Published by: Nanox Games. Designed by: Alexander Pfister & Arno Steinwender
Illustrated by: Christian Opperer Between £44.00 - £60.00 1-4 Players aged 10+
The world as we knew it changed when the CLOUD 'secret' Society burned down Forests and Oil Production sites and devastated the land, turning it into a catastrophic desert. The world is now a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, disaster area, where water is at a premium. So immediately you know that CLOUDAGE is a game of balancing and management, and a darned fine game it is too. It is now time to reestablish society to as near as it was as we can. To do this we, the players, are collecting resources on our way to a better life.
But first there are obstacles and the CLOUD Militia to attend to! Cloud Militia are located in the Cities. Cities have a combat value, a reward and the name of the City. When you visit a City for the first time (you haven't placed a marker on it previously) you have the option of fighting the Militia. If you don't fight them you cannot claim the reward. This means that if you go back to the City later on you cannot then fight the Militia, so no reward for you!
Many board games launched in the last few years have been more than a regular board game - they have been games that are stand-alone, but also with additional chapters that can be played as stand-alone games or form part of a campaign. These are not just 'Advanced or Optional' rules, these are often like having numerous games under the title banner and in the same box, that use the same components. CLOUDAGE is one of these games.
CLOUDAGE comprises of the basic game, six chapters for the campaign and three stand-alone scenarios. It is advised that experienced players can skip the intro-scenario and jump straight into scenario #2 or begin the campaign. My suggestion is that even experienced players should play the first scenario at least once (unless by 'experienced' the rules mean experienced at CLOUDAGE and not, as I took it, experienced at board gaming).
As you would expect from their hex-shaped edges, the game boards can be setup in several ways as decided by the players, though they are numbered to help selection. Once you have played through the first scenario, as long as you enjoyed it (and I can see no reason why you wouldn't, unless you don't like management games - deck, engine and resource) then taking on the campaign is the way to go.
For each game, whether it be scenario or campaign, there is a fair amount of setting up. Pages 4 and 5 (double-spread) has the complete 16 point setup with illustrations of the pieces and boxed descriptions. After a couple of games setting up becomes like second-nature and thus gets quicker. For a scenario you only require the one card, for the story there are cards that form the chapter.
Each player has an airship board and a wooden airship model in their chosen colour. The models begin on the edge of the game board, the airship boards in front of the players with all the necessary markers and tokens in their staring positions.
Obvious tip: At the end of each game use separate ziploc bags for each player's components so that next game there is no need to sort out pieces.
Certain specific cards and tiles are placed in the cloth bag at the before you start your first game (for reasons unknown the rules book says the bag is 'red' even though the components pictures show a 'black' bag - and in the box is a black bag). Each game consists of a number of Rounds (the rules say "between 6 and 8" which I believe as '7') with 3 phases per Round. These are: Pass the Start Marker clockwise then check to see if a 'book' is active. Then on the Production board spend energy to gain Water and perhaps VPs. Phase three is revealing two of your Navigation cards, receiving energy or project cards as indicated; note the 'or'.
The rules they are excellently set out, with numerous illustrations and examples. They are as you would want all board games rules to be set out. In fact to make the game as easy to understand and play there is a 4-page Scenario #1 introduction that shows a 13 point illustrated set up and a full landscape page; with a superb reference sheet that has colour coded sections for each of the three phases.
Each Round is played the same as the previous ones, with players collecting and spending resources by moving their Airships on the board and using their Drones on the City cards. The mechanic for the City card use is very neat. Eight City cards are randomly dealt to each of the three Cloud sleeves, also randomly taken from the eight available, ensuring the cloud printed on the sleeve partially covers the City beneath it. Each City card has a Navigation value and 4 resource spaces; these spaces represent the resources that should be found once the cloud has passed (the card is freed from the sleeve).
The players, in player turn, place their Drone token onto one of the four spaces (energy, water, metal and inhabited/project cards). Although there are three City cards on the display, each covered by a cloud, once the first player has chosen where to place their drone all other players must place their drones on the same City card, but, of course, not on the same space as the first player's drone. The first player is taking an educated guess and hoping that the resource chosen is big on the City card; the other players are generally happy with whatever they get, especially the fourth player who has no choice save what remains. All resources are useful though.
Just a note: If you look carefully at the card you can probably work out what is likely to yield the most resources. This may be helpful towards which card you choose (if you are first player) but this doesn't mean the card is going to be better for you in the long run - think don't rush!
One of the Regions on the City cards has a Wrench which can give you an Airship Upgrade, and another Region has a Navigation Update bonus. These must be used immediately once the players have received their resources, they cannot be saved for later.
Every part of this game is quality, with the Airship models starting in the same area and lined up like race competitors in a race. It is actually not a race, except to reach certain spaces in the desert-like terrain before other players to gather resources. One thing I thought a little off is that you cannot collect the resource that was in the hex your Airship began in; page 9 of the instruction book shows this clearly with an illustrated example.
To move across the board you spend MPs, paying different amounts depending on the terrain, always starting from a City and ending on a City, Airships cannot be left adrift. This means you have to plan your moves carefully if you want to get the best resources.
The odd-shaped green board is the Production Board and Victory Point Tracker. The zero to fifty VP track is located around the brown edges of this (as best as I can determine its shape) irregular octagon. Your scoring marker is shaped like a crown so that its points fit into the correlation The central section (green) is criss-crossed with lines that follow the vertical and horizontal paths allowed by the unusual shape. Where these up/down lines intersect there are spaces for your production marker to move on. This board is a way to spend energy for water and must be respected, ignoring it is a mistake I made once, only once.
What we enjoy very much about CLOUDAGE is the number of options and actions available, even to the player who gets last choice on the City cards; there is always something useful you can do. There isn't a whole lot of actual player interaction but unlike so many games we have played this didn't feel as if we were playing four separate solo games. We also like the way that the modular pieces that are available to upgrade the Airships each gave a different enhancement.
Games are challenging but fun. They last about 7 or 8 Rounds and run for around an hour to an hour & a half, and as I said above, although the Airships line up as if ready for the start of a race from one end of the map to the other, there is no reward for being the first to the end. There are rewards for defeating the Cloud Militia in the cities but only on your first visit, once you have a marker on the city there is no need to go back there.
Planning your movement is vital, upgrading your Airship and Plant Growth is necessary, but you must remember to work the Production Board for Water, Energy and Victory Points.
CLOUDAGE is regarded as a Legacy game, but unlike the majority of Legacy games (where cards, pieces etc are literally destroyed, making the games one-off only) this is one from the author's renewable Legacy games series, so nothing is damaged or destroyed. If you don't want to play it again after you have finished the Campaign, the Stand-alone scenarios, the Solo play and the Missions etc you can pass it on to a friend all complete and ready to play.
We, my games group, all thoroughly enjoy CLOUDAGE. Each game we play seems to bring something new to the table because after each session at least one of us says something like "the next time we play I'm going to try a different tactic...". There are strong strategies and tactics that core/experienced games players can find and use advantageously. The rules are fairly clear and flow okay, but a full read-through before your first game wouldn't go amiss (experienced players will not miss any of the little idiosynchrasies that ensure this a game to remember).
Because of the excellent reference sheet supplied, this is an ideal strategy game for core gamers, casual gamers, and family players, all who should be able to understand, play, and enjoy CLOUDAGE as much as we do.