WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-6
Published by: Floodgate Games
Designed by: Kevin Hamano
Just look at this box. So serene. So calm. Doesn't it just make you want to go and fly a kite? And sing that song! Ahhhhh. Lovely. Ok, well remove all those relaxed thoughts from your mind, as things are about to get tense! Kites is a real-time cooperative team game that brings elements of Magic Maze and The Mind to the table. With all the stress of those games, but also, all the joy of victory. Making it so addictive and fun to play. Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
Place all the sand timers into the centre of the table on their sides. Space them out a bit so people can grab them from all sides. We quite like to order them in time order, so it is easier to play the game. As each timer has a different length, I would certainly suggest doing this for your first few frantic games! The red is the quickest at 30 seconds. The orange runs for 45 seconds, the yellow and white are a minute, blue is 75 seconds, and the purple is the longest at a minute and a half.
Then separate the expansion cards, unless you are trying to strike down upon your friends great vengeance and furious anger. With the remaining cards, shuffle the deck and deal three, four, or five cards each depending on player count. Each card has either one or two coloured symbols on. The colours represents the kites/timers, and when played, you must flip the associated sand timer over. There is no white colour on any of the cards, but this timer can be flipped with any single colour card.
When everyone is ready, the game is started by the white timer being flipped.
How to Play
Players will now take it in turns to play one card, re-drawing from the communal deck to their full hand size each time. As cards are played, timers will be flipped. The idea is that all players will be trying to keep all the kites in the air, by not letting the timers run out.
Players are working together in this process. There are no communication limits. So, you can calmly point out to your friends which timers may be coming close to running out. Or, your choice, scream wildly "red, red, someone flip the red!"
If any of the timers run out, that is game over for all the players. You can check your score based on how many cards are left in your hands, but let's face it, you lost, Move on and try again. But if you manage to keep them all up and play all the cards, you win the game! When the deck runs out and players can no longer re-draw, the white timer can now no longer be flipped, so the intensity increases as players rush to play all the cards in their hand, still in turn, before the white timer runs out. Flipping the white timer over just before the deck runs out is a key part to your success.
Is it Fun?
Kites is frantic fun. If you don't like real-time games, or playing under a time pressure, you will not enjoy this game. But if you enjoy the communal satisfaction, of working towards a team task, under a time pressure, this could well become one of your favourite little card games ever made.
I absolutely adore this game. I find huge satisfaction from winning this game with my friends. And when we loose, which is far more common, I just want to play again and again until we win. But I have not found this to be the case with all of the people I have played this with. So, my score for this game must be taken with a pinch of salt. You need to make your own mind up based on how much you enjoy this sort of game.
As the game moves so fast you don't really get the opportunity to enjoy the art on the cards. But here, whilst we are not playing, take a moment to appreciate the work of Beth Sobel. It's gorgeous. Beth is the genius behind Wingspan, Cascadia, and Arboretum, to name just a few. Quite a resume.
The three mini expansions are a nice add on. If you get to a point with your group where you are winning all the time, they are a nice add in. I personally just like the purity of the base game and don't feel the need to make the game harder. But they are a nice, simple addition. Just add them into the deck before you shuffle and deal some cards out.
The Storm card is my favourite. When you draw this card, you must say out loud "A storm is coming" to warn all the other players what is about to happen. On your next turn you must play this card and immediately flip all of the timers.
When you draw the Crossed Lines card, you have to keep this secret. Like the Storm card, when you draw the Crossed lines card you must play it on your next turn and announce "Crossed lines." All players must then swap one card from their hands with the player to the left, and with the player to their right.
The final mini expansion is the Airplane card. Like the Crossed line card must be kept secret when drawn, and like both other expansions must be played immediately on your next turn. This time, saying "Airplane." The noise from the plane means that no players can talk until the airplane is covered up by another card on the person that played this card's next next turn. This creates a huge amount of pointing, humming and grunting! Frustrating fun!
I would recommend this game to anyone who got to the end of the Mind, and each time enjoyed the process win or loose. People who like the challenge of a cooperative game, that can be frantic, that can be loud, that can result in more loses than wins. But that delivers a huge sense of satisfaction when do you come together as a group, play well, and win.
Kites is an acquired taste, that is for sure. I have seen all sorts of people try this one, and it certainly isn't for everyone. But I love it. I love the feeling of working together in this way. Yes, it is hectic and sometimes stressful, but with that pressure comes a greater sense of achievement when it all comes together. I am not really a "high-five" kind of guy, But when I win this game, high fives are flying around all over the gaff!
Some games build up over time, helping you to feel satisfied by a well developed, smart strategy. Kites comes out of the blue, jumps right into your face, screams at you for two minutes, and then rewards you with juicy Dopamine in large doses. And I'm all for that!