All the seas, as we were taught in school, are sealed in the bottom and held in place by rocks and lumps of earth. But what would oceans do, if they were given an absolute freedom? Do you think, they would have left their secure location on hard floor and go towards the sky? We have no doubt about it. Even water wants to fly and not only fall in shape of rain. We know, that biggest sea is found now in the sky. In a form of clouds.
Under a similar impression Théo Riviera prepared his game and named it Sea of Clouds. A small white box found its publisher quickly once it got finished by illustrations of renowned Miguel Coimbra. Chance to launch this game among people was seized by French company IELLO and ranked among its novelties for 2016 presented at fair Spiel in Essen.
Small white box strikes you with its quiet elegance, which gives it drawing of a skull on the lid. It floats just like a cloud and offers us a window into a world, where the islands are flying in the sky. Players pull out their captain’s board from within, which offer not only a portrait of their heroes, but also five indicators dividing the space around it – spaces to store pirates, relics, tasks, rum and mysteries. Every player will get his initial fortune in the form of three doubloons.
Central board offers only a road through those richest floating islands. And such a map certainly makes any good pirate captain happy, including you. Its place is strictly given in the middle of the table and first, players put turn counter in its upper left corner. After all treasure cards are shuffled, deck is placed next to the board and beneath are placed (face down) three cards from this package. Rest of the coins create bank and everything begins.
Player in his turn may reveal lefmost prey card, look at it and then choose from two possible actions. He can keep card straight away and not tempt his luck. Such looted card is placed face down or up depending on the type. Only cards of rum and secrets are laid, so their content should not been seen by anyone. In the event, that there is more than one card located there, player may look at all of them, but he has to take or reject them as whole.
Now in case of second decision, he simply returns card back on their position. This will provide him with chance to try out his luck with next (second) position. But before player can proceed to second space in row, he will first help opponents by increasing pile on first position by adding new card from drawing package.Then he looks on next group of cards and once again has choice to keep them or try his luck with the last column (again by adding a card to the second pile).
Back side of the card always indicates, what type of treasury it hold, but does not suggest in any way actual real content. But there can never be more, than a trio of cards on any position. If by any chance player refuses group even with three cards in it, there is a coin placed on it instead of fourth card.
Once turn cycles through all players, they will all get at least one card from exploration. That means, that subsequently turn pointer is moved one step forward. Whenever the ship leaves position with the symbol of crossed cutlasses, it is time to get all pirates on deck and throw themselves into the fray. The players then add up strength of all the pirates on their ship and compare them with their rivals on left and right hand. For each of their victories (there can be zero, one or two), player may use special actions of his pirates. These abilities are listed on his card and include, for example, possibility of stealing money from opponents. All previously hoarded pirates leave the ship and player will have to collect more for next time.
Last round is played, when ship arrives at its final location of the route. Players will still do the final battle with their both neighbors. Only then, all participants calculate value of their doubloons, where each corresponds to one victory point. In addition, players will also get points for rum, relics, mysteries and challenges. Then it is quite obvious, that winner will be the one, who gathered most points in total.
Sea of Clouds is simply fighting with bad luck. Player must take risks at the proper moment and instead be able to settle for a card less valuable from time to time, if they offer better conditions, than continuing in the drawing.
Game belongs to the still very popular genre of push-your-luck games. You must decide each time only by generic type of card, whether you want to keep it or rather try another card, not knowing its identity in advance.
Everything would therefore suggest, that this game will not be any different from other games and will seem and feel similar. But the opposite is true. Game successfully deceives with its focus on randomness. Lots of information is public and player knows, what cards their opponents place back. And such decisions is totally conscious. In addition, luck is not so critical, because each card has its type printed on the back. So you will never go for rum cards, if you are collecting relics and vice versa. Card are encouraging players to collect sets, because the more identical cards you collect, the more points you get (even twenty-five points for five).
Rules are very simple, but game comes also with emphasis on conflict. On the map, you can find just three crossed swords symbols, and each of them is a rivalry point. Well, here’s helpful to have a proper crew, win and get some bonuses.Otherwise, however, players must concentrate on their sets. This is also true for relics. The overall impression then is also support by task cards, that want a player to have most rums or rare items.
Matches are not fast. Individual duels exceed half-hour and usually are getting closer to three-quarters of an hour. But this time is filled with entertainment, although lightweight and inherently not very demanding. Best experience is ensured by using greater numbers of opponents. Game is not completely wrong even with two, but to have enough conflicts and ideal course, you need at least three.
For its simple concept, game is surprisingly interesting for all the participants. Although the content is fairly stereotypical, it gets cleverly distorted by combat, which make chances in players plans. The overall impression gets help from beautiful illustrations and overall awesome processing.
Sea of Clouds looks like a cool filler. However, this perception is not entirely true, because the game is much more dense and thus moves somewhere on the border. With that comes dilemma, for whom the game actually is – for lovers of thinking or for those, who want a relaxing game? Sea of Clouds stops half way and as such will appeal to some players from both camps. It certainly deserves attention, because the game can be fun and quite surprising.
Sea of Clouds is a game, that you will most likely underestimate and certainly deserves more attention, than it gets. It is great fun somewhere on the border between light relaxation and smart entertainment. It skillfully combines risk-taking and it adds a lot of known variables and decent batch of conflict. Collecting sets is vital and you must focus on it. Sea of Clouds is a beautiful game, which thankfully does not fall even with offered entertainment.