Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sea of Clouds (IELLO Games)

You are the captain of a pirate ship, but this isn't a normal pirate ship. You are flying among the clouds. On your journey, you will need to recruit the fiercest crew, collect the most relics, drink the most rum, and have the most doubloons. Will you be the best captain at the end of the game or will some other sea dog claim that title? Let's find out in Sea of CloudsSea of Clouds is a game for 2-4 players, ages 10+. It takes about 40 minutes to play and retails for $30.

1. Place the Central Board in the middle of the game table, placing it on the correct side depending on the number of players. Place the Ship Token on the starting space.
2. Give each player a Captain Board and three Doubloons.
3. Shuffle all the Loot Cards and place them in a deck face-down next to the Central Board. Then, deal one card in each of the three spaces known as a Share of Loot.
4. The last Captain who drank rum is declared the first player. Give them the Parrot (used to break ties) and the Hat Token (used to keep track of who the first player is and make sure everyone has the same number of turns).
Game Play - On your turn you will pick up the first Share of Loot and decide one of two things:
1. Take the Share - Take all the Loot Cards and place them around your Captain Board. All cards are placed face up except for Rum and Secret Cards.
2. Leave the Share - Place the Loot Cards back on the space and put the top card from the Loot Card deck on top of it face-down. If there are already three cards on a specific space, add one Doubloon to it instead.

If you take a share, play goes to the next person clockwise. If you leave a share, go to the second share and repeat the two steps. If you leave that share, do the same for the third share. If you do not take any shares, draw the top Loot Card from the deck. Players will continue performing these actions until the end of a round with a two sword symbol on the Central Board. This is known as a Boarding Action. After each of these rounds, you determine strength of your crew by adding up value of Pirates and any Items cards. You then compare with the player to your left and right. Each winner (starting with the one with the Parrot) then applies the effect of each Pirate card.

The game ends after the final Boarding Action is resolved.Tally up your points from Relics, Items, Rum, Secret Cards, and Doubloons. The most points wins.
When I first introduced my wife to this game, she was a little hesitant about it due to it being about pirates. She figured it would have a lot of conflict (not entirely wrong) and that the theme would just not appeal to her. I reassured that these were sky pirates, like in one of her favorite movies Stardust. This was enough to get her to try it, but I had to watch Stardust again for the umpteenth time..a fair trade I suppose. The part that I thought she would hate the most would be the conflict with the pirates, but she was ruthless in games and has beaten me every game, but one, due to the fact that she went heavy on recruiting a strong pirate crew.

The game itself is very simple to learn and easy to teach. The core mechanics are press-your-luck and set collection. It also has a three round conflict resolution, similar to 7 Wonders. What I like best about the game is that not every card is going to help you immediately. Some of the relics will start out in the negatives, before they go positive, so you are taking a risk acquiring them, but the payoff will be huge if you succeed. I also like that the pirates go away after every boarding action. This prevents someone from getting a big lead in their battle strength and others from not being able to catch up in later rounds. The other aspect I liked was the artwork and the back of the cards. There are four different "suits" of cards with a variable value for each card. So when you are deciding whether or not to press your luck, you have an idea of what the cards could be, but you don't know the specifics.

I really enjoyed this game, as it is quick and fun. It's easy to set up and you can play it one or many times, and neither will take a long time. However, I found that the game experience varied depending on the number of players. Two players is a good game, but the conflict feels very direct with your opponent. Four players, you feel like you have some control over the person to your left and to your right, but there's that player right across from you that you will only affect in the most indirect way possible. Three players is where this game shines and the one I found most enjoyable. No matter your player count of 2-4, you will still find this game to be a fun experience.

This game was provided to me for free by IELLO Games in exchange for an honest review.