For the most part, the games I have talked about have been the longer, meatier games. Sometimes, you are in the mood for something a little shorter. Or, you are looking for a game that plays a few more players. This is often where the class of games we call "fillers" come in.
Yesterday I had a BBQ with a bunch of friends and boardgames were going on all over the place. At one point, I found myself with 6 players, and I pulled out Cloud 9, a great little press your luck game that usually plays in about 20 minutes.
The idea is simple, we are all in a hot air balloon, and we get more points the higher balloon travels. If the balloon crashes, everyone in the balloon gets no points. So, you are trying to decide the best moment for you to jump out of the balloon and get points. Jump too early, and everyone else will get a lot more points than you. Jump too late and you might get nothing.
The gameplay is simple. Each round, one player is the pilot. They roll 2 to 4 dice (based on how far along the balloon is, more dice as the balloon gets higher) with colors or blank spaces on them. The pilot must then play cards from their hand of those colors (or nothing if they are lucky enough to roll blanks.) Before the pilot plays their cards, each passenger in turn must decide if they want to abandon balloon. If they jump, they get the points for whatever level the balloon is on, but they will get no more points if the balloon continues on. If they stay in, they hope the pilot can play the cards.
After the pilot has played the cards, they pass the dice on to the next player still in the balloon, and the whole thing is repeated. It's really tempting to stay in the balloon, but as more and more dice get rolled it gets harder and harder. Especially since the only way you can add to your hand of cards is when the balloon crashes.
This game has several things going for it. It's easy (you could easily explain it to 7 year olds), it's fun, it plays up to 6 players and it has a little bit of strategy going for it (timing when to jump is critical – the pilot is not allowed to jump, so if I know I am going to be the pilot next, I might jump just to avoid rolling 4 dice) and it plays really fast. Perfect for a breezy afternoon where you don't necessarily feel like playing a huge old game. It also has great bits, with a hot air balloon basket being the playing field. Cloud 9 is one of my favorite fillers, and is definitely worth checking out.
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