Celestia Review – Exploring Cloud Nine
Celestia is an interesting game. So many reviews start that way, but Celestia really is something kind of unique. As a game it is, generally speaking, very well reviewed by the blogging and vlogging community. It then, for some reason, became incredibly cheap in the UK for a short period of time. At which point, it entered our gaming group.
Celestia is ultimately a push-your-luck game that has a bit more to it. What is more, it features a little airship that you move around – so, you know….that’s awesome. Today we’re going to take a quick look at Celestia and what makes it slightly different in this review.
So, put on your steam punk goggles, don that leather aviator hat, and dust off your beard. This is Celestia.
What is Celestia?
Celestia is a fairly simple game, with an interesting premise, designed by Aaron Weissblum and with art by Gaetan Noir. It is a game for 2-6 players, although the higher the player count generally the better it is. Celestia takes around 30 minutes to play.
Celestia sees players take it in turns captaining an airship between floating cities. At any point, players can bail from the airship and explore each city, gaining treasure. In between the cities, however, the captains face challenges that they must pass to progress onto the next island and next point of relative safety. At each progressive island the loot gets better and better.
If the captain fails, the ship goes down and the game is reset. Players take their loot from the cities, and the moment a player reaches a loot value of 50, the game ends.
How is Celestia Played?
So, that is a brief overview about how to play but what about the nitty gritty? Well, Celestia is a dice rolling and hand-management (sort-of) kind of game. Each player is given a hand of 6 cards, each depicting a type of one of four challenges. Those may be a lightning storm, a pirate invasion, clouds, or a flock of birds.
Okay, so picture this. You are on an city. It is your turn to be the captain. You are on the “2” city and looking to progress to the “4” city. What you do is you roll two dice, as depicted on the side of the city tile. You roll a flock of birds and a lightning storm. Now, this is where it gets interesting.
It is up to players to decide if they believe you have the cards it takes in your hand to surpass the obstacles. Do you have a flock of birds card and a lightning storm card? Our friend believes you do, so he/she stays on the ship. I don’t believe you do, so I decide to bail. As such, I get out of the airship and stand on he floating city.
It turns out you did have the cards, and so you progress. You discard those cards, but you don’t draw back up. This immediately creates a new dynamic as you now don’t have many card for your next roll.
As you progress the challenges get harder, and at certain cities the amount of dice you need to roll increases. The captain rotates every single city in Celestia, so a new player is always in charge, and eventually, the airship will crash, and players reap the rewards of the cities they were on assuming they got out before it crashed.
At the end of the round, everything resets. The airship goes back to the start, loot is claimed, and everyone gets one (and only one) card.
Most of these cards help you defeat obstacles; however, a few are special cards that can allow for rerolls, force rerolls, or even allow you to see if the captain has succeeded in the challenge before abandoning ship.
So, rather nicely, that is basically it. To simplify, the rules refers to that whole process in simple steps (which I paraphrase below):
- The captain rolls dice to determine the challenge (or determine what they need to overcome)
- Each other player chooses to stay on the airship or get off (the captain must stay).
- The captain plays cards or loses.
- If the captain passed the challenge they move the airship. If they don’t, they crash out – skip straight to point 6.
- The captain passes control of the airship to the next player – go back to point 1.
- If the ship crashes, those still aboard get nothing. Those who got out at islands, get loot from that island. Everyone draws a card.
What is Celestia like to play?
So, what is Celestia like to play?
Okay, so now we break it down into more opinion. We’ve already explored how it is played, but what it is like to play, well, that is something different. I have to admit that, when my mate first said “I have this game called Celestia” and he explained the concept to me, I wasn’t hugely engaged. The airship is a gimmick, and gimmicky games tend to be quite hit-and-miss. The concept seemed a bit fluffy. All it all it didn’t grab me.
I was, I have to admit, partially wrong. Celestia is a fun game, and it is a push-your-luck style game that has a little bit more to it. The core game play is highly random, from the cards that you have to the dice rolls. That part of the game is almost autonomous as bar a few cards that allow for rerolls there is very little you can do as captain. If you have the cards, you have to play them. If you don’t have the cards then you crash; however, if anyone who looks at Celestia and pegs it for a simple push-your-luck style game then they are seriously doing it a disservice.
You see, Celestia has a bit more to it in regards to strategy and with meta-gaming as well. Being the captain isn’t really what the game is about, but instead it is about being strategic in how you play as a passenger. There is this beautiful moment that happens with in Celestia where it dawns on you and things start slotting into place.
The captain has just rolled the fourth flock of birds in a row, and you know your hand has five bird cards, so can they physically make it? You find yourself trying to card count and figure out how many cards there can be out at any one time compared to the size of the pile.
Likewise, you know your own hand and you see that when it comes around to you you’ll only be able to handle a flock of birds and a lightning storm – that means there is a 22/36 chance of you not being able to succeed on your next turn. Since as captain, you can’t bail, should you bail now?
And it is those kind of conflicts that makes Celestia really quite novel and fun. It is a game that makes the most of what it has and gives it all.
All in all, Celestia is a game that allows for great atmosphere. Everyone kind of bonds over those moments of determining if the airship has crashed or not. Even more fun is when it does crash and everyone lets out their exasperated cries as players, cursing the captain even though it is pure luck. It is a fun and funny game.
Plus the airship is kind of neat – so there is that as well.
TL;DR: The Good, The Bad, and The Flock of Birds
So, like with all games we can now break it down into good, bad, and neutral points about Celestia.
- Celestia is accessible and looks fantastic. The cities look wonderful, and the colour pallet is simply superb.
- Celestia is easy to pick up and fun to play. There is this great atmosphere around the table when everyone is waiting to hear if the airship has crashed or if you all get to go onto the next island/city.
- There are a couple of moments of strategy so the game isn’t entirely luck. These moments are beautiful.
- In this review, I mention the airship as both gimmicky and kind of cool. It is both of those things, but the game would still exist as a good game without the 3D airship.
- I can imagine Celestia driving serious competitive gamers insane. This is a game with A LOT of luck, and you have to be on board with that in order to have a good time.
- It is possible, by chance, to have such a bad hand that you always bail out before becoming captain. That removes some of the fun from the game.
Celestia Review: Conclusion
All-in-all though I am really glad that Celestia got bought into our gaming group. It is a fun little filler game that doesn’t require a huge amount of thought. It can be played as a sorbet game, and thus is really good for little breaks in between two larger games. We actually cushioned it between Between Two Cities and Istanbul. It was a good laugh.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy Celestia? Do you think you’ll enjoy Celestia? Let me know in the comments below.