With ties to Gulliver’s Travels, the board game Celestia provides amazing adventure in the clouds. What glorious treasure will you find when you journey to the marvelous celestial cities? Will you make it all the way to Meiji, the City of Lights, or will your airship be grounded by storms, taken over by pirates, or worse?
Celestia is a press your luck dice game where players take turns being the captain of an airship on a voyage through the clouds. Each turn, the captain rolls a number of dice that is required to travel to the next sky city. The number of dice needed to visit each city increases after every three cities. The dice represents specific challenges that the captain will have to overcome in order to safely navigate to the next city.
On your journey, you might get lucky and see nothing but clear skies, but chances are you’ll encounter some sort of perilous obstacle. Obstacles include thick clouds, lightning, flocks of birds, and pirates. In order to overcome these obstacles, the captain will need to discard cards from their hand that counteracts each threat. Usually, you’ll encounter more than one threat at a time.
After the dice are rolled and everyone gets a chance to see what the ship will encounter, each player (other than the captain) must decide whether they will stay on board the ship or remain in the current city. Should you disembark, you pick up a treasure card from that city. Treasure cards are worth victory points at the end of the game (some do special things, but most are simply worth victory points). If you decide to stay on the ship, you are betting that the captain can maneuver past all of the obstacles and make it safely to the next city.
In order to overcome the obstacles, the captain will need to discard cards that counteract the obstacle in question. For example, a compass will allow safe passage through dense clouds and a cannon will scare off pirates. If the captain doesn’t have what it takes, the ship crashes and you get nothing. This gambling, or press your luck, part of the game is what makes it fun. Of course, a decent amount of table talk, or weird looks from the captain, make it all the better.
If the ship crashes, don’t despair. Somehow, it magically arrives back at the starting city with everyone back on board, safe and sound. The role of the captain passes to the next player and the game continues until one player reaches 50 victory points, which usually means they win the game.
As the game continues, the number of cards in each player’s hand will vary wildly (because of the amount they had to discard). This makes estimating the odds of survival interesting and, at times, rather difficult. There are also Power Cards that can be found. Most of these are helpful for the entire group, but “Wind Gust” causes the captain to reroll all of the blank (no threats) dice. And there are also Turbo Cards, which may only be played by the captain and act as a wild card, capable of overcoming any challenge.
The rulebook contains a variant method of play for “beginners”. This variant removes all of the Power Cards as well as the Magic Spyglass card. It also changes the end game scenario to one that I like a lot better. Instead of the 50 points needed to win, the variant rule is that the game ends when any player collects five different types of treasure. I like this end game condition a lot better as it means I don’t have to keep track of my points during the game. In this version, points are calculated at the end of the game as normal and the player with the most points wins. Because of the light-hearted nature of the game, I don’t want to be bothered to total my points throughout the game, even if it means adding only small numbers together. I’d just rather not have to keep track of that and the fact that this is an official variant makes me happy.
The shining crown of Celestia is the three dimensional cardboard airship that carries all of the pawns from city to city. This airship is pretty cool, and the rotor can actually spin! The cardboard stock, custom dice, and cards round out the components and they are all top quality.
At least the box has a divider; it could be worse. The storage compartments for Celestia aren’t great. I mean they do their job, but they aren’t elegant. You get two large compartments and two smaller compartments, which means some components will have to share a compartment with other components. Not the end of the world, and at least everything fits back inside the box, but it could be better.
Celestia is a fun, casual game that can handle up to six players. Being a lighter game and taking about thirty minutes to play, this is a game even non-gamers can enjoy. The 3D airship is a nice touch and adds some charm and table presence. If you are looking for a press your luck game, look no farther than Celestia.