Kites from Kevin Hamano and Floodgate Games is a quick-playing co-operative game that cleverly represents a physical activity — flying kites — in an abstract way. Color-coded sand timers represent kites, and as long as a sand timer still has sand in its upper half, that kite remains in the air. If the sand runs out, that kite has hit the ground, and you've lost the game.
Initially, all the kites start on the ground, lying on their sides. To start, stand the white (rainbow) sand timer. Players then take turns playing cards to flip the sand timers playing at whatever pace suits them and drawing a new card from the deck after playing. When a color is first played, that kite is launched into the air; if that color is already in play, you flip that sand timer; if you play a card with only a single color icon, you can flip that color or the white timer.
The sand timers range from 30-90 seconds, so not everything is flowing at the same pace, and you're flipping them unevenly as well, so you need to keep watch of everything, including your fellow players because sometimes they are plainly anxious about what to play. You can offer advice or mention what's in your hand, but breaking someone's focus won't necessarily be helpful.
Once the final card is drawn, no one can flip the white sand timer, so you must rush to play the remaining cards in hand before time runs out and that kite — or any other kite — comes crashing down.
I've played Kites thirteen times on a review copy from Floodgate Games, and the feel of gameplay is strongly reminiscent of The Mind, both being co-operative, real-time games in which you have to sync with other players, in which failure is a collective failing instead of one person being at fault, and in which you keep getting better the longer you play with the same people. They're both games I'd bring to social situations in which I'm meeting new people because you can start playing quickly, and they're highly interactive, with you feeling more and more like the team is gelling as you get closer to victory each play.
Unlike The Mind, Kites includes challenge cards that increase the game's difficulty should you succeed, with four copies of three types of challenges, thereby allowing you to sprinkle in just the right amount for your group.
One complication about the game that I forgot to mention in the video below is that you might need to find the right lighting or table surface to play. In some of my games, we couldn't quite tell whether a sand timer was empty or not — dim light, dark table — and I know it had sand just a second ago, I'm sure, but of course it did because that's how sand timers work, and maybe it was in fact empty, but we flipped it anyway and just kept going. In some ways, that ambiguity was more enjoyable than a clear victory because the two of us playing felt like we got away with something, but honestly, along the lines of cheating disaster because Death was facing the other direction at the time you did something foolish.
By chance, one of the players in a few games — Tom Franklin, who writes for Meeple Mountain — used to manage a kite store, and he mentioned that some of the lines on the kites were not accurate, so he got distracted when he was first playing the game because his eyes were focusing on errors instead of on colors. I was oblivious to such things, but it's interesting to think about how consultants could be useful in nearly every game production to ensure fidelity to details, both large and small.
In the video below, aside from demonstrating gameplay in more detail and going on more about the feel of the game, I discuss thoughts on the endgame that feel somewhat spoilery, despite the game having no legacy elements.
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