With this rubric we intend to share our opinion about the game Quests & Cannons: The Risen Islands, which is going to Kickstarter soon. We were in direct contact with the publisher Short Hop Games, who sent us a review copy so we could try it out and give our opinion.
Quests & Cannons: The Risen Islands
Official Image - Quests & Cannons box cover
Designers: Eric Geller, Shannon Geller
Artist: Lily Yao Lu, Tony "MrKrane" Carter, Régis Torres, Sita Duncan, Lilia Sitailo
Publisher: Short Hop Games
Time: 20-120 m (approximately ~20 m / player)
Language dependency: Yes
Official page: https://shorthopgames.com/questandcannons/questscannons/
The story behind the scenes
In Quests & Cannons: The Risen Islands, each player is a captain on a ship establishing a new way of living in the Risen Islands. There was a sequence of mysterious events which decimated their sources of living... But could the Risen Islands be the salvation of all three distinct kingdoms? That is what you are going to find out, as a champion, by ignoring your old alliances and making use of your cannons in a way of survival.
Official Image - Quests & Cannons on the table
Talking about the components
We received a review copy, being about that version that we will make an evaluation. We do not know yet which levels and specific contents that are going to be available during the Kickstarter campaign, but part of the components we experienced are a prototype and handmade version of the final ones.
There are two distinct types of boards: the player ships and the player champions from three different kingdoms. We can point out that both of them are made with a very thick cardboard, and if the final pieces are as thick as the prototype version that is going to be very satisfying.
Dwunny champions | Porc champions | Delf champions
In addition, there is another feature on the player ship dashboards that we cannot pass without mention: they are dual-layer! We cannot deny how much we enjoy to have dual-layer boards when you have specific components to fit every indented space. That is definitely an invaluable feature on every board.
Empty player ship | Filling the ship dashboard
The main board of Quests & Cannons is modular, and composed by tri-hex tiles and a few single-hex tiles, that can give a very different path for the champions to navigate on their ships from game to game. That is a great aspect for replay ability considering that it is not the same fixed map every time.
Tri-hex tiles | Single-hex tiles
However, even though the map is modular, you have a set of frame sections that give you an indication for the limits being applied to the map. Those limits allow that all champions start the game at the same distance of the center of the map and also feature the scoring tracks and outposts that you are going to need during the game.
Starting kingdom tiles | Outpost tiles
Another interesting feature you can consider about the board frame sections, is that they can serve as reference spots to place the different decks of cards in the game, also allowing that they are all on the center of the table and within reach of all players.
Frame sections with decks of cards
There are three distinct decks of cards you can encounter during a play of Quests & Cannons: the Quest cards, the Map Clue cards, and the Loot cards. We are completely amazed by the production quality of the cards on this prototype version.
Quest cards | Map Clue cards | Loot cards
All the decks have the same quality and we find the cards to be very smooth to the touch. They have some type of coating that allows the cards to shuffle perfectly together with each other, and also allow the cards to slide through any type of table surface or gaming table topper you may have.
There are many different types of tokens in this game, being divided mainly in wooden and cardboard tokens. The wooden tokens are used as a representation of each player ship on the board which can have attached the specific cardboard character standee, so that every player can recognize all the ships on the board.
Wooden player ships with cardboard character standees
Similarly to the decks of cards, the cardboard tokens, of every available type, have the same type of coating that allows for each token surface to be very smooth and satisfying to the touch. As for the thickness of the cardboard tokens, in our opinion, they are in the exact size they should be, being very easy to pick up and also strong enough for the pieces to be durable.
Round tokens and coins | Square tokens | Rectangular tokens
There are two different type of dice you can expect in the game: the ammunition dice and the Traveler's dice. Both of types are D6 dice, being the ammunition dice a bit smaller that the Traveler's dice. This small difference of size may seem like a small detail but it makes all the difference while playing.
Ammunition dice | Traveler's dice | Both dice for scale
Usually you are going to have the opportunity of rolling multiple ammunition dice at the same time. Being smaller makes it comfortable for you to hold them together in the hand and very easy to roll them at the same time. As for the Traveler's dice, you are only rolling one whenever necessary, so there is no need for it to be smaller.
In our opinion, the board game box is an element that deserves so much attention as the other game components. After all, the box needs to be able to hold the components in a smart way and also be strong enough for it to be durable and capable of supporting other game boxes while sitting on the shelf.
Front cover | Interior and components | Back cover
We consider this prototype version of the game box sufficiently strong to be durable and the size of it to be the necessary to hold all the existing components. We believe the original box size can be enough to accommodate a potential expansion for the game, but we cannot guarantee it as we do not know yet the final aspect and form of all the game components.
Breaking the rules
The rulebook is still under development, and overall we think the rules are clear to understand, maybe with some minor exceptions for less experienced players. However, considering that this version of the rulebook is not final, we believe that there is still time for improvement. One thing we like on the structure of the book is the presence of a glossary to clarify the most frequent used terms.
Quests & Cannons can be played in a competitive or cooperative mode and also from 1 to 6 players. The way you prepare the main board and player area can differ considering the player count and the playing mode, so take the example below as a reference for a competitive 2-player game.
Setup for a competitive 2-player game
Throughout the game, each player will be representing a champion from one of the three different kingdoms in the game, trying to take advantage of the Risen Islands to improve their quality of life, after some mysterious events have decimated their sources of living. For that to happen, the players are going to be sailing through the ocean and facing some challenging adventures.
On each round, the players have three points of action that they can spend over three main actions: moving their ship, gathering resources and attacking the opponents. In addition to those actions, the players have some extra things they can do based on the action they are performing our by selecting some of the free actions.
Player aid cards with important information
Moving a ship
On your turn, you can convert as many points of action (from those available) as you want to move your ship through the map. For each additional sail you exhaust, you can move the ship one additional space. Not all the spaces take the same amount of points of movement, so you need to be careful with the direction your ship takes.
Danger zone with multiple treacherous seas
Every time you land on one of the Risen Islands you are going to draw a Quest card to your hand, which can be valuable for you to gain prosperity points - and that is what you need to be able to win Quests & Cannons. In addition, if you are the first player to reach that island you receive gold and reveal the type of resource that can be gathered on that island.
Player view to all the islands explored
Whenever you land on an island with available resources, besides getting a new Quest card to your hand you can spend action points to gather as many resource tokens of the available type as you can fit into the active cargo slots on your ship dashboard. You can exchange your existing resources for new ones.
Resources in the ship dashboard
Usually the Quest cards require that you deliver some combination of resources on a specific location. As such, one of the uses you can give to the resources on your ship is for completing any Quests at hand. After completing a Quest, discard any required resources and gain the indicated benefits.
Completing quest cards
Solving map clues
Similarly to the Quest cards, the Map Clue cards can grant you additional benefits and prosperity points. However, Map Clues tend to direct you to a specific island and usually to perform some specific action. After solving a Map Clue you have the option to gain prosperity or a Loot Card - that can translate to powerful effects or equipment to your ship. Either way, you keep the solved Map Clue card next to you, as you do with your completed Quest cards.
Solved map clue card nearby the player
Attacking an enemy
On your turn, you can spend action points to roll ammunition die to attack an opponent ship that is on the same board space as your ship. For every four pips you roll you are going to assign one damage to your opponent ship. After damaging all the health points indicated on a champion tile, the corresponding ship sinks and their owner return home without a great part of their goods, gold, equipment and ammunition.
Players in position to engage in an attack
Outposts and Ports
Throughout the game, you often are going to feel the need to use the benefits of the outposts and ports, considering they allow you actions as maintaining or upgrading your ship, trading resources and goods, or depositing your solved Map Clues.
As actions of Maintenance you can consider buying more ammunition, repairing some damage on your ship or even selling resources, Loot cards or Map Clue cards to receive gold. As actions of Upgrade you can consider buying new sails or new cannons, as well as buying more free cargo slots on your ship, never exceeding the values indicated in your champion tile. As actions of Trading you can consider direct exchanges of resource types, buying new Loot cards as artifacts or new Map Clue cards as information.
A game of Quests & Cannons ends as soon as a player reaches the required number of prosperity points according to the player count and playing mode in question. In case of a tie, the winner is the player or team with the most gold, so be sure to be aware of the other players prosperity advancement during the game, as well as the gold on their ship dashboard.
Before diving into our final considerations about Quests & Cannons we would like to point out that, as far as the rules are concerned, we totally recommend a lecture of the official rulebook, as any rules may be changed or adapted until the final version of the game is published.
This was our general overview of the main rules in order for you to get a general feel of the game and also to understand the aspects mentioned on our review of the game - but there is more to discover about it.
In general, we can state that this game was an amazing surprise to both of us, getting our attention from the very first moment. Quests & Cannons: The Risen Islands offers a wide variety of playing modes and also a very embracing player range, going from solo mode all the way to a six-player experience.
In our opinion, and also from the two-player point of view, we believe that this game can suit very different player tastes, considering that you can play it as a head to head game where you are constantly engaging in battle and directly cross your playing path with the path of your opponent, or you can also select a more cooperative mode were you make a partnership to achieve some game goals before the game plays against you.
The competitive and cooperative modes are not exclusive for two players, so you can still chose the style to your preference at other player counts. We have not played the solo mode included in the prototype, but from the rulebook and our experience of gameplay it also seems to be a very challenging experience.
We absolutely love the island exploration with the goal of completing quests around the map. Also, we felt that the treasure hunting and quest completion benefits were quite balanced amongst the ones available. That is also true for the different player abilities present on the multiple champion boards.
As far as complexity is concerned, we consider Quests & Cannons a light game, simple to learn and to teach and also simple to play. However, it also has some depth to the choices you make along the way and the strategy you decide to follow, almost reaching the medium level in some aspects. With a bit of luck involved in the dice, sometimes you get unexpected moments that shift you to another way of thinking.
Thank you Short Hop Games for sending this prototype copy our way so we could play it and review it before the Kickstarter campaign. We are very grateful and truly appreciate your trust in us as content creators and reviewers, but most of all as passionate board game players.
We are having so much fun with the prototype copy of Quests & Cannons, and our ship is already prepared to set sail across all the awaiting adventures to come from this saga. We can reveal that this is the first game to a three part game series, and we are more than ready to experience the remaining adventures. We are also ready to know more about the first expansion coming to Quests & Cannons: The Risen Islands.