Sea of Clouds: Mechanical Exploration Review

Sea of Clouds from Iello and designed by Théo Rivière is an extremely clever game. I picked it up for the theme, being completely honest, I love the notion of sky pirates and grand adventures. Plus the art is stunning on the box and really fun on the cards.

Needless to say I really like this game, it has become one of our favorite 2-player games at dinner. It has a lot of luck, which may turn off more serious players.

The nuts and bolts of this game though are what really intrigue me. Or sails and hulls? The loot sharing system is really revving up my engineering/design brain with this game. So how does it work?

Each turn, the starting player looks at the card(s) in the first spot and decided to take that card(s) and coins (more on that momentarily) OR they may pass on that selection and look at the next selection all the way to the 3rd selection. If the player still is not interested in any of those selections they may take the top card off the deck to add to their crew/cargo/effects.

Seems straightforward enough, basically drafting, why would I be intrigued by that i’ve played 7 Wonders and so many others? The trick here is that when the player passes on the selection, a card is added facedown to the selection. This is done each time the selection is passed on until there are 3 cards. At this point coins are added to entice a player to take the selection.

This mechanism reminded me of the Monty Hall show “Let’s Make a Deal.” You can make the choice, but if you pass on it, you are leaving that card for the next player plus one you haven’t even seen!! In Let’s Make a Deal it is all blind, you choose one, they show you one it isn’t, then you can trade. But it’s that subtle interaction with the game state, do you take a card that may be useful or do you keep going to try to find a better card?

I often go searching for certain cards, Relics (blue back) are desirable if you have a lot of them, otherwise they’re negative points. Chests (green back) are also good, but sometimes can have really bizarre effects. Rum is always good (yellow back), except when it’s Fake Rum! Why’s all the rum gone? Oh wait, here’s one *swigs* that ain’t rum! Pirates are the last card type (red back) and are used during the 3 boarding actions where players compare pirate strength to their neighbors.

In all, why would I pass on a Rum of say value 1? That’s 1 guaranteed point! The next selection has a Chest though and it may be a secret and worth a ton more! Ah, greedy pirates often meet their end. We quite often find ourselves with 3 really awful cards in a selection, eventually those coins (1 point per coin at the end) make it worthwhile to take those really bad cards that could cause you negative points at the end.

Overall, really engaging and great interaction with theme and mechanics, I can certainly picture myself as an air pirate deciding what to take along and what to leave for the other captains!

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