Review – Sky Team
|Artist||Eric Hibbeler, Adrien Rives|
|Publisher||Le Scorpion Masqué|
|Category||Dice Placement, Limited Communication|
Sky Team is a game about trying to land an airplane. Taking on the roles of pilot and co-pilot, 2 players place dice about the board to control the aircraft’s systems. If everything goes correctly, the plane will land smoothly. If it doesn’t… well… let’s just hope it does. Fasten your seatbelt!
Sky Team is the only limited communication game I have played that is expressly 2-player. That, along with its unique theme and publication by Scorpion Masqué, made me especially excited to try it out.
The game takes place over 7 rounds, and it is played on a board representing an airplane’s control panel. The control panel tracks things like speed, altitude, brakes, and aerodynamics.
Each game round is divided into 3 phases:
- Strategy Discussion/Dice Rolls
- Dice Placement
- End of Round
During the discussion phase (and only during that phase), players can talk to each other and try to plan their strategy for the round. Their discussion cannot involve the dice directly, which means that they can only speak in general terms (e.g. “We need to drop our altitude,” rather than “If you roll a 6, put it here.”). Once players have finished strategizing, they roll their dice behind their screens and all communication stops for the rest of the round.
Then, players take turns placing dice onto available spaces. Most spaces are color-specific, meaning that only the orange or only the blue player can place their dice there. Many spaces are also number-specific, meaning that only dice of a certain result (or within a certain range) can be placed there. Lastly, there are several mandatory spaces, on which players must have dice by the end of the round or else they lose the game.
As for what the different actions do:
- AXIS – Players each place a die on this section, and the plane tilts according to the difference of the 2 dice. If they tilt too far, or if a player neglects to place a die here, the plane goes into a spin and players lose the game.
- ENGINES – Players each place a die on this section, and they advance on the approach track 0-2 spaces, according to the sum of the dice. If any planes would “fall off” the track, or if a player neglects to place a die here, players cause a collision and lose the game.
- RADIO – Allows players to remove planes from the approach track, clearing a path for them to land.
- LANDING GEAR – Required for the plane to land. Changes the aerodynamics of the plane, which affects the engines action.
- FLAPS – Required for the plane to land. Dice must be placed from top to bottom. Also changes the aerodynamics.
- CONCENTRATION – Adds a coffee token to the board. Either player may spend a coffee to add or subtract 1 to a die.
- BRAKES – Once the plane touches down, the brakes can be applied. The more dice that get used for brakes, the easier the landing will be.
Once both players have completed their actions, they retrieve their dice and advance the altitude track to the next space. If the track shows the airport image, players then have 1 more round to land the plane and win the game. In order to land, all 4 of the following conditions must be true:
- There are no other airplanes on the approach track
- Flaps and landing gear have been activated
- The plane’s axis is horizontal
- The plane’s speed value is lower than its brake value
There are multiple loss conditions, including tilting the plane too far, colliding with another plane, or ending a round without dice on the Axis or Engines. If players land the plane successfully, they win. Otherwise, they will have to try again.
Sky Team is among the best games of 2023, yet another strong offering from Scorpion Masqué. The theme is not only unique, but expertly implemented, and the challenge keeps me coming back for more.
Limited communication games are hit or miss for me, and I know they are for many others as well. I like that this game allows players to strategize at the start of each round—this makes the communication limit feel less restrictive, but doesn’t stop players from having to share brainwaves once the dice are rolled.
Sky Team provides interesting turn angst as players try to manage everything, but constantly feel like they lack the time/resources to do so. They have to clear the runway and keep the plane horizontal and keep the engines running and prepare the landing gear, etc. Tension remains high throughout the game, which gives players a strong sense of satisfaction if they win. What’s more, the game includes a supplemental rulebook with extra challenges for players to explore once they are comfortable with the basic rules.
The production quality of this game is high, with a board that both serves the theme and keeps things organized on the table. The dice look great, and the use of coffee as concentration provides a dash of humor. Overall, Sky Team feels like a well-made product, and its theme is deeply embedded in its mechanisms.
It’s cool to see Scorpion Masqué putting out more strategic games like this. Sky Team has quickly become one of my favorite 2-player games, and I highly recommend giving it a try.
A review copy was provided by Hachette Boardgames.
The Bottom Line
Sky Team is one of the standouts of 2023, and one of the best 2-player games out there. It is thematic, tense, and it has a great deal of replay value. Highly recommended.