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Game review: Dastardly Dirigibles: a card-driven, airship-building game

In the card game Dastardly Dirigibles, by Fireside Games, 2 to 5 players take on the roles of steamship construction engineers. The goal is to create a complete steamship out of the most similar components to score the highest points.

Each player is dealt a hand of five cards and given a handy-dandy airship blueprint player screen depicting all the parts necessary to build an airship. In their hand of cards, players will have various steamship parts (engines, tails, nose cones, gondolas, etc.) from seven different suits.

For example, a player might have three airship nose cone cards of different suits in his or her hand but only one is required to build a ship. The goal is to build a ship using as many parts from the same suit as possible to score the most points. There are also wild cards, too, that can help keep the suits the same. But wait.

On a player's turn, he or she first makes sure to have five cards in hand and then performs three actions. The most common action is to play a card to build an airship. However, each opponent must play a card of the same kind to his or her ship. It is mandatory so it can be a blessing or curse for other players. It's not good to cover up a part of the ship that will score big points but sometimes there is no choice.

Playing a special card is another action players can do. These are cards that essentially let a person break the rules by playing specific airship parts or destroying an opponent's airship. There are a few of these cards sprinkled throughout the deck to keep things interesting.

Discarding a card or passing to the next player are other actions players can perform. Additionally, there is an emporium or tableau of cards available to any player on his or her turn. A player can swap a card in hand with a card in the emporium or refresh the emporium to see if better cards become available.

When a player completes a dirigible, the round is over (there are three rounds per game). Players then earn points for each completed section of the ship. The suit of cards most represented in the airship construction scores more points than other suits. The rules even discuss scoring a "muddle" which is a straight 20 points for a ship made up of one card from every suit without any wild cards.

Dastardly Dirigibles is a relatively simple design with some interesting elements that come together under a delightful theme. Gathering and manipulating the cards does feel at times like being a construction engineer although it doesn't make sense that all players have to build the same part. But it does add complexity to the game and some randomness.

The artwork and components are of solid quality, and the player screens are a nice touch. The game is relatively simple to play and could be enjoyed by families with kids of various ages. There is not a lot of depth here though so players may be quite content after one play. This is a game to check out before purchasing to make sure its right. Find out more at Fireside Games website.