When it comes to packaging presentation, Iello is way ahead among publishers. If you gently run your fingers over the illustrations on the game packaging of the pirate game Sea of Clouds, you can literally feel the aesthetic demands of the French on their board and card games. The raised glossy print makes you want more. In spite of all the love for a good look, what counts in games is of course primarily the inner values.
We therefore not only touched the cloud pirates tenderly, but also accepted them as part of our tough review of Sea of Clouds - like real pirates: relentless, uncompromising and regardless of loss.
Sea of Clouds Review: Quick Start With Airships
Despite the pretty illustrations, the backstory is too Sea of Clouds told quickly. The players slip into the role of a cloud pirate in search of treasure, rum and enemies. As the captain of a flying pirate ship, 2 to 4 players are faced with decision-making options in each round, the strategic claims of which turn out to be impressive when you consider the fundamentally simple set of rules. Before the first opponent can be looted, the tactical card game demands Sea of Clouds after a few construction activities. Depending on the number of players (2 to 3 as well as 4 players), the small-format game board is placed on the table with the corresponding side up. Then the players choose their pirate captains and place the player board in front of them so that cards can be placed all around during the game. The preparation of the loot cards is also based on the number of players: In a two-player round, some cards have to be sorted out beforehand. At the start of the game, three loot cards are placed under the appropriate markings on the game board. While the players receive their starting capital of three coins, the small blue ship is placed on the starting space of the game board and the parrot and hat are handed to the starting player. Ready to go!
Limitless freedom Above the clouds
Once internalized, the rounds play smoothly thanks to the consistent processes, but not necessarily without waiting times for the individual players. Budding air pirates should therefore be patient. This is not uncommon in a strategic card game with clusters of decisions and it plays a role. Still comes Sea of Clouds not entirely without delays in the course of the game.
If the blue wooden ship is on one of the unmarked playing fields, the game play is always the same. The active player does not take the loot cards that are on the first pile and looks at them. If he likes, he places the cards on his player board. If he doesn't like it, he puts it back in its place and adds a face-down card from the draw pile. Then he does the same with stacks of loot two and three. If the player rejects all three offers, he receives a card from the draw pile - the consolation prize, so to speak.
The passion for collecting cards is supplemented by small tactical decision-making options and a certain luck factor. In each round there is a decision for or against one of the loot piles, the equipment of which the players can judge rudimentary based on the back of the cards, but cannot predict with certainty. This simple basic principle is refined by the individual card types. There are a total of four different categories: relic cards, item cards, rum cards (Yarrr!) and of course pirate maps.
The relic cards provide a lot of victory points in the lower deck. The aim is to collect as many relics of one kind as possible in order to top up the points account accordingly. A clear table always provides information about the respective number of points. There are three sub-categories of rum cards that either grant plus or minus points, lead to point bonuses when the number increases, or add one or three points to the account per card (depending on whether you have the most top rum cards at the final scoring or not). The item cards differ considerably and can trigger their effects immediately, permanently or only at the end of the game. How the item cards work is easy to understand.
The crew members of their own airship are important for pirate captains. The boarding team is represented by the pirate cards that are placed at the top of the player board. Pirate cards are used in the boarding phases and decide whether to win or lose with the strength values printed on them.
Because boarding is one of the direct interactions with the other players, this phase comes in Sea of Clouds* Of course, a special meaning too. As part of our game rounds, boarding with at least three players turned out to be a successful game mechanic. When boarding, players attack their left and right neighbors. If the player round consists of only two players, there is consequently only one enterable opponent available, which takes some of the fun out of the phase.
The winners are determined by adding up the strength points on the pirate cards. Additional modifications of the combat strength come about through item cards. Pirate effects can be triggered against successfully boarded opponents. Obligatory and of course for pirates, loot is looted in this way, but sometimes also exchanged. It quickly becomes clear why boarding with at least three players is more fun. The chance of successful campaigns is practically doubled, which also increases the number of interactive elements. Looting two players boarded at the same time also has advantages in terms of the final scoring - at least if the double boarding was successful. The point relationships can change more noticeably in this way than in a duel round. Nevertheless, the enter phase also fulfills its purpose in a two-player game and works perfectly according to the rules - only with a small amount of fun.
When all pirate actions have been taken, all pirate cards are discarded. For the coming round, this automatically results in a new balance of power, which makes the individual rounds exciting.
The parrot indicates who can start triggering the pirate effects. Otherwise, the feathered friend is a rather passive companion, which in some cases serves to resolve item actions.
Points, points and a bottle of rum
A total of 12 or 15 laps are completed in this way. When the wooden ship has reached the last space, it is time to calculate the point accounts. The scores can be conveniently recorded on the attached points block. Players get victory points from different sources. On the one hand directly from the coins, which are each worth one victory point, on the other hand through modifying factors such as the accumulated plus and minus points or possible bonus points through secrets. In addition, the relic and rummage collections can provide a decent increase in points if you have made strategically wise decisions during the course of the game - and had a lucky hand. The player with the most points wins the game.
Well illustrated multicultural pirates
The illustrations by Miguel Coimbra are so excellent that they deserve a paragraph of their own at this point. The freelance illustrator, whose name suggests his Portuguese roots, can do graphics for Sea of Clouds also show other large works. For example, Coimbra has left its mark on the board games Small World (Days of Wonder), City of Horror (Repos) and Imhotep (KOSMOS). For us, however, the illustrations for Sea of Clouds are among his masterpieces, which turn a strategic collecting game into a visual treat for every gaming table. The fact that Miguel Coimbra is also turning to the trading card game segment is evident from his illustrations of cards for the trading card games World of Warcraft or Star Wars Galaxies proven.
The games in our review of Sea of Clouds have definitely gained noticeably more entertainment value due to the successful appearance, also because you can take a closer look at the individual cards during the countless waiting phases. That at least consoles a little over the interruptions in the flow of the game.
Because the look also affects the editorial work, we would like to point out the successful, easily understandable and comprehensible game instructions, which make starting the game much easier.
Images of Sea of Clouds
Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 30 to 45 minutes
Long-term motivation: medium
Published by Iello
Author: Théo Rivière
Graphic: Miguel Coimbra
Year of publication: 2016
Cost: 24 Euro
Thanks to the simple basic rules Sea of Clouds Proven to be an ideal card game for casual gamers and families with children. With increasing gaming experience, the decision-making options also gain in weight and tension, because types of cards can be assessed but still remain unpredictable. The short game rounds invite you to play more games, even if the waiting times between the individual moves sometimes cause impatience. House rules, such as the use of an hourglass, provide a remedy, but are only recommended for players who have already played a few games. Because the selection of the stacks of loot remains a central element of the game, one should accept delays (and meanwhile just enjoy the visual charms of Sea of Clouds).
Big innovations should come from Sea of Clouds Don't expect, the game mechanics work perfectly and the details ensure a constant tension factor. The balance of power of the pirate crews change with each round of the game, but sometimes vary greatly, which then also affects the looting in the boarding phases. Because clear rounds are also possible with the strength of the crew, you should always weigh your decisions carefully. Its great strength has emerged during our review too Sea of Clouds the predictable course of the game proved. Despite the existing luck factor, the game decisions influence the course of the rounds, so that good and bad decisions are possible, but mistakes can be ironed out by strategically good actions.
Even if Sea of Clouds* is playable in pairs, a player group of at least three pirates is recommended in order to be able to fully enjoy the mechanics. The two-player rounds have become during the games of our review Sea of Clouds turned out to be entertaining, but never reach the level of the "big rounds" in terms of play.
Overall, one would not expect such a tactical depth from a card game with such simple basic rules, so that a large part of the players should be pleasantly surprised. In the medium term, players provide variety by changing their collecting strategies themselves. Playing the pirate game several times in one evening therefore remains motivating and entertaining at the same time.
All players who are not averse to strategic card collecting will be entertained like a king. The quick access as well as the manageable playing time make the difference Sea of Clouds In addition, an exciting, interactive family game that causes a few laughs with moments of frustration and joy.