Welcome back to the board game arena. Last time we saw Machi Koro and Space Base go at round for round. Today, the spotlight shines on two more games. The incumbent Diamant/Incan Gold versus the young, up and comer; Celestia!
Who will win? And who will push their luck too far?
Publishers: BLAM!, Esdevium Games, Blackrock Export, Games on Demand
Year Published: 2015
Designer: Aaron Weissblum
Artists: Gaetan Noir
Celestia has you floating from island to island in a flying ship from a failed game of Forbidden Desert. Whereas Diamant lets you re-enact your favourite scenes from Indiana Jones.
But despite the different themes, these games follow a similar gameplay loop. Asking the same question The Clash did in 1981.
Well, come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
Where staying nets you more points – if you don’t go bust. And going lets you bank the points you’ve already earned.
There’s a lot of joy to be found in Celestia, where unlike Diamant, after the captain rolls his dice you can begin to interrogate him. Ask him if he has the cards he needs. As well as argue amongst your friends who are making the same decision as you are. They are in the same boat – literally.
This difference sets these two games apart.
Diamant is all about the cards, and what’s been drawn. Which means it has a weird problem: it’s too fast paced for its own good. The game hinges on the decision to stay or go. Which is a snap decision most of the time – unless you’re thinking of staying. Because of this you and everyone else gets into a rhythm of quickly playing and quickly wanting the card drawn. Until someone hesitates. And the rhythm is lost. Making the game feel like you’re running a 100m race with flippers on. Falling over every time you build up speed.
When you’re the last one left it sheds this feeling and becomes a streamlined game of blackjack. A game you play at your own pace.
Snakes and bust.
Celestia avoids these problems in the best way possible: by adding a social round. It’s still purely based on luck, but gives players power to poke and probe the captain before committing to staying on the shoddy ship. Or jumping off to safety.
This adds a lot of fun and personality to the game; you go back and forth with your friends about the drunkard in the cockpit. And how they don’t have the required cards guaranteeing safe passage. You can also ask the captain themselves.
They’ll fan out their cards and say, “I’m sorry friend, I ain’t got the power.”
They do; but they’ll never let on. As they want the glory and points for themselves.
It doesn’t always play out this way though. As when things go well, camaraderie forms, and you end up cheering on other players to succeed. As your success relies on theirs. This phenomenon is something I’ve rarely seen in other games. But enjoy every time it happens
It does have one fault; the special cards in the game. Of which there aren’t many. Lack any kind of player aid. Forcing you to reach for the booklet – a dead giveaway. These cards are not as straight forward as you’d expect from a family game. Having different timings, and different abilities. Not having more information on the cards, whether by text or symbol is a glaring error in the design of such a light game.
Diamant doesn’t get a free pass either. As beyond the inconsistent pacing, there’s a lot of small math involved. Which again gets in the way of that sweet dopamine hit.
Another obstacle is the components. Being published by IELLO, you know the components are going to be gorgeous. And they are. In this case though, it feels like the game is over produced. For instance, the cards you draw – when placed correctly – form a path.
How much time do you think it takes to place them?
My OCD aside, there’s the addition of meeples. Which again are really nice; but unnecessary. I’m not sure if anyone uses them to track along the path. But the only time I tried it, it again slowed down the game too much.
On the other hand, this is something that Celestia does well. Visually, with the cardboard ship, and pawn passengers, you can see who’s in the ship and where they’re headed. This brings with it the tactility of taking out your pawn from the flying ship. And moving the floaty boat from one island to the next. All the while making the sputtering engine noises.
Alright, I’m ready to declare a winner.
Both of these are good games. Incan Gold was one of the first board games I owned, and I’ve played it a lot. I then sold it and bought Diamant as soon as it was available. I really liked this game. While it’s gameplay is simple, streamlined, and pure. It lacks something I now crave: interactivity. The conversations it generates are more about the game, than about players in it.
This is where Celestia shines. It lets you have fun in between winning big or busting out. And while there are a few more rules, the gameplay more than makes up for the added complexity.
Therefore, the winner by a total knock out: Celestia!
Hope you enjoyed this bloody battle. It was pretty fun to write. If you’ve been following my Twitter you’ll have seen the big box arrival of Gotham City Chronicles. Which, as a Batmaniac, I’m practically frothing at the mouth for. But I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to unpack it.
That said, the art is amazing, the minis are amazing, and if you want a better look then check out Start Your Meeples unboxing.
Otherwise the countdown until my birthday is on. Having just gotten caught up with my pile of shame. I’m scared at the amount of board games it’ll bring.
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