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Subject: Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Kings of Air and Steam With Two rss

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Milena Guberinic
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Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Kings of Air and Steam With Two




The Overview


Kings of Air and Steam is a movement-programming, pick-up-and deliver game in which you aim to deliver the most valuable goods to the cities that want them while upgrading your air ship and railway network to facilitate that task.

At the start of the game, you will receive a role card, a player board, and matching set of movement cards, as well as an air ship and depot tokens. You will also get $12.




Movement cards


When playing with two players, the game board is comprised of 3 boards and 3 bumpers. Each factory on the board is populated with one good of its type and players get to build a depot between two cities and place their airships on the same space at the start of the game.



The market board shows the values of goods and their availability in future rounds. Each round, you will first draw 3 new market tiles, place them in bins on the market board, and increase the price of the good types associated with those tiles.



Next, you will secretly plan your ship's movement by selecting 4 cards from your movement card deck, placing them in the slots on your player board.



After this, all players will simultaneously reveal their first movement cards. Some cards have diamonds on them. You must have upgraded your airship to have at least as much diamond capacity as the number of diamonds shown in your movement card or forfeit your action. Turn order is determined by the letters on the cards and proceeds in alphabetical order. The first player must first move her ship the exact number of spaces shown on her card, may pick up or drop off goods to her depot or pick them up from a factory, and may then execute an action. Actions include:

*Building a depot - Pay $4 to build a depot on a link that doesn't have any opponent depots on it or $7 otherwise

*Upgrading your airship - Pay the cost shown to upgrade your airship to the next level in order to increase your ability to play movement cards showing diamonds and increase your airship's capacity.



*Upgrading your train - Pay the cost shown to upgrade your train and increase the distance over which you can ship goods.



*Shipping goods - Choose one good type located on one of your depots and ship it to a city that takes that type of good to gain cash equivalent to the current market value of the good type.


Luxury city!


*Adjusting your route - Move your airship one space.

*Soliciting funds - Take $3.

After everyone has performed all actions, you must pay $1 for each good remaining in your depots and airship and take all your movement cards back into your hand.

After upkeep requirements have been paid, factories will produce goods. Each factory will produce 1 good PLUS 1 good for each market tile on the market board showing that type of good. Then, the current market tiles will be wiped and a new round will begin.


Factory with good


After 5 rounds, your VP total will be the sum of your cash on hand, 10 x each depot built, 15 for a fully upgraded airship, and 5/15/30 for a train of level 4/5/6.



The Review


Played prior to review 6x






1. SOO (I've had to cut down the OOOOO in SOO to two because it was blasting people's screens ) PRETTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The PRETTIEST!
Josh Cappel's artwork never fails to impress. Ditto for TMG's production. The production and illustration of Kings of Air and Steam come together to create a unique world that I just want to visit over and over again!

2. Logistics, planning, and competition between players generate many interesting decision points
If you love a good long-term planning and logistics challenge, Kings of Air and Steam just might strike your fancy! My favorite part of the game is planning my ship's movement each round to ensure I can get it to visit as many factories as possible while collecting as many goods as possible and dumping them at depots with easy access to cities that consume those goods. This process sounds relatively simple, but its complicated by the fact that:

a) You are limited to a single action per turn and actions are necessary to upgrade your train, build depots, collect money, and upgrade your shipping. All of these things make you more efficient and better able to both collect goods and deliver them without having to pay your opponent for use of depots that aren't your own.

b) While you are planning your ship's movement, you also have to plan the sequence of actions you will take during the course of the round in order to ensure that you have enough money for future actions or upkeep, that your airship has been upgraded sufficiently to allow you to play all the movement cards you have planned, and that you are actually in control of a sufficiently developed network to allow you to ship. You need depots for shipping, you need money for depots, upkeep, and upgrades, you need upgrades for movement cards and shipping...There's a messy chain of things to consider when determining the order of actions and that order inevitably interacts with your airship's movement.

c) You have to pay attention to your opponent's airship and its possible trajectory. When planning your own airship's movement, you cannot think only of yourself; you also have to consider your opponent, who may be able to beat you to a sweet pile of goods sitting on top of a factory or to a delivery. Movement cards have numbers, which indicate how far your airship will move, and letters, which indicate your turn order. Generally, more movement power = more of the alphabet will get to move before you do. However, this is complicated by the fact that some cards have diamond costs (i.e. demand that your airship has been upgraded to support as many diamonds as you have revealed in your tableau) and can be played earlier in turn order than they would be otherwise. If you are desperate to race your opponent to a particular good, you can use these cards to your advantage. But you always have to keep a close eye on your opponent to determine whether and when this will be necessary.

Kings of Air and Steam is not a mind-blowingly complex or heavy game, but it gives you plenty of chewy bits to satisfy a craving for a good medium-weight logistics challenge.

3. Tense cash-flow management, especially early in the game
One of the main sources of tension in Kings of Air and Steam is cash flow. You need cash to perform virtually any action other than request funds and re-position your ship, but the only way to get a relatively good amount of cash is to ship goods. However, shipping goods isn't always the simplest thing to do because it also demands that you spend some money on depots and potentially train upgrades; so you are faced with a bit of a catch 22 here. Trying to maximize the number of the same type of good at a single trading post in order to make the most of your shipping action is a fun challenge and one that demands weighing efficiency against points and cashflow.

4. Scaled effectively for two
Games with maps can be tricky to translate across all possible player counts, so I was somewhat leery of Kings of Air and Steam. A game that plays 2 to 7 players and features a map can't work well with 2. Right? Wrong! It works very well. In any given session, the map is generated from a randomly oriented collection of individual tiles, the number of which depends on player count. This means that even with only 2 players in the game, the board remains tight and results in a lot of competition over key links. Links that are close to matching factory-city pairs are particularly contentious. Also, the number of links is only sufficient to place about half of your depots at a reduced cost. If you dilly dally early in the game and fail to lock down links you need to get your goods shipped, you will easily end up having to pay the higher cost for each of your depots, meaning that they won't net you as many points as they would otherwise. And if you want to place ALL of your depots, you will definitely have to take the monetary hit from your opponent's depots, even when playing with only one other person.

5. Predictable market for maximum strategy
I know that the Kings of Air and Steam market will make some people squirm, but I love the fact that it is relatively predictable.

There are 3 market tiles of each type and the market value of each good rises up to a maximum of 3 times when its market tile is drawn. There are enough tiles to take each good's value to the maximum and each good will be worth exactly the same amount in the final round of the game. This means that you can strategically hold onto goods that are set to increase in value in the next round or jettison them after a round in order to avoid incurring undue costs for upkeep.

6. SO MUCH variety for super high replay value!
Kings of Air and Steam is super variable! You have 14 different player powers to choose from and 7 unique movement cards associated with each set of powers. The variable player powers and unique movement cards have a great impact on the way you play the game, either focusing your strategy or giving you some flexibility you wouldn't otherwise have. The player powers can have huge effects on your strategy. One power allows you to create new links between cities, allowing you to delay your depot building, another allows you to use your opponent's depots for goods transport without paying them, allowing you to focus your sights on upgrading your train and ship, another gives you control over cities' demand for goods. Combine these ongoing powers with unique movement cards and you have a recipe for significant game-to-game differences. Some unique movement cards allow you to zip easily around the map, while others exchange movement ability for additional actions or effects. Obviously, if you are good at moving around, you'll be able to scatter your depots more widely across the map than you would otherwise. If you have some special action such as being able to move small distances twice and unload additional goods, you will want to plop down your depots at shorter intervals. Whatever the case may be, even the seemingly minor unique movement cards can drastically affect how you build your depot network and when and how far you need to upgrade your train and airship.

The layout of the map and value of various goods changes in each game as well, which necessitates working with a different availability of cash and different levels of need to outrace your opponents to specific goods.

The game also comes with a few variants. One allows you to play a more symmetrical game in which all players have identical ships and no unique movement cards. Another creates randomness in the market by introducing one extra tile of each good type, meaning that certain goods may be more valuable than others even at the end of the game. Whether you want more symmetry or more randomness, Kings of Air and Steam can accommodate your desires.

7. Strategy game that accommodates 7 players!
Although I don't typically play games with more than two players and this point does not apply to me, it may be of interest to some to note that Kings of Air and Steam can be played with 7 players. There aren't too many strategic, non-party games that can be played with this many people!


Roles


soblue


soblue 1. The airships are a bit too large, but I don't care because they are so awesome!
If you are easily bothered by components that detract a tiny bit from gameplay, you may find yourself bothered by the size of the airships. They are HUGE! The HUMMERS of board game pieces, they just plow right through every little depot that gets in their way. They aren't good at sharing spaces with depots and can result in displacement of the wooden pieces on the board if you aren't careful. I like gigantic things and I like the airships in Kings of Air and Steam, but they won't please everyone equally.

soblue 2. Some powers seem to be better than others
After playing this game a mere 6 times (i.e. with a total of 6 of the 14 different characters), I can't really speak about balance with too much confidence, but there are some characters that I actively avoided when it came to picking which side of my tiles I wanted because they seemed to be strictly inferior to others. For example, one character allows you to merely select which goods a filled up city will want to take on next rather than drawing blindly. This isn't very useful as it often happens that no cities get completely filled over the course of a game. Meanwhile, another allows you to take 5 extra actions over the course of the game! You only get 24 actions in the game, so an extra 5 is significant. Perhaps the utility of the various characters is balanced by their unique movement cards and turn order, but the individual powers seem (SEEM!) to be less than equally useful. That said, this has not detracted from my enjoyment of the game. The fact that I always have a choice between two characters regardless of which tile I draw is enough.


More roles


Final Word


I must confess that what initially attracted me to Kings of Air and Steam were the giant plastic airships. Like any TMG production, these little touches make the scream, "PLAY ME!!!!!!!!" It just kept screaming at me so loudly that I couldn't ignore it any longer. I had to try it! And it has turned out to be a success both for me and for Peter. This is important to me because it doesn't often happen that Peter and I love a game perfectly equally.

Kings of Air and Steam is our ideal type of game; it is is strategic, relatively non-aggressive (unless you are playing the stealing factions, which you shouldn't if you don't enjoy random meanness), demands spatial planning and efficiency, takes under an hour to play, is medium in weight, and looks absolutely stunning! It might not appeal to those who find pick-up-and deliver games to be tedious, dull, and boring, but both Peter and I love it! So it gets LOTS OF LOVE!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE






***


Mina's Love Meter


Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)



To see my other reviews, visit this geeklist.




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Scott Almes
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Thanks for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. I'm really proud of this design
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Mr Avers
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scottbalmes wrote:
I'm really proud of this design

And it still is one of our favorite games (so happy we could get it signed last year at Spiel ). Hopefully the expansion will eventually materialize, as the game deserves more attention than it gets at the moment.

Talking about the expansion, I can really recommend everyone with the game to have a look at updated rules posted on the (failed) expansion kickstarter. It does solve some of the issues with balance, like ISAAC and Aurelia now only getting three tokens instead of five, and more.

And while you are there, I can also recommend to proxy the Contracts module. A great and simple to implement addition to the game.

See this link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/michaelmindes/kings-of-...
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Scott Almes
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I have hopes for the expansion as well. Right now, the game is between publishers, but I would love to see a rerelease of the base game and a release of the expansion. Fingers crossed! Thoughtful reviews like this help a lot!
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Gavin Kenny
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I'll join that as one who loves the game and would love to see the expansion. If there is a new edition can I ask that the airship pieces be made a little smaller next time.
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Kyle
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Very nice review!

I don't get to play this one very often, but it's always been one of my favorites for most of the same reasons you listed. Hopefully someday the expansion makes its way into publication.



When you're playing with two people, if you want a really tight board you can actually make it work by using only D+E or D+F instead of the standard A+B+C. That setup gives you just a single factory and a single city for each resource, which makes it impossible for the players to ignore each other.
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Jason Preder
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scottbalmes wrote:
I have hopes for the expansion as well. Right now, the game is between publishers, but I would love to see a rerelease of the base game and a release of the expansion. Fingers crossed! Thoughtful reviews like this help a lot!


TMG failing the Kickstarter for this game's expansion is just downright wrong and they have been downhill for everything since, with the only exception being imports like Orleans or Yokohama.

Thanks god this is between publishers, because Mina hits all the things right on the head. This is an AMAZING game that plays well all the way to 7. I've played many times at 7, and there still is little to no downtime on this game with so many interesting decisions.

Any word on who the new publisher is Scott? Probably can't say, but hopefully it will materialize soon, and we'll see some movement on the expansion(s).
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Martti R
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Great review. I really hope the expansion will make it out there and a reprint of the base game aswell, because this game is really one hidden gem. Hope it will be more widely available. I don't know anyone who has NOT liked it when I have introduced it to them!
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