Podcast #134 - The Great Tollbooth In The Sky


Fri, 12 Mar 2021 17:00:28 +0000

In this floaty 134th episode of the Shut Up & Sit Down podcast, Matt and Quinns peek through a collection of cumulonimbi to deliver their verdict on just one game: CloudAge! Expect a dash of opinion, some twists of chatter, and just one unexpected visitor. We’ve got it all!

Have a lovely weekend, everybody!


This kind of heavy Euro is a classic example of abstraction gap for me. If you tell me “your player-entity is a zeppelin plus crew”, I want to be making zeppelinesque decisions: when to stop to take on ballast, when to vent lifting gas, how high to fly, how much fuel to use to get to port before the storm, how close to fly to the storm to get a speed boost but still avoid too much damage… I like airships, all right? That could be a great racing game! It doesn’t have to be super simulationist, but I’d at least like those things to be relevant in the game, even if mechanically it comes down to “spend 2 fuel cubes to move 2 spaces, or 4 cubes for 3 spaces, or 4 for 4 but you roll the damage die”.

So if you tell me “you’ve got a zeppelin!” but then make it a resource management game without particular zeppelinly applicability, it can be the best resource management game in the world and I’ll still start off with a feeling of disappointment that can be hard to overcome.

I realise that not everybody feels this way. And I am not consistent (for example I very much enjoy Small Islands in which you’re theoretically playing an explorer but basically it’s a tile-layer and there isn’t even a piece that represents “you”).

But I think Matt was getting a similar feeling without being such an airship fan – all those narrative ideas, the post-apocalyptic cities and so on, that just reduced in the end to “here’s some stuff”.

But it is a nice cover!


I listened to this one because I was sooo keen on getting CloudAge after SPIEL digital and then I was rather disappointed.

The game would be so much better if there wasn’t such a disconnect between theme and gameplay. I mean the theme is well done but what Matt says about this Mad Max themed game being too chill, rings true and goes a long way to explain why I am not enjoying it.

The card sleeves with the clouds on them are a neat idea but it is such a small piece of the game…
But remember when I complained about having to put on the stickers just right?

It’s a solid set of rules and probably well-balanced… but there is too little variety in the cards, the campaign/story thing is not as big as Radho made it sound. I actually found it a bit boring gameplay wise.

The game lasts 7 or 8 rounds. And the main difference between your first turn and your last turn is mostly how far you can move and how expensive the cards are that you can play. But you cannot do more actions, you can still only fight once on the board and it happened to me several times that I was unable to do anything meaningful with my final two build actions.

The game lacks combos and cascade effects. The last turn is only more epic if you can move through a lot of hexes on the map and even so…

I have rarely found reason to complain about a game’s arc, I am not very attuned to games having arcs at all–unlike books. But this one just doesn’t seem to have much of an arc and it should have one with the whole upgraded ship thing and all those cards you played throughout the game.

In the end there are just one too many systems vying for attention…

PS: I would really like to play a big 4 player of this and / or finish the campaign. But this game is not staying in my collection and playing 6 more games just to finish a campaign that I am not having fun with?

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I think I would much prefer a game where I was a zeppelin, so that I could feel the cool air on my bulbous body…

Pfister is a designer that, to me, is:

  1. Brilliant (I love Isle of Skye, and Broom Service; both of which are just brilliant. I have a number of his games that I haven’t tried yet, such as Port Royal, Mines of Zavandor, Of my Goods, GWT)
  2. Doesn’t know when to stop designing a game (after watching the SUSD stream of Great Western Trail, I had decided that GWT is a game I absolutely needed in my life, but that I would never ever buy or play Rails to the North expansion; it didn’t appear to add anything interesting and just further clouded an already foggy decision space. I’m guess, without any knowledge on the subject, that RttN was broken out of the original design by the developer/publisher to be released later as an expansion)
  3. Introduces fiddle and faff because his fanbase, apparently, likes fiddle and faff.

I’ve seen several game reviews recently which come down to something like “if you like crunchy complex fiddly Euros this will scratch that itch very well, but it’s easy to be overwhelmed and you need to work your way up to this level of game complexity”. Vital Lacerda’s recent output often seems to be mentioned in this context.

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From watching the stream (and having played base GWT), RttN really does seem to turn a game that can be approachable and breezy (on your turn, you just decide where to move to and then do what you can on that space), into a game where you have to plan everything meticulously or you’re gonna have a Bad Time™.

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One of the reasons why I don’t want to play these kind of games anymore. The more spicy the themes are getting in regards to Euros, the bland the game play feels.

Games like Raiders of the North Sea gave me this feeling where you’re this viking raiders and yet it’s a game of pushing cubes. This is what made me liked Rosenbergs still today. Yeah, sure. It’s a game of taking care of your German farm/rural thingy, but my actions on that game feel like they make sense in the context of running a farm.

I think board gamers need to start differentiating theme/narrative and setting


I think SVWAG is who first cued me to the difference between “theme” and “setting”. Whenever you see “theme” used in boardgame media, it likely actually refers to the setting of the game.

Theme is much harder to imbue into a game.

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