- Designer: Aaron Weissblum
- Publisher: Blam ! Editions
- Players: 2 – 6
- Ages: 8 and Up
- Time: 30 Minutes
- Times Played: > 5
In Aaron Weissblum’s latest game, a revamped version of 1999’s Cloud 9, players board a cloudship to collect the treasures in various cities across the worlds of Celestia.
Celestia is a light, push-your-luck dice game with a top-notch production value. It was that artwork that drew me in at Essen, when the game was topping many of the “hotness” lists. And over the course of a few plays, I’ve come to admire the clever gameplay in addition to the beautiful components.
The game has been released in Europe, but there still hasn’t been a US street date. I talked to a representative of Blam!, and they said the game is on the ship to the United States.
Celestia: Abandon ship, or press your luck?
Celestia is card and dice driven press-your-luck game. Each player’s goal is to discover and collect treasures from the farthest cities in the world of Celestia. The player who forms the most prestigious collection of treasures (i.e. the player with the highest score when a player reaches 50 points) is the winner.
Each player picks a color, and their pawns board the aircraft. The ship will go from low-numbered cities to high-numbered cities, and the longer a player stays on the ship, the better the reward. But if the ship can’t survive a hazard, any players unlucky enough to still be aboard get nothing!
One player is designated as the captain; this role will rotate as the journey progresses. The captain cannot get off the ship while it still has other passengers.
On a given turn, the following will happen:
- The captain rolls the dice. The number of dice rolled depends on the number of dice symbol on the next city in the ship’s path.
- Each passenger chooses if they will continue the journey. Going around the table clockwise, each player announces whether they will stay on the ship or leave. If they leave, they take a “treasure” from the deck corresponding to the city they are currently on. A player will always get, at a minimum, the number of points corresponding to the city, but they may get more. The treasures become more powerful the further the ship is along the path, so passengers try to stay on as long as possible.
- The captain then must (if he has them) use the “equipment cards” from his hand to solve the hazards on the dice. He simply discards the relevant cards. The clouds (blue) are solved by a compass card; the lightening (yellow) is solved by a lightning arrester card; the birds (red) are revealed by the horn cards; and the pirates (black) are solved by the cannon card. If he succeeds, the ship moves. Certain power cards (explained below) can possibly be played at this time.
If the captain cannot overcome the events on the dice, he plays no cards at all and the aircraft crashes. None of these passengers still aboard receive a treasure.
The next round then begins. The next player aboard to the left of the captain becomes the new captain.
Any time there is a new journey, a player with 50 points will announce, ending the game. The player with the highest score wins. If there is no player with 50 points, the aircraft is placed back at the first city, all passengers get aboard, and each player draws an equipment card.
There are also several “power” cards that can help in the journey:
- The “turbo” card (which has a symbol showing all four hazard colors) can be used to overcome any obstacle.
- The “disembarkation” card can force another passenger off a ship after all passengers have spoken but before the captain plays the equipment cards.
- The “jetpack” card allows a player to jump off a ship right before the aircraft crashes.
- The “alternative route” card allows a reroll of the dice of the captain’s choice after all passengers have spoken.
- The “hard blow” card forces the captain to reroll all of the uneventful (i.e. blank) dice after all passengers have spoken. (This will most often be played by somebody off the ship.)
- The “magic spyglass” allows the ship to pass the challenge anyway after the captain announces he cannot. Unlike other cards, these are not “power” cards, but rather treasure cards located in the decks of the first four cities, and they are worth two points if unused. One is pictured above alongside treasure cards worth “6” and “9” points.
My thoughts on the game…
I like press-your-luck games, and Celestia is one of the better ones. This game has all the hallmarks of a good family game: it is easy to learn — even non-gamers grasp it in a few minutes — but there are interesting decisions. The production value is solid, and the components are beautiful. The gameplay is fast, often coming in under half an hour. It is easy to see why Aaron Weissblum’s latest creation made so many “hotness” lists at Essen.
The game plays 2-6. I haven’t tried it with two players, but I didn’t prefer it with three: the more the merrier here. Part of the fun is having lots of power cards lurking around the table, and seeing when different players get off the ship. This isn’t quite a party game, but it is close: there are frequently laugh-out-loud moments around the table.
Pardon the pun, but Celestia can mislead you into thinking that you’re all in the ship together. It is true that you’re working towards the most distant city possible. But because of some of the power cards, there can be “take that” moments. Yet the game remains friendly: even forcing somebody off the ship still means they still get a treasure card and can avoid crashing. The only really mean part of the game is the “hard blow” card, which forces the captain to roll for additional hazards, but playing that card has always resulted in laughs in my plays.
I’m looking forward to future adventures with Celestia. The push-your-luck genre often veers towards the abstract — think Can’t Stop, No Thanks, or Coloretto — but this one has a clever theme. Throw in Blam’s top-notch production value, and you have a family game that could do well this awards season.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers . . .
Lorna: The art and design are fantastic in this version. I also got special meeples to use with little game specific additions taken from the artwork. (These were also available at Essen for other games like Colt Express.) We had a lot of fun playing with 6.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Chris Wray, Lorna Dune, Dan Blum, Jonathan Franklin
- Not for me…