WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-5
You’ll like this if you like: Clank! Tony Hawks video games. Skateboarding!
Published by: Pandasaurus Games
Designed by: Randy Reiman
Were you into Tony Hawks when you were younger? Yeah! me too. I was obsessed. I still have my signed PS2 copy. So many hours of my life went into that game. Sadly, when I tried to get on a board in real life I was never quite as good! But I tried. For a few weeks at least. Thankfully, in my 40's, Pandasaurus has spared us all more scrapped knees and sore wrists by making a board game all about skate boarding. Sounds cool? Well, let's get it to the table to see how it plays.
Lay out the main board into the centre of the table and then place one large and then one small goal token face down onto each circular space. Place the endgame marker on either 50, 70, or 90 points depending on what game length you want. Shuffle the trick deck and special trick deck and place them face down by the board along with the flame and manual tokens and dice. Then, each player will choose one player to play as, and will take their coloured board, skateboard mini, player landing marker, and score marker. Each player will set their board up with each upgrade space covered with the appropriate marker. Place the balance token into the centre of the balance track, and give each player five trick cards, one manual move token, and a skill cube of each colour which they place into the bottom space of their skill tracks. Finally, place your skater meeple into the central space of the board. You are now ready to play.
How it Plays
The object of the game is to collect as many points by doing trick combos with your cards, that score you skill points. But also allow you to move around the main board, and collect items, upgrade your board, and visit each of the "S", "K", "A", "T", "E", and "R" locations.
The game works in three main phases as well as a final clear up phase. The first of these is where players will simultaneously try and play as many of their tricks cards onto the board as possible. This is a brilliantly tense push-your-luck phase of the game where each card you play increases your points in phase two, and your movement options in phase three. But also increases the risk of bailing.
As you play each card, you need to move your balance accordingly. Tricks will give you flame or goal tokens, and the more you get, the more your balance is upset. Once the card is played you must then roll one dice per card played, plus the direction dice, telling you which way your balance could be upset further by the balance dice.
So, the more cards you play, the more dice you must roll. And the riskier it will become that you will loose your balance and bail. If you do, you must remove the final card you just played and half of your flame tokens. If you don't bail you can then either carry on, or land your trick. If you land your trick without bailing you can then advance one of your skill cubes. It's quite a big difference between success and failure. But you can control your luck to some extent.
As you play the cards, you can choose which way you move your balance token. You can try to re-balance each trick. And there is the opportunity to improve your balance on both the right and left side by visiting the upgrade slots on the main board. As the game progresses you become a better skater and will be able to play more cards with less risk.
If you managed to get any cards into the space on your board under the diamond shaped special trick token, you can take the top card of the special trick deck. These can be used now as extra cards to play on your board, or saved for the third phase. As soon as players bail or land you must then place your landing token onto the landing track on the left side of the main board. This will determine the movement order in the third phase and reward each player with a certain benefit.
Once each player has either landed or bailed, you will then move to the second phase and score each card played that is still on your board, based on your current position on the skill track. Big points are awarded for big tricks. It feels great! At this stage, you can use the flame tokens you have earnt to upgrade your skill track to earn more points, or save them for the third phase.
In the third phase, you are now moving around the main board. Any card you played in the first phase can be used to help you move. Each hex on the main board has a coloured ramp or rail. You must play the matching coloured card to move onto this space. You can also use any free movement manual tokens, or special trick cards as wild cards to move onto any space. If you move onto a space with a token on, you can pick it up in exchange for one flame token. These will get you various bonuses such as points, extra movement, as well as the goal icons which score with an area majority rule at the end of the game. The player with the most of each icons gets eight points. Four points for the player in second.
Players are looking to move around to each of the upgrade spaces, whilst collecting points. If you visit all six of the upgrades spots you will gain a bonus of ten points at the end of the game. There are a few short cut spaces on the board including revert ramps and the central big air space, which allow you to jump forward a number of spaces. The big air space is controlled by the big air dice. When you move to this space you can roll this dice and move forward up to four spaces in any one direction.
When every one has played all the movement cards and manual tokens they want, the clean up phase occurs. If anyone has reached the end goal points total then this will be the last round. If not, each player will retrieve their landing marker, reset their balance, deal back up to their hand limit, and pass the first player marker. A next round will then begin.
Is it Fun
Skate Summer is so much fun. Each phase feels very different, but also quite connected. I love multi-use cards, and in this game the cards use feels quite unique. As it is not that you can choose to use them for different things, it's more that you are always using them for different things. In phase one you are using them for tricks, trying to pick the card that will best keep your balance, but also score you as many points as possible in phase two. But you also need to pay close attention to what coloured cards you will need for movement in phase three, whilst concentrating on the benefits the cards will give you immediately in phase one. It's such a great thought process. Each card will be used three times. Each round. For multiple purposes. Choose wisely!
I love the push-your-luck element in phase one. It feels so tense to play additional cards beyond the first two or three. The way the number of dice you have to rolls ramps up, but the higher rewards for each card played balances this off is so good. As you can use each card three times for re-balancing and getting special trick cards, points, and movement, there is always the temptation to push your luck. Despite the punishment for bailing being quite high.
I don't mind push-your-luck punishing you when the rewards are high. This is what makes a good push-your-luck game. High risk. But also, high reward. Skate Summer does this brilliantly.
The points on offer in phase two really ramp up. As you get the ability to play more cards by increasing your hand limit and improving your balance skills, you will advance from stopping at three or four cards, to five, six or even beyond, within a few rounds. Then, when you move into phase three, the game changes quite a lot. It goes from a push-your-luck card management game, into a point-to-point grid movement bonus collection game. Both feel very different from each other, but beautifully connected within the same game.
As you make this switch from the different phases and parts of the game multiple times across the many rounds you play, it feels seamless. Switching just the once would feel jarring. But moving backwards an forwards between the two makes it work well. I see it as going from up a close up, insular look at my skater mind. Planning my tricks and looking closely at my board. Then, moving to performing those tricks with a more top down look at my skater from a third person perspective. In my mind, I am just switching the viewing angle on the screen.
Everything in this game works brilliantly with the theme. The art, names of the tricks, use of different tokens and the meeples. It feels to me like the designers of this game have really done their research to create a skater game for the masses, but that real skaters would respect too.
It all just works so seamlessly. Looks so great. And has a real sense of development as you play, advance your skaters abilities, and start scoring bog points.
I always enjoy games where there are different ways to score, and Skate Summer delivers this. At first, it will feel like the main way to score if in phase two. Scoring for the cards you played in phase one. But as the game develops you will become more aware of the other ways to improve your score.
The area majority scoring with the three goal tokens is a very interesting addition in this game. I love every part of it other than the three random icons they chose. I guess we are collecting spray cans to paint some street art, or tag our name somewhere? And perhaps the crates are to help build some ramps and do some tricks on? Or is this because the very first skate boards were made from old crates? But what is the school bell for? Are we setting or the alarm? Or excited school is over? Or breaking in? The characters in the game feel a little old for this, and I am not sure all skaters are criminals?! Just feels odd to me.
Anyway! The idea is fun. And I like how all the tokens you can pick up on the main board have these symbols on, so you can chose which ones to go for in order to try and win the area control part on each of these three icons. But they also have a secondary benefit hidden underneath as well.
I like the art of the different characters in the game. They look great and the names are a good example of how fans of the game can come together and vote on suggested names to create a better theme and game. It is just a shame there are no unique powers for each skater. It would seem like a very obvious and easy additional to have a small amount of asymmetric powers in the game where each skater has a special signature trick only they can do. Or a power where they can do extra combos, get bigger air when jumping, or score more points for certain tricks. It would make choosing which character to play as a little more interesting.
Playing Skate Summer for the first time, I fell in love with it instantly. I love the theme and feel they have delivered on this perfectly. The various phasing in the game work so well and integrate together perfectly to form a seamless experience that feels as close to performing tricks and riding around a city as sitting down at a table and playing a game could.
The colours and art style nod perfectly to the culture without being too touristy, whilst the names, icons, and rules do not alienate people who are not skaters.
I would recommend this game to anyone who is looking for a board game this is bright, colourful, fun, and offers a theme that is original and unique, and one that might appeal to a younger audience. But still a game that still delivers some crunchy, fun decisions, that will make you feel like you have played a proper game at the end of it. it is hard to see what came first in this game. The mechanics or the theme. I assume theme. But the mechanics work brilliantly with this world and have been built into the skating world in a very cleverly crafted way.
Anyone who is moderately interested in skating and board games will be in heaven with this game. That is an obvious target audience. But I also think people like me who were never out on a board much but are fans of the skating video games will absolutely adore this.
Kudos to Panadsaurus for taking on this ambitious theme and delivering it in such a good way. The only real downside I can see is that it has made me itchy to get my old board out and try again. And I think we all know that this will only end in one way!