Zeppeldrome

ZeppeldromeZeppeldrome is currently looking for funding at Kickstarter. I got a review copy, and finally got it on the table. The review is a bit rushed; I’ve only played two two-player games so far, but since the topic is current and I’m not sure if I have time to play the game again before the campaign is over, I thought it useful to jot down my thoughts so far.

Zeppeldrome Kickstarter page.

The game: Zeppeldrome by Anthony J. Gallela and Jeff Wilcox, published by 12SP Entertainment in 2014, hopefully.

Elevator pitch: Program your movement in this dirigible race. There are hazards on the racetrack and screw-your-neighbour action cards to spice things up.

What’s in the box? Modular board, tokens, cards, possibly 3D dirigible tokens (that’s a stretch goal).

What do you do in the game? Everybody chooses a flight plan simultaneously. The flight plan plots out your movement, with usually 3–6 moves up, down or forward. Some flight plans have couple of routes you can choose, some have optional moves you have to pay by discarding cards if you want to use them.

Once the flight plans are known, action cards are played one at the time. These cards can target anybody. They can add extra movement (before or after the flight plan), cause immediate movement (typically dropping a dirigible down), cancel movement or do something else wacky and unpleasant.

Once everybody has played as many action cards as they wish, dirigibles move. The flight plans and extra movements are followed step by step. Collisions are possible and have a good chance of ruining your carefully planned flight plan.

Then everybody discards cards if they want to, draw up to four cards and it’s new round. This is repeated until somebody reaches the finish line.

Lucky or skillful? I think the winner is predominantly determined by luck and table dynamics. It is possible to play poorly, and choosing your flight plan well is important, but if the other players decide to barrage you with harmful action cards, there’s nothing you can do about it. Well, you’ll fall behind, and next turn there’s a new leader to bash, so in the end, I think the game comes down to drawing good cards, using them to your best advantage and avoiding being targeted by other players. It also helps to be in lead on a turn when other players don’t draw good attack cards.

There’s enough skill involved for the game to be meaningful, but there’s plenty of luck and chaos to keep things interesting until the end.

Abstract or thematic? The theme is silly, and the game is certainly no simulation. It works, but didn’t really thrill me.

Solitaire or interactive? The title says this is a screw-your-neighbour game and there sure is lots of interaction. It can be quite mean, and I’m not sure I’d like to be in the lead in a four-player game – the barrage must be pretty bad. If you like “take that!” type of games, Zeppeldrome is your cup of tea. If you don’t like direct interaction and games that depend on bash the leader -effect, skip Zeppeldrome.

Players: 2–4. I’ve only tried the two-player game. That worked, but I think the game would be more fun with more chaos.

Who can play? It’s a bit involved for casual gamers. This game needs players who are willing to listen to a rules explanation. It’s not that complicated. For gamers Zeppeldrome may be a bit too light and bit too long. The game falls on a bit of a awkward middle ground here – it needs players who like lighter games and take that -kind of fun, but who don’t mind bit of rules and special cases. 

Length: Up to 90 minutes. We played two-player games in about 40 minutes or so, which was ok. I’m not sure I’d like 90 minutes of Zeppeldrome. Slow players can bog down the game, despite the simultaneous moves, as there’s quite a bit of thinking to do with the cards – thinking that’ll be shot to ruins by action cards from other players anyway.

What’s to like: Planning your moves, figuring out the best way to use your action cards, good take that interaction.

What’s not to like: Lots of chaos, too much direct interaction and bashing the leader, a bit long playing time.

My verdict: I’m sure there are people who’ll like this game: planning your moves is fun, figuring out the best way to use your cards is interesting, and there’s some entertaining player interaction. If you like programming, direct interaction and a zesty take that element in your games, Zeppeldrome is a good choice for you.

I, however, am not particularly keen on programming and actively dislike direct interaction and take that elements. I don’t see myself playing Zeppeldrome, even when it’s pretty good for a game like that. The puzzle element is fun. The game’s just too silly and chaotic for my tastes, and a bit too slow-moving and long for what it is. Something like this might be fun with the kids, but the direct interaction is going to end up in tears and the game’s a bit complicated for a family game.

The price is right, though. We Europeans can get a single copy of the game for less than 30 euros, including shipping (from within EU). For Americans, the price is just $29, which is quite decent. Too bad the project doesn’t look too good at the moment. With only 26% pledged at the moment, looks like it’s going to fail, unless there’s a good boost in pledges in the end.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidZeppeldrome gets Indifferent. Not bad, but not really that interesting, either.

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