Most gamers seem to have a love/hate relationship with real-time games. There are those who love the quick decision-making and the small yet constant sense of panic that sits with every player. On the other hand, there are people that hate… well, the quick decision-making and the small yet constant sense of panic.
You can definitely put me in the “love” group. Ever since I got my hands on Escape: The Curse of the Temple (and reviewed it over 7 years ago… oh, where does the time go?), I’ve been a big fan of the genre. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that what makes a real-time game good (in my opinion) really comes down to whether the game is challenging while also being “fair” (I’ll elaborate on that later). It also has to be built the right way so that some replay value is added and I’m not playing the exact same way over and over again.
So then, what about this game, Skyrockets? Will it blast off with those elements I’m looking for? Or will it be a dud and misfire? (Yes, the puns! The double meanings! Enjoy them!)
In Skyrockets, players are working together to put on a fireworks show. You want to make sure the people stay entertained, so you’ll… okay, let’s stop there. The theme is nice, and there are some cool ways in which it is used, but it’s a bit tacked on, so let’s not go any further with trying to make it work.
Anyway, in the game, you’ll have a few sand timers of different colors and that last for different lengths of time. Once the game begins, you’ll play cards from your hand that feature two of the colors. The timers matching these colors are then flipped over. Your goal is (usually) to never let the sand run out in any of the timers, so you’ll need to properly time when you play your different cards. If you run out of sand, the crowd gets bored. If they get bored too many times, you’ll lose.
One of the timers is your “countdown”. That timer works a little differently – it can only be flipped when it runs out, even if you play a card with its color. When it is flipped, it moves down a track, counting down to the end of your fireworks display. When you get that timer to the end of the countdown, you win.
That’s the basic rundown of the game, and even in this most basic form, it works really well. There’s just the right amount of tension throughout as you’re keeping an eye on the timers, trying to keep them from running out. It’s awesome that the cards feature two colors, because that means that sometimes, you’ll have to do some undesired flipping to stay alive. There were many variations of the following conversation during our playthroughs:
“Great, we saved the blue! Okay, now someone get the yellow.”
“Well, I’ve got a card for yellow, but it’s also got green.”
“Not green! We just flipped that one!”
“Well, we’re gonna lose if I don’t flip the yellow soon!”
“Okay, okay! Just do it!”
A Festival of Colors
You might not win the first game you play, but you’ll probably do fine by the second. And at that point, you might be thinking that you’ve got it down and there’s not much more to see here. But that’s where you’re wrong…
Skyrockets comes with thirty different rule sets on different festival cards to put you and your fellow players to the test. Each one provides a nice, distinct change that sets it apart from the other games. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are some really cool adjustments here. Some might change the way that you collect and/or play your cards. Some might have players take on different tasks, or maybe limit the way in which they can communicate.
We played through over a dozen of these scenarios, and while some we beat the first time through, others were much more of a challenge. The game only takes about 5 to 8 minutes to play each time, and resetting to play a scenario again just means you put the timers back and then shuffle and redistribute the cards. As a result, failure’s not a huge deal. You’ll be ready to try again in about 30 seconds.
The Grand Finale
So let’s go back to my criteria for real-time games and see how Skyrockets does.
First, it’s challenging. Not overly so, certainly. We certainly won more than we lost, and we were able to quickly adjust to beat a scenario if we had to play it again. But it’s got enough bite that a casual player will want to give it a try without worrying about being “bad” at the game or making the group lose.
The game is definitely “fair”. There were some scenarios that severely limited our access to different cards, and that got a little frustrating. But it never felt like the game was cheating or anything. We knew that we could’ve done a few things differently, so we were willing to give each challenge another go.
And, of course, there’s the replayability. The many scenarios are great, and the game also provides a structure for progressing through the different variations if you want to have a little bit of a legacy feel.
After my first game at Dice and Diversions, I was intrigued. By the end of that weekend, I had played the game more than 20 times. It’s so quick to setup, teach, and play. While I know that some people will quickly disregard this one because it’s real-time, I could see this being a great addition to anyone’s shelf.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Quick to learn, setup, and play
- Lots of variety in the different rules sets
- The right amounts of tension and challenge
- It’s real-time, and that’s not gonna work for some people