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November 6th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

While this game was published in 2007, I hadn’t heard of it until about a month ago.  I seem to be doing that a lot lately…finding stuff I don’t expect under the “you may also like” section of Amazon’s various game pages.  “Airships” tasks players with building a fleet of airships (surprise, surprise) with the intent on earning the most victory points.  It can be compared to “Splendor”, but with a lot of dice rolling and calculating probabilities.  I suppose I should explain the game a bit more before doing any more comparisons, so let’s get to it!



Airships: 2-4 Players, Ages 10+, Average Play Time = 45-60 Minutes



The game includes 1 game board, 4 company boards, 18 airship cards, 48 expansion cards, 1 change of era card, 4 entrepreneur cards, 24 bonus chip, 9 special dice (3 white, 3 red, 3 black), 1 wooden airship, and the instructions.

Setup & Gameplay

There’s an entire page devoted to game setup so I’ll opt to simplify things in order to keep this review moving. Suffice it to say that each player receives a company board and an entrepreneur card for the country of their choice, along with a starter-expansion card.  The airship and expansion decks are set up and seeded in a specific way so that the easier-to-acquire cards come out first.  The former cards are the primary way to earn points while the latter power up the player in various ways.  The oldest goes first, receiving three bonus chips from the bank (everyone else gets four).

On a player’s turn, they’ll observe the following actions:

1. Turning over an expansion card – The top card of the expansion deck is drawn and placed onto its appropriate row on the board…which is in the row of the same color and as far to the left as possible.  If the row is full (already has three cards), then the cards shift to the left with the left most card being discarded.  The drawn card is then placed on the now empty far-right space.  When the change of era card appears, players turn their entrepreneur cards over, allowing players to use an additional red die.  The change of era card is then discarded.

2. Acquisition of an expansion or airship card – The player will choose a card on the board (airship or expansion) and attempt to acquire it by rolling dice.  The value needed to meet or exceed is listed on the card.  Cards also list how many dice are to be considered after the roll is complete…meaning you can throw as many dice as your personal board allows, but may only choose as many dice as are listed on the card when summing your total.  A maximum of three dice of one color can be used for each throw.  The player will add the card to their player board when successful with the roll, discarding an existing expansion card of the same color when present.  Airship cards simply get stacked on top of one another.  Players may use bonus chips, the wooden airship, and/or expansion cards to help them reach their goal.  A player who fails the roll gets a bonus chip from the supply and ends their turn.

A player can spend three bonus chips to take another turn, if they so choose.  When the D-LZ129 Hindenburg field becomes visible on the board (because one pile of airship cards have been used up), players may also participate in the building of the Hindenburg by throwing dice in the same way.  This new action takes up a player’s turn and each construction phase can be completed only once.  The game ends when only one card is on each of the four airship card fields or when the Hindenburg’s fourth construction phase is completed.  Players total their victory points and whoever has the most, wins!

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.




The Review

This game can indeed be compared to “Splendor” in the way it plays…that is, you’ll start with the ability to throw only a few dice and then have more options available to you as you acquire more expansion cards.  Financiers, for example, offer their owner one to three additional dice and the ability to sometimes earn extra VP when owning it at the end of the game.  Engineers, on the other hand, offer an additional imaginary die of a fixed value.  Engines work in a similar fashion, but add +1 or +2 to every dice rolled of a particular color.  There are more expansions/upgrades than this, but you get the idea.

Unlike “Splendor”, this game is less pretty visually but makes up for it with its heavy focus on probabilities.  White dice only have two 1’s, two 2’s, and two 3’s while black ones have two 4’s, two 6’s, and two 8’s.  Red dice fall somewhere in the middle containing a 2, a 5, and two 3’s and 4’s.  As such, you’ll be trying to gauge what your success rate will be going after particular cards.  Most cards limit you in the sense that you can roll a maximum of three dice per color, but only allow you to use one or two of the die results.  I like that you can also switch your focus at any time from expansions to airship cards and vice versa, though you can only have one expansion of that color on your board at a time.  This game offers choices and plenty of them.

While I enjoy playing “Splendor” more than “Airships”, I do think that “Airships” is a pretty good game.  “Splendor” doesn’t have dice rolling, so players have more control over their actions and their intended acquisitions.  It’s possible for players to be a bit unlucky in “Airships” based on some bad dice rolls, though there are various ways for players to offset this via bonus chips, the wooden airship, and expansion cards.  I also didn’t like the length of the board…it reminded me of Spaceball One in that it kept going and going.  With that said, I grabbed “Airships” for about $15 on Amazon (as of 10/28/15) and I can safely say that the purchase was worth it based on the content and replayability offered here.  Give this one a go if you like “Splendor” and/or dice rolling games that encourage players to mentally calculate probabilities.

Final Verdict: 7/10

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