Sky Dynasty, by Robert Miedel, is a new game up on Kickstarter right now. Designed for 2-5 players, this strategy game is a pretty damn clever combination of deck-building and area-control mechanics, with quick, simultaneous action selection and easy-to-engage rules. You will deploy starships to various locations in space around Lumia IV, constantly jockeying for the position you need to grow your fleet and secure precious Influence points, always being wary of how your opponents have positioned their ships, because only one of you will manage to secure the future of your Sky Dynasty.
(Worth noting: All the pictures from our preview are from the Kickstarter Prototype that Robert sent us at our request.)
The basics of Sky Dynasty are very straightforward. Like so many deck-builders, each player will start with an identical ‘starter deck’ of cards, which feature basic ships (mostly for generating income, but also a few which generate attack power), as well as a few location cards (more on those in a sec). Each turn starts with players drawing up to 10 cards, and then selecting some subset of their hand (from 1 to all 10) to deploy as a fleet. When everyone has made their selection, the fleets are simultaneously revealed.
As long as the fleet you built contains at least one of the six possible location cards, that fleet will head on over to that location. If not, your ships are headed to the 7th location, Deep Space. Then this process is repeated, with players building as many fleets as they can (or want to), deploying them to locations as their hand allows.
Once all the fleets have been deployed, gameplay moves on to the area-control phase. Each location is resolved in order. Players at uncontested locations simply reap the benefit from having ships there (purchasing cards, gaining currency, acquiring influence, etc.). If more than one player arrives at a location, though, their fleets compare strength, with the highest value scaring off all others and gaining control of the location.
Each location gives a unique bonus to the player who controls it. The Junkyard lets you cycle less-valuable cards out of your deck, whereas the Palace gives you ever-increasing Influence. Jockeying for position is a critical element of the game, and knowing how and when to split your fleet is at the heart of the area-control aspect of Sky Dynasty.
Once each location’s bonus has been resolved and each fleet discarded, players draw back up to 10 cards and the next round begins. The first player to reach 10 points worth of Influence is the winner!
The various ship cards in Sky Dynasty are generally fairly straightforward. Many provide ‘On Survival’ bonuses, meaning that, as long as something didn’t cause them to get discarded before their location was resolved (being beaten by another player’s fleet, for example), they then provide some bonus (currency, influence, etc). Some ships also have an ‘On Dispatch’ bonus, which you get as soon as they are assigned to a fleet. Still others bring unique combo mechanics which can be a potent source of Influence or other bonuses when the cards draw up in your favor.
s I said at the top of this preview, Sky Dynasty is up on Kickstarter right now, with just a little more than 2 days to go. Sadly, it has fallen far short of its funding goal, and without some serious last-minute investment, it may not get published at this time. I can really only speculate as to the reasons for that; some of the card art is a little drab and the components are, to be blunt, generic, but that’s the nature of a self-published game like this. Maybe that’s enough to sink a Kickstarter; I know I’m definitely guilty of passing up on games based on nothing more than appearance, and I admit, I do wish the components were a little nicer. But whatever the reason, it looks like Sky Dynasty may not fund this time around.
And that’s a damn shame, because Sky Dynasty is a good game.
In a gamespace replete with sci-fi deck builders, Sky Dynasty may seem redundant, but it isn’t. It combines some well-done game mechanics in a way I haven’t seen done before. The addition of an area-control element to the common deck-builder gameplay is a very clever riff, and the simultaneous selection of fleets adds a minor (but engaging) bluffing element; “I’ve got a hand full of ships with only one location. Sure, I could plunk them all down and likely dominate that location, but maybe I’ll hold some ships in reserve so that my opponent thinks I have a second location, meaning she’ll have to split her forces…” and so on.
Sky Dynasty is not going to set the world on fire; it isn’t doing anything truly new. But what it is doing it does in an effective, engaging way, and it absolutely deserves to get published; if this Kickstarter doesn’t pan out, we sincerely hope to see it again soon.