Marie looked in the rearview mirror, startled, at the dark clouds rising higher and higher into the sky above the harbor. She couldn't speak - she was still so impressed by the huge explosion she had helped to trigger. Well, actually she only had to drive the getaway vehicle - but of course it turned out differently than expected. Sem raged in the driver's seat: "This can't be true, they have lied to us from front to back! "My ass, we're setting the tone for a future without oil - I think we just burned our future!".

Marie gulped, "what if Sem was right ...?". Sem was from Utrecht and was one of her fellow students whom she had met at the UvA several years ago. Above all, their common commitment to environmental and climate protection welded them together. Almost every week they organized smaller and larger disruptive actions in the greater Rotterdam area. Until one day Sem put on an expectant face and said to her: "I have met someone - someone from Cloud".

When they left the highway and turned onto the country road towards Amsterdam, they saw the smoke from far away. As they got closer, their suspicions were confirmed: the old warehouse, which had served them as a meeting place and shelter in the meantime, was also on fire. As Marie steered the car into the gravel parking lot, Sem jumped out of the car in one leap. "Don't fuck around now Sem," Marie yelled after him. "I don't want to lose anyone else today," but Sem already didn't hear you.

If you want to know now how the story of Marie and Sem continued just click here: A story in the world of Cloudage. To all the others: the story did not end well, because now - 15 years later we find ourselves in a dystopian wasteland. Namely in Cloudage by Alexander Pfister and Arno Steinwender. In the game for one to six people, we try to collect resources with our airships, liberate cities from the Cloud militias and reclaim parts of the desert landscape. Can you survive in this world with the constant lack of water?

Dystopia out of the box

For the first assembly, you should definitely plan some time and a decent amount of space on the game table. In addition to a lot of material, Cloudage also presents some technical challenges. For example, the covers of the city maps have to be processed with cloud stickers (which, unlike others, we didn't have that many problems with). The instructions show in detail how to build the scenarios. The first scenario serves as an introduction and contains fewer game elements than the other scenarios.

Start your engines

Cloudage is played in six to eight rounds, depending on the number of players and the scenario/campaign. Each round consists of three different phases:

  1. The production phase
  2. The movement phase
  3. The action phase

In the production phase, the starting player checks whether a book action depicted on the story and scenario cards must be performed. Afterwards, collected energy on the production plan can be converted into water or victory points. Then each player reveals two cards from his navigation deck. The lower one can be converted directly into energy or project cards. The higher navigation card determines the number of our movements in the next phase. The pile of navigation cards grows as the game progresses. Should it ever be empty, the deck is simply shuffled again.

Into the wild

In the movement phase, the airships are moved across the game board starting with the start player. The range is determined by the navigation card from the production phase. Additional movement options are provided by the airship's solar system and by installed extensions. The move always ends on a city field. If you visit the city for the first time, you can consider fighting the cloud militia raging below. The battle strength is indicated on the game board. Once you have decided to fight, the combat strength on the project cards on display and the extensions you have mounted on the airship count. To increase the strength you can also use energy or victory points. If the battle was successful you get the indicated loot on the city. At the end of the movement phase, place a square marker from the airship tableau on the city where the airship is located. In the cities on which a marker is placed, it is not possible to fight in a later round - but a visit is possible.

Till the bitter end

In the action phase it is time for our drones. We place them on the city map to collect resources, to build, or to plant seedlings. The starting player of the round determines which action will be performed. To collect resources, our drone is placed on the desired field in one of the three cities. Since the cities are covered by the clouds to a large extent, one can only guess what resources are hidden there. Rails and a lake probably indicate water and iron. All other players place their drones on a free field in the chosen city. After the card is taken out of its cover, the raw materials and updates are distributed. The starting player takes the city card as an additional card in his navigation deck.

If the active player decides to take the Build action, he may take up to two Build actions. Either the airship can be upgraded to increase combat power, range, and setting equipment, or a project card can be played. Project cards provide one-time or permanent effects. Starting with the second scenario, seedlings can also be used. The number of planting devices on the airship determines the maximum number of seedlings that can be planted. For each tile, the player receives the reward shown. The tiles are then placed on the game board or returned to the bag.

Project Hope

Cloudage offers a campaign mode in addition to the three different scenarios. In the campaign mode, new mission objectives and legacy tiles come into play over the course of the seven chapters. The mode is controlled by the story cards, which set the story and hopefully lead everything to a good end. Once a chapter is successfully completed the score can be saved in the form of the material. Campaign and scenarios can also be played solo. There are only small changes to the rules and the number of victory points determines whether you are ready for the world of Cloudage.

The true dystopia?

The word dystopia is a personal trigger for me when it comes to movies and even more so when it comes to board games. So naturally I had high expectations for Cloudage and the game was pre-ordered sight unseen based on the initial press release. On the gameplay side, the expectations have been fully met. The game offers a great interlocking of different game mechanisms. Especially well done are the shrouded city maps in which there are raw materials to discover. According to the theme, these are covered by clouds and only give a hint of what is there for us to get. At numerous places there are opportunities to optimize our airship and thus expand our tactical abilities. However, a little luck is always necessary to win a round.

One fundamental thing that I think the game does particularly well is to create the feeling that everyone is playing a board game together. Sounds trivial at first, but many competitive games are played side by side rather than together. Cloudage achieves this by having all players take their turn in each phase of the game. The starting player determines what is done in the action phase.

As soon as the rules are set after the first rounds, a game is quickly played. The game is much less complex than it might seem from the first impression and is suitable for the ambitious family who wants to play something more complex.

Unfortunately, the background story is a bit too short for my taste. That's why I had to create my own little story without further ado, because the theme is still great. Dystopia with a pinch of steampunk literally screams for stories that want to be told. Of course, one may critically ask how much of it belongs in a board game. Only everyone can decide that for themselves.

And Marie? Fifteen years after the attack on the oil port in Rotterdam, she is still politically active - but no longer on Cloud's side.

Nr. of Players: 1-6 | Age: 10+ | Playing Time: 60 Minutes | Published: 2020
Game Design: Alexander Pfister & Arno Steinwender | Illustration: Milan Christian Opperer | Publisher: Nanox Games e.U. | Distribution: dlp games Verlag GmbH

  • 4 double-sided game boards
  • 1 production board
  • 1 double-sided city board
  • 1 solo board
  • 1 start player marker
  • 39 city cards
  • 38 story cards
  • 12 mission cards
  • 79 project cards
  • 3 scenario cards
  • 6 cloud sleeves
  • 40 new growth tiles
  • 1 cloth bag
  • 36 water, 12 water tiles
  • 28 metal, 8 metal tiles
  • 52 player marker
  • 28 navigation cards
  • 4 airships
  • 4 airship boards with 10 Upgrades

CloudAge is the latest strategy game from Alexander Pfister and Arno Steinwender. The duo has created a dark and dystopian world for 1 to 4 players.

Fifteen years ago, the anarchic collective “Cloud” sabotaged countless oil production sites around the world in a coordinated attack. The resulting environmental catastrophe had disastrous effects on the entire planet. Now, years later, you travel above the dried-out landscape in your airships, searching for a better life. You visit cities, send out drones to collect resources, and battle Cloud militia.

An innovative sleeving mechanism makes a new, more immersive, form of resource gathering possible. Players try to predict which cloud-covered terrain will contain the desired amount of resources, or where additional actions are possible. Resources allow players to develop useful upgrades for their airships, or attract new crew members.

CloudAge is a mix of engine-building, deck-building, and resource management. The campaign system makes it easy to start playing quickly, with new elements being introduced into the game as players progress through the chapters. While you play, you also experience and help guide the story. If you prefer, you can also play stand-alone story spin-offs as single scenarios.

Area-Control Ressource Management Engine Building Dystopia
01.08.2021 - Stefan