Dale Yu: Review of Sky Towers

Sky Towers

  • Designer: Charles Ward
  • Publisher: EXIST Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 3
  • Played with PnP copy from files sent from publisher

Sky Towers is a game created for the 2021 54-card game design contest (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2495300/2021-54-card-game-design-contest) and I do try to peek at contests such as these to see if anything there catches my eye.  In this case, the game came and found me, and the designer contacted me to see if he could send me a copy (From Japan) to try.  I figured it would be easier to make a PnP copy, to save both time and postage, so we had a copy to try in short order.  My local group is always looking for new card games to play; and this game was sold to me a a light family oriented game – and I’m hoping to have more time with my non-game playing niece and nephews in the upcoming months.

In this game, players are trying to build towers (into the sky).  Each card in the deck shows a building on it, along with a numerical value from 1 to 10.  Some of the ranks have special abilities associated with them.  Each of the cards also tells you in the upper right corner how many copies there are of that rank in the deck.   Additionally, many of the cards have yellow flags or balloons on them (these represent victory points).  There are 50 cards in this deck.  There are also 4 bonus cards which are placed on the table to start the game.  These can be earned over the course of the game.

Players are dealt a hand of 5 cards to start the game.  Play goes around the table, and on a turn, the active player takes two actions from three options (Play, Draw, Return).  They can be done in any order, and the same action can be done twice.

Play – In the multiplayer game, players build a single tower at a time; with the goal being to get the sum of the cards in the tower to equal 21 exactly.   Play a card from your hand onto the tower.  You may not play a card which matches the top card of the player to either side of you.  You may not play a card that raises your tower total about 21.  If the card you played has a special effect on it, resolve the effect of the card immediately.  If your tower now adds up to exactly 21 – score the tower by taking all the cards and placing them facedown next to you in your scoring pile.  Check to see if you have met the requirements of any of the bonus cards, and if so, take that bonus card from wherever it happens to be now (in the middle of the table or from another player).

Draw – Draw the top card from the deck and add it to your hand.  There is no explicit hand size limit, but you should know that the special action of the 5 card causes all players to discard down to 5 cards in their hand and place those cards on the draw deck.

Return – Take all of the cards from your tower and put them back in your hand.

Once the active player has taken their two actions, the next player goes and does the same. This continues until someone draws the last card of the deck which triggers the game end.  Each player gets one more turn (including the person who drew the final card), and in this special final turn, each player gets 3 actions.  As an exception, if someone plays a “5” and causes players to regenerate a draw deck, regular play will resume and a new game end round will be triggered when the deck is again exhausted.

When the game does end, all players look at the cards in their scoring pile (that is, only cards which were part of completed towers) as well as any bonus cards they currently possess, and count up all the yellow kites on those cards.  The player with the most kites wins.  

My thoughts on the game

The game was sold to me as a light, family oriented card game, and I would have to say that the description is apt.  There really isn’t much to the strategy here – draw, play or restart.  Rinse, repeat.  There is a little interaction between players – the “5” card causes all players to discard down to 5 cards in their hand, and you may end up playing this as much for the effect as the adding of 5 to your tower.  The “6” card lets you ask any player for a specific rank, and if they have one in their hand, they have to give it to you.  This is a somewhat targeted attack, but it misses more often than it hits, so that’s not a big deal.  There is also a bit of indirect interaction with the rule that you can’t build the same card that is on the top of a neighbor’s tower.  Once or twice a game, you might be able to thwart your neighbor by playing a card the equals the exact amount they need to finish their tower…

The game plays quickly, as most turns happen lightning fast.  I would recommend that everyone pay attention to the towers being built as it is easy to mistakenly try to play a card which is currently prohibited based on the neighbors’ current top card.  The deck is small, and in a 4p game, you’re only going to have 30 cards in the draw deck to start – though a few more will likely be added through the play of the “5” cards.  I’d say 3 towers is the most you can play on – though I have seen more than 3 happen in rare cases.  Luckily, it’s really not the number of towers that matters, but rather the number of cards (and the ranks of the cards) – pay attention to the different ranks as they have differing numbers of VPs on them.

There are also 2 different solitaire versions included in the ruleset that I have – one is solo only and one is played against an Automa.  I have tried each once, and they are serviceable versions of the game, but neither really captured my attention to play more than once.

My regular group played the game, and it worked fine with that group – but I’ll admit that no one was blown away by it.   However, that’s not a surprising result as honestly as Sky Towers is really too simple of a game for those guys.  It worked better with a younger crowd, in part as an introduction to card games and as a subtle way for an 8-year-old to practice some arithmetic.  I left my copy with the nephews as they were certainly more enthusiastic about it than I was, and this definitely won’t get played more around here.  But, again, my group is just the wrong demographic.  If you’re looking for a very light, entry level game, this would be a good option to consider.

If you want to try it yourself, you can find the necessary links here – 

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2503244/article/35811850#35811850

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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