Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s web page or visit the Kickstarter project page to back it and get yourself a copy! Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!
- For ages 9 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Variable game play length
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Get behind the wheel and test your airship piloting skills!
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
Man has always looked to the sky and marveled at the birds in flight. It was only a matter of time before we left the ground and soared in that space between Heaven and Earth. Now man has conquered the Great Blue and flies in large airships, such as Dirigibles, Zeppelins, and Blimps. Some fly for the freedom and some fly to explore. You fly to win. You are a pilot of a racing airship and your next race looks to be full of competition. Do you have what it takes to win? Time to find out.
Zeppeldrome, designed by Anthony J. Gallela, Jeff Wilcox (I), and to be published by 12SP Entertainment, will reportedly be comprised of 10 game boards (double-sided), 4 Dirigible tokens, 4 Flight Plan covers, 4 Movement cubes, 70 Flight Plan cards, 8 Ballast tokens, 1 Chunk-Chunk token, 4 Old Folks tokens, 7 Lemming tokens, and 20 Vector chits. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I will not comment on the game component quality.
Note: Zeppeldrome’s game board sections are double-sided. When players are creating their game board with the different sections, they can either select the ones they want or select randomly.
To set up the game, first place the “Start” game board section with the dotted line to one side of the game playing area.
Second, randomly select or purposely select additional sections “A” through “D”. Each section of the game board will connect to another, starting with the “Start” game board section and continuing from left to right. Players can make the course as long or as short as they like and as easy or as difficult as they prefer. Any game board sections not used should be returned to the game box. Fewer sections make for a shorter game and more hazards per section make for a more difficult game. If playing with game board sections with hazards, additional set up steps are required (not detailed in this review). Additionally, each section added to the game board will have its own special rules.
Third, place the “Finish” section on the end once the game board sections have been placed.
Fourth, have each player select a 1 Dirigible token and 1 Flight Plan cover of the same color. Players should also collect 1 Movement cube. Any Dirigible tokens and Flight Plan covers not selected should be returned to the game box.
Fifth, determine who will be the first player and in turn order sequence have each player place their Dirigible token in the starting boxes behind the dotted line starting with the top most square space and continuing downward.
Fifth, shuffle the Flight Plan cards and deal out to each player 4 cards each. Players can look at their cards but should keep them hidden from their opponents until played. Place the remaining deck of Flight Plan cards face-down and to one side of the game board sections. This is the draw deck for the duration of the game. Leave room next to the draw deck for a discard pile.
Sixth, place the remaining tokens to one side of the game playing area and begin!
A Race of Hot Air
Zeppeldrome is played in turns and is comprised of several steps. A single game turn is summarized here. Note that I am simplifying some of the rules for the sack of keeping the review to a reasonable length. Refer to the game rules for specific details on how hazards are used and for additional details on movement.
The first player during game set up gets to go first. As the game continues. the player who is closet to the finish line is considered the “first player”, with the turn order sequence continuing per player race position. If there is ever a tie, the player who is furthest from the ground goes first.
Step 1: Choose Card
All the players look through their Flight Plan cards and select 1 to play, face-down. Note that all Flight Plan cards have a top and a bottom section. The top section shows a flight path that the player’s airship will take if played. The bottom section describes an action that is taken instead of the player’s airship moving.
Step 2: Reveal Card or Don’t
Once all the players have placed a Flight Plan card, all players now reveal them by flipping them face-up. A player can optionally leave their Flight Plan card face-down. This indicates that the player is taking a “single move” and not a specific flight plan or action.
Step 3: Use Flight Plan Cover
For those players who flipped their Flight Plan cards face-up, they now take their Flight Plan cover and place it over the action section of the Flight Plan card, as well as placing their Movement cube on the airship icon.
Step 4: Play Action Cards
In turn order sequence, each player can now play 1 of their remaining cards for its action. Actions will impact opponents or the player. Players continue to play Flight Plan cards, discarding them as they do so, for their actions until all the players pass or have played all their Flight Plan cards. When called for, players should collect the appropriate tokens and place them where indicated by the actions noted on the Flight Plan cards.
Step 5: Move Hazards
Any hazards that are on the game board sections can now be moved if possible. Individual hazards have unique rules which are not covered in this game play summary.
Step 6: Move
In turn order sequence, starting with the airship that is the highest and the closest to the finish line, each player now takes their Movement cube and adjusts its location on the Flight Plan card one vector space. The player then moves their Dirigible token in the same fashion on the game board section. In some cases, the Flight Plan cards will show more than 1 path. If such is the case, the player may select the path they want to take. Additional vectors might have been added based on actions, moving the player’s Movement cube backwards.
Player can block another airship by placing themselves in a vector space where another airship wants to move to. Airships cannot occupy the same space and will be “bumped” if they attempt to move off the game board sections or move into a vector space that is occupied by another airship. Being bumped only moves the airship back to its original position prior to the move. It does not cause damage.
Once all the players have moved their Movement cube and their Dirigible token one vector space, movement continues but the turn order sequence might have been adjusted. The next round of movement always starts with the player who is the highest and the closest to the finish line.
Players will not end their movement during the same turns. Some players will have more or less than their opponents. When a player is done, they discard their Flight Plan card and wait for the next step.
Step 7: Discard Cards
Players can now discard any of their unused Flight Plan cards they like, but players should take a moment to review them. As previously noted, each Flight Plan card shows a flight path and an action, making each card doubly important, but not necessarily useful.
Step 8: Draw Cards
The final step is for each player to draw back up to 4 Flight Plan cards. If the player already has 4 (or more) cards in their hand, they skip this step.
The game now continues with step 1 noted above.
At the Finish Line
The game continues until 1 player reaches the finish line. This player is the winner.
This game immediately reminded me of RoboRally, another game that is one part puzzle and one part racing. In both games, players have to determine their movements before they actually take them. Once they determine their movement, they cannot defer from their chosen path. This leads to chaotic bumps and player pieces being stuck for a round of play in a corner. A great deal of fun, but also highly frustrating for those players who are not used to thinking several moves ahead and visualizing where their piece and their opponents’ pieces will be in turns to come. As such, I am guessing we’ll see some initial frustration from our Child Geeks, eye-rolling from our Parent Geeks, and evil laughter from our Gamer Geeks.
Zeppeldrome is not a difficult game, but its game play is unique. Even elite players are going to need to take a moment to get a full game explanation. I suggest you focus first on the Flight Plan cards and discuss how the actions are completed and then the flight paths. Next, I’d explain the hazards, but I do not recommend using the hazards if playing with new players. It’s just one more thing to get them confused and frustrated. Finally, I’d make certain that all the players understand that the turn order sequence is constantly shifting. This is vitally important as it indicates when players take their turn and when pieces move on the game board sections. If players miscalculate, they’ll spend a lot of time moving their airship through vectors they never intended. Note that Zeppeldrome does require its players to be able to read. Younger players who cannot yet read or read well must team up with an older player.
After teaching my oldest little geek how to play the game, I asked him his thoughts on Zeppeldrome so far.
“I’ve played games like this before, but this one seems simpler for some reason. Looks like fun, though.” ~ Liam (age 9)
I taught my oldest little geek RoboRally as soon as he could say “robot”. He’s familiar with games like Zeppeldrome and I do not anticipate any problems whatsoever. In fact, I’m sure he’ll love it. Let’s launch our balloons and see if I’m right or full of hot air.
The Child Geeks had a hard time at first understanding how to play the game. Because the game was purposely designed to be modular and customizable, we reduces the game board sections to the most basic and kept the courses as short as possible. This set up was much easier and helped the Child Geeks learn how to play the game. They did very well with Flight Plan card selections and laughed out loud when they bumped into each other or mumbled under their breath when they couldn’t get back on the correct path. According to one Child Geek, “I like this game because it makes me think about how I want to fly my airship. I just wish I had guns so I could shoot those who got in my way.” That feeling was shared by many of the Child Geeks, especially when they kept getting stuck behind opponents. When all the airships crossed the finish line, all the Child Geeks voted to approve Zeppeldrome.
The Parent Geeks enjoyed their games with their Child Geeks, but wanted more of a challenge. We introduced the hazards and the Parent Geeks had a lovely time. Even when they were bumped away and made to spin their propellers for the duration of a round, they still were smiling and laughing. According to one Parent Geek, “This is a lot of fun and I love how everything works together. There is an element of chaos throughout, but I always feel like I can take control and avoid obstacles.” I think that is a very optimistic and somewhat unrealistic observation because players cannot always anticipate the troubles that lie before them. Despite that, the Parent Geeks showed some excellent strategies and intelligent tactics. The only group that didn’t enjoy it were the non-gamers who never really “got the game”. However, since the non-gamers were in the minority, the Parent Geek final vote showed that the majority approved the game.
The Gamer Geeks, after a quick explanation of the rules, took control of their airships and flew them like champs. Since there is nothing along the lines of damage, the Gamer Geeks took risks that either let them cut ahead of their opponents or left them in the dust. Each round was highly efficient and tactical, but always full of surprises. According to one Gamer Geek, “What I like about this game is that it’s all about outsmarting your opponent. And when you do, everyone knows it.” Very true! It’s very clear when a player has outsmarted and out maneuvered their opponents. Of course, it’s very clear when they didn’t. All the Gamer Geeks voted to approve the game and rather liked the idea of how easy it was to adjust the game play to their specific needs.
Zeppeldrome is a fun game and makes players think. I find it to be more of a Race game than a Puzzle game, however. I understand that the “puzzle” aspect is meant to represent the focus necessary to navigate through the obstacles and hazards, but that isn’t really a puzzle. I would consider that “complex navigation”. Besides, puzzles usually only have 1 solution, and in Zeppeldrome the course is constantly changing, as are the placement of hazards. There is always more than one solution (or path) in the game, but a player must have their wits about them and some luck to navigate through the strangely cluttered skies to find them.
I would recommend this game to both Parent and Gamer Geeks. I think Zeppeldrome plays very well as both a family game and as a “main event” for the Gamer Geeks. The modular game board sections and multiple hazards allow players to tailor their game playing experience, making Zeppeldrome highly customizable. I have always enjoyed games that allow players to adjust it based on their own needs and Zeppeldrome is no exception.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.