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Celestia

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Author:
Aaron Weissblum

Publisher:
Heidelberger
2015

No. of Players:
2 - 6

EVALUATION

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Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Celestia, that is the name of a stony asteroid discovered in 1933. It is also the unreachable designation of Gulliver, the protagonist in Jothan Swift's great books, in all of his numerous journeys. And finally it is the name of a small, but appealing game by HEIDELBERGER / BLAM in which - other than Gulliver - we reach the prosperous worlds of Celestia. To be exact, Celestia is not a complete new game, but a further development of Cloud 9. But there are enough changes to call it a game of its own and not only a variant of the older game.

In the game each player takes the role of an adventurer who boards a steam-punk styled aircraft and searches the cities of Celestia for celestial treasures. On each trip one of the players acts as captain who tries to manoeuvre the aircraft to the next destination, farer and farer, for only the farthest cities have the real valuable treasures.

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At the beginning the nine different city tiles are placed on the table in an increasing order. The aircraft is then placed on the city with the lowest number (1). The number on the city not only tells you where to place the city tile but also how many victory points you can find in the corresponding treasure cards that are placed next to the city tiles respectively. Beginning with victory points of one and more in the first city, this increases up to 25 victory points in the last city.

After dealing all players their hand cards (their equipment for the journey) and all passengers have entered the aircraft the journey can begin. But wait! We still need a captain. Well that is just one of us, determined by chance at the start and going clockwise around during the game for each new step of a journey (moving the aircraft from one city to the next).

For one step of the journey the players follow the same procedure: First of all the captain rolls a number of dice as indicated on the next city tile. Beginning with two dice for the city tiles 2-4, this goes up to four dice for the last two city tiles. Each die gives the players events which the captain has to overcome in the next phases. But before that each player but the captain (a captain never leaves his ship) has the chance to leave the aircraft and enter the current city to go for their treasures. As a result of an exit the player draws one of the treasure cards from this city. The card is safe for him then, but on the other hand he forfeits going farer to the cities with the more valuable treasures. Well, at least if the aircraft doesn't crash...

All players who are still in the aircraft after this have to trust the captain who then must use equipment cards from his hand to overcome the rolled events (cards with the same symbol like a lightning for overcoming a storm). If the captain succeeds in this he moves the aircraft to the next city and passes the control of the ship to the next player (clockwise) who is still on board. If however, he cannot or does not want to play enough cards the aircraft crashes, nobody of the remaining passengers draws a treasure card and a new journey with all players begins on the first city tile again.

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To be successful in Celestia you have to bluff and negotiate a lot. Does the current captain have the right cards to overcome the events of the dice? Is he also willing to play them? And which cards have the other players still in their hand, because they can influence the trip, too. The reason for this are six different kinds of special cards that are dealt among the other equipment cards. These cards allow players to influence the journey, even if they are not the current captain or some even if a passenger has already left the aircraft.

So, for example the disembarkation card lets you disembark other passengers and a jet pack causes the aircraft to crash, with only the passenger who played the card using the jet pack to safely go down to the ground (and by this collecting a treasure card of the current city). Other cards influence the events of the journey (positive or negative, for example a new roll) and can also be played after passengers have left (mostly to their annoyance).

Celestia was one of the positive surprises in my gaming group. A lovely design of the aircraft and the colourful illustrations on the box and the cards encourage the players to attempt one journey after another. The game is very fast, so that players who left the aircraft do not have to wait too long before the next journey begins and they take part in the game again. Also the total duration of the game is comparatively short (about 30 minutes, if you play fast), so you can play several games in a series.

I have heard that Celestia has overcome some of the minor imperfections of Cloud 9, but as I have never played the older game, I cannot say for sure. What I definitely can say is that Celestia is a fast, light-weighted, but entertaining game especially for larger groups. It works with less players (2 at least are necessary), but then it is more predictable and there is less negotioation. So I would recommend it for 5-6 players. It is more than a filler and also a perfect party game.


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