Game Review: Quests and Cannons: The Risen Island

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Number of Players: 1-6

Time: 30+

Age: 8+

Game Type: Resouce Management and Battle

Gamer Type: Casual

Complexity: 5

Who does not want to be a pirate roaming the seas, looking for treasure, taking other people’s stuff? Ah, the pirate’s life is for me. Well, at least in the world of gaming. Many of us can remember Merchants and Marauders from Z-Mand games back in the day, an amazing game- but you had to have a Ph.D. in gaming to play it. Short Hop Games realized that piracy is an important skill for gamers and has created a gateway game that captures all of the fun of being a pirate on the high seas, but ditches the D&D 1st edition level rules that drove many gamers away from other pirate games. Quests and Cannons is a great game, you can pick up and play quickly and something you definitely want to check out on kickstarter.


In the great sea, a number of islands have arisen. Within these islands, you have the wealth to move your kingdom forward. By competing with other clans, you can develop your region into the most prosperous around. Simple, straightforward, and to the point. Quests and Cannons gives you a reason you are playing in the game: the lore that surrounds your actions and even enough clan-based activity to keep things interesting. The lore of the game leaves plenty of room for spin-off games and expansions that will allow for even deeper gameplay. 7 of 10.

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This is a map game with ships. I am going to start with the ships because that is the only ding I am giving them. The small wooden ships almost seem too plain for such an amazing game. They are small and wooden with the ability to place cardboard player markers in them. With the small bad (and I do mean minor) out of the way, the game’s artwork is amazing. The cards are high quality with great art. The player boards are some of the most well-designed boards that I have ever seen, and the map manages to capture the whimsy of the characters and the seriousness of a map strategy game.

The Box art (remember I am working from a prototype) is amazing on the front. I can only assume that the back of the box is going to have play pictures and an overview on the back. The size is a perfect medium-sized box (a little thicker than standard) which fits well vertically on the shelf. If you stack your boxes rather than set them on their side, it may throw off your towers, but not much. 8.5 of 10.


Quests and Cannons is a gateway game. Some of you GMT guys who love the ultra-complex mechanics of variable grid games will balk at the dice-based randomizers. However, the mechanics in this game are top tier for a gateway game. The methods and moves are simple enough that someone can pick them up almost instantly, with enough complexity that experienced gamers may still find themselves a move short to get across a difficult tile. Unlike “Hardcore” (read afraid-of-chance) Eurogamers, I love dice as a randomizer. The dice system in Quests and Cannons does not overly randomize the game but keeps it so that new players have a good chance against experienced players.

The tile layout mechanic is also very interesting. There is a “set” option for first-time players but the tri-hex board can be randomized. There are several types of tiles: neutral oceans; outposts, trading posts, and islands, which are good or dangerous or stormy seas, which are difficult. How you address these tiles (especially early on) can have monumental effects on you later in the game. There is also a battle mechanic with dice for cannons. A very unique element is that you “buy” dice from the game for ammo, which means in a heated exchange you could be all out of cannonballs. 6.5 of 10


Defense is not a big strategy in this game. With a wealth of different places for you to get each resource, it can be difficult to embargo the other players. However, Offense, Rush, and Engine Building have monster showings in this game giving it a 9 for strategy. With many gateway games, strategy is king. Quests and Cannons is no exception. What you are when you begin dictates part of what you do as you play, but how you play the game dictates where you are when the dust settles.

For an offensive game, you can sink other players and gain prestige. Simple and straightforward, you can chase other boats around the board while sinking and stealing. Engine Building is fun too. With random loot, you never know what you are going to be getting, but through clever quest/clue manipulation you can lead up to big scores and even bigger paydays. My favorite for this game is “rush”. Race around the board completing quests and fulfilling map clues to boost your score. All you have to do is avoid the cannons of your compatriots and you can race them to victory. 7.5 out of 10.


Finding a gateway hex game other than Catan is difficult at best. Almost all of them tend to be a copy of the legend. Quests and Cannons did not fall prey to this industry trend. While there are elements of this game that you will recognize from other games, the way in which they have been put together is unique and makes the game a lot of fun. Pirates have been done hundreds of times and hex maps are an industry standard, but Quests and Cannons put the elements together in a way that is very novel. My favorite part, albeit one I did not use much, is the cannon mechanic. This gives an unprecedented control over how the battle game is played out. 7 of 10.


Boom. We are blown away by this game. Coming out of the gate with a score of 36.5 out of 50, Quests and Cannons is the type of game that you want on your shelf beside Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Powergrid to play with your gateway friends. Quests and Cannons is definitely one of those games that I would drop a few coins on during Kickstarter to get some of the stretch goals. So grab some friends and pillage the high seas in this great game for the whole family.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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