Euro Games, £5-£17
Designed by M Inconnu
2-6 Players, about 30-60 minutes
Reviewed by Mike Oakes
This game of balloon flying owes more to Hols der Geier than Balloon Rennen or Parker's Recent game but it provides a great little filler beteween heavier games or for that end-of-evening slot.
Components consist of a narrow vertical board made up of 15 numbered sections, each depicting views from a balloon at different heights; 6 circular wooden pieces in different colours to represent the balloons; and 6 sets of playing cards in the same colours, which provide the means of movement. Each card set consists of 24 cards split thus : 15 Ballast cards, numbered 1- 15; 4 Hook cards; 2 Weather cards; 2 Sleeping Gas cards; 1 Supermotor card.
The balloon pieces are placed on section 5 of the board and the card decks are issued to each player and play is now ready to commence. The game is played in a series of rounds, each round ending when all 24 cards have been played. At the end of a round players score points equivalent to the height at which their balloon is travelling and the winner is the first one to score 50 points (or a total mutually agreed at the start). It follows therefore that 50 points will take about 4 rounds, which takes up to an hour. One exception to the point scoring described above occurs when, in exceptional circumstances or good judgement, one player reaches section 15 of the board during the round. At this point the round ends immediately with the player reaching 15 scoring an extra 5 points for being so skilful(or lucky!)
Each player shuffles their card deck and deals out 7 cards, from which they choose 1 to play. This is replenished after each play until all 24 cards have been played. It follows therefore that every player has the same card content but the choice available at any one time is limited to those 7(or less). The cards chosen are revealed simultaneously and movement is determined in a pre- defined sequence as described below. Players will use their judgement as to what they think other players will do and there are a few decisions to be made before choosing your card.
The sequence of resolution is Sleeping Gas; Weather; Ballast: SuperMotor and finally Hook cards. The Sleeping Gas card affects the cards played by players 1 space immediately below them by making them void for the current turn. This can have a knock-on affect as we shall see later.
The Weather cards are counted and if an uneven number have been played it indicates Bad Weather and balloons move down rather than up. If the number is even they cancel each other out and movement is unaffected. Any Weather cards affected by Sleeping Gas are not included in this count. The Ballast cards are checked and as in Hols der Geier only the highest one moves one square up; all lesser value cards are lost. There is a slight modification for playing ballast cards in combination see later.
The Supermotor card enables the player to move their balloon up 2 squares, unless they are affected by sleeping gas, in which case they only move up 1 square. The Hook card enables the player to attach their balloon to any balloon that is 1 space immediately above them at the start of their move. Using this technique for example a player can get a tow from another player's Supermotor and still have their own Supermotor in reserve. However it should be noticed that if the balloon you hook to goes down(because of Bad Weather) you will go down too! A chain reaction can occur if a string of balloons are hooked together and this can be quite impressive. Of course, if the leading player anticipates such a move and plays a Sleeping Gas card the effect is nullified and all other players have wasted their Hook cards.
If 2 or more players are in the same section they can negotiate to play a Ballast card of the same value and act as a combination, in which case the number of balloons is added to the value of the Ballast card to determine its "score". They show each other their Ballast cards and agree on a suitable mutual number.In this way a '10' can become '12' if 2 players agree. But beware, other players will hear of your intention and play say a '13'.....or alternatively one of the partners may renege on the agreement and play say a '1', causing the other player to 'waste' their '10' ! This gives ample scope for bluff.
There is an optional rule, known as the Red Baron option, which receives my vote of approval. Whenever the game is played by less than 6 players a spare deck is allocated to the Red Baron, who becomes an extra player. His cards are turned over at each play and resolved accordingly. The fact that this draw is random can upset the best-laid plans and leads to some hilarious results.... sometimes the Red Baron wins the round!
Hopefully you can see from the above that the game is one where you have a limited choice of options which must be made taking into account the positions of the balloons on the board and the 'likely' actions of the players controlling those balloons. The Bad weather cards can scupper your plans and the effect of Sleeping Gas can be annoying to say the least. It is not particularly taxing and , in my opinion, falls neatly into the fun filler category. Perhaps it is over-priced for what it offers and it would be worth shopping around for a lower price, providing of course that you can find it. Games Corner made be your best bet as I believe Eamon Bloomfield stocked up at Essen for less than a fiver so this should be a bargain buy at the moment.
On to the review of Acquire or back to the review of Quest for the Faysylwood.
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