Zeppeldrome in Review: Lighter than air steampunk racing adventure!

Before I get on with the review proper, I need to clear the air of a few things. First, Jeff and Anthony were kind enough to contact me and forward a prototype for this review. Second, the guy on the cover does look like a blonde Conan O’Brien. Third, I feel I need to let a few horrible puns drift off of my chest. Yes, this game is light. Lighter than air perhaps. And 12 SP Entertainment is and up and coming publisher. These puns are awful, it must be something in the air. Oh the humanity.

The Game

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at Zeppeldrome! The first game from new publisher (staffed by industry veterans) 12 SP Entertainment. Zeppeldrome is currently being Kickstarted, with an entry level price of $29 shipped for the full game. MSRP will be $35 so you’re already scoring yourself a deal.

Zeppeldrome is a humorous look at a day at the zeppelin races (sans Plant and Page). With a cartoony, steampunk theme and a lot of fun, lighthearted cards it’s easy on the eyes and looks rather nice. Keep in mind that I’m playing with a prototype as well and I imagine the finished product will be, well more finished looking.

zep1
My copy of Zeppeldrome

Players have four cards which each serve dual purposes. On the top of the cards is a potential Flight Plan the players can use. They vary in length and complexity, taking your airship up, down and more importantly, moving it forward. The lower third of each card contains a Special Action. These actions can be played on other players, sometimes during their turn, to confound and thwart them in their quest to cross the finish line first.

At the start of each round, the players all decide which of the four cards they’ll be using as their flight plan for this round. The other three cards are then left as actions, to be played as needed. These actions can cause other player’s ships to be shifted about, or face new obstacles.

Each round the players move through their Flight Plans one move at a time until everyone’s completed (as much as possible) their flight. Then it’s 4 new cards and on to the next round. There’s a flight plan cover – a bit of cardboard you use to cover the lower half of your card. These are color coded to each player. Also, each player has a wooden cube that they place on their flight plan card – this is used to track where on the flight plan their airship is.

The board consists of a start tile, a finish tile and four random tiles (A, B, C and D) placed in between – each with differing obstacles to overcome. This makes for an interesting series of races, as the playing board can be randomly created, or favorites can be picked. 

Components

I’m not going to touch to much on the components in this review as I’m playing on a prototype. I will say thought that Zeppeldrome comes with a lot of stuff. At $29 you’re going to be getting a game with a bunch of bits, boards and cards.

Theme

zepcards
Flight Plan on top, action on the bottom

The humorous, steampunk style theme shines through quite nicely in Zeppeldrome. Again realize that I’m not working with a finished product – even so the artwork is great, the humor works and everything has about it a zany, cartooney steampunk feel. My oldest who is getting into the steampunk movement loved it! My youngest, I don’t think noticed it too much, but then she was busy winning races.

All in all I think the theme comes through quite nicely between the actions on the cards, the board and the various playing pieces. The mechanics themselves lend to the lighter-than-air feeling for the game.

Thoughts on Playing

zepboard
The game board – where you can quite literally drift during your race

I discovered in playing with my kids that there’s a nice little bit of tension when it comes to choosing which of your four cards you’ll use to pre-program your route. The good news is that no matter which you pick, you’re all generally going to gain some ground in a given round meaning no player ever feels entirely left out, or like they’ll never progress in the game.

While there is a bit of a ‘screw your opponents’ in the game, it’s nicely mitigated by the cards not being overly powerful. You’ll all be heading towards that finish line in fairly good order – close enough to give the game a feel of a real race without anyone being left entirely behind.

While at first there seems to be a lot going on, once players have gone through about three rounds, everyone that I played with (including my 8 and 10 year old kids) just got it. The game itself is simple – it’s trying to solve the puzzle of the board while other players are doing things around you and to you is where the fun comes in.

We had a lot of laughs bumping into each other, bouncing off of various obstacles and in general moving about like my 8 year old does when she’s playing a driving game on my computer.

Maneuvering, blocking and trying your best to anticipate where others will be is a huge part of this game, and with the right group it’s exactly what makes it fun.

How often will it reach my table?

I can see Zeppeldrome coming out about once a month, particularly with my kids or if we have folks over who are interested in playing a game but are not experienced hobby gamers. My oldest has a few friends who are just starting to express interest in board games themselves, and this game would be a great one to play with them.

Once a month at my table actually represents quite a bit of play. At my house I figure we’d get about 3 hours of Zeppeldrome in on a given month. That’s a pretty decent return on the $29 initial investment.

tragic lemming
Artwork! Some finished, some forthcoming

Conclusion

I think this game wedges nicely into the niche of gamers who enjoy playing games with kids. It’s a fun, light hearted race game without the frustration that often accompanies them. Players can come from behind to win if their strategy and luck hold.

Also good for people who are looking for more casual games to play, either as a prelude or conclusion to a day of heavier games, or with family or others as a quick, fun diversion.

It’s by no means a heavy game, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. If you’re looking for an inexpensive racing game with a decent amount of components and enough oomph that seasoned gamers won’t grow bored with it, this is your game.

Editor’s note: I took, and was actually quite proud of a number of pictures of my kids and I playing this game. Due to some as-of-yet unexplained technical debacle, these pictures have not yet found their way to this article. As soon as I can untangle this, I’ll include my images.

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