Sky Dynasty Kickstarter Preview – Once More Unto The Gateway

A bit over a year ago, we did a preview for Sky Dynasty, a game by Robert Miedel.  Our review went up toward the end of that project’s time on Kickstarter, and we were sad to see it not fund, because we thought it was a pretty solid little game.  Suffering, perhaps, from slightly underwhelming components and a gamespace replete with space-themed card games, we were sorry that more folks didn’t give Sky Dynasty a shot, because we felt like it deserved more than it got.

Well, we are very pleased to see that Miedel hasn’t given up on this design – with a revamped campaign and some upgraded components, Sky Dynasty is back up on Kickstarter with just under 20 days to hit its relatively modest funding goal.

**Obvious Kickstarter Prototype Alert! – In case it wasn’t clear above, all pictures are either taken from the prototype of Sky Dynasty we were provided or lifted from their Kickstarter page!**

Revamped components look great!
Revamped components look great!

The fundamental mechanisms are still the same, so I will keep my summary brief.  Each player starts with an identical deck of cards, and in the proud tradition of deckbuilding games everywhere will use this starter deck to acquire new, more powerful cards for future use. Sky Dynasty is a race, with players trying to be the first to 10 Influence points and an immediate victory.  Along the way, they will dispatch their fleets of ships to the 7 areas of space, each of which has its own unique function.

  • The Junkyard has several powers, all relating to scrapping cards from your deck to gain cash, ships, and influence.
  • The Dealer sells a limited selection of ships, and can give you some influence or cash back to boot.
  • The Palace is the quickest way to gain influence, and will likely be hotly contested.
  • The Shipyards is the place to be if expanding your fleet is your goal – and believe us, it will help.
  • The Market sells one ship and Location card at a time, and is a great place to get coin after the fact.
  • The Gateway holds the key to accessing locations not found in your starter deck.  Without these cards, your fleet will wander…
  • Deep Space is where locationless fleets go.  Not necessarily pointlessly, however; ships assigned to Deep Space still get their ‘On Dispatch’ bonuses, and should they survive the round, will get their ‘On Survival’ bonuses too.

The formation and dispatch of fleets is really where Sky Dynasty gets interesting.  Not only is it a deckbuilder, but it also has area-control and bluffing elements in the core of its gameplay.  Each turn, players will draw 10 cards from their decks, and will form ‘fleets’ from these cards – a fleet is simply a pile of cards which a player dispatches as a unit.  These fleets can be sent either to one of the 6 named locations (but only if the dispatching player also includes a Location card in the fleet), or it will be sent to Deep Space, the 7th location with no special abilities.

The first and second time a player visits the palace, they will get 1 or 2 influence respectively. But once it is activated a third time, the Palace essentially becomes a game timer, granting huge influence swings for those lucky enough to land there.
The first and second time a player visits the palace, they will get 1 or 2 influence respectively. But once it is activated a third time, the Palace essentially becomes a game timer, granting huge influence swings for those lucky enough to land there.

Once all players assemble a fleet, they are simultaneously revealed and assigned to their location.  This process repeats until both players either cannot or choose not to deploy.   A player need not send all their ships at once, and can divide their hand into as many deployments as they are able.  Excess cards are discarded, and then control of each location is determined.

Each fleet has a total strength based on the combat capabilities of its ships.  When two or more fleets occupy the same space, players compare the strengths of all fleets present, and the winner assumes control of the location (losing fleet cards are returned to their players’ discard piles).  Only by holding majority over a location can a player use that location’s ability, and these are truly the key to victory.

The Shipyard, where you can really ramp up your fleet. Visit sparingly, though - all the ships in the galaxy won't necessarily win you the influence you need.
The Shipyard, where you can really ramp up your fleet. Visit sparingly, though – all the ships in the galaxy won’t necessarily win you the influence you need.

It is the deployment mechanism that is at the heart of what makes Sky Dynasty unique and interesting.  Since players can deploy several fleets each turn, and since they form their fleets in secret, there is a definite element of bluffing and strategy involved here.

If, for example, I really want to commit to a certain location, I might be tempted to just send my whole 10-card fleet there.  However, my opponent, seeing that I have committed my entire force to a single location (after the reveal, of course) now knows they can afford to spread out, sending smaller fleets to multiple locations without any fear that I will contest it.  By holding a few cards back, I might be able to bluff my opponent into holding back reserves of her own, diluting her power where she may need it most.  This effect, already a fun part of the game, is only multiplied in games with more players, where everyone is second-guessing their placements and trying to out-think their opponents.

Two fleets fight for control over the Market. Green wins by a single point, and will reap the benefits.
Two fleets fight for control over the Market. Green wins by a single point, and will reap the benefits.

Gameplay-wise, my criticisms center around the limited number of winning strategies.  If one player manages to get a strangle-hold on the palace, for example, it will be extremely challenging to stop them.  However, important to remember is that Sky Dynasty is a race, and to the victor goes the Influence gems.

Sky Dynasty is a solid game.  I still wish the art was a little more interesting, but the component upgrade for this new version is great (I will miss the wooden bits for coins, but the punched tokens are quite nice), and I actually quite like the idea of the new tin box this edition will come in.

Without the Gateway, your fleets aren't going anywhere.
Without the Gateway, your fleets aren’t going anywhere.

Sky Dynasty remains a clever combination of area control and deck building, and we’re really glad to see it moving along nicely on Kickstarter.  We recommend heading on over to their page and checking it out!

(This prototype was provided to us for our preview.  Gameosity wasn’t otherwise compensated.)

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