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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Work Together to Land the Plane in Sky Team, Reunite Ernest and Célestine, and Cast The Last Spell

by W. Eric Martin

• At SPIEL ’22, I got to sample the two-player-only, co-operative game Sky Team from Luc Rémond, and now that publisher Le Scorpion Masqué has unveiled final graphics, I thought it was time to cover the game.

Sky Team features one of my favorite elements in game design: limited communication, something that seems to work only in the context of a co-operative game. I mean, any competitive game could in theory also feature limited communication, but that’s hardly a feature. After all, I’m not going to tell you my plans and give you a chance to thwart them…unless I’m fibbing when I tell you those plans (i.e., bluffing) or possibly trying to convince you to gang up on a third person (i.e., negotiation).

Limited communication appeals to my interest in linguistics, in you deciphering a message from someone through context and unusual means. I know that some players feel that communication restrictions are fuzzy in that you can press on the border of what’s allowed, but where’s the fun in that? As I wrote in my essay on The Mind, “Does victory mean more to you than the experience of play?” The challenge comes in adhering to those restrictions. I mean, you could find out who the murderer is in a mystery novel by flipping to the final pages immediately, but that defeats the engagement that comes from following the detective’s actions and trying to put everything together yourself.

With that out of the way, here’s an overview of the game:

In Sky Team, you play a pilot and co-pilot at the controls of an airliner. Your goal is to work together as a team to land your airplane in different airports around the world.

Mock-up at SPIEL ’22

To land your plane, you need to silently assign your dice to the correct spaces in your cockpit to balance the axis of your plane, control its speed, deploy the flaps, extend the landing gear, contact the control tower to clear your path, and even have a little coffee to improve your concentration enough to change the value of your dice.

If the aircraft tilts too much and stalls, overshoots the airport, or collides with another aircraft, you lose the game…and your pilot’s license…and probably your life.

Prototype at FIJ 2023

From Montreal to Tokyo, each airport offers its own set of challenges. Watch out for the turbulence as this could end up being bumpy ride!

Hachette Boardgames, which distributes for Le Scorpion Masqué in North America, plans to have copies of Sky Team for sale at Gen Con 2023 in advance of its retail release in October 2023.

Ernest et Célestine is a co-operative game from Rémi Loyer and Space Cow that focuses on the two title characters, but is actually for 2-6 players.

The characters come from a book series by Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent, and in the game a player traces a figure on the back of another player who must then guess what was drawn. If they guess correctly, Ernest and Célestine move closer to one another; if not, a police token is placed in the center of the board. Ideally you can reunite mouse and bear before a police barricade blocks their rendezvous.

• Space Cow has another co-operative game in its line-up: Seasons’ Keepers by Anaïs Raynaud and Julien Sentis, with the game featuring a board book similar to Ravensburger’s “adventure book” games or Plaid Hat’s AdventureBook games.

Here’s a briefing on this 2-4 player game:

Seasons’ Keepers has five replayable adventure modes. Each features a story, encounters, and special missions. Read the introduction card for your adventure, then turn the cards on your desk to move around. Collect the objects in the hiding places, and travel from one season to another thanks to the portals of the book, but do not delay in accomplishing your missions because the wolf is on the prowl and your time is running out!

The Last Spell: The Board Game is an adaptation of the video game The Last Spell, courtesy of designers Nestore Mangone and Alessandro Veracchi and publisher Tabula Games. This 2-4 player game takes 2-2.5 hours to play and is due out in 2024:

In The Last Spell: The Board Game, you are a hardened warrior whose only purpose in life is to desperately defend the last of the mages while trying to cast “the last spell” and banish all magic from this world and maybe save us all. Maybe.

The game is set in a dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic world in which you have to carefully manage the scarce resources at your disposal to survive long enough. Gameplay revolves around three cycles of day and night in which players use daylight hours to bolster the game economy, fortify defenses against nocturnal invaders, and upgrade their heroes’ equipment to unlock more power.

You can choose to play single scenarios or embark on a campaign that challenges you with increasing levels of difficulty. With a plethora of weapons and abilities at your disposal across multiple plays, there’s always something new to explore — and for the ultimate test of your strategic prowess, witness the fiery destruction of your city in the face of overwhelming odds.


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