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Aerion

Aerion is a game from Shadi Torbey that's distributed by Z-Man Games in which you have to build a fleet of airships. Like Shadi Torbey's other games, it is a single player game with a two player variant that is from the Oniverse (so named for Onirim, his first game) with art from Élise Plessis.
 
To set up Aerion, you will take all 6 ship tokens and place them face down in front of you so that their project sides will show you what you need to build them. You'll then take the resource cards and put them into six separately shuffled stacks organized by the letter combination on their back-side. The first card off the top of each stack is then flipped over to be the display. Each ship has 3 Element cards you'll need to build it: a material, a blueprint and a crew. Once you've assembled the material and blueprint for a ship in your workshop, adding the crew completes the ship and you turn the ship token face up. Once you've turned all 6 ships face up, you win! To acquire cards, you'll have to roll dice. The mechanics of Aerion take a lot of influence from Yahtzee in that you are rolling dice and trying to obtain different sets of dice. Each turn, you start by rolling all 6 dice. The letter combination on the backs of the stacks of cards will determine what dice rolls will allow you to take the display card from that stack. The letter combinations are similar to Yahtzee/poker hands: two pair (AA+BB), three-of-a-kind (AAA), full house (AAA+BB), two three-of-a-kind/three pair (AAA+BBB/AA+BB+CC), four-of-a-kind (AAAA) and straight (A+B+C+D+E). For example, if you roll two 3s and two 4s, you can grab the display card from the AA+BB stack. If you want to reroll, you can discard and of the display cards in order to reroll any of your dice. You can repeat this until there are no longer display cards to discard. Element cards can be obtained to your workshop where you are able to build two different ships at a time or to your reserve by discarding a Book card from your pulpit. A Book card goes to your pulpit where it can be used to get three rerolls, add an Element to your reserve as previously mentioned or to put two Element cards from a discard pile on top of their stack. Once you've acquired a card, you replenish the display by flipping over the top card of each stack with an empty display space. You then move on to the next turn. If you're able to build all 6 ships, you win; if you run out of all the cards in the stacks and display, you lose.
 
Let me get this out of the way: Aerion, like all the Oniverse games, has an interesting aesthetic that I am a big fan of. I love Élise Plessis's art style that invokes a dream state with more whimsical design choices and less tethered to reality. It feels like the designs from a child's dream, but in the hands of a capable artist. It is not, unfortunately, an art style that will appeal to everyone. If you need the art in your game to be more figurative and less abstract, then Aerion and, by extension, the Oniverse as a whole will not appeal to you.
 
Okay, onto how I feel about the game itself. I am a big fan of Shadi Torbey's games. As someone who isn't always able to find people to play with, I appreciate that he makes single player games. There are a good number of games that have a tacked-on single player mode where, in a game with interaction, you'll play against an automated opponent or, in a game without much interaction, you'll just see how high a score you can get. Those can be fun, and I do enjoy playing single player modes, but they do always feel tacked-on, where it feels like I should be playing the game with more people, but am having to take what I can get by playing solo. Torbey's games though are designed specifically as single player games and it feels like it for each of them. His games do always have a tacked-on two player variant that often involves splitting up resources and having each person have to use what they have to help the other, but I appreciate that the two player variant is the part that feels tacked-on to his games. Aerion itself is one that I wasn't sure how much I'd like at first, but have ended up liking a whole bunch. I'm not often a fan of dice games. Dice will add randomness to a game, but can often feel like gameplay with a lack of control. The most extreme examples of this are games like Chutes/Snakes and Ladders or Ludo and its variants where you have very little agency and are relying almost wholly upon rolling dice well. Then, there are games like Catan or Machi Koro that use dice, but have you set yourself up so that different roles will affect you in different ways. Those I can appreciate a little more while still being a bit wary of. But there are also games like Blueprints or Sagrada which have dice in them, but are much less reliant upon rolling dice well to succeed. In those, a lot of dice are rolled and you'll pick dice that you want in such a way that specific rolls are less game-breaking than in some games. Aerion falls more into the last category than the others. Because you pick what dice you want to take, have a lot of options for rerolls, and have lots of options of cards to take, it rarely feels like you just needed to roll better to succeed.
 
Another benefit of Shadi Torbey's games is that they each come with a number of expansions so that even after you've beat the game and feel like you've mastered it, you can add in  an expansion to have new gameplay. For example, the first expansion adds a new ship that requires each of the material cards and crew cards to add more challenge, but also factory cards to give you some benefits. The expansions really help as Torbey's games are often fairly simple. With the expansions, his games no longer feel like short games that you'll only play a couple of times until you get a handle for the game, but like games that you can play lots of times with lots of variability, giving you multiple options and making games feel new even after multiple playthroughs.
 
Aerion is available now from our webstore.
 
Aerion