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Subject: Ten Things to Like - And Five Things to Dislike - About Skyline rss

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Trent Hamm
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Skyline is a dice rolling "press your luck" game from Tasty Minstrel Games. It's designed by David Short and playable by one to four players in about ten to twenty minutes.

In Skyline, you're a city planner trying to build the most impressive skyline for your city. The buildings you're attempting to add to your skyline are represented as dice in the game.

The game comes with a load of custom dice, but the dice all break down to three types: Ground Floor dice, Mid-Floor dice and Penthouse dice. Buildings consist of one Ground Floor die, some number of Mid-Floor dice, and a Penthouse die (with the exception of some very short buildings which do not require a penthouse).

On your turn, you choose three dice of your choice (or take all of the dice in the Abandoned District), roll them, and choose at least one of them to perform an action on. You can either use that die to Build (meaning you either add it to a building you've already started of that color or, if it's a ground floor, start a new building), Abandon (meaning you add that single die to the Abandoned District, which accumulates dice), or Cancel Construction (meaning you discard all of the dice in one of the buildings you've already started). You can then re-roll all of the dice you didn't use and repeat this action until you don't have any dice left.

If you complete a building by putting a top on it, you score that building. Buildings are worth the square of their height. Taller buildings score more, but shorter buildings are less risky and easier to complete.

The player with the most points after nine rounds is the winner!



Ten Things to Like About Skyline
Here are ten things I particularly liked about Skyline.

1. The dice variety makes for a wonderful twist on the "Yahtzee" dice rolling mechanisms.
The dice for the game come in three distinct types. One type provides building foundations. Another type provides mid-sections (or the tops of the orange buildings). A third type provides penthouses for the buildings.

Before you ever even roll, you have to make an assessment as to what dice you want to roll. Do you need foundations? Do you need building midsections? Are you looking to cap off some taller buildings?

That initial choice is tied deeply into your strategy for the turn - and for well beyond the turn.

2. The Abandoned District is also quite clever, making a seemingly easy decision much more nuanced.
Another interesting element of that first decision is the possibility of the Abandoned District. Throughout the game, the Abandoned District is loaded with dice that people choose to place there via the Abandon action. Are the four or five dice in the Abandoned District better than the three dice of your choice?

"More dice" is not necessarily better when you're playing Skyline. They have to be the right type of dice for them to be useful to you. If you don't get the right type of dice, then you're not going to be able to move forward on constructive building production.

While this is a "push your luck" game at its core, the "choose your dice" part at the start of the turn offers a lot of strategic choice.

3. Hand in hand with the Abandoned District, the decision of whether to Abandon or Demolish a building is often very tough.
Each time you roll dice on your turn, you have to select one of the dice and either build with it (add it to a building or start a new one if it's a foundation), abandon it (add it to the Abandoned District), or demolish with it (return it to the dice pool along with all of the dice of one of your incomplete buildings).

Usually, when you're going to build, it's an obvious choice to build. You choose the die needed for your building and add it or you start the foundation of a new one. The challenge comes with choosing between adding to the Abandoned District (which likely results in improving the roll of the person to your left) or demolishing a building of your own.

There are multiple options on how to approach this. For me, I'll usually just take extra foundations when in doubt, using them as fodder for demolitions later on or as the start of buildings. Regardless of how you prepare for that choice, it's an interesting one.

4. The game is easy to learn and teach.
The basic rules of the game are really easy to understand. You roll a few dice, choose one to perform an action on, then after the action resolves, you repeat this with any remaining dice. Your goal is to construct complete buildings.

It's also very easy to teach. I had my seven year old son playing this game within two minutes and he actually did quite well at it, abruptly ending our first game with a completed tower of six dice.

This isn't a game that bogs you down in unnecessary rules. It's very straightforward and enjoyable to play.

5. The custom dice are very well made and very clear (as are all of the components).
The game comes with 60 custom dice (distributed somewhat unevenly among the different types). These custom dice are very clear to understand. The colors are very distinct, even for colorblind people, and the different shapes are very easy to distinguish as well.



The other major game components - the towers and the player board (to remind you of options, mostly) - are also well made, with nice graphics and sturdy construction.

For a relatively low-priced game, this feels like a high-quality production.

6. For two or three players, the game length is just right - it does not overstay its welcome.
I quite enjoy this game as a filler for two or three players. It's never really long, taking about fifteen to twenty minutes for two or about half an hour for three if you actually make it through all nine rounds, and it's often shorter than that if someone erects a tall building.

The individual turns are very quick. The only minor exception to that are turns that involve five or six dice from the Abandoned District, but even then, a turn resolves in about a minute. Most of the time, turns are about thirty seconds in length.

It just feels like it finishes when it should when playing with two or three players.

7. It takes the usual "push your luck" mechanism and extends the choices so that you have to think beyond your current turn.
The dice selection mechanisms along with the fact that you have to retain dice for future turns (your "buildings in progress") mean that you're extending your thinking about strategy beyond the immediate turn. Your decisions beyond merely "stopping" or "continuing" have an impact on what you can do in future turns.

This adds a depth that doesn't really exist in other games that focus on the "push your luck" mechanism, like Can't Stop and Incan Gold.

It's not an overwhelming depth, nor does it point to a particularly deep game. It just adds some elements of strategy to a game genre that often lacks strategy beyond choosing whether to continue or to stop.

8. There's indirect player interaction, something which is very rare in push your luck games.
Another thing that makes Skyline stand out from the straightforward "push your luck" crowd is that there's indirect player interaction via the Abandoned District.

In most "push your luck" games, the only way you have to interact with other players is with the results of your choice to keep going or stay in. Players might push harder to catch up with someone who is further ahead, for example.

That's also true here, but there's also that Abandoned District, where you're actually giving dice to other players in some situations. The simple question of whether or not you're willing to sacrifice a building to keep from adding another mid-level dice to the Abandoned District (where the next player is likely to grab it) is a pretty enjoyable one.

9. The dice and the scoring chits create a very nice visual expression of the theme of the game in that your scoring area actually looks like a skyline.
I really like the visual feel of this game. It evokes a strong sense of building skyscrapers that will eventually make up the skyline of a city.



My children really got into this element of the game. They really liked arranging their skyscrapers in various ways, and after the game was over, they made lots of skylines out of the skyscraper chits.

It does a great job of capturing the theme of this game. The theme is somewhat painted on, but it's executed here as well as it could be.

10. It sets up very quickly and picks up quickly as well.
Setting up the game involves dumping the dice out into three pools, putting one of each type into the Abandoned District, and you're ready to go. That's pretty much it.

Picking the game up is similarly easy - it's worth it to keep the three types of dice separate, but that's trivial.

It comes in a small box, too, which makes the game quite portable. That small box is pretty full of stuff, so there's not much wasted space.

Five Things to Disike About Skyline
Here are five things I didn't really like about Skyline. You may find some of these to be a non-factor or even view them as a positive.

1. At its core, Skyline is still a Yahtzee-esque "push your luck" game.
"Push your luck" is the main mechanism of Skyline and, for a lot of people, games that focus on "push your luck" are pretty divisive.

Some people really don't enjoy games that focus heavily on pushing your luck, identifying them as all about playing the odds and, if both players play the odds well, the game merely reduces to a luck-fest.



Other people enjoy the Monty Hall-esque problems that push your luck games produce. They enjoy the shifting odds over time and really enjoy the excitement of the reveal of an unknown, whether it's a dice roll or a card.

Which side are you on? That, more than anything else, will tell you if you will like Skyline.

2. As with any game centered primarily around dice rolling, sometimes the dice will undo any strategy. You're playing odds here.
Yes, there are many chances to calculate odds and put yourself in the best possible position, but sometimes it just doesn't work out.

On a turn when you need purple building segments, the dice simply do not give you any and you either end up blowing up a lot of buildings under construction or filling up the Abandoned District, giving the next player much better odds.

You can plan and scheme all you want, but this is still an odds-based game. Nothing is guaranteed.

3. The decisions, though engaging, are pretty light; this is a filler game, after all.
This game does offer more decisions than most push your luck games, but it's not a deep game. If you want deep strategic depth, look elsewhere.

Skyline adds a little strategic depth to a game genre that mostly relies on odds calculation. For some, that's a great thing.

However, if you want a deep and engaging game with dice, look at something like Alien Frontiers. Skyline is very much on the light side.

4. A four player game of this goes on a bit too long.
I wouldn't recommend playing this with four players. The game just drags.

With two players, the downtime between turns varies from thirty seconds to a minute, which is quite tolerable. It doesn't take long to figure out how you'll start your next turn, so you're ready to go when it's your turn.

With four players, that downtime stretches to three minutes or more. There's not a lot of decisions for you to think about in that interim, and that means you're left mostly just to watch other people roll dice. It's not exciting.

It's never fun when a short game goes on too long, and I think that's what Skyline does with four players.

5. The game can end very abruptly at times.
The game ends either at the end of the ninth round or at the end of any round when a player scores a building that's six dice high. Straightforward, right?

Well, with some lucky rolls, a player can just suddenly end the game. This has happened multiple times in games I've played. My daughter scooped up the Abandoned District with six dice in it and proceeded to build a size six building out of it in the second round in a recent game we played (yes, she won). Sure, that was probably poor strategy to let the District get that large, but it can happen.

I've seen other major swings as well, such as half-built buildings of height three getting suddenly completed on one turn. If you're not prepared for that kind of thing, the game can be very frustrating.

My Take
This game is a "push your luck" game with some strategic decisions added to the mix. I happen to like the strategic decisions that were added, so, for me, Skyline is one of the best of the "push your luck" games.

In the end, it really comes down to whether you like games that are primarily centered around pushing your luck, like the handful mentioned in the review above. The better you feel about those games, the more likely it is you'll like Skyline.

Who Would Like This Game?
I think there are two specific groups who will enjoy this game.

Gamers who want a light filler to take up space in their game night. - This is a great example of a light filler game. It offers some decisions without taxing your brain cells too hard and fits wonderfully into the gaps between games, such as when you're waiting for others to finish longer games.

Casual gamers who prefer shorter games - For example, my children very much enjoy this game, for example. They don't have the attention spans or cognitive focus to play incredibly deep games, but this offers them some strategic choice mixed in with enough luck so that they feel they have a real chance each time they play.

A Video Review
I also posted a video review of this game, which touches on many of the points described above in a reasonably short package. If you want a good glimpse of the game components, this is worth watching.



This review was also posted at http://www.gamingtrent.com/review-skyline/
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Mark Johnston
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Nice review. I'm very interested in trying this game now. I really like the indented dice.
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Trent Hamm
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See this text? It's a gratuitous waste of GeekGold.
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The game itself isn't important. Spending time intellectually jousting with likeminded folks is the real reason to game.
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Chessferret wrote:
Thank you Trent for the review. Both you and Lance (Undead Viking) made it easier to buy the game at CSI daily sale. I wonder what made people drive this game to below 7 on the BGG rating scale. Any ideas?

Regards,
Jack


It's a light filler. They're never very popular on BGG.
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The Chaz
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Chessferret wrote:
I wonder what made people drive this game to below 7 on the BGG rating scale. Any ideas?

Regards,
Jack

Between
7: "Good game. Usually willing to play."
and
6: "...will play sporadically if in the right mood"...

6 is definitely a better fit. I just can't imagine anyone coming to game day(night) thinking, "Gee, I can't WAIT to play Skyline!"
It's decent for what it is, and an interesting twist on the genre, but just doesn't have staying power.
If we need a quick game to pass a few minutes, Love Letter does the trick.
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Aaron Silverman
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If the Abandoned District EVER has more than 5 dice in it, you are playing the game wrong. Heck, even 5 is pushing it.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Trent have you tried (Las) Vegas? If so, how would you compare the two?
 
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Trent Hamm
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The game itself isn't important. Spending time intellectually jousting with likeminded folks is the real reason to game.
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jschlickbernd wrote:
Trent have you tried (Las) Vegas? If so, how would you compare the two?


I have not played Vegas. I would like to, though.
 
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Clyde W
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jschlickbernd wrote:
Trent have you tried (Las) Vegas? If so, how would you compare the two?
I have played both. I vastly prefer Vegas.
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Keith Textor
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Nice review. Thanks.

Skyline "is what it is." Any complaint people have about it is something they already know about before they even start. ie ... they KNOW it's a push-your-luck dice rolling game. So why complain about that?

For what it tries to be it is a very good game.
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Martin Plourde
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It's a very good review, it summed up my thoughts on the game. I like this style of game a lot, when it's not trying to be something else or sound deeper and more complicated. This one is very well made and straight to the point, just like your review.

Cheers!
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