Professor Phineas Edmund Hornswoggle, known for building the highest quality airships, has announced his retirement. As one of the greatest airship engineers in the kingdom, you have gathered at the Hornswoggle factory in a competition to build the best airships you can and become the successor to the Hornswoggle empire!
What is it?
Dastardly Dirigibles is a good-looking, family-friendly Steampunk-themed set collector for 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, where you try to manage the suits that make up the seven different parts of your airship. It’s equal parts hand management, causing havoc for your neighbor, and a race to the finish. What’s more, it’s a nice combination of strategy and luck. It’s simple enough for young kids to play, while having enough strategy to become a more challenging game for more serious players.
There’s not a lot in the box, but it’s all good quality. There are five guide sheets, which serve as both a player’s aid to your turn actions and a blueprint for how to build your dirigible. There are also 75 tarot-sized cards — seven different dirigible parts in nine different suits, plus a dozen “Special” cards. The nine suit designation is a bit of a misnomer, because there are really seven suits (chain, gear, goggle, key, screw, top hat, and wrench) and two wild suits. The dirigible parts fall into the following categories: nose cone, lift engine, gondola front, gondola rear, drive engine, lift engine (again), and tail.
As mentioned, the quality is good and the art is outstanding. Fireside Games has done a great job of giving each suit its own look and feel. Some are a patchwork of materials that have a rather bohemian feel and others are gold-gilded or seemingly armored and their airworthiness might be questionable over here, in reality. Still, you’ll have a wonderful time simply looking through the deck and seeing how each thematic suit has been applied to the different dirigible divisions. From nose cone to tail, each suit has a very unique approach to presenting each part of the airship, resulting in some fabulously fantastic compounded zeppelins.
How to Play
Gameplay is actually pretty simple and, once you play through once and understand your options for play, average gameplay time will fall faster than a lead zeppelin. To begin a game, each of the two to five players set out a guide in front of them. Each player is dealt five cards and players choose a card to place before them from their hands. This card is forfeited to the table and this collection of cards forms the Emporium, which players will have access to on their turns. These cards are also used to determine the first player, with the card closest to the front of the ship getting to go first.
On a player’s turn, they draw up to five cards and choose three actions from the available choices. They can do the same action three times or any combination of the following: Players can play an airship or Special card from their hand. Players can discard a card. Players can swap a card from their hand with one from the Emporium. Players can replace the Emporium. Players can pass.
If you want to play a card, you pick a card from your hand and play it on your Guide Sheet. Parts can be played in any order, but if there is already a corresponding part card on your blueprint, it must be discarded and replaced with the new one. That is, nose cones can be replaced by playing a second nose cone. When a player plays a card, say, a front gondola, all other players must look at their hands and they must play the same part card if they have it — even if this means replacing an existing corresponding card on their Guide Sheets. The exceptions are as follows: if a player has more than one of the part, they can choose which one to play. Also, if the card being played is a lift engine, other players can choose which lift engine to play on their Guide Sheets, since each player has two. Special cards can also be played. These cards have benefits that help the player who laid the card down or hurt the opposing players. The rest of the actions (mentioned above) are pretty self-explanatory without any special conditions governing them.
Play continues from player to player until someone completes their airship. The round immediately ends and scoring begins. Players are only given points for the cards which come from the predominant suit on their ship. For example, if I have three screws, two top hats and a wrench on my incomplete airship, I only score for the screws because they are the most common suit. I get two points for each of the most commonly suited cards, giving me six points. Wild cards are counted along with the most common suit, but only count for a single point per wild card. If a player has evenly played suits, they choose which suit to count. If a player has no paired suits, they get a single point for each card played. However, if a player completes a dirigible with no pairs or wild cards, they are awarded 20 points for completing “a muddle”. Bonus points are awarded for completed airships (2 points for the first to finish and a single point for anyone else who filled all the cards on their blueprint).
Points are recorded and then cards are collected, shuffled, dealt, and a new round begins, like the first. However, the lowest point total gets to go first and gets four actions on their first turn. Play continues until three rounds are complete and the player with the most points at the end is designated the winner and named successor to the Hornswoggle empire.
Dastardly Dirigibles is easy to learn and fast to play. From our first game, we played faster than the estimated one hour timeframe that is on the box and we had a great time while doing it. The gameplay moves pretty quickly after a couple rounds and the game partly becomes a balance of playing cards that will benefit your round score and getting rid of the cards that might upset your blueprint strategy.
The Special cards give an advantage or deliver a detriment without the back-stabbing, anger-inducing frustration of some competitive games, which appealed to us since it made the game more family friendly. Plus, there seems to be the perfect number of Special cards — enough to affect the outcome of the game, but not so many as to seem overpowered. There’s enough luck in drawing your cards and others forcing you to replace airship parts by the cards they play that in the games we played, there were consistently different round winners every single time we played; it’s a game that does a good job of preventing runaway winners. As such, kids stand as good a chance of winning as an adult who’s playing more strategically.
We really enjoyed the art and presentation. While the Guide Sheets might have been easier to use as boards, the blueprints as sheets help keep this game under $20, which we also appreciate. But our favorite part of the game ended up being a bit unexpected. On the back of the rule book is a small handbook of Victorian insults. There are almost two dozen terms and sayings to hurl at your adversaries. Not ones to shy away from a little trash talk, we immediately incorporated these (and looked up others), so we could blag the gongoozlers before they knew what hit them. It resulted in some games with questionable pronunciation and even worse accents, but judging by the giggles and laughs, it didn’t matter.
Dastardly Dirigibles is a truly enjoyable game that has great art, plays quickly, and encourages laughter in its play, resulting in an all-around great family-friendly game that is definitely worth checking out. Dastardly Dirigibles is available today and retails for $19.95.
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a sample of this game for review purposes.