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Aether Captains (Preview)

February 3rd, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

Things aren’t looking all that peaceful above the skies of Arkady, what with air pirates threatening to take down the Grand Compact.  In “Aether Captains”, a game primarily involving dice & coming to Kickstarter mid-January 2016, one player will assume the rule of the HMS Dauntless & Dominion tasked with defending the Grand Compact from all the other players (who assume the rule of the air pirates).  The pirates will be sending waves of ships against the Grand Compact, each with their own personal objectives which may pit them against one another, depending on the circumstances.  It’s important to stress that I was sent an unfinished prototype…the dice, for example, were not included and paper substitutes were provided.  As such, I primarily used art provided by the developer/publisher so as to better represent the game.  Also, prototypes are generally not reflective of the final product, making the rules you see below subject to change.

 

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It’s important to give you folks a little background on the components so that you know what I’m referring to when I mention it.  The game comes with some hex tiles, representing Arkady.  They’re double-sided, allowing players to switch between the Grand Compact territories (yellow border) and the Domain of the Air Pirate territories (grey border).  Any city tiles will belong to the Grand Compact, with the Neutral Ground tile placed in the middle of the table.  So many tiles will be used to build Arkady, depending on how many people are playing the game.  Here, the game has a bit of tile-laying as players will take turns building the board.  It’s important that players pay attention to the tiles and try to place at least one of each, as some objective cards will list specific field and drop zones. Luckily, players can choose which objective cards to take based on what was laid out, if they can’t manage to place all types.

With regard to cities…they may be few, but are pretty unique.  All of the cities belong to the Grand Compact and one is placed every four tiles during setup.  Each city offers a different resource, though can be destroyed if their hit points (called defense points) are depleted.  Fuel allows player to move, firearms allow players to perform attacks, gold will be needed by the pirates to recruit as well as complete objectives, repair gear us used by the Navy Commander (Grand Company) to repair sections of their ship, and water is used by the pirates to complete some of their objectives.  Obviously, the Neutral Ground is controlled by no one…though both sides can find new crew at this location.  Players will be given minis to move their ships around the board, as well as player boards for their respective sides.  The Grand Compact will use either the HMS Dauntless or the HMS Dominion in a 2-3 player game while being able to use both in a 4-5 player game.  These ships come in sections…six dice (numbered 1-6), with four faces representing the sections and two faces representing cross sections. Each pirate gets three dice ships and three miniatures, along with objective cards, crew cards, action cards, and some other goodies.

 

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The HMS Dauntless and the HMS Dominion have similar anatomy, but the stats in their individual sections are different.  Each section lists numbers of different colors…red being gun emplacements, blue being defense, yellow meaning command & repair, and green meaning engine.  The player commanding these ships will role a twelve sided die comparing the result against these values for the purposes of roll checks.  The pirates, on the other hand, command smaller ships containing red (attack), green (strength), blue (value), and sometimes grey (upgrade value) values.  Some of the ships like the Zomby Strike and Steam Raven have a high value but also a pretty high attack values, while others are a bit more well-rounded.  As these ships take damage, the die is turned clockwise to the next face that shows the next consecutive strength value.  To win the game, the pirates must complete their selected objective while the Navy Commander must destroy so many pirate ships to reach a certain VP total.

To keep the preview moving, I’ll opt to give you an overview of gameplay as opposed to a detailed instruction.  Essentially, each player will take turns to execute actions during a round to move ships, attack another player, buy resources, repair damage, and recruit crew.  Each faction has different actions to choose from.  For example, the Navy Commander operates on a points system and has six points to spend any way he/she wants during a round.  Each warcaptain, on the other hand, can choose two action cards per round.  They’ll also treat cities a bit differently in that pirates will need to occupy a city (if directed by an objectives card) in order to gain its resources, while the Navy Commander can simply buy them up to a max of six resources per ship (one for each section).  Crew members can be recruited for one gold and each provide unique one-time use abilities.

 

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The most complicated part of the game (that’s not to say that it’s hard to figure out) is combat.  If you’re the Navy Commander, you’re gonna wanna blow stuff up to win the game.  Doing so requires a little precision, as the gun emplacements have both a position and firing range.  Port guns can only hit pirates on the port side, and etc…just like in a ship battle on the high seas.  Dice are rolled and stats are compared to determine if the attack hits or not.  The Navy Commander will have a few different weapons, like bomb launchers and long ranged cannons, that have varying rules.  Further, sections can take damage requiring them to use some of their precious action points for repairs.  Combat works similarly with regard to cities and the values can be modified via occupying force tokens and etc.

It was difficult for me to fully enjoy this title, but not for the reasons you’d suspect.  The gameplay is fairly enjoyable and the ability to set up the board differently each game adds a lot of replayability. You see, “Aether Captains” is primarily a dice game and my dice…well, were folded paper cut outs.  It did whet my appetite though and I can’t wait to see what the actual final production copies will look like.  Playing both sides of the conflict is also pretty different…on one side you control a massive/powerful behemoth while on the other you have a bunch of smaller ships.  In the case of the latter, you’ll have to coordinate with other players to take on the HMS Dauntless and the HMS Dominion but also be mindful of your personal objective.  If rolling dice and being an air pirate is the life for you, then you owe it to yourself to check out “Aether Captains” and its Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magecompany/aether-captains

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