also, players don’t always know exactly how much money their opponents have as some is on cards which can be 1, 2 or 3 coins; plus, players can earn/use parrot cards that let them bid the same value as the previous player.
As soon as one player has placed their last crew member (used to show claimed buildings), the game ends and players get pirate points for remaining cash, plus the secret goal cards they were given at the start of the game. Secret goals earn pirate points for having crew members on specific types of building, for goods tiles of a specific colour, owning the most buildings on a specific peninsula, etc. The player with the most pirate points wins.
Grog Island sounds simple but fun, and seems that it will require more tactics than the playful artwork may suggest. There seem to be lots of different elements to balance when it comes to bidding and passing. As the dice in a bid must be placed in descending value order, and the benefits earned based on the number of dice and the order of their colour, players are likely to have to balance winning a bid against the order the dice they need to use will be in. For example, you want to raise the bid but it means having to use the green 6 (which is the highest value dice) and you don’t want green as the first dice. Also, lots of high-value dice in a round will mean gaining multiple rewards is more expensive compared to when there are lots of low-value dice.
I like how passing is rewarded and when you pass is also important as the reward is affected by which dice are currently being used in the leading bid and which ship’s remain to be traded with. Each ship can only be traded with by one player each round so you may want to pass early to ensure you trade with the ship you want to, rather than risk not winning the bid and find the remaining ships to trade with by then are not what you want. (The ships move along each round.)
More info and the rules are available on Pegasus Spiele’s Grog Island web page which can be reached using this shortlink: bga.me/grog
For more Spiel 2014 previews, check out my Spiel 2014 Previews page which lists the games on my radar with links to their previews too.