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Subject: Gaming Bits: Sea of Clouds Review rss

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Jonathan Nelson
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Sea of Clouds is a game by Théo Rivière, published by IELLO. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of air pirates. They'll be trying to collect the best treasures, the tastiest rum and the rarest relics. They'll also be hiring the most cut-throat crew members to be able to board their opponent's ships to plunder their loot. The player that can amass the most points by the end of their airship's travels, will be declared the winner.

To begin, the main board is placed in the center of the play area on it's appropriate side. One side of the board is for 2-3 players while the other is for 4. The ship token is then placed on the starting port space. Player's choose a character and take the Captain board depicting their character. The loot cards are all shuffled together to form the main deck. In a 2 player game a certain amount of each type of card is removed from the deck before shuffling. The deck is then placed in the center of the play area beside the board. The first 3 cards of the deck are then placed face down below the outlined spaces at the bottom of the board, 1 per space. Each player is then given 3 Doubloons. The remaining coins are placed near the board within reach of all players. The first player is chosen. They are given the Parrot and the Pirate Hat token. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round players will take a share of the loot beginning with the first player and continuing in turn order. On a player's turn they will take the card in the left most space below the 1 loot space. They will then secretly look at the card and perform 1 of 2 options. They may either take the share or leave the share. If they take the share, they will take the card and place it in it's appropriate space around their Captain board face up. Rum and Secret cards are placed face down. A new card is then drawn from the deck and placed face down in the emptied space. If the player decides to leave the share, they will place the card back face down in it's original space. A new card is drawn from the deck and placed on top of the card that was left. They will then look at the loot in the number 2 space. They can then choose to take it or leave it behind, drawing a card and placing it on top of the left behind card. They can then look at the loot in the number 3 space. Again they have the option of taking it or leaving it behind. Once more, drawing a card and adding it to the top of the left behind card. If the player chooses not to take the 3rd card, they must take the top card from the draw deck and place it around their Captain board in it's proper place. As the game progresses, more cards will most likely be left behind. It should be noted that each share of loot may only have a maximum of 3 cards. If a player leaves behind a share with 3 cards, then instead of adding a new card to the stack, a Doubloon from the bank is placed on the stack instead. If the share of loot has multiple cards, the player takes all or nothing. However they are allowed to play the cards in any order that they like. If the card has an immediate effect, it is discarded after resolving it's effect.

Once each player has taken a turn, as described above, the ship token is then advanced to the next port space on the board. A new round then begins. This continues again and again until the ship token is about to leave an island port with the Boarding symbol on it. In this case, a boarding action takes place. In a boarding action, players engage in combat against each opponent on either side of them. For every victory that they win, the effects on their pirate's cards are triggered. That is unless the card has a 1x marker on it. In this case, it's effect only triggers once. The winner is determined by adding up the strength of all the pirates that a player has around their Captain board, plus or minus any bonuses or penalties. As long as the player's strength is greater than one of their adjacent opponents, they win a battle. Pirate effects are then resolved by the player with the parrot token and continuing in turn order. Each player will then apply their pirate's effects in the order of their choosing for each victory that the player won. Some effects will allow a player to steal from an opponent. In this case, only the player that was beaten in combat may be stolen from. The same is true for the exchange effect, which allows a player to exchange as long as the player has an object or rum. Another effect is the gain effect. This allows a player to take Doubloons from the bank. Once the boarding action has been completed, all pirates are discarded and a new round begins.

The game continues until the ship token reaches the last island port on the board. Once the final round and boarding action is completed for this port, the game ends. Players add up their victory points from the value of their Doubloons, their rum, their relic collection, their secrets, and their object bonuses. The player with the most victory points is the winner.


COMPONENTS
This is a truly beautiful looking game. Every piece is extremely high quality. I'd expect nothing less from Iello. The Captain boards and central board are all thick pieces that are very durable. The artwork on the Captain boards is especially great. I love how the different islands on them fit with the look and feel of the captain. The Doubloons and parrot token are all thick cardboard and are a really good thickness. It's easy to distinguish between the different denominations of coins. The ship and hat token are wooden pieces painted a bright blue. They look great. Of course the cards are fabulous. The artwork on these is all really amazing looking. Each one has a wonderful looking design and the different types of cards are all very thematic looking. There's even a great scoring pad for adding up all the victory points. So much was put into the production of this game. Every piece is fully integrated into the theme. Even the parrot token has love for the components as it has a little heart on it. I can't say enough good things about the look of this game. I absolutely adore the Captain boards. Each one has a feel all it's own. Overall as far as components go, this game is a complete win.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is quite lovely as well. There are lots of great looking pictures as well as examples throughout the book. Each of the game elements from the different types of cards all the way to the parrot token are explained in great detail. There's a great looking setup page for getting everything ready to play. The game itself is explained in a simple way that everyone should be able to understand. Even the boarding action is explained through simple instructions and examples. The last page has a few card clarifications as well as a great reference guide for what each symbol stands for on the different components. Everything is laid out in a really informative way which looks really good. There's nothing difficult to understand. The book isn't all that big, most of the pages are covered with pictures so the actual text that must be read isn't all that long. As I've already stated, the book looks great just like the components. I really like look of it. It's really well done.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really great game. At it's heart, the game is card drafting with a touch of set collection. I really enjoy how this game takes a very simple mechanic like card drafting but then changes up how you acquire cards each round. Normally, you'd just pick a card from your hand and pass the remaining cards around, but with this game, you have choices with a little bit of push your luck as well. So you don't really like that rum worth 1 point, let's put that back and check the next stack. Oh this stack has a -1 sword and a pirate with a strength of 3. Hmmm...do I want those cards or should I go for the next stack that I see has a relic. I've already got a couple of Behemoth's teeth so if I get another one, that'll increase my points. However my opponent already has a strength of 2 with that pirate card. I really need something to go against that card or I'm gonna lose some gold in the next boarding action. It's these types of thoughts that will quickly filter through your mind as you play the game. I really like how the cards work in a set collection way, much like Sushi Go or other drafting games like that. However in this game, you have cards that give you negative points for having them. It's not until you start getting a few more that you start getting any actual points. I like that you can look at what your opponents already have so that you can strategically think about what they might want or need on their turn. With there being lots of different cards, the game is highly replayable. You're most likely not going to see a lot of the same cards each time you play. I will say that each player's area takes up quite a bit of space when you start adding cards around your captain's board. The main board area doesn't take up a lot of space, it's just the player's area. Just something to be aware of. Bigger tables are highly recommended. The game is really easy to play, even younger players will understand the idea and mechanics. My daughter really enjoys playing this one. She loves the beautiful cards and especially the parrot token. The game is fun for pretty much any player count, however it's a bit more fun with more players as you can fully explore the boarding actions better. Overall though, I love the game. It's one that fans of card drafting games like Sushi Go or Fairy Tale should really enjoy. This is a game that I highly recommend.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Sea of Clouds is a pirate style card drafting game with hints of set collection and push your luck. It's a fairly quick game that only takes about 30-45 minutes to play, depending on the number of players. The game itself is beautiful. I love the artwork on the various pieces, cards and player boards. The game is very high quality and the pieces are sturdy and gorgeous. The game is highly replayable and full of pirate type goodness. It adds a new twist to the card drafting mechanic giving the player a lot more choices than normal. It plays well with any number of players, however the boarding mechanism is better with at least 3 but best with 4. Fans of games like Sushi Go or Fairy Tale should really enjoy this one. It's easy to learn and play, even younger players can play it without much difficulty. I really enjoyed this game and look forward to flying the unfriendly skies with my air captain again. I highly recommend this game. No eye patch or peg leg is required to play.
9 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out IELLO Games at their site.

www.iellogames.com

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