The klaxons are buzzing, the fans filing into their seats, and the pilots are undoubtedly making their last-minute warmup checks. Oh yes, the crowd is ready.
Hold on to your hats – it’s time for some Inzeption!
Inzeption. You know, because the game involves several layers of zeppelins moving around…
Oh never mind. Let’s move along to Zeppeldrome: the zeppelin racing game.
Zeppeldrome takes place miles up in the sky around a phenomenally large zeppelin castle known as the Matterhorn. But while spectators and VIPs sit in comfort aboard this feat of engineering, you aren’t among them. They are here to watch the annual dirigible race – you are one of the participants. You are outside at the starting line, in a much, much smaller airship.
The goal of the game is to be the first ship across the finish line. As one would expect, the game track illustrates it’ll be easier said than done. Zeppeldrome wisely designed a racing game to have modular sections, which helps with its replay factor. (We know that some don’t mind watching racers routinely go around in circles on the same track, but we are not them.) Indeed, each session of Zeppeldrome is segmented into six boards. The Start and Finish boards remain static each game, but during setup, each of the four middle sections is randomly determined. These boards offer different obstacles to overcome as players maneuver their way to victory. Here is one such layout:
Obstacles run the gambit from old people to strong headwinds to semi-flying lemmings, to name a few. Of course, there’s also your competition. Each player in Zeppeldrome starts off with their airship and four Flight Plan cards. Flight Plan cards plot how airships move, and the top half of each card depicts possible paths that your ship can take. Each round, players select one card and reveal them simultaneously. However, players don’t move just yet, and this is the second area that Zeppeldrome wisely invested in some design space.
After movement cards are revealed, players have the opportunity to affect those Flight Plans – for good or ill. This is done by using the bottom half of cards in a player’s hand. Some effects take place immediately, but the bulk of Action cards modify someone’s Flight Plan card. This could be beneficial, such as adding more movement to your own ship, or you can sabotage another player by making their ship move spaces in a direction that works against them. Like backwards.
Turn order in Zeppeldrome changes quite frequently, but it’s rather easy to figure out: the player in the highest spot on the right-most column is in the lead, followed by those in rows under them, followed by the highest in the next column, and so on.
This is important, not only to determine the winner, but also because of the small perk being last gives you: the ability to manipulate some of the movable obstacles on the boards, called hazards. Whether it’s used to stall others in order to catch up, or merely playing kingmaker, it provides some extra entertainment for the player currently at the back of the pack. Or squadron. Or fleet. Or whatever a group of zeppelins is called.
Movement happens in turn order, with each player moving one space along their stated Flight Path, if they can. Movement in Zeppeldrome can be in any direction, though if something is in your way, such as an obstacle or another player, you don’t move. After each player moves one square, turn order is re-established. Another movement is then taken, followed by another turn order setting, and so on. Turn order won’t change much if players are spaced out, but if the race is tight, it can fluctuate quite frequently (as one would expect in an actual race).
Movement rounds continue until everyone has completed their Flight Plan. Then a new round is taken. This continues until someone crosses the finish line and is rewarded with all of the praise and pizza they can carry. Pizza, however, is not supplied with the game.
Ulimately, Zeppeldrome is a pretty light airship-based racing game. The modular boards add some nice variety, and there’s a good smattering of goofy material, such as the types of obstacles and the names of some Action cards. There’s a clear intention to keep the mood light even while you’re often taking steps to completely derail your opponent’s turn. Adding some levity to the screw-your-neighbor style of play (similar to say, Munchkin) helps keep the game palatable to a wider audience who otherwise would shy away from such games.
Constantly readjusting turn order can be a little tedious with just two players, but with a larger racing crew it isn’t as noticeable. Otherwise, the game moves along fairly quickly, and it’s largely straightforward. The result is Zeppeldrome: a zeppelin racing game with a very quirky sense of humor.
It offers some light strategy as you chart which Flight Plan to use and how you can overtake your competition, but like most racing games, it isn’t incredibly deep. It navigates its way into being a game that has the right amount of complexity as it should have. It’s a fitting choice for family game or one to pull out if your group has some non-gamers in the mix. If you want to learn more about this sky race, or perhaps just the migration patterns of lemmings, be sure to check out Zeppeldrome over on their Kickstarter.
Editor’s Note: It should be stated that we were not paid in pizza for our preview of Zeppeldrome. Delicious, delicious pizza…