Skytear is a game that was kickstarted and fully funded in June 2018. It is heavily inspired by MOBA video games and is set within its own fantasy universe. Below are our first impressions for both before our first game, and afterwards.
The box is gorgeously designed in a tremendously whimsical way. You can see inspiration from lots of places, but you can't pinpoint a single duplicated character. They're unique. What's more is that the entire thing just looks to be set within its own universe with its own lore and history. The board looks incredibly easy to understand and makes a lot of sense without a rule book. I'm no MOBA expert, but I've had experience with them, and the commonalities are present.
You've got a central area with a line of sight (LoS) barrier, lanes, minions, towers and something to target (the Nexus). What's more is how well it appears to fit into the fantasy MOBA theme. The board looks simple enough to grasp and the hex system looks to allow for easy hex movement. Aesthetically, it's gorgeous. Functionally, it looks to make sense!
The miniatures of Skytear stunning. The heroes are themed within their factions but look unique enough to be interesting. By reading the lore and history of each faction, you can visually tell who fits where. It makes sense thematically! But we're the characters to standalone, they'd be different enough to peak interest. The Outsider is a behemoth of a miniature, taking up three hexes when placed. They genuinely look terrifying and otherworldly, even when stood against the other miniatures. However, they're not so alien that they don't appear to belong. Menacing is the word that comes to mind, powerful and menacing.
There are very few components in Skytear, and that's ok. There doesn't always need to be a tonne of cards, tokens and the likes to make a game. What makes any game is the gameplay, and that is dictated through the rules and routines of the game. That said... The rule book is a proper beefcake for the component numbers. It's an absolute whopper! But don't let this fool you, it's written in such a way that you can't go wrong. It's set out so you learn the mechanics and ins/outs of the game before you can set it up. This is important. We glanced at the set up and, as much as we could follow it, we were immediately glancing back through the book at the intricacies.
We'd highly advise you learn it before playing it, as it presents itself and hard to learn but easy to pick up. Should you have someone who knows the game, you'll have no trouble playing it!
Impressions After the First Game
Skytear claims to be MOBA inspired, and there's no arguments there. The biggest difference is that it's turn based - which of course it is, it's a board game! Take away turns and you're just playing with miniatures and making sound effects. But the fact that it's turn based means that your characters activate and then are exhausted. You can still use them to react (should they have the mana to do so) but when they're used they're used until the next round.
The game runs on an activation basis. You activate a character then exhaust them, then your opponent does, and so on until all characters are exhausted. Then you resolve the end of turn effects and start a new round. Skytear isn't just a big battle arena however, there are specifics you need to do in order to win. First off, you have minions that are used as muscle to help control a lane. They don't attack and are easy to kill, but killing them means spending an action. When you only have three action points per character, spending it on a minion seems like a waste. It isn't. Destroy them.
We learned quickly that controlling a lane is important as it allows you to move the control tokens closer to a tower. Minions count towards that control. When you're close enough, you can destroy a tower, and then you can continue on to the opposing Nexus. However, with two lanes to contend with (and three on the alternative map) you will feel spread thin. Minions are a saving grace here, but enemy minions are a constant nuisance too.
Factions and Heroes
The characters were truly powerful within their own rights, but not so much that they couldn't be defeated. I controlled Kurumo and Nupten. One was excellent at dealing sneaky damage and moving around the battlefield. They were incredibly aggressive and fit my play-style beautifully. Nupten however was more about control. Sending out illusions to help control the battlefield and add buffs and such. This wasn't my style, it required lots of positioning and planning. From the off I was reluctant to use cards on the Nupten or pay much attention to them at all. Then I got playing.
The play-style of a faction is important, don't get me wrong, but the cards requiring mana are set to specific Power Cards. Each hero has access to two different types of Power Card. One is their own faction's, and the other another faction's. This immediately opened my options up, and also allowed for more surprise based tactics!
It's a classic case of "more fool me", as utilising the Nupten and an assortment of Power Cards allowed me to control a lane to some degree. That said, my opposition was clearly wise to this too and made superb use of the Liothan's transform abilities and the Taulot's towers. Again, they weren't comfortable in the use of a Defensive faction, but still managed to steamroll their way through to control a lane.
We found choosing when to exhaust a hero and in what order to be more important than most anything else. A defeated hero will miss one activation, no matter what. If they're exhausted, they'll spawn the round after next, not exhausted and they'll spawn next round. If you've got a hero that's near dead, you need to choose whether to have the sacrificed for a fresh next round, or whether to make use while you can. It can be the difference in the control of a lane and the destruction of towers.
Defeating a hero is no simple feat. They have stacks of health, and although attacks are not at all luck based, they have buckets of health and can react as necessary. It can sometimes be easier to take out minions for control rather than try the long haul of taking out a hero. Should the opportunity arise, I'd take it. It feels awesome.
Then there's the decision about the Outsider. He's an absolute beast and can be controlled. To get him on your side, you need to control the central area, The Dome. Much like the lanes, controlling The Dome requires muscle, but minions don't go in there. You need to use heroes for that. We won't spoil too much, but The Dome can quickly become a bloodbath should too much interest be peaked. And there's good reason for it too. He hits like a bus and can help mop up a lane. Not too many spoilers here, but don't underestimate the Outsider.
First Impressions In A Nutshell
It's awesome. Ruined the surprise from the off but there's no reason to beat around the bush! The game is incredibly fun and plays in about an hour (maybe longer if you're still picking it up). It's fast paced and hard hitting, and doesn't stick around long enough for it to become tedious. So much so that we were raring for a second game straight away!
We loved everything about it but still have some kinks to work out from our own sides and in the rules. Our own eagerness to play may have made for sloppiness when learning certain elements, especially considering that each faction works slightly differently, as does each hero! Highly recommend you check out the Skytear website for gameplay intricacies. And if you're a fan of MOBA video games or area control combat, grab Skytear this year when it releases. It knocked our socks off!
Skytear is coming soon, get your pre-order in today!