We’ve reviewed a handful of Oniverse games – a series of small, 1-2 player games designed by Shadi Torbey and featuring the truly unique aesthetic of Élise Plessis’ artwork and challenging, puzzly gameplay. In Aerion, you are an airshipwright, who is working to build ships to sail the skies of the dreamworld that is the Oniverse. To do this, you’ll roll dice, looking for specific sets which will let you finish your grand designs and win the game.
We received a review copy of Aerion. We were not otherwise compensated.
As we mentioned, Aerion plays 1-2 players, which is a bit of a unique player count, though also perfectly typical for Oniverse games. Regardless of the player count, your goal in Aerion is to complete your fleet of 6 airships before running out of resources. In the beginning of the game, you will set out 6 stacks of cards.
Each stack’s one face-up card can only be drawn by rolling specific combinations of numbers on 5 dice. These sets, like 3 of a kind, 2 pair, or straights of ascending numbers, need to be rolled in order to claim cards from the stacks. Each turn will start with players rolling their dice, hoping for combos they need. Dice can be re-rolled, but at the cost of discarding some of the face-up cards on offer.
As with many Oniverse games, the feeling ever-dwindling resources is inescapable, and you’ll curse your dice every time you discard a card for a reroll, only to come up one die short of the combo you needed.
The cards feature either blueprints for airships, the materials to construct them, or the crew needed to run them. In order for an airship to be complete, you will need to draft specific combinations of these cards into one of your two workshops. Workshops can only ever hold one of each card, and crew cannot be added before the blueprints and materials are acquired, so luck and planning will be needed to make sure you get the cards you require, in the order you need them.
Also in the stacks are Book cards, claimed the same way as the other cards. You can only hold one of these versatile cards at a time, but by discarding them, you can either give yourself multiple rerolls, hold cards in reserve outside of your workshops, or move previously discarded cards back into their draw piles.
At 2 players, Aerion is as challenging a cooperative puzzle as it is at 1. Instead of a player having two workshops to build their airships, each player will only have one, along with a third, communal workshop which they will share. Each player is responsible for building three of the six airships, and cannot place cards in each other’s private workshops. Coordinating between you and your partner is critical, and only serves to ramp up the challenge.
Aerion is an excellent puzzle of a game at either count. And for those who are looking for a little variety, the game comes with SIX (!) in-box mini-expansions, each of which can be added, either individually or together, to give you the gameplay experience you’re looking for.
Some of these expansions include the Flagship, which is difficult to build but provides ongoing bonuses for the entire game, or the Hammer Bird Eggs, which allow you to control what cards are revealed from the resource decks, but at the risk of losing the game immediately if you ever find yourself with a single egg card which you cannot claim.
All in all, Aerion is an excellent entry into the Oniverse line, and a very solid game in its own right. Tough as nails at times and definitely driven by luck, we found it incredibly satisfying to engage the risk/reward of its gameplay, and with all the little modular add-ons, Aerion is the sort of game that you’ll be able to enjoy over and over!
Suggestions based on Aerion
- For those looking to explore the Oniverse: Onirim – Onirim is a fantastic hand-management game which started the Oniverse game line. The modern reprinting from Z-Man is excellent and the gameplay absolutely holds up. It tends to go in and out of print (so I wouldn’t pay a huge amount for it), but you can always check out the fantastic digital version too!
- For those who want a solitaire dice experience: Deep Space D6 – This small-box dice assignment game is my favorite solo game bar none. Use your dice to guide your ship safely through a deck of hazards, blasting pirates and avoiding raiding parties along the way.
- For those who want to press their luck: Fire in the Library – Though there are no dice in sight, this game about brave librarians rushing into a burning building to save sets of rare books will have you sweating bullets as you decide whether to bank the books you’ve gathered, or risk diving in for just one more manuscript.