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The players make traderoutes for the products of the land and try to connect cities by their traderoutes.
There are 5 different landsorts: agriculture (yellow) cattle-breeding (orange), vineyards (red), forest (green), and lakes (blue).
Before players can build traderoutes they must acquire knowledge about trading in the different sorts of products, traded at the different landsorts. To get that knowledge the players travel through Isi. EVery time you go to another landcard you take one of the blocks at that landcard. This block symbolizes the knowledge.
A player can use this knowledge (block) to build part of a traderoute (symbolized by a stick in your colour). That route-stick must go to a landcard with the same colour as the used block.
The goal for the players is to use their economical power to achieve the most political power. At the end, the city with the most traderoutes to other cities is the capital city. The player with the most traderoutes to the capital city wins.
Isi is a great two-player game designed by Corn van Moorsel from Netherlands. With no luck element, the game requires 100% strategy. I played Isi with different friends and we all enjoyed it very much. Every game we played was unique and we had many close games. The game time is also decent, about 30 minutes per game. Isi comes in a colorful tube and the game pieces are mostly made out of wood.
Don't miss this fantastic game!
Mix the territory dominance of Kahuna with the Settlers development theme, throw in a little originality and a lot of small wooden bits and you have Isi, a new two-player game that plays quickly and has enough variability to stay fresh after multiple plays. The game is simply produced and was offered at Essen in a lot of only 200 copies, but hopefully it will be picked up soon by a major publisher (Kosmos?) for broader distribution.
Isi is a planning exercise based on connecting cities in the land of Isi with common trade routes. The land is made of 33 square cards in six colors; eight black tiles for the cities, and five each of five other colors nominally representing various land types. The tiles are laid face down in a grid no larger than seven by six with the one restriction that each tile must be adjacent to at least two other tiles. After the orientation is clear, the tiles are flipped over to reveal the location of the lands and the cities, with the city location much more meaningful. Two wooden cubes matching the land color are placed on each land card, then play begins by exploring and ``paving'' Isi.
In order to build roads connecting cities to land and ultimately to each other, you must first gather information about the land. You do this by moving a pawn across the country, one space at a time, and collecting one of the two colored cubes when you enter. After your move, you can build roads in your unique color by paying a cube in the color of the land you want to build to, and branch from a city or from an existing road in your network. You can do this one road at a time, funding as you go with new cubes, or store the cubes and build multiple roads at once. Once you connect two cities, a neutral colored house is placed on each city signifying an established trade route. Later, if either player connects the cities in any other way, no new signifying house is placed. The game moves in this manner until the final cube of any one color is gathered, at which point the game ends and the winner is determined.
To determine the winner, first the capital city is noted. This is the city with the most connections to other cities, easily seen by adding the number of houses on the cities. Ties favor cities closer to the center. The player who has connected the most cities to this capital is declared the Ruler of Isi, and this too is easy to determine since one player's roads are built with white sticks and the other with black sticks. There are several key strategies to consider before getting to this point, however.
The layout of the cities determines the building strategy. Cities bunched together create a different problem, often more difficult, than those spaced nicely apart. You cannot build directly from city to city if they are located next to each other; you must build a `U' network on the adjacent land cards. One player begins by placing their pawn on any square, and the other player follows, making it very important to begin on a tile that supports your network ideas. By walking your route with your pawn, you will collect the cubes needed to build roads, but if you ignore your opponent in this process you will often be one step late. You can only build out of a city or on one of your existing roads, but even with this limitation it is often a feasible strategy to build in a manner to cut off your opponent. Once two land cards are connected, another road cannot be laid in the same spot.
The pace of the game is also variable since it ends when the 10th cube of one color is taken. It is important to look at the number of spaces your opponent needs to move, as rushing to end the game can work if you can ensure that you are leading in what would become the capital city. The combination of these effects makes for a game the moves quickly and often results in very close plays.
Isi is nicely produced for a small game, with good quality wooden counters, sticks for roads, and brightly colored land tiles. The rules are very clear, and a very helpful ``example of Isi'' page is included that nicely clarifies any ambiguity in the rulebook. The only bothersome piece of the setup is placing the tiles face down and then turning them up while keeping the integrity of the land's shape. It would be just as easy to shuffle the cards and lay them one at a time in a pre-determined order on an agreed upon land shape.
The fast play of the game makes multiple plays both easy and likely. Some may find the game a little dry, since by the middle of the game it is clear what strategy each player is taking, but often this is what makes for the close endings and puts emphasis on closing the game at a point in your favor. Isi is a nice addition to the two-player collection, and fits nicely with the likes of the Kosmos line. Isi is an original idea yet uses familiar enough ideas that it will be easy to teach to any gamer. Try to find one, or hope that a mass production is available soon.