GAME REVIEW: Skyliners

When I first heard of this one, I thought it was going to be another area control game.  Seeing early pictures, it looked kind of like the 90’s Spiel des Jarhes winner, Manhattan.  At first, I thought maybe it could be a remake?  But it’s not.  It’s an original design.

Skyliners is from Z-Man games, plays from 2-4 gamers, ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 minutes.

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In this game, players will take turns constructing skyscrapers with the objective being to see multiple objects in each row by the end of the game.  Instead of area control,  this game is all about perspective.

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Players begins with a certain number of floor pieces in their chosen color (depending on the player count), plus 2 roofs, 10 antennas, 1 seagull, and 1 park.

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Before the game begins, the players must set up the game board by placing white neutral floor pieces in random spots.

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The youngest player draws a starting card, and from their perspective, places a neutral floor.  Players will continue doing this until all the required neutral floors are placed (the number varies depending on the player count).

Once setup is finished, the game is ready to begin.  There is a basic game and an advanced game.  I’ll explain the basic first, then will explain how the advanced game works.

In a basic game, on a player’s turn, they will construct 2 objects, either a floor, roof or park.  Floors can be built on any empty space, or other floors.  They cannot be placed on top of parks or roofs.  Roofs can be placed on any floor.  The point of placing these are to close off the construction on a building.  Parks can only be placed on empty spaces.  Remember, the objective is to see the multiple objects in each of the 5 rows by the end of the game, The color of the floors on each building is irrelevant.

Perspective means that a building cannot be blocking another building in order to see it.  Here are 2 examples:

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4 objects can be seen in this row, so if this were the end of the game, 4 points would be scored here, since each object you can see is worth 1 point.

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In this row, only 1 object can be seen, since the 2 white buildings are the same height.

Players will continue to place their buildings until everyone has no more pieces to play.  The board will looks something like this at the end.

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Then players proceed to scoring.

In a basic game, scoring will start with the youngest player, then going clockwise.  The first player will score Row A.  Then the next player will score Row A, etc.  You do this for all 5 rows.

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After that, the first player will place antennas on all the objects they can see in Row A, then the next player does the same, etc.  You do this with every row.  Afterwards, each player will count how many antennas they have on the board.

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There’s one more thing that is scored at the end.  At the beginning of the game, everyone starts with a skyscraper card.  Each of these have an area of 9 spots on the board.  Northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.  If the tallest building is in the location listed on your card, you get three bonus points.

That’s the basic game.  The advanced game adds planning to the equation.

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Players will get planning cards, one for each row.  On your turn, after you take a construct action, instead of doing that action again, you may play a planning card into the planning office.  By doing this, you are predicting how many objects you will be able to see in each row by the end of the game.

For example, if I placed this card in the planning office facing this way, I am predicting that I will only see one floor in Row A at the end of the game.

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If you don’t place a card, you won’t score any points.  This is how points are scored in an advanced game.

The end game scoring is basically the same, except the order in which you place antennas is a bit different.

This game turned out to be a lot different from I thought it was going to be.  As I said earlier, I thought for sure this was going to be some sort of area control game.  But this was a pleasant surprise.  I’ve never played a game quite like this, when you’re constantly concentrating on your perspective of what you can see in each row in front of you.  That was really cool.

I first played the basic game, and both me and my friend Dan really enjoyed it.  Since we finished it in less than 15 minutes, we decided to try the advanced game.  I was a little worried that it would add unneeded complexity to this already enjoyable game, but I had nothing to worry about.  While I think the basic game is just fine, I prefer the advanced game.  I love trying to predict what you will see at then end of the game. Trying to figure out when to play those planning cards can be tricky, and that’s what was fun for me.  This isn’t that deep of a game, but it had just enough to think about on your turn that was just right for this type of game.

You can also really mess with your opponents too.  Like if they’re going for the tallest building, you can place a roof on top of that so they can’t build anymore.  Or build tall buildings in their first space on a row so they can only see one object.  But if you try to screw over your opponent too often, you will neglect what you’re trying to accomplish.  You need to find that right balance.

I’ll still be playing the base game.  It’s a great way to introduce the concept of the game to people.  And since it plays in a short amount of time, you can jump right into the advanced game.  The advanced game might be a little too difficult to grasp for younger players, but 12 and up should be fine.  I think it’s cool that there are 2 ways to play the game.  Both are good.

The components are nice plastic pieces.  I love that the game box is the board. I always love that when games do that.  Another clever thing is the scoring track is around the side of the box.  The seagulls are supposed to be placed like this around the box:

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But they ended up falling down a lot.  It became annoying.  So I ended up just placing the birds like this:

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This worked much better.  Or if that’s still not working, I suppose you can always just write down your scores the old-fashioned way.  Not a big deal.  It was a cool idea, but I don’t think that gimmick worked out as good as it was supposed to.

I also really like the planning office:

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And when the game is done, you fold it, then flip it over to reveal all the planning cards that were placed during the game.

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Now that gimmick works!

If you’re looking for a light-ish game with just enough strategy to be interesting, definitely check it out.  This one surprised me.  It also has the satisfaction of building a 3D landscape which is always fun.

It’s not the most innovative game out there, but Skyliners is a real solid game.  You can play this with children and small families, or with more experienced gamers with the advanced game.  I can, without hesitation, recommend this one.

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