Overview: The Quicksilver airships have been retired from Queen Victoria’s Royal Air Force, but they’ve been put to use in the Quicksilver International Racing Federation. Race to the checkpoints and cross the finish line first, but watch that you don’t run into mountains or flying minefields, and look out for the gun turrets. (Retired? Perhaps. Inactive? Not a chance.) Welcome to the game of Quicksilver, and good luck!
Players: 2 to 6
Ages: 13 and up
Playing Time: 15 minutes per player (may vary with board setup)
Retail: $50 on Kickstarter, plus other reward levels
Rating: Jolly good show, old chap! A fairly simple set of rules makes for a fun game about racing airships.
Who Will Like It? If the phrase “airship racing” sets your pulse quickening, then you should give this project a look. Quicksilver is fairly easy to learn, offers some customization in the race courses, and has a fun Victorian theme.
Theme: The game is about racing retired airships around a dangerous course, and the game makes good use of the theme. The airships cannot fly over the high mountains and lose armor if they hit them; starting your move in a cloud slows you down significantly. You can choose to make ranged attacks or ram other ships, but beware that you may end up losing armor yourself! The tactics cards have great names and illustrations to build on the theme. One of my favorite cards, used to cancel somebody else’s tactics card, is called “Not Amused,” depicting Queen Victoria with her opera glasses and a big “thumbs-down.”
My review is based on a prototype demo copy, but here’s what it contains:
- 1 large hex-based map
- 1 start/finish line token (6 hexes wide)
- 3 numbered checkpoint tokens (double-sided)
- 6 pilot instrument panels (2 arrows each)
- 6 airship tokens with stands
- 6 cloud/minefield tokens (double-sided)
- 3 turret tokens
- 4 velocity dice
- 66 tactics cards
The map is quite large, as you can see in the photo above, and it’s nicely illustrated. The mountains and clouds have red and white borders around them to indicate which hexes specifically count as obstacles. There are three black hexes to indicate where the checkpoint markers will be placed, with arrows showing the line that must be crossed to pass the checkpoint. (My copy is a large sheet of paper, but the final board will be a six-panel folding board, akin to Arkham Horror.
The pilot instrument panels have two gauges, one showing the velocity and one showing the armor level. They’re nice and big: the prototype just uses brads to attach the arrows so I don’t know what the final version will look like. There are turn order cards which have a nice summary, and there’s also one with a portrait of Queen Victoria on the back which is used to determine the starting player.
The movement dice are six-sided dice, but rather than 1 through 6 they’re 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4. The airships are little cardboard cutouts with plastic bases: I think the plan is to have circular bases with a die-cut cardboard cutout. (Split Second Games would love to do molded plastic airships, but right now they’re just hoping to hit the production goal and maybe the first stretch goal to add a second map to the back of the game board.) The tactics cards have a wide range of uses — many of them allow you to make changes to your movement, and some allow you to affect other players by reducing their armor, discarding their cards, or stopping their movement. The cards are also numbered from 1 to 3, and these values come into play as well. The artwork on everything is great, and I really like the style.
Each player starts with 0 Velocity and 4 Armor on their panel, and gets 5 tactics cards. Players agree on the placement for the starting line and then place the checkpoints on their spots. Races can be customized by the changing the order of the checkpoints as well as the rotation (clockwise or counterclockwise). The suggested first game race only uses two of the checkpoints instead of three, for a shorter game.
Each player chooses one obstacle to place on the board: a cloud, a turret, or a minefield. They can’t be placed too close to checkpoints or the starting line, and there are some restrictions where each type may go. Basically a cloud will slow players down, a turret fires at players passing by it, and a minefield blows up and damages nearby airships the first time it is encountered. After determining player order (using the turn order cards), players line up on the starting line in reverse order, with the last player going first. Then the starting player begins the game.
The turn comes in five phases:
- Velocity: Change velocity by 1 if desired.
- Roll: Roll the specified number of dice, and optionally discard a card to add or subtract its value from your total movement points.
- Pivot: Optionally spend one movement point to pivot 60°. (You may pivot 120° but it also costs you an armor point.)
- Move: Move all remaining movement points forward in a straight line.
- Draw: Draw one tactics card. Discard down to 5 cards.
You may also play any number of tactics cards from your hand during your turn before your Draw phase.
A few other notes: Based on your velocity, you will roll between 1 and 3 dice, but there is also a minimum number of movement points for each velocity. “Danger” means you have a minimum of 6 points, even if you roll lower than that on the dice. In addition, to go at the “Danger” speed you must discard 2 cards from your hand; if you don’t have 2 cards to discard then you must slow down to “Fast.” If you start your turn inside a cloud, then your movement points are half the total, rounded up.
You can attack other players — either by ramming them or through cards that give you ranged attacks. When you pass through another player’s airship, you may discard a card to pass by them safely, or ram them on your way past. In any attack (ram or ranged), both players roll two dice. They may then discard as many cards as they wish from their hands to add the values to the rolls. Attackers win ties. In the case of a ramming attack, the losing player loses one point of armor. For ranged attacks, if the defender wins the attacker does not suffer any effects.
Colliding with mountains and checkpoints or flying off the edge of the map are, in general, bad ideas. You can lose armor, lose turns, or slow your velocity to 0, depending on which obstacle you hit, but either way you lose precious time while your opponents pull ahead. If you run out of armor entirely, you will end up spending a turn to right your airship and restore 1 Armor point, and then your next turn you get to continue from Velocity 0.
Players must reach the checkpoints and cross the line indicated by the arrows in the indicated direction (clockwise or counterclockwise). The first player to clear all the checkpoints and cross the finish line is the winner.
When I first got out the components I thought it was going to be a very complex game — maybe just because the airships reminded me of Leviathans. In fact, it may be a little closer to something like Kings of Air and Steam, except that it’s a racing game rather than a pickup-and-delivery game. The gameplay turned out to be very simple, and the depth of strategy comes in the use of the tactics cards: when do you discard cards for movement points (or to godangerously fast), and when do you save them for their actions?
As we played, we tried to take different routes to get to the checkpoints. In one game, I took a shot at passing through a narrow mountain pass while the others had to contend with a gun turret and minefield — it worked, but I had to face several “Gust of Wind” cards on my way through. In another game, the players split up in two directions from the starting line, and it still turned out to be quite close reaching the checkpoints, with a few lucky dice rolls making the difference. It made me realize that the board, with the checkpoint locations and built-in obstacles, is laid out really well. The size and placement of the clouds and mountains make it really challenging to take straight-line routes and force you to zigzag to your destination.
If there’s any complaint about the game, it’s in the fact that it is luck-dependent — both in the cards you get and the dice rolls. Sometimes you could be going at Velocity 3 and get the minimum 6 movement points, and other times when you wanted to go a short distance you might roll too high and be forced to run into an obstacle or overshoot your goal. Thankfully, you can use the cards to adjust your roll, and I like the strategic decisions you have to make about discarding two cards to max out your speed — it means that you won’t have any other protective cards in case of an attack, and you won’t have cards to tweak your roll. On the other hand, in one five-player game, we had one player who had been in the middle or end of the pack for a while pull out to second place by the end of the game. Again, it’s not purely luck because you can adjust your movement with cards, but a bad roll can make a big difference.
In that sense, Quicksilver is more of a typical American game than European game. You can end up in a situation where you get a runaway leader — and if that happens, they can be really hard to stop except with a timely “Gust of Wind” card or canceling some of their cards as they play. But it’s still a pretty fun racing game and one that I’m definitely interested in playing again.
The Kickstarter campaign has a little over a week left to go, so check out the project and consider picking up a copy. Split Second Games is a small venture, just two guys who developed this board game, and I think they’ve got a cool idea on their hands; I’d love to see this project succeed. One nice thing about the game is that I think it could be handled by younger players as well: the mechanics are pretty simple, though planning your route long-term may be a slightly trickier lesson.
Head over to Kickstarter for more information.
Wired: Great illustrations to match the theme; fun racing game with a well-designed board.
Tired: Can be luck-dependent and it’s hard to catch somebody who gets too far ahead.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review prototype copy of this game.