Zeppelin Attack; something approaching a review

A Game Steampunk Reviews Steampunk Games.
Hello. Welcome to the first of what its going to be a new feature of The Pandora Society. On a Monthly Basis I will be reviewing tabletop games of a Steampunk Nature.
…Or a vaguely Steampunk nature.
…Or that have Steam in the name.
…Or that I like, and that  I think that you will like too.
But Anyway.
Games. Steampunk is very attractive to game designers because of its inherently visual nature. Steampunk looks cool. And if you slap steampunk all over your game, it will probably look cool too, But I wish to assure you, faithful reader, that I will not be swayed by gaudy baubles and shiny dice-with-gears-on-them. I am also looking to share with you games that play well.
14516392_10208811071226617_6833159389276543944_nAnd for a Start, we have Zeppelin Attack from Evil Hat Games. For two to four players, time to play averages 45 to 60 minutes
Zeppelin attack is a deck building game in a box. What that means is that you are spending a large part of the game organizing your card based resources, into the acquisition of really cool cards, that will let you pull off impressive attacks and daring defenses from massive airships later in the game. Deck builders, are a fairly recent development in the gaming world, Inspired in part by the popularity of games like Magic The Gathering, and the Pokemon Collectible Trading Card Game. With collectible trading card games, Playing the game, is a big part of it, but the other part of the enjoyment of these games comes from the hunt for rare, or powerful cards. In collectible card games, these rare and exciting cards would come from packs of cards, that you would purchase blind, in the hope that it contained something awesome…or more often, from insane, drink-fueled, EBAY shopping splurges, where all of a sudden, all of your wages are gone on half a dozen trading cards that are shipped to you by Chet in Arkansas (Other E bay sellers are available). The Deck builder in a box game aims to do away with all that messy having-to-sleep-on-the-couch-because-that-money-was-supposed-to-go-to-your-significant-others-birthday-present by putting everything you need in the one box and building the asset based acquisition of cards into the gameplay mechanic its self.
14484759_10208811014825207_3462101663507628428_nZeppelin Attack is a somewhat misleading name for this game. The Aim of the game is to amass the most victory points, by winning battles and buying high powered cards. Its more like an Extended campaign of skirmishes between the interested parties. Its plays a little more like like Zeppelin League Manager, as several turns go by where you are focused on getting bigger and more powerful Mercenary zeppelins, to bolster your in game fleet so that it can launch even more powerful attacks that are even harder to defend against.
Allow me to explain. At the start of the game, you are handed a deck of cards specific to your faction, containing Attack action cards, Defense action cards, Operative cards, A couple of Airships and a little bit of in game money called Fate Points. You play an age of Steam Super villain from Evil Hat Productions Role Playing game series Spirit of the Century (More on that, another time). There is the Gorilla Warlord, Gorilla Khan, The Icy, Jacqueline Frost, the inhuman hive mind of The Walking Mind and the exceedingly German sounding Der Blitzmann. The Six decks of Cards you want to get, are laid out in the middle within reach of all players. To begin, you place the card representing the Flagship of your soon-to-be Fleet, in front of you and proceed to draw 5 cards from your shuffled deck of starting cards.
The Flagship of the Walking mind. Yeah, I’m sure they are friendly and just want to talk.
You can play one card per airship in front of you, so if one of your airships shows up in your hand, go ahead and put it in front of you. the are two types of airship, Operational Zeppelins, and Attack Zeppelins. Operations ships, let you use operative cards to acquire more wealth.
Operative cards. One that you start with on the left, One that you are really annoyed if the other player buys , on the right
Battle ships allow you to attack other players ships. A successful Attack will remove another players airship from their current fleet, and send it spiraling down in flames, into their discard pile, until that card comes back around again and the attacker gains one Victory point, represented by a face down card from any of the decks in the middle of the table. This is stacked under your Flagship zeppelin card, and saved to be counted in the end game.
It’s so pretty. We covets its shininess.
Zeppelins have payload values for attacking, defending and operative cards that can be played on them. If you play a card with a point value higher than can be supported by the airship you are playing it on, that card is played, but the airship you played it on, is forced to retreat. That means, into the discard pile it goes, until shuffled back in, and drawn again. This lends a good element of strategy to the attacking and defending.
Come on! How can you not want to play a game that finally allows you to unleash your Insanity Ray on an enemy?
A successful attack will also garner an in game effect described on the card. Be it, the ability to get more wealth, a discount on the next card purchased from the center of the table, or forcing an opponent to discard a particular card. When attacked, you have cards in your hand (hopefully) that can be used to defend against a particular kind of attack. Attacks come in four flavors. Explosive, Electric, Psychic and Cold. Only the corresponding type of defense can protect against a particular type of attack. The defending player successfully repels an attack simply by laying down a defense card, from their hand that matches the type they were attacked with. When an attack is succesfully repelled, the defense  effect described on the card that was used to defend with, comes in to play, and the defending player gets an advantage.
On to Fate Cards, the in game currency. They come in denominations from two fp to five fp. You start the game with  a three point card, and a four point card. If you are lucky, these will both come up at the same time, and you will be able to use your fate points to buy an interesting and exciting card from the middle of the table. Once you spend your fate points, the cards are returned to the fate deck discard pile. You do not get change form your fate cards. another amusing wrinkle with fate cards, is that some of them will have a direct effect on gameplay as all fate cards are drawn face up, for all to see. these event Fate cards cold lead to all players gaining money, all players losing money or being forced to discard an attack, defense or operative card. this adds a pleasing, random, tense element to what would otherwise be a fairly uninteresting drawing of cards.

Play continues, Attacking, Defending, playing operatives, getting money, buying cards, until three of the decks in the center are exhausted. At that point, All the face down victory points,from under your flagship card, are totaled up. You also go through your deck and all the black bordered mercenary cards have a points values in the top right. and whoever has the most points is the winner.
I have really enjoyed playing this game. There is a high ratio of luck to strategy involved. Certainly, if you have a good memory and the ability to count other players cards, you will have something of an edge. You will spend a LOT of this kind of game shuffling your discard pile to create your new Draw deck which means you will see all of your cards several times during game play. The Artwork is wonderful. There is a strong streak of humor running through this game. Many of the attacks involved are particularly silly, bordering on Pythonesque . I do love playing as Gorilla Khan and unleashing my Monkey Samurai Catapult, Explosive attack against an unprepared zeppelin.
The game is very reasonably priced, and easy to find, Its also small. The box is about the size of three standard sized decks of cards, in a row. The makes it very handy to shove in luggage and take with you to a steampunk event without taking up much room. So it packs a large amount of replay-ability into a small packet. There is also an expansion pack available, adding additional cards to the mix, and its an expansion, that will fit in the original box. Which always scores points with me. You will have noticed that the majority of this “Review” has been, more of a how to play guide. The rule book to this game is my least favorite part of it. They insist on describing the rules, in character. While this is well written, and amusing. It does a somewhat poor job of explaining how to actually play the game. Someone without a basic grasp of this kind of game would be fairly lost. It took me several goes to embed the basics in my head, and when playing with a group I still flubbed a couple of rules, and remembered things wrong. But nothing that broke the game or made it stop being fun to play.
So to close. This Steampunk Game is approved by this Game Steampunk.
Also, here is a more concise and less colorful guide to playing this game, from the people who made it.

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