Up, Up and Away in My Beautiful, My Beautiful… Review! ZEPPELDROME – A Fun Game for Kids and the Family

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Seattle-based game industry guys Jeff Wilcox and Anthony Gallela

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have launched a new game on Kickstarter: ZEPPELDROME!

Jeff and Anthony gave Steve Bean Games an advance copy to play test.

Here’s the scoop:

ZEPPELDROME is a light, fun game that should be loads of fun for children and a popular choice for family game night. In particular ZEPPELDROME seems like a fun way to teach children and youth the skill of planning ahead. It would help anyone who struggles to understand spatial relationships improve that as well.

For Hard-Core Gamers – Beer and Pretzels, Emphasis on Beer

While it might not have the tactical depth or re-playability to please the hard core hobby gamer, gamer geeks will enjoy a few rounds of ZEPPELDROME and could enjoy many more by turning it into a drinking game: hit an obstacle and you drink, go backwards and you drink, etc.

(You get the idea. Me? I’m going to go fix myself a Mai Tai…)

Worth the $29

So if you’re looking for a lighter-than-air game that’s easy to learn and “up, up and away fun” for the family then back the ZEPPELDROME Kickstarter.

If you need more information to make that decision (or just more time to down a few drinks and lower your inhibitions toward logging on to your Amazon account) continue reading and get a full review.

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Look and Feel

ZEPPELDROME’S concept is a zany, steampunk-ish airship race. The idea is immediately appealing and the artwork is bright, humorous and fun. The obstacles with cartoon lemmings flapping their arms wildly while they fall to their doom was my favorite until Jeff and Anthony released the artwork for the racing Zeppelins themselves.

How the Game is Played

The mechanics are simple enough that most players will master basic game play after about three turns.

It’s a race, so the object is to be the first player to have their Zeppelin cross the finish line. The race course runs alongside a giant castle airship from which fictional spectators watch the contest.

I have a pet peeve about the art on the game board that probably won’t bother anyone else: the giant castle airship is going the opposite direction from the race. It seems to me that the castle airship should be going in the same direction as the race so relative motion is helping spectators get to see more of the race instead of it rushing by the other way. (Like I said, I’m sure I’m the only person who cares about this. I’ll Keep Calm and Carry On.)

Zep Board and CompsBonus! Modular Board

One of the nice things about ZEPPELDROME is that the board is laid out using tiles and there are several different tiles for each of the four central sections of the race course. Using the different tiles in different configurations means that you get several different courses to play in the game. This helps with re-playability.

In the photo of a set-up board, the course challenges are, from left to right: Ballast, Headwinds, Chunk-Chunk Machine and Old Folks Looking for the Farmer’s Market. Each of these has a different effect on players’ ability to navigate and speed through the course.

Deck-Driven Play

Each turn players draw four cards from a deck. Every card has two sections: a flight plan diagram in the top 2/3 and a special action in the bottom 1/3. Players choose ONE of the four cards to use as their flight plan that turn.

Zep-Cards-300x225Zep Flight Plan

 

 

Players then take turns playing the special actions on the remaining three cards in their hands. These actions can add bonus movement spaces called “vector chits” to the players’ own flight plans, can give players special abilities (such as ignoring obstacles) and can screw with other players’ flight plans by adding unwanted vector chits or replacing or canceling the flight plan entirely. Some special actions are – to use Magic: The Gathering terminology – “Interrupts” that are used while players are moving their Zeppelins.

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Flying Your Airship

Once players are done playing action cards (the ones that aren’t interrupts) they move their Zeppelins. Players take turns moving one space in accordance with their flight plan, mirroring on the game board the moves dictated by their flight plan. If player can’t execute a move because of an obstacle s/he doesn’t get to

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move; when play comes around to them again in the turn they use the next move in their flight plan. The game comes with a useful little wooden cube color-matched to your Zeppelin to use to track your movement on your flight plan diagram. It takes a few turns to get the hang of tracking movement on the diagram.

And that’s it. That’s how the game is played. There are a few more intricacies like how to determine the order of play and what the specific effects are of different kinds of obstacles, but essentially, that’s it. Simple.

Tactical Depth

The game is fun. There is generic viagra cheap just enough tactical thinking to make it interesting, especially as you’re learning the game and getting familiar with the different cards and their frequency in the deck. Tactical decision-making focuses on deciding which of your four cards in a given turn you are going to use as your flight plan versus which ones you are going to use for their actions. Some actions require you to discard a card, adding an element of “light” resource management to the game. You also have to decide whether you are going to play action cards to boost your speed or to hinder other players. This introduces “opportunity cost” to tactical thinking – while negative cards slow the other players down, they don’t simultaneously boost your forward motion so you’re deciding between those two effects any time you play an action card. You may be holding back the current leader while the player behind you uses her or his card play to overtake you!

The Game is Best for…

ZEPPEDROME’S sweet spot may be four players. Based on two games I played with my fiance I would say that ZEPPELDROME is like a lot of board games: you CAN play it with 2 players but it’s NOT A GOOD 2-player game.

With four players there are always three people trying to hold back the player in the lead, thus making it possible for someone who didn’t get an early lead to win the game. By contrast, in our 2-player games as well as in the two 3-player games I played with my gaming buddy George and his 12 year old son, the player who got the lead early won every time.

However, serious gamers will quickly exhaust the challenge of ZEPPELDROME. We found that the four-card draw each turn meant that a player always seemed to have a combination of flight plan and actions that worked to avoid obstacles and so the obstacles never proved a major hindrance.

Some hacking might make ZEPPELDROME better for hardcore gamers. For example, house-ruling a three-card draw would limit players’ options for circumventing obstacles and create an advanced level of play. A three-card draw could also be used to impose a handicap on specific players, leveling the playing field in a game where some players have much better spatial and tactical thinking than others.

But while ZEPPELDROME may not be the best choice to replace Game of Thrones or Dominion at your weekly FLGS gathering, I think it likely has great “legs” as a children’s game and for family game nights. ZEPPELDROME requires that players visualize how their flight plan will translate to the board and this requirement makes it an excellent game-based method for improving children’s ability to plan ahead as well as increasing their understanding of spatial relationships. But the fact that ZEPPELDROME is a fun game means that most children will not get frustrated with the learning process. Instead they can choose a flight plan and see how it plays out, then use that performance data to inform their next choice of flight plan,thus improving their planning and command of spatial relationships incrementally.

Bottom line:

ZEPPELDROME’S simple rules, fast play and cartoony graphics seem perfect as a rainy day kids’ activity or for family board game night. The game is attractive and well worth the $29 cost.

So go back Jeff and Anthony’s Kickstarter!

CW_airships_color_final-1

Post (World Games) Post (Apocalypse) Script: GM-Less Post-Apocalyptic Gaming Arrives with George's Children

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