Game expansions fall into a couple of categories. Perhaps the best are those that enhance a game, by adding a depth of flavour and freshness. Others will enable extra players to enjoy the fun - often with new components and a modification of the rules to facilitate a higher player count. Finally, and thankfully rarely, publishers need to release an expansion to tweak flaws in the original base game. So, the question is which of these reasons best describes Celestia: A Little Initiative?
Celestia is a firm favourite of ours. We have a large family and are often looking for games that play well with six. We like games of skill, social deduction and probability. With some luck of the cards, Celestia takes some beating. In its basic guise, it is a “push your luck” challenge. It is also semi co-operative which is quite unusual as gaming mechanics go.
Do You Have What it Takes?
The optimum player count is four to six players. Everyone is a passenger on an airship floating between fantasy islands. But each player in turn becomes the captain who is responsible for negotiating the hazards that lie ahead. These are determined by the role of a number of dice. As the airship advances so the obstacles become bigger but rewards increase too. These hazards are overcome by playing cards from the hand.
“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
You know how the song continues….. On each turn, players can choose whether to jump off to safety or whether to push on, in the hope that the captain has the ability to get to the next destination. It is a question of deciding if a player wants to take the certainty of lower points or risk a big score and glory, or “Nil point” if the captain fails.
“If I Go There Will be Trouble”
So how does having a little initiative help? What if you don’t trust the captain and prefer to go it alone?
With this expansion players might be able to jump into a lifeboat. Now they are masters of their own destiny. This little craft has room for just one. Irrespective of whether the main boat crashes or succeeds, the player claiming the little lifeboat must roll their own dice and play their own cards. Their trouble is now of their own making.
This expansion contains a number of cards, four of which will allow any player the chance to claim the row boat. However, the card could be used in place of any number of hazard cards too, if the player should prefer a more co-operative approach. Once the main craft and the lifeboat have crashed [failed to reach the next island] so the round will restart with the next player taking the captaincy.
“And If I Stay There Will be Double”
Celestia: A Little Initiative expansion contains a few cards which, when used, allows the player to abdicate or responsibility and become a passenger. If a particularly tricky set of dice is rolled, then playing these cards allows the player to abandon their post. They can pass the buck. The player to the left or right must take the captaincy. This does give the initial player chance to bailout and save themselves.
“This Indecision’s Buggin’ Me!”
Wouldn’t it be nice to know what your fellow passengers are up to? By playing a spy card a player can examine any other players cards, just once. This must be played before any dice are rolled. The captain could take this opportunity to see how subsequent players might fare in the challenges ahead.
If a player’s cards are poor and felt unlikely to be helpful, a player may exchange all or some of their cards for the same number of new ones. This must be played before the dice are rolled. Any player, including the captain, can use this cards ability football stop this allows a possible disaster to turn into an opportunity in.
“If You Don’t Want Me Set Me Free”
I had great hopes for Celestia: A Little Initiative. Celestia is fun, and all the more so with the extra cards that influence others. When played, Celestia can be frustrating in that your fate could be determined by another player’s deck of cards. This means that whether you have a great hand or not, your ship may not reach the higher value islands. This is the beauty of the lifeboat. At least by being master of my destiny I know whether my hand of cards is sufficiently strong and varied to cope with the perils ahead.
The “relative” value of the rowboat does increase as the game progresses. A player choosing to use it early on might find they are unsuccessful, and yet at the main craft continues. The rowboat is then vacated and is ready for any other player to use. There are just four rowboat cards. They come up relatively infrequently for the size of the deck, and even less often when only three or four are playing. This is a concern.
“Should I Cool it or Should I Blow?”
The expansion promises a little initiative, but it is almost impossible to use it if the cards do not come up. Indeed, on average, the rowboat might be used just once or perhaps twice in an entire game. In fact, there is not enough initiative in my opinion. To counter this, in our family we have a new house rule in that discarding two cards of the same type would allow a player to make use of the rowboat. At least the rowboat will get used, and the penalty for doing so is a weaker set of cards before a player can get underway.
The other elements of the expansion; the spy, the card exchange, and forfeiting of the captaincy all add a few nice twists. I do like the spy cards that enable one player to at least have a snapshot of another’s hand. For a few turns that knowledge can be invaluable. Again, my only gripe would be the infrequency that these special cards appear. The actual expansion box is very small. The rowboat comes as a flat pack of three pieces of thick card. There are just six action cards, a set of rules and four-row boat cards. The entire game is smaller than a pack of cards. Therefore, value for money might be a consideration for some, especially as the ability of these expansion cards to affect the base game and gameplay is so limited.
“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” - Final Thoughts on A Little Initiative
I really wanted to enthuse about Celestia: A Little Initiative. I have added it to our base game; the rowboat, rules and handful of cards fit into the standard box.
But is it necessary?
No. In the current format, with so few extra cards relative to the base game, the opportunity to play these special cards seems a little infrequent.
But is it fun?
Yes. The rowboat is a very sweet touch. Lovers of Celestia with its gorgeous artwork will warm to this little boat. It adds to the chances to progress, and even more so with our new local-rules amendment.
Should I get it?
Celestia: A Little Initiative is a good expansion that does enhance gameplay. It does not detract from the push your luck element of Celestia. The few extra cards can spice up the game if you are lucky to draw them into your hand. For those that want more to the base game, it is good to have and perhaps consider it as a stocking filler for the board game enthusiasts. Maybe this could be one to consider.