Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
The game War is a card game most of us have played before. Sadly, the game does not have much going for it in the strategy department and the game is frankly extremely boring. Its only redeeming quality is that it can be played almost anywhere because you don’t need a table for it. If only there was a game that would be location flexible and not put you into a lethargic state while playing it (oddball Aeronauts from maverick:muse games, that’s your cue). Today, we will be looking at a new Kickstarter project that puts two players in command of dueling airships in a unique steampunk universe. Is this battle card game worth your investment? Read on.
oddball Aeronauts is a light strategy card game for two players and plays in 15-20 minutes.
The game takes place over the Middle Seas Realm of the oddball universe. This Realm is a landlocked ocean of many seas riddled with islands, reefs, whirlpools and other features. Oh and its also swarming with pirates. The Empire of the Pendragon has had enough of the pirates and vows to put a stop to their aerial shenanigans. The pirate clans will not go down without a fight and that is where the game begins. Each player will receive a deck of cards for one of these factions. Players will choose on one of the three skills to attack with each round and the goal is to force your opponent to discard all their cards. The player who still has troops remaining at the end will rule the skies…at least until the next battle.
How to Play:
Each player will start with a deck of 24 cards filled with officers, crew, and support cards for the faction they are playing. Each card has the three skill types necessary to be on a ship: Sailing, Guns, and Boarding. Each card will also have a trick (special ability) that applies during the round if the player chooses it. Each player will shuffle two event cards into their deck. The event cards are threats from the environment around the battle, such as storms, creatures, demons and other things that can potentially affect a player’s deck of cards. Players will take three cards from their deck face up in their hand and the first round can begin.
The rounds have five easy steps:
Step 1: Events
If either player has an event card in their top three cards, you must resolve that card first. These require players to compare skills to see who will take the effect of the event. Players will look at the necessary skill level from the top card on their deck and the player with the lowest or highest (depending on the card) to see who is affected. Once it is used, the card is discarded and placed face down at the bottom of the deck.
Step 2: Announce Skill
Every round, players can use the top three cards of their deck in battle. They will decide on a skill, (sailing, guns, or boarding), they want to use for this round of battle and declare it, with the winner of the last round going first.
Step 3: Play Cards
Players will decide how many of their top three cards they will play this round. The top card of the deck is always played and players can choose to play either of the second and third cards to support the attack of the top card. Additional cards will add to the skill bonus of the top card and the skill total points for that round. When both players are ready, they reveal the number of cards they wish to play.
Step 4: Winner of the Round
Players will total up the skill level of the top card, the skill bonus from any other played card, and any bonus from a trick or event. They then compare their results. The player with the highest total wins the round. Each card that is played is discarded and placed face down at the bottom of the player’s deck.
Step 5: Win Result
Depending on which skill the winning player chooses will yield a different result. Winning with a Sailing skill will allow you to flip over the first two face down cards in your deck. Guns will force the loser to discard two cards and Boarding allows you to recover a card and your opponent to lose one.
Rounds will continue until a player has no active (face up) cards remaining in their hand at the end of Step 5. A player with no face up cards loses the game because they have run out of crew, but if both players are out of active cards the game is a draw.
When I looked through the rulebook after getting the game, I was thinking this game would not be intellectually stimulating. I thought the game centered on a simple decision of what skill to pick and the game would not have any depth or strategy. So I ended up being wrong; I am strong enough to admit that. You constantly have to think a few moves ahead to keep the pressure on your opponent. Every round you have to look at the three top cards in your deck and try to optimize your attack. I like how the game deals with some of the randomness of card games by allowing you to select either the second or the third card to play with your top card in a round. This allows for another layer of strategy as you play. Not only do you have to think about managing your deck, but also what skill your opponent is choosing for that round. The win conditions play a huge part in this game. At points I will choose a specific skill just because I need to get some playable cards back into my deck or want my opponent to discard a few cards. This adds another layer to the strategy development a player must do each round. Luckily, all this strategy and contemplation take very little time in game.
The game is not super complicated once you get the rules down. Admittedly, it took a few practice rounds to make sure I understood all the steps. There is some terminology you have to learn, but once you feel confident the game play takes very little time. My wife and I had a ton of fun playing this game. We found that the claim was true that you can play the game almost anywhere. Table, bed, car or anywhere you have two hands free you can play this game. This is only possible because you are able to hold your entire deck in your hand with no other components. It’s a brilliant design choice. I love the mechanic of taking cards that were discarded and placing them face down on the deck. This process eliminated any need to place used cards down on the table
I did have one complaint while playing the preview copy of the game, there was no customization. My wife had no interest in doing this, but I found myself wanted to build deck that would allow me to feel that the deck was my own. I was floored when I saw that the delivered version of this game would come with extra cards that you can build a deck of your own pirates or empire army. For me, this will add tons of replay value to see how my custom deck works out in battle.
oddball Aeronauts has a lot of things going for it. It has very simple rules that once you get the terminology down will become second nature. The game also has surprisingly difficult strategic decisions for you to make throughout the game. Not only with managing your own deck and predicting what your opponent is doing. oddball Aeronauts is a great, light strategic card battle game that can be played almost anywhere. If you are looking for a new card game to play with another person, consider giving oddball Aeronauts your support.
If you are interested in the game, it’s currently funding on Kickstarter and scheduled for delivery in August 2014. A pledge of $25 will get you a copy of the game and any stretch goals. You have until Monday, March 3rd to become a backer so head over today if you are interested.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.