Review of Zephyr: Winds of Change — Part I. The Unboxing and First Impressions

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Just today, I received my copy of Zephyr: Winds of Change. It’s a cooperative board game set in a SteamPunk world, with fighting, flying airships! What’s it look like?

Unboxing it reveals a lot of good looking components.

This was a Kickstarter that promised delivery in March 2017. It only missed by about 2 weeks (it’s currently April 14th), which is pretty good for a Kickstarter!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/portaldragon/zephyr-winds-of-change

It looks fantastic.

My plan is to review this game in several parts. Part I will be the unboxing and first impressions (after playing through it once to see how it works). Later on, after I’ve had a chance to teach it to others and play full sessions, I will have a better idea of how it plays long term.

So, here we go …

Unboxing

Unboxing revealed very high quality components. The cards are nice quality (linen-coated I think), and have some great art.

One of the coolest features of this game is that there are clear cards (the lady below) that go on top of normal cards: the combination makes a “new card” (sorta like Mystic Vale).  There are 40 clear cards (called “personality cards”) that be fitted onto the faction cards.

The rulebook and Introduction look real good. They have plenty of pictures inside, use big fonts and seem easy to read. This is a good sign.

As I am punching out the pieces and separating out decks, I am consulting the main rulebook. I do like everything I am seeing, but I am slightly annoyed that the decks aren’t marked better. They use iconography, which is fine, but a word like “Assignments” and “Missions” coupled with the Iconography on the back of the decks would make the game easier to learn. I understand the goal these days is to make things as language independent as possible, but given the amount of text in this game, it wouldn’t have taken much work to mark the backs of the decks. This is a very minor annoyance, but one nonetheless.

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Learn From My Mistake

As I start punching out pieces, I am concerned when I get to the dials. 99% of the time, the teeny-tiny little holes to punch out can be thrown away and/or ignored. THESE MATTER IN Zephyr! The A and B must line up. If you accidentally punch them out too soon, you may lose track of where the As and Bs go!

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Probably the easiest thing to do is Punch out just the A pieces (so you don’t lose track of which is which). Don’t forget to punch out the square holes BEFORE you attach the plastic peg/hole. You want the smooth sideof the peg on top, and the rough open side underneath the dial.

 

Attach the A pieces first, then repeat with the B pieces.

It sounds stupid to emphasize this, but, how many games care about these teeny tiny holes? Most games DO NOT .. Zephyr does.

Color Continuity

My first real gripe is that the colors don’t seem consistent. Take a look at all the cards that have the same sign (for this faction).

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The symbol is three different colors: deep blood red, white,  and off-red on three different places (target, ship, and cards, respectively).  The faction cards don’t even have a symbol (strictly speaking, the factions can crew any ship, so it maybe confusing to have the symbol).

It’s not the end of the world, as you can follow the symbol, but I would have
expected the color to be the same everywhere. See two other ships below.

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Another place: the upgrade cards. The colors on the markers (which are systems you put onto your ship) don’t quite match the colors on the cards. Again, not the end of the world, but still slightly annoying. It’s not a big deal, except that the silver cards in my deck look much more orange than silver. They almost match the bronze upgrades. I am sure it was a printing issue, but hopefully they will fix it in a later version.

Intro Book

The intro book is real good into getting you into the “feel” of the game quickly, and taking you through the core mechnisms quickly.  It’s very well laid-out, with lots of pictures.  It’s a big font, and “thematic”.  I got the sense of the game very quickly after reading this.

I found a few editing minor errors, the biggest of which was that the “Day One” paragraph finished a sentence with an “or” … or WHAT???

The bigger concern was that I couldn’t “play” through the Intro scenario.  They had Missions and Assignments “hard-coded” in the book.  Which first I thought was great (“I don’t have waste an Assignment card or Mission card on the Intro scenario, which I will only play once”).  But, you want to put cubes on these cards to mark things.  See above: I want to put my ship on the Assignment card (like I would in the real game), but I can’t, because I can’t then turn the page!

Honestly, this is a minor quibble, because this introduction is very well-written and really brings you quickly into the game.  I just wanted to “put the cubes and markers” on cards like I would have in the real game.

This Was Cool

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Scenarios tell you how long they will take to play!  That’s a GREAT IDEA!  Depending on the group of friends or time constraints, you can decide which Mission.  And even based on the number of playing.  *Stands up and applauds* What a great idea.

First Playthrough

First of all, bravo.  Zephyr has solo rules which are simple: they are just a minor tweak to the main rules.  I can learn the game by myself so I can teach it to others.  It seems, to me, that all cooperative games should have solo rules (I am looking at you, Battle For GreyPort).  And Zephyr’s seems to work well.  I think I got the sense of the game pretty quickly.  I am a little nervous to scale it up because there is some weirdness describing how other players interact with each other, but that’s what the second part of this review will accomplish.

The rulebook was pretty good to good: I could find things when I wanted to, the overview had page numbers to the more “complete” description, but tended to describe everything in outline form so you had a sense of where the game went.

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There we also Summary Cards, which I think almost every game needs. *More applause*

I liked that there were “common builds” described on the last page (the back over of the rulebook) for that first few times you play.  I do wish it had been referenced somewhere, because I only found it when I went looking for the Solo Rules modifications.   (It may have been, but I didn’t see it).  Make sure you check out the back cover of the rulebook the first time you play.

So, was the game fun?

Yes.

I built a ship (using the “common builds”) and worked backwards to see how scrap was used to build the systems.  Ahh!  I get it!  I suspect some of the fun in this game comes from building your ship, once you understand all the systems (bronze, silver, gold and epic) and how they can work together.

As you go through the game, you will add onto your ship.  And, to be frank, I liked that.  After some big combat, you get “scrap” as your reward, and you use that scrap to upgrade your ship.  Pretty easy, thematic, and fun!

The combats, a vital part of the game, took me a while to grok.  I’m still not sure I understand everything. When can I play certain cards?  Am I allowed to play an extra card because the Silver upgrade said I could?  Can I heal a shield while in combat, or can I only heal on the next round after the damage is taken?

The combat is basically simultaneous between you and the bad guy(s).  So, sometimes it’s unclear when some effects go off.  I probably need to look through the glossary and/or a FAQ to double-check some of that.  So, some of the combat is a little fiddly and unclear. But, it seemed okay once I got it.

Final Thoughts for Part I

So, I enjoyed myself.  I’d like to play again.

I am very happy with the experience.  I got into the game quickly from the intro book, the rulebooks were pretty good to good for when I started real games, and I had fun.

The components are pretty spectacular.  Barring my issues with the color (which frankly, didn’t get in the way when I was playing), the ship card and crew cards (with the clear backgrounds) were just great to look at and fun to use.

I need to play Zephyr with friends a bunch of times to see if I am going to enjoy this more.   Stay tuned for Part II.

Dedicated to Tobias James.  We’ll miss you little guy.

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