Also the name of a BoardGame designed by AlexChurchill. The players pilot zeppelins into the clouds, to explore the mysterious CastlesInTheAir and claim their treasures. A game of exploration, trading and tactics, high above the world below.
Castles in the Air A game of exploration, trading and tactics, in mystical castles high above the world below...
You are each explorers who have discovered the fabled Floating City of the Ancients: an archipelago of towers and dreaming spires, literally floating in the clouds. Forming a loose agreement to explore them together and bring their treasures back to land, you fly up in your zeppelins. But each of you knows that the most glory will go to the one who can collect the best hoard of treasures for the admiration of your peers. Will you be the most daring explorer?
Shuffle the castle tiles and place them in a stack face down. Place the starting empty sky in the centre of the table. Each player takes a zeppelin piece and an explorer piece of the same colour. They place the zeppelin piece in the starting space of empty sky. Randomly choose one player to be the first player, and give them the Chief Explorer token. This is used to ensure each player gets the same number of turns, and has no other function. Shuffle the stack of castle tiles, and deal out a deck of tiles with 7 tiles for each player in it, into one large stack of face-down tiles. Remove the rest from the game. (For 3 players, create a stack of 21 tiles and remove the rest; for 4 players, take 28 tiles; for 5 players, 35 tiles.) From the stack of face-down castle tiles, turn as many tiles face up as there are players in the game.
Players take turns, starting with the first player and going clockwise. Players have six moves to spend on their turn. You do not have to use all six of your moves. Available actions on your turn are:
For two moves: Add a tile to the Floating City
Take one of the face-up tiles and place it in the City such that it is connected by at least one edge to a tile that was already there. The edges must link up: so if your tile has a castle passage at the top, you cannot place it directly below a tile with sky at its bottom, or vice versa. You can not choose a tile which can not be connected to the currently revealed area of the Floating City.
Note: Cloud edges and sky-ladders are optional connections. They may connect to a castle floor, but do not have to - they can instead end in empty sky. A castle floor must connect to either a cloud floor or a castle floor. All edges of a newly placed tile must match.
Once you've placed a tile, put the treasures, keys and locks on it. For each gem symbol, put a treasure of that colour on it; for each black or white key symbol, put a key of that colour on it; and for each door or treasure chest with a black or white lock, put a lock of that colour on it. Once the items are collected or the chest or door unlocked during gameplay, the symbols serve as nothing more than a reminder of what used to be there.
Then reveal a new tile from the stack of face-down castle tiles.
For one move: Fly your zeppelin up to two spaces Fly your zeppelin to any area of blue sky up to two tiles away horizontally, vertically or diagonally from where the zeppelin currently is. The new space must be able to be reached by two steps, going only through currently-visible regions of the Floating City. Zeppelins are able to fly to a piece of open sky even if castle walls in between seem to block the way: they are considered able to fly around it. However, you may not fly a zeppelin to or through a region where a tile has not yet been placed. So the moves shown in the picture with green arrows are permitted, but not the moves shown with a red arrow.
For one move: Get in or out of your zeppelin
You can get out of your zeppelin, if it is landed on pink-coloured clouds. Replace your zeppelin with your explorer piece.
You can call your zeppelin to the piece of pink-coloured cloud on which your explorer is standing. Replace your explorer with your zeppelin piece.
For free: Walk any distance left or right In between any number of your moves (or before or after them), you can (for free) walk your explorer any distance to the left or right on the same floor or clouds. This can include collecting items, but not opening any locks.
For free: Move your zeppelin within a tile You can fly your zeppelin anywhere inside the same tile it's currently in for free.
For one move: Go up or down a ladder
Climb up or down one floor's worth of a ladder. You must stop where the next floor is (where your explorer could stop). Climbing multiple floors costs multiple moves.
For one move: Open a lock
Open a locked door, which uses up a key of the same colour as the lock on the door (black or white). The door remains open for the rest of the game.
Open a locked treasure chest, which again uses up a key of the same colour as the lock on the chest (black or white). When you open a chest, roll two dice. If both are key colours, roll again until you get at least one treasure colour. Then you get an item corresponding to each die. (For example, if you rolled red and black, you get a red treasure and a black key.)
For two moves: Use a Teleport Door If your explorer is standing at a Teleport Door, at a cost of two moves, you may teleport that explorer to anywhere on the entire board where an explorer is capable of standing. If you teleport behind a locked door, you may be stuck unless you have the right key (or can trade for it)!
Each round (from a player's turn to their next turn), players may agree to trade up to two of their cubes (treasures or keys) for up to two of another player's cubes. Players may agree trades of items and/or make agreements for how they move or place tiles. No player is ever forced to trade.
E.g. you could use your first move to go down a ladder and walk up to a treasure chest with a black lock; trade with other players to get a black key; use your second move to open the chest which uses up the black key; then take your remaining four moves.
You can also trade keys with the bank, if you really need a key of the other colour to the ones you've got. At any time you can exchange two white keys for a black key, or two black keys for a white key.
Bonuses from Treasures
Accumulating certain combinations of treasures can give you special bonuses during gameplay:
3 red treasures let you change the colour of one item you put on the tile you place, when you take the action to place a tile. At that moment, you can place a white lock instead of a black lock, or vice versa; a white key instead of a black key, or vice versa; or replace one coloured treasure with a treasure of a different colour. Six red treasures allow you to change the colours of up to two items on each tile you place. No further recolourings are available for red treasures beyond six.
3 yellow treasures let you take an extra move per turn. After you finish your six moves, if you have three yellow treasures, you may take a seventh. If at the end of your seventh move you have six yellow treasures you may take an eighth move. No further moves are available for yellow treasures beyond six.
3 green treasures let you trade treasures 2:1 with the bank. Once per turn, at any time, if you have three green treasures, you may exchange two of your treasures (in any combination of colours) for one new treasure of your choice from the supply. You can trade away some of your green treasures in this way if you wish, but you won't be able to do any more 2:1 trades (in future rounds) unless you still have three green treasures afterwards. If you have six green treasures, the rate becomes 1:1: you may exchange any one treasure for any other treasure. No bonus trading is available for green treasures beyond six.
3 blue treasures let you exchange a black key for a white key, or vice versa, at any time. You may use this new key straight away, keep it, or trade it to another player. If you have six blue treasures, you may open doors or treasure chests without the need for any key at all, although it still costs one move.
One treasure of each colour lets you place an extra zeppelin/explorer on the board. If you have an assortment of one treasure of each colour, and only have one piece (zeppelin or explorer) on the board, you may at any point place another piece of the same kind in the same place as your current piece. In future, when moving, you may choose to move either piece, including replacing the second zeppelin with an explorer or vice versa. If you ever no longer have a complete assortment, your most recently placed piece becomes immobile until you have the requirements once again. If you have two assortments (two treasures of each colour), you may place a third explorer or zeppelin where either of your pieces are, and so on.
The End of the Game
When the last tile is revealed from the face-down stack into the five face-up tiles available for placement, that means the current round will be the last one. Players continue taking their turns until the first player would get a turn. Then the game ends. Each player calculates their score as described below.
At the end of the game, keys are worth nothing. Each player may choose to score their collection of treasures either as a Specialty Collector or as a Variety Collector.
Specialty Collectors consider each of the four colours in turn:
One unmatched treasure = no points
Matching set of 2 the same colour = 3 points
Matching set of 3 the same colour = 6 points
Matching set of 4 the same colour = 10 points
Matching set of 5 or more of the same colour = 15 points plus 5 for each additional. (15 points for 5, 20 points for 6, etc.)
The Specialty Collector's final score is the sum of their scores for the four different colours of treasure. Their tie-breaker points are the number of unmatched single treasures they have, plus the number of unused keys they have.
Variety Collectors score 11 points for each assortment of a red, a yellow, a green and a blue treasure. Their tie-breaker points are the number of treasures not forming complete assortments, plus the number of unused keys they have.
For example, suppose you have 4 red, 2 green, 2 yellow and 2 blue treasures. As a Specialty Collector, this would score 10+3+3+3 = 19 points in matching sets (with no tie-breaker points); as a Variety Collector, this would score 22 points for two complete assortments of red+yellow+green+blue (in which case the two extra reds only count as tie-breaker points).
At the end of the game, the player who has acquired the most glorious collection of treasures (the highest score) is the winner!
== Q&A -- Quick clarification: Moving up or down ladder - does that cost 1 for as far as you need to travel to be able to next step off the ladder, or is it 1 to go the distance that separates two floors regardless of whether said floors are actually present? --CH
If I understand him correctly, it's the former: the presence of a possible exit from the ladder increases the number of moves required, but just length of a ladder doesn't. Hopefully this image clarifies. Note the effect of the niche with the green treasure in it, compared to the same ladder on the other side. --AC
Yep, that makes it nice and clear (and it is what I was trying to imply by my former). --CH
AlexChurchill has always loved the concept of Castles in the Air (or islands floating in the air). A number of very evocative settings feature similar ideas - for example:
Also the first anime Edwin saw, by a margin of about ten years.
The upside-down castle in IllusionOfGaia?. This is notable for not just being a castle floating in the sky, but also being actually upside-down: gravity is locally reversed, and looking over the edge of platforms reveals just the sky above.