Game Buzz – Sabotile: Isles of Hexoté

Today, I’m going to take a look at a game currently funding on Kickstarter called

SIOH

Sabotile: Isles of Hexoté is a 2-6 player game designed by Alex Carrao, Mark Fuelle, Ben Moy, Sehoon Park, and Ervin Tsay.  These five make up Grizzly Forged Studios, the company publishing the game.  This is a tile laying game where players are trying to find their totem and return it to their home village before anyone else.

(Full disclosure before I continue.  One of the designers, Mark Fuelle, is a friend of mine.  I taught him how to play Hive.  However, I haven’t received a review copy or any compensation for this little preview – I’m just trying to help them spread the word.)

Sabotile will come with six board pieces, six totems, six tribe chieftains, six village tiles, 100 isle tiles, a temple, a die, and six reference cards.  To set up, the board pieces are assembled to form a large hexagonal play space with the temple in the middle.  The totems are all set up on the outer hexes of the temple.  DO NOT LOOK AT THEM – the point of the game is to figure out which is which.  Each player gets a set of eleven tiles (one of each available action), and takes turns placing all but three of them face down in different spaces around the play space.  The back of each tile as three spaces on them for movement purposes.  The three you have left are your starting hand.

Beginning with the player who placed last, players alternate taking turns.  On your turn, there are two phases: Movement and Action.  These are taken in any order, but you must finish one before starting the other.

MOVEMENT: Roll the die, and move up to that many spaces.  You must move at least one space, and you can’t end your move on the same space you started from, nor may you backtrack.  You also may not end your move on the same space as another player.

When you end your move, the tile you land on is immediately activated.  Reveal it and perform its effect.  Discard the tile after use and replace it with a random one from the side deck (don’t peek).  Here’s what you could get:

  • Ancient Vision: Look at a totem anywhere on the board.  You don’t have to be anywhere close to it.
  • Holy Ground: Stays on the board, cannot be destroyed, and only counts as one space.
  • Terraform: Draw three tiles, look at them, and place them anywhere on the board.
  • Bog: Remains on the board, but can be destroyed.  To leave the Bog, subtract two from your movement roll.
  • Earth Mover: Roll a die and move a selected tile up to that many spaces away.
  • Mystical Exchange: Choose two Tribal Chieftains and swap their positions.
  • Trickster: Swap the position of two totems.
  • Survey the Land: Look at any two tiles on the board.  You may exchange them with tiles from your hand.
  • Wildfire: Destroys itself and every adjacent tile except Temples, activated Holy Grounds, and Villages.  Reveal them before removing them – if another Wildfire is revealed, it sets off a chain reaction.  Any Tribal Chieftains or totems displaced by this go back to their starting positions.
  • Secret Passage: The first one revealed sends the player to the temple.  It remains on the board.  As more are revealed, you can travel between them while moving.
  • Adrenaline Rush: This is kept and can be spent to give you another movement roll.

ACTIONS: The other thing you do, besides move, is to choose an action to perform.  Here are your options:

  • Take a Tile: Pick one up from anywhere on the board.  You have a hand limit of six.
  • Place a Tile: Take a tile from your hand and place it anywhere on the board.
  • Pick Up a Totem: If you’re on a space with a totem, pick it up and put it in your player piece.  You may not look at it until you get it back to a Village.
  • Ambush: Attempt to steal a totem from someone on the same tile as you.  You both roll a die to see who gets the higher number (ties go to the attacker).
  • Sacrifice: Discard a tile for an additional movement turn.
  • Redeem: Draw two tiles from the deck.  Remember that your limit is six.

If you are in your own Village with your own totem, you win.  No other totems may be present, and must be removed before victory can be claimed.

image by BGG user GrizzlyForged
image by BGG user GrizzlyForged

I have not played this game, so anything I say from this point on can be filed in the uninformed ramblings folder if you wish.  I think the game looks really nice, with some very unique bits and what looks to be a pretty engaging game to go with them.  Tile laying is a good mechanism, and there seems to be a nice array of special abilities to go with those tiles.  There’s a pretty strong memory element as you try to recall where you put your tiles.  I can imagine that in a six player game, this will be just about impossible.

It is a roll-and-move game, which I know is a negative for a lot of people.  But it isn’t exact count roll-and-move, it’s “up to”.  This can still be frustrating for someone who keeps rolling a 1, but it does seem that there are some decent ways to mitigate the luck out there if you are prepared.  The ambushes are also resolved by a die roll, and it seems weird that there’s no way to make your position stronger – you just roll and see who wins, no skill involved.  To the credit of the designers, there’s a variant included in the rules that you can remove the die and anything that would need a roll is instead determined by the number of tiles in your hand.  So if you have three tiles, you could move up to three spaces, or your ambush total would be three, or you could move a tile three spaces with Earth Mover.  I don’t know if there’s any way to prevent people from hoarding tiles with this method, but it does seem like this might be a more interesting way to play.  Actually, there are several variant versions included and the rules, which speaks to the flexibility of the system.

Overall, and I’m not just saying this because I know a designer, I’d say this looks like it would be a fun kind of take-that strategic race game.  Capture the flag on steroids, one might say.  So I’d encourage you to take a look.  Sabotile: Isles of Hexoté is on Kickstarter until April 18 with a $50,000 goal and a long way to go.  Go check it out – a $49 pledge will get you a copy of the game in December.  Thanks for reading!

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