- Designer: Kevin Hamano
- Publisher: Floodgate Games
- Players: 2-6
- Age: 10+
- Time: 10-15 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
In Kites, the players work together as a team to try to keep all their kites in the air. The kites are represented by sand timers, and as long as there is sand in the top portion – the kite remains in the air! The goal is to keep all the kites in the air until the day is through (you have played all the cards in the deck).
To start the game, make sure that all the timers have the sand on just one side, and then lay them all on their side to start. The deck of Kite cards is shuffled and players are dealt a starting hand (between 3 and 5 cards based on player count). If you are looking for a more complicated game, you can add the 12 Challenge cards in the deck before shuffling.
To start the game, flip over the white time, so that all the sand is on top. Players now pick up their hands and look at them. Players now take turns in order, going clockwise from the starting player. To take a turn, the active player plays a card from their hand – any kites seen on this card have their timer flipped over. If the particular timer is still on its side (i.e. its color has not yet been played this game), it is stood up. Alternatively, if the player plays a card with a single kite on it, you can use that card to flip over the white timer – this is the only way that white timer is flipped!
On your turn, it may be helpful to talk about what you intend to do. Sometimes it is helpful to ask which players have single kite cards – to make sure you have options to flip the white timer over… Also, depending on how the sand timers look, the active player may actually want to think about stalling a bit on their turn before they play a card – in order to not flip over a timer that was just flipped…
Once the card has been played, and the appropriate timers have been flipped; you end the turn by drawing a new card from the supply. The next player in order is now up! Continue this until the deck is exhausted – now it’s time for the Grand Finale! Once you get to this stage, the white timer can no longer be flipped… All of the cards still in the players’ hands must be played before the sand in the white timer runs out. If the players can do this – the team wins! The players lose if, at any point, any of the sand timers runs out of sand.
You can generally be happy if you win or lose, but if you want to measure how well you lost, you can see how many cards remain unplayed and try to better your score next time.
In the more advanced version of the game, you add in the Challenge cards to the deck. You can choose to play with any or all of them:
- Storm – when you draw a Storm card, you loudly announce it. On your next turn, you must play the Storm card, and you flip over EVERY timer for your turn. If this is in the Grand Finale, you actually do get to flip the white timer over as well
- Crossed Lines – when you draw it, you do NOT announce it. You are obligated to play it on the the next turn, and when you do, each player must swap one card with each of their neighbors
- Airplane – when you draw it, you do NOT announce it. You are obligated to play it on the next turn, and when you do – no one is allowed to speak until after you play your next card.
My thoughts on the game
Kites is a quick and challenging cooperative game – the addition of the time pressure from the sand timers really makes this a frenetic, sweaty palms kinda game. The game is really simple in its concept; and you can pretty much teach the game in 30 seconds. Of course, make sure everyone understands all the rules as this is a real-time game – it’s hard to answer rules questions as the timers all drain down.
The biggest thing here is communication amongst players. You need to be watching the timers and tracking which ones look like they’re going to run out. We usually put them in order R-O-Y -white – B-V as this is the order of sand in them (30 sec for red, 90 sec for violet). It appears that the prevalence in the deck is in the inverse order of the sand; so you will find the Red kite the most frequently on your cards, and the violet least frequently.
It helps to constantly talk and figure out which players have which colors (and single kite cards) in their hand. You obviously want to try to flip timers closer to when they are running out as this gives you the most time on the flip side. However, somewhat counterintuitively, if multiple players have the same color in a row, you might want to play them quickly one after the other to keep the sand status relatively stable while being able to play a bunch of cards in quick succession. After all, the goal here is to play all the cards.
I didn’t think that the game would be so exciting when I read the rules, but man, those sand timers are relentless! And it seems like in every game, you think you’re doing great, and then a card gets played, a timer is turned over super early, and then suddenly, you’re under the gun, trying to play fast so that the right color can get played – and in the process, you create a bunch more problems!
But, the game itself is pretty simple; the only other strategy bit I can think of is that we try to mention when the deck is getting low so that we can come up with a plan to flip over the white timer close to being empty – in order to give us as much time as possible for The Big Finish!
The complicated cards all make the game a bit more challenging – mostly in the way they disrupt any planning that you might be trying to use… and I like the fact you can add them in one at a time so that you can find the right level of challenge for your group. As it stands, our group still doesn’t win every game on the regular mode; so we’re pretty happy mostly ignoring the extra cards for now.
The artwork is solid, as I have come to expect from Beth Sobel. The artwork is colorful, and the kites are easy to see on the cards – but while the art is beautiful, the cards are only indexed on the top, so if you get your cards jumbled around when you shuffle and/or deal – you’ll possibly lose a little bit of time having to flip some cards around.
I wish the Challenge cards included icons on them to remind you of their function. In a real-time game, it’s crucial that everyone understands the card as soon as it is drawn – and an iconographic reminder of whether to announce it or not and then the function of the card would have been super helpful.
But, that’s a small thing, and one that doesn’t affect my group much at all as we tend not to use them. For a fast (10-15 min) game that keeps everyone involved, Kites could be the choice for you!
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…