Haze Islands - 1-3 Player PnP - Played Solo
Haze Islands by Charles Ward - with artwork by Vincente Sivera Catala - is a small 7th Continent style advanture game where you are a Pirate trying to defeat The Doom that haunts your every move. After 6 turns - The Doom wins - unless you can destroy 6 Doom Cards. When playing with other players there are other rules that will not be addressed here (Ghost Ships, Hijacking, etc) that clearly change the game providing rules that range from a Friendly, Cooperative, or Competitive game.
Setup: Shuffle and place The Doom cards in a pile (they are two sided - so shuffling involves flipping as well.) Shuffle the Adventure cards and create a draw pile. Shuffle and place aside the Curse and Dead End cards. These cards are Map cards that get added to the deck after round one and have red diamonds that The Doom can move through - but players cannot. Shuffle and draw one Map card and mate it with the top Adventure card. This is the starting location. Place your pawn(ship) and The Doom die placed on the 1 pip on this starting tile.
The game plays in two phases making up a round. After 6 rounds the game is done. The first phase is timed by the Map Deck. The second phase is the night phase that advances The Doom - represented by a d6 dice - and alters and refreshes the maps and adventure cards that have been played.
Each card is "spent" to do actions - Sail, Raid, Deploy, Complete, or Attack. There is a sixth action - Scout - that uses a map card to add to the played map. Map cards have associated Adventure cards that have Quests.
The Map card and the Adventure card create a square tile of the growing Map your pirate can explore. Quests start with two Icons - get rotated to one Icon - then get turned over to a blank side that allows for a Map card to extend the Map.
Map cards: Diamonds on three edges add to diamonds on added map tiles identifying the cost to Sail - move from tile to tile. The fourth edge holds the Adventure Card. A number on each Map card is the Raid number - representing the cost to Raid. Raiding is taking the top x-Map cards and picking one. The icon on each Map card functions as a deploy crew member (cost 1 Map deck card) and secure that icon for later use.The Icons represent Goods, Crew, Spells, etc. that defeat The Doom, and complete Quests. You collect Icons (on Map Cards from your Map deck) and create a hand no greater than 3.
You move, deploy, raid, and complete quests until you run out of Map cards in your deck. Once that happens the phase is complete.
In the night phase the adventure cards get turned or flipped - flipped cards add a diamond for extending the map and allowing passage of The Doom.
The Doom die is advanced. It will now move toward you as many tiles as diamonds allow - using the current Die pip as the move number. If The Doom ends up on the tile your Ship in on AND has remaining moves available - it depletes your crew by that number. If all of your crew are depleted - you lose. Deployed crew do not count - so be careful how you deploy.
Map cards are reshuffled and the next round begins.
Attacks have an interesting mechanism. Since all actions have a Map card cost - Attacks use an unseen corner to see if the Attack can proceed. You spin the card in your hand and place a finger on a corner. Flipping the card reveals either a skull or no skull. A skull causes the attack to fail. Try another card!
There are clearly more rules and details - but this gives an idea of gameplay. There is a lot packed into a small space here. I would recommend watching a gameplay video and have the rulebook handy the first few times playing.
Review: There is a lot packed into this game. It is very hard to defeat The Doom. You need 6 Doom cards to win and there are only 6 rounds! You start off with no Goods or Spells. If you are lucky with early map cards - you can deploy, but there is a bit of chance in the first few rounds.
The artwork is great. THe machanics are very clever and thematically blend right in with the game. It is hard enough to want to keep trying, but fun to try each time. I learned a bit each time, so expect the first few games to not only be rules confusing, but a slaughter.
Replayability: I already see myself playing a few times. Very hard, but very compelling. There seems to be a whole other world of playing with other players. While the play area might be a bit small and crowded - it would be interesting to see how those rules play out.
TLDR: Great small package, short playtime game with clever mechanics and well integrated pirate theme.
Lastly: I would consider buying this game for the better pieces and the box, but the Japenese pricing at $29 delivered is a bit steep. :)