Quick Simple Fun Games is a new publisher, but they’re starting off strong with a pair of vetted titles: Burano and Celestia. Both those games have received positive reviews but remained difficult to find in the U.S. PHD is excited to be a distributor for Quick Simple Fun Games, and we can’t wait to see what else they have coming down the cardboard pipeline.
In Celestia, a revamped version of Cloud 9, you board an aircraft with a team of adventurers to perform many trips through the cities of Celestia and recover their wonderful treasures. Your journey will not be safe, but you will attempt to be the richest adventurer by collecting the most precious treasures!
At the beginning of a journey, all players place their pawns within the aircraft; the players start the game with six cards in hand (or eight depending on the number of players). At the beginning of each round, one player is chosen to be the captain of the trip, and that player rolls two to four dice to discover the challenges that players will face: fog, lightning bolts, killer birds, or pirates. The captain must then play the appropriate cards—a compass, a lightning arrester, a foghorn, or even cannons—to continue on the journey and reach the next city. But before the captain plays the appropriate cards, each player must decide whether to stay within the aircraft.
If you exit, you’re guaranteed the victory points that come from exploring the current city. If you stay on board, you hope to make it to the next city in order to catch more precious treasures. If the captain can’t overcome the challenge, though, everyone comes crashing down empty-handed, and you’ll need to begin a new trip with all passengers on board.
During the journey, each adventurer can try to pull out of the game with fabulous objects (a jetpack, astronomy glasses, etc.) or by changing the trip (modifying the travel or abandoning an explorer in the city). As soon as a player earns treasure worth at least 50 points, the game ends, and that player wins.
Celestia is a light, push-your-luck game. Each player has a hand of cards that can be used to manipulate the outcome, not only for themselves, but for all the players. However, the decision to abandon ship at the right time can be very important. Take that option too frequently, though, and players will miss out on the high-scoring treasure available at the more distant and dangerous floating islands.
In the Middle Ages, Burano lace was highly admired and widely requested by royal families all over Europe. Players represent family leaders on this little island. They can send men to fish for the main source of income or send women into lace-making for sales abroad. To make a good living and make Burano become world-famous, you have to figure out how to organize family members to their suitable work. It depends on you to earn the glory for your family and lead them to be outstanding from other families.
Burano is played over four seasons, fourteen rounds altogether. Through the novel cube-pyramid-driven mechanism, players take turns paying coins to operate their cube pyramids during each round. The operation of the color-coded cubes trigger certain actions, such as fishing, lace-making, and house roofing, which will earn players victory points.
Like any good Euro game, Burano is driven by a series of interlocking subsystems. The core of these is the cube pyramid. At the beginning of the game, players choose fourteen from a random selection of colored cubes to build individual pyramids. Nine cubes form the base, four cubes make the middle row, and one cube sits on top.
When performing an action with a cube, a player must first ready an “available” cube from that player’s own pyramid. A cube is available only if no other cubes are covering it, so the first cube action will be with the cube a player placed on top. From there, the four middle cubes become options, and as they’re removed, the nine bottom cubes will begin to open up.
To play a cube, it’s moved from the player’s personal board to the game board depicting the city of Burano, and those cubes will be used to place roof tiles on later. But whenever a cube is played, the player immediately takes another action based on the cube’s color, so building that pyramid right at the beginning is very important.
Placing a cube triggers a fishing action or a lace-making action, and both those subsystems are driven by the players’ schedule wheels, which is another element to the player boards. The wheels have men and women tiles around their edges, and those tiles are placed onto the main game board to represent their work. But the schedule wheels also have colors marking their edges, and those colors determine the effectiveness of a fishing or lace-making action. A circle piece with an arrow rotates as workers are taken from the circle so that the “schedule” of effective colors is always changing.
When a player takes a lace-making action, the player’s effective colors are considered and compared to available spaces in a randomly generated grid of colored spaces in the lace workshop. The player may spend women tiles to fill up to three of those lace spaces as long as those spaces are orthogonally adjacent to each other and match the effective colors in the player’s schedule wheel. Controlling more of the lace spaces will earn players more points with this area-control mechanism.
When fishing, the player may send men tiles to one of multiple nearby islands, each of which has its own three color tiles. For each effective color in the player’s schedule wheel that matches the island’s colors, the player may take one fish card from a face-up row of fish—or draw randomly from the fish deck. Fish can be sold to boats later on with a set-collection mechanism.
And of course, part of the table presence of the game is the roof tiles. The colored cubes that are placed onto the city board can have roof tiles placed on them, but each tile requires a specific pair of colors to be built on. So all while players are deciding which cubes to play from their pyramids—and how to build their pyramids in the first place—they’ll be watching closely how the offset grid of cubes is filled on the board to spot the perfect time to build a roof and earn some points.
Meanwhile, players will be deciding how many actions to perform on their turns using the action subsystem, which pays them for taking only a single action but which costs them increasing amounts of currency for taking as many as four actions.
These multiple simple subsystems mean no one part of the game is hard to comprehend, but Burano offers plenty of strategy and interesting decisions as players try to navigate all the implications their actions have on the board. And while some games look beautiful and intricate on the table starting about halfway through, Burano looks great from turn one because of the cool pyramids of cubes players start with. As the pyramids are deconstructed for actions, the cubes start appearing on the map and turn into buildings with rooftops, keeping the visual excitement high as the island town evolves.