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The Island of Doctor Lucky review

Quick Look:

The hunter becomes the hunted in The Island of Doctor Lucky. In this tropical spin on Kill Doctor Lucky, you're still competing to kill the old man, but this time you picked a dangerous place to do it: Isla Fortuna, his mysterious tropical island. You can still attempt murder the old fashioned way, using a weapon when no one can see you, or you can take advantage of the new hazard cards to hit him from anywhere else on the map! While hazards aren't usually as strong as a murder attempt, they give you faster movement for the rest of the game. What's more, you can also throw hazards at players!
Dodge hazards like the fire pit, the hunting snare, and the hammerhead crabs as you navigate the perilous regions of Isla Fortuna. Find the old man alone, and kill him with whatever you can find: the shark tooth, the elephant gun, the bad dates, or (if you must) your bare hands. Every murder attempt makes you stronger, and if you play your cards right, you can kill Doctor Lucky!
description from the publisher

Designer: James Ernest
Artist: Israel Evans
Publisher: Cheapass Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-8
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 40 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

For years, I've wanted a variant of Kill Doctor Lucky where players can attack each other. It never made sense to me that there would be so many frustrated murderers in one place and none of them think to off the other guests. If you're too moralistic to kill people, you shouldn't be murdering. That's murder 101.

In the Island of Doctor Lucky, he's as slippery as ever. The smug little twit flits about sidestepping danger like Mr. Magoo while you and up to seven of your friends assail him with everything from fire ants to a bag of harpoons. 

This is a light strategy game for people who enjoy take-that, press-your-luck, and dark humor. It's rare that a game actually makes us laugh, but this one did pretty frequently. It's got great art, and the descriptions on the cards paint a vibrant picture.  

Rules and Setup:
Setup takes about a minute.

Place the board on the table. Choose characters and take their card and pawn. Shuffle all the cards together and deal a number to each player depending on the player count. Place remaining cards in a draw pile beside the board. Place Lucky on Sunset Beach, Ragu on the Observatory, and all the player pawns on Castelo Feliz. Determine who is the first player randomly, and you're ready to kill.

The rules are clear, short, and humorous without being annoying.

Theme and Mechanics:

Doctor Lucky literally doesn't know the meaning of the word danger. He owns a tropical island, has a pet panther named Ragu, and slights everyone he meets. He cheats at cards, ghosts his girlfriends, and ruins tea parties. He's more irksome than evil, but he's exceptionally irksome. If you met him, you'd definitely want to kill him.

Each character has a unique reason to want him dead. After chasing him around the island for a few rounds, you'll have one as well.

You will move around the board trying to get to places you can't be seen by other players (i.e., nobody is adjacent). If you're alone and unseen, you prepare and lie in wait. If you're alone with Lucky, you try to kill him. There are four spaces with airplanes that are all considered adjacent for movement, but not line-of-sight.

You can attack Lucky with your fists or with a weapon.

Weapons have a standard and enhanced attack. The advanced attack is much stronger but only applies in a specific location. Weapon values add to your base attack, which starts at 1 and increases by 1 every time you attack Lucky and fail. Track this by sliding a used card under your player card so that the sword is showing.

Instead of hit points, Doctor Lucky has Luck represented by clover symbols on cards. Many cards can be used to attack or defend him. You want to be the one to put him in the ground. Otherwise, you came all the way out to this island for nothing. So, when another player attacks, you will discard luck symbols from your hand to block it. Failure cards pack the most punch, but many weapons and Hazards have Luck as well.

In addition to attacking Doctor Lucky, you can use Hazard cards to strike at him or opponents from a distance. During Phase 1 of your turn, you can play a hazard to attack a character in a space with the matching terrain symbol. If played on an opponent, they have to either give you a card or discard cards. If played on Lucky, all other players must collectively discard cards with Luck symbols (clovers) equal to the Hazard, or it kills him. After playing a Hazard, flip it over and slide it under your player card so that the boot symbol is showing. Ths tracks increased movement.

Don't forget to track your bonuses. In the example below, Heywood has a movement of 5 and a base attack of 3.

Ragu, the panther, is as dangerous as he is adorable. You don't want to take your eyes off him. Characters in a space with Ragu can't see what's going on in other spaces. If you're about to attack Lucky, but another character can see you, Ragu is just the distraction you need. He only applies to the space he's in. You can kill Lucky if Ragu is in the space with you. He really doesn't care.

Game Play:

Each turn is divided into two phases.

Phase 1
Choose one of three options:

Move your character.
Move the cat.
Play a Hazard on a character (Lucky or another player) who is alone in a space with a terrain icon that matches the one on the Hazard.

Your movement is 1 adjacent space + the number of Hazard cards you've played this game. Because all spaces with airplanes are considered adjacent to each other, you can get anywhere on the board with a movement of 4.

The cat can move to any space. Anyone who knows cats knows they can teleport.

You can play a Hazard on Doctor Lucky or any other player. If you play it on Lucky, it works like a murder attempt. Other players can play cards with luck on them to foil your trap. If you play a Hazard on another player they suffer one of two penalties:

1. Pass you one card from their hand
2. Discard luck equal to the card's Hazard value.

Extra murder sauce: There is an optional rule that if the attacked player has no cards in their hand, they are eliminated. This makes the gameplay very different because players have to manage their hand more carefully.

Phase 2
If there is another character in an adjacent space during the second phase, you can't do anything. We can't be having any witnesses. Luckily for us murderers, the teleporting panther is very distracting.

If you're alone in a space and nobody can see you, draw a card.

If nobody can see you and you are in a space with Lucky, you can attempt to kill him. You can do this with a card or with your fists. Your base attack is 1 plus the number of times you've attacked him. The more frustrated you get, the harder you punch. Playing Weapons can add 1-5 points to your attack, depending on the location. They all have one space where they are more powerful, so it's best to plan ahead.

Your plans will probably go awry because of something silly. You'll be distracted by your rumpled clothing or attacked by giant roaches at an inopportune time. This is because, after a murder attempt is made, everyone has one chance to play cards with luck symbols on them to stop you. It starts with the player to the left of the attacker and goes around the table until everyone has had a chance to play cards. If they don't play luck symbols equal to the attack, Lucky dies, and the attacker wins. 

At the end of your turn, move Doctor Lucky to the next highest numbered space. He goes from 1 to 2 and so on. When he leaves 24, he goes back to 1. If he enters an empty space bearing the card icon (see "The Docks"), all players with less than 3 cards draw 1. If he moves into a space with another character, it becomes that player's turn. This is where a lot of the strategy lies. If you're careful, you can string several turns together and lead Lucky away to a secluded spot.

Your strategy may be to get a lot of cards for later in the game or ramp up your power and movement by taking frequent potshots. Either way, the goal is to make everybody else play all their cards so they can't stop you when you make your move. Knowing when to pass is crucial. Most cards have luck on them, so a player with three cards is more than likely going to be able to stop a low attack, but you can never be sure.

Artwork and Components:

The board is of good quality and has a linen texture. The cards are a little thin. You'll probably want to sleeve them if you play a lot. The wooden pawns are nice enough. The box and insert are simple but well-designed. The card compartment and board keep everything in place, so there's no need for baggies.

I really like the art and flavor text in this game. It's frequently simple, but always likable. Since each character has a backstory and unique motivation to see Lucky dead, variable player powers would have been a nice addition. Aside from that, they did a great job implementing the theme. It is odd that some of the locations are jokes like the "Cliffs of Social Anxiety" or "Tiger Woods" while others are simply "Light House." It's inconsistent in a weird way. It's like somebody was naming them but their shift ended, so somebody else filled out the rest.

The Good:
  • Turns play fast
  • Easy to teach
  • Moves along quickly
  • Funny
  • Cute art
  • Plays up to 8

The Bad:
  • The first half is a bit dull because anything you do is going to be thwarted. You're mostly waiting for everybody else to burn through their luck.
  • Cards are thin and may wear out quickly.
  • It's still pretty light. I'd like to see a few more additions to the rules like variable player powers, the ability to lure Lucky onto a plane, and maybe some spaces that have hazards printed on them, so you have a penalty for entering.

Final Thoughts:
Kill Doctor Lucky is a great gateway game that works best with kids, casual gamers, and parties. Island of Doctor Lucky is similar but improves on it in many ways. I like the multipurpose cards and that you can attack other players. The implementation of planes regulates movement and reduces the element of luck. It's still a little light for my taste, but the humor keeps it fun.

For Players Who Like:
Light, funny games. Dark theme. Take-that. Press your luck.

Check out The Island of Doctor Lucky on:


About the Author:

Stephen Gulik - Reviewer

Stephen Gulik is a trans-dimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.

See Stephen's reviews HERE.
The Island of Doctor Lucky review The Island of Doctor Lucky review Reviewed by S T Gulik on October 25, 2018 Rating: 5

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