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Subject: Randomness Overload rss

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Benny Sperling
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Arlington
Texas
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Sky Traders has been a game on my radar for several months. I was able to buy a copy and quite liked parts of the game. In ST, players will construct the “board” a series of tiles that connect brown arrow to red arrow at points with a Volcano as the starting tile. Strategically, it’s a good idea to keep the Hyperzephyrs far away from each other, which makes them useful. Since the tiles of the board are distributed to players randomly, the games are likely to be different each time. Players choose where to place their tiles, which is also interesting for game play. Randomness begins after that. Players are randomly assigned a starting city, randomly place a Sky Man (a worker who adds +1 to combat rolls) in a hold number 4, 5, or 6 of their airship.

After the set up is done, the game takes off! Albeit slowly at first. ST is reminiscent of Merchants and Marauders in length and play. But while M&M has multiple ways of winning, ST is only concerned with conversion of money into influence. Players can do a couple of options on their turns, such as taking a port action; er I mean Trading, or collecting more fuel or minerals. Players also have the opportunity to take sludge away from the cities and get paid to do so. However, the collection of sludge, movement out of the city and dumping of sludge don’t follow that order. When taking on sludge, there is a better than average chance the player will be affected by an Ill Wind card, or random event card, at the beginning of their turn. Many of the players at our table felt this negative effect and had their ships full of holes after a few rounds.

Speaking of holes, this game is full of them. The movement doesn’t make a lot of sense. Spend 1 fuel for 1 movement unless you move more than 3 spaces. If you move 4 space you spend and extra 2. If 5 spaces spend another 5 fuel. You only have 10 fuel. At least its not a roll and move… Players can combat each other as well. Roll a die and add a crew member’s bonus. This can get very boring for those not involved, just like M&M. Luckily, the game recommends a 2 minute timer, not included, for players to take their total actions. This keeps the game moving, but its still a long haul considering players spend 5 GP (money, basically) to increase their influence 1 space. In higher spaces this jumps to 10 and then 15.

The part of ST that really grabbed me though was the market. Players roll 3d6 and can exchange their dice with other players. Once the negotiations are finished, the dice are placed one by one on the market with a negative or positive push depending on the majority. This reminded me of Feld and really was the only part of the game I enjoyed.

On to the bad stuff: Did I mention random? When players take a hit to their ship, they place a randomly drawn damage tile on a random space in their ship. Damage can be repaired for 5, 15 or 25 depending on severity. Players dumping sludge in the volcano get a bonus for doing so, their # of sludge barrels + a d6 roll. I dumped 10 sludge for 10 GP; the guy to my right did the same amount for 60 GP. Makes a lot of sense right? The game struggles from runaway leader syndrome as well. If you were one of the lucky few to avoid a negative Ill Winds card you’re good to go. I was 20 or so influence ahead at one point, because my opponents kept having bad stuff happen to their ships through no fault of their own.

Since I enjoyed the theme, it’s got great player markers BTW, and the overall experience, I thought about what could have been done better. Given that I’m more of a euro gamer, I like choice especially if I’m playing a 2-4 hour game. I plan to implement house rules for the next play. No more severe damage, players choose which hold is hit, sludge into the volcano gets a 3x multiplier instead of random, if a player is feeling like their ship is too badly damaged to continue they may retire instead of resorting to PvP and trying to get shot down.

I think these changes will make a random, long, tedious game a lot more fun for me. If you liked M&M and want an inferior clone with a sky ship theme instead of pirates, pick it up. I own M&M and I’ll continue to own ST if these house rules work. If not, expect it to hit my trade list on BGG in short order. FFG has been known to produce high quality games and this one other than the player markers felt cheap to me. The box is very thin, the goods tokens are small cardboard chits, the dice are small, and the overall game feels like it was made on the cheap. This is odd, considering it’s part of Dust Games and usually they are extremely high quality.

This review originally posted at www.cartrunk.net Make sure to visit for many more reviews, including some of the newest games to head to kickstarter!
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Thomas King
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Have you seen the designer's tips and "Director's Cut" rules?

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/851890/personal-consider...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/851852/directors-cut-rul...

The game seems to be pretty friendly to house-ruling and variants.
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Greg Cornell
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Corunna
Michigan
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I love the theme of this game, but after so many negative reviews I can't see myself ever buying it.

I own Sky Galleons of Mars which is a combat game and doesn't make it to the table because most people I play with are not interested in combat games. Again, great theme.

I was hoping Sky Traders was the game to scratch that itch, but it doesn't seem like it will scratch anything. shake
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Kocin China
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Not agree with this review. I played the game only with the director's cut rules: the game is really short and different from Merchants & marauder. In my opinion this game is really under rated.
 
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