Airship cruise liners--the epitome of comfort and ease-of-travel. But they're also the perfect place to pull off the perfect heist. You're a criminal mastermind, determined to assemble the best gang you can to pull off some shenanigans. But you're not alone... Skyway Robbery is the latest game from designer Philip duBarry. Is it full of hot air? Let's find out.
Note that we received a prototype review copy, so the final components may be quite different--or not different at all--from the components you see here.
1 Game Board
5 Player Boards
5 Dirty Trick Envelopes
10 Location Tiles
10 Location Boards
35 Action Cards
14 Defense Cards
19 Loot Cards
9 Turf War Cards
9 Side Job Cards
9 Airship Crew Cards
32 Equipment Cards
49 Gang Member Cards
1 Airship Token
1 Starting Player Ticket
There are lots of spaces for cards on the board. You fill them up.
You’ll be choosing five of the 10 available locations for the game. The differences—other than thematic differences—are that the things needed to pull off heists in those areas will be different. And the Gang Members and Equipment cards available for those Locations are different, too. As part of the setup, you’ll find the location-specific cards and put them in a faceup pile.
You’ll choose a starting player, and give everyone some starting cash. Each player also picks a character card. All of these have a special power that will help you in the game.
The first interesting thing you get to do is draft Gang Members. Everyone gets three Gang Members, chooses one and then either pays for it and places it faceup in front of him, or places the Gang Member in the Brig space. Everyone either hires or Brigs one of those two cards, and then puts the final Gang Member in the Brig. And Gang Members you paid for are now taken into your hand.
Before we go over the available Actions, it’s probably important to understand the different locations on the board. The Airship itself has spaces to hire people and equipment. There are spaces for Crew Members, whom each have special powers. But in keeping with the theme they can only be used once, and are then discarded. There are also spaces for Gang Members and Equipment—each of which offers a special power.
There’s a Brig, where the cards you discarded during setup went. Also, some illegal actions might cause other Gang Members to end up there. You can use an Action to try and bust someone out of the Brig.
There are Side Job spaces, where you can do a “minor” heist.
The final spaces on the airship are for Turf Wars. There will be thugs there of varying strengths, which you can overcome to gain Reputation.
There’s a space on the board called The Docks, where some new Equipment and Gang Members are available at each Location. Some are specific to the Location, and others are just extras you can hire while here.
Finally, there’s the current Location. There will be a specific Loot card for that Location, and some Defenses you’ll need to overcome in order to grab that Loot.
Each round will look the same. Everyone has a hand of seven Action cards, and will choose three of them per turn. You put them down in a row on your player board, and they’ll be activated in that order through the round.
Here’s one of our favorite parts of the game. After everyone has played and resolved the first Action card, the last person to play one plays his or her second card—with the others then playing their second Action card. Then the last person to play and resolve the second Action card will be the first to play and resolve the last one. It’s simple and clever.
It does create an odd situation where that simple and clever mechanism tells me this game is best with exactly 3 players. Because there are three Actions—and a variable number of turns—if you have more or fewer than 3 players, people will have more or fewer chances to go twice in a row. With 3 players, everyone will have the exact same number of chances to go twice in a row, regardless of the number of turns.
Let’s talk about the Action cards.
Anonymous Tip—This is you snitching on your opponents. From that point forward during the round, whenever an opponent tries to carry out an Illegal Action, he or she has to add an Alarm die to the attempt. In addition, the player who played the Anonymous Tip gets two Reputation tokens for each die added. This stacks, so if two players play an Anonymous Tip, someone attempting an Illegal Action will have two Alarm dice.
If someone has to roll the Alarm dice, there's a chance someone is going to the Brig. Most sides of the dice have a handcuff symbol, and that means someone is going to the Brig. But you can just bust them out later. It's fun!
Use Skill—Some Gang Members have an arrow symbol along with their card text. You have to play the Use Skill Action in order to activate that Gang Member’s special power.
Acquire Asset—You can buy an available Equipment, Gang Member, or Airship Crew card. The Airship Crew can also be acquired through intimidation. You play a card with a strength value at least equal to the intimidation number on the Crew card. The card used for intimidation can’t be used the rest of this round.
Pickpocket—You just take $2 from the supply. This isn’t considered an Illegal Action.
Local Heist/Jail Break—You’ll choose one of these two options. For a Local Heist you’ll attempt to grab the Loot at the current Location. You have to play Gang Members and Equipment cards with icons matching the defenses on the current Location. Some cards might have more than one icon, and you can use that one card to fulfill more than one defense, if applicable. There’s also a Vault and Code icon—a permanent defense on each Location that you’ll also need to overcome. If you’re successful, you get the Loot card and some gold.
To break people out of the Brig, you just have to use cards to overcome the defense icons, and then grab a Gang Member from the Brig. There will always be at least two Gang Members in the Brig, so if there aren’t just grab one from the draw deck. (Poor sap.)
Turf War/Side Job—Again, you’ll choose one of these things to do. There are two thugs in the Turf War spot. Each of them has a strength, and if you can equal their strength by playing Strength cards, you'll put those thug cards in front of you. Cards you use here can't be used in the rest of the round.
For Side Jobs, you'll have to pass through defenses, just as you do with the Local Heist. If you can do that, you can take the card for Reputation points later, and some of them come with cash, too.
Repeat Action—It's just what it sounds like. You can repeat one previous Action.
You aren't forced to do an Action. If, for instance, you have to deal with a few Anonymous Tip dice rolls now, you can decide the risk is too much and just skip your turn.
If someone got the Loot from the current Location, you move to the next Location, otherwise the ship just continues on to the next space. So the game could go as few as 5 turns or as many as 20. (Neither of those extremes is likely.) When you hit the last space--or the last piece of Loot is taken--the game is over. The person with the most Reputation across tokens and cards is the winner.
Firestone—I enjoyed Skyway Robbery. It's a solid game with a fun theme and terrific artwork. It's on the lighter end of the spectrum, but where I would expect a heist game to be. The theme is especially well-integrated. The Locations. The Gang Members. The Brig. It all works well together and creates a fun atmosphere that just makes sense with the theme.
Jeremiah—I agree. While there are seemingly a lot of moving parts to the game, it all makes sense when the game is laid out on the board. The theme is lots of fun, too; we had a great time playing this one, and the artwork is outstanding!
Firestone—I really, really like the turn-order mechanic. Each round, one person gets the privilege of going first, but the other players get the privilege of going twice in a row. That's great. But as I mentioned before: Thanks to that mechanic, and since there are three Actions each turn, this really feels like a 3-player game. In every other aspect, 4 players could work, but with 4, one person is just at a disadvantage every turn, and that's bad IMO. I know it would cycle around with turn order, but since your Location is variable--and isn't something you can control--that's not a good answer for me.
I don't know how you could possibly play this with 5 players. In our 3-player game we ran out of Side Job cards by the last Location--and that was with moving fairly quickly to new Locations. With 5, they'd be gone halfway through the game. Then what? One of the things I most enjoy about this is how many ways there are to score Reputation points. When things run out early, you're limiting my choices.
In my opinion, this should play 2-4 players only.
Jeremiah— I did get a chance to play with 2 players, and it felt like it needed another player, so I would say the sweet spot is definitely 3-4 players. Interestingly, we nearly ran out of Turf War cards, rather than Side Job cards. We also never once bought a Crew Member card--seriously, not one single time. I will say that I was fortunate enough to score a couple cards that combo'd up really well, so it seemed like a waste to spend money on the Airship Crew cards since they would be lost after a use.
Firestone—We bought a couple of Crew Members. It all depends on what cards are coming out, of course, but one of them did help me pull off a Local Heist, so it was worth it to me! Another notable thing is the replayability that the character cards add. Each of them has a special power, and the cards are double-sided, with a different power on the back. I LOVE SPECIAL POWERS! So this was a welcome sight for me.
Firestone—Of course, it all comes down to how much fun the game is, right? I thought this had a high fun factor! I enjoyed what I was doing. I enjoyed seeing what cards came out. I enjoyed figuring out which Action cards to play--and in which order to play them. I enjoyed the tension of wondering if I'd get to grab that Loot before my opponents. I enjoyed the theme, and the artwork, and the setting. This was a fun game!
Jeremiah— Yeah, there really is a TON going on in this game, and it is ALL really FUN! I loved the meta game that takes place when trying to figure out what your opponents are going to do and trying to play your Actions to both benefit yourself and foil their plans--lots of great and fun tension around that! It's a good, solid game that's seriously a ton of fun!
The Final Verdict
Jeremiah— There is really so much to like about this game. The only way you're not going to enjoy it is if you absolutely hate Steampunk and heists--otherwise, back this game! Skyway Robbery is a solid game wrapped in a great theme in a rich fantastical world. It offers many paths to victory, which opens the door to many great strategic decisions. This game is FUN!
Firestone—When it comes to board games, "fun" is subjective. But I had fun playing Skyway Robbery. The pieces all fit together in interesting and thematic ways. The mechanics are clever. And the evocative and fantastic artwork is the cherry on top. Skyway Robbery soars.
So how can you get your very own copy of Skyway Robbery? There's a Kickstarter campaign running right now, right here. Check it out. And thanks for reading!
Update: Check out our video Take-Two Review of Skyway Robbery!