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SEA of CLOUDS

Published by iello  Designed by Theo Riviere  Artwork by Miguel Coimbra
40 Minutes a game for 2-4 players aged 10+

The moment I saw the decorative skull cover art for SEA of CLOUDS it made me want to play the game. The simple glossy white island skull design is totally eye-catching and draws you into the adventures that await within the strong, solid, hard-wearing box. SEA of CLOUDS is a game about Pirates, AIR PIRATES, and the players are determined to become the greatest and most infamous Sky Pirate of all time. To become the Blackbeard of the Blue Sky you need to score the most points value in Rum, Relics and Treasures.

The components are beautifully illustrated LOOT cards, similarly exceptionally arty Captain Boards (2 male and 2 female - ladies are just as more likely to be the best at buccaneering), Plastic Doubloons, a stand-up card Parrot, a very small wooden Ship token and a very large wooden Hat (first player) token. The rules are suitably laid out in a colourful 12-page booklet that also covers the specific card explanations and clarifications.

Each player has a Captain's board, there's no difference except for the artwork, which counts as their personal ship. These are positioned in front of the players around the central board on which the Ship token is moved to display the route of the voyage (the length of the game) - this centre board is double-sided for different numbers of players. 

The LOOT cards are shuffled all together even though they have different coloured backs (Red = Pirates; Blue = Relics; Green = Objects and Orange = Rum)and three are placed face-down under the Central card on the appropriate spaces; the Parrot and Large Hat are given to the First Player. Now that player looks at the leftmost card in secret and decides whether to take it for themselves. If they take it their turn ends and they replace it with the top card from the deck, the next player then takes their turn. If they don't want it they put the top card from the deck on top of it and then look at the next card (known as "shares"). If they don't want this one they put a card on top of it and then they do the same with the third share. If they do not want shares one, two or three they must take the top card from the deck to their hand. Each time a player refuses a share they top it up with a card from the deck, thus the next player gets to see two or three cards; if a share ever needs a fourth card a coin is put on the stack instead - from experience it is very rare that coins get added because even with cards that may be negative there are often cards that are useful and there is always the chance of pulling a card that allows you to lose a card and then you can discard the negativity anyway.

When you decide to take a share you must take all the cards (and coins) associated with it. The backs of the cards are significant because they let you know the type of card(s) you are choosing. Some cards give combat values, others give VPs and some give negative VPs until you collect more than two of them and then they are worth having, but of course you are taking a risk saving them. The cards you collect as shares are positioned around your personal Ship, some face up and some face down - this is made clear in the rules. At the end of each round the Pirate ship on the map (Central board) is moved one step to the next island. Some of the islands have a symbol on them showing cross-sabres. When the ship LEAVES (not lands on) one of these spaces a Boarding Action takes place. This is when the players determine the strongest amongst them by adding up the values of their Pirate cards and any bonuses on other cards. You are attempting to board the ship of one of the players to your side, either left or right. The winning Pirate uses their special effect on the Pirate they defeat, generally gaining Treasure or Rum from them.

SEA of CLOUDS is a very clever card game which plays in less than an hour and yet gives players more than enough options to make it seem like a much larger game. There are nearly 100 cards, each offering a way of scoring VPs or gaining an advantage against your opposing Pirate Captains. Although each game follows a similar route, the randomness of the draw means that the options every time it's your turn to take a share are more than likely to be different. Sometimes you need to pass on a share of good cards just to take the top card because it is a Pirate and a Boarding is on the horizon, but you cannot play just for the combat, the game is about balance, balance and collecting Rum, balance and saving coins, balance and knowing which cards to save and which to pass on and when.

I was drawn to the game by its excellent box art and I am happy to report that the game inside the box is as good as the promise on the outside.

You should be able to find SEA of CLOUDS at your local game store for between £20.00 - £25.00

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015