Game at a Glance
- IV Games
- Players: 1-5
- Time: 45-75 min
- Ages: 14+
- Availability: crowdfund through Kickstarter on April 11th
The game shown in this preview is a prototype; components and gameplay in the final version are subject to change
In Fractured Sky you take the role of a mythical kingdom competing to collect the most star fragments. These starfalls rain down from the sky onto random islands on the board. Most of the starfall locations are hidden. Winning this competition will not be easy – you’ll have to use your wits to bluff and outmaneuver your opponents to collect the goods. You might choose to use resources to hire additional strength, or perhaps you are more interested in employing seers who can point you toward the hidden shards? If you can collect the most starfalls, your wish might come true!
I was fortunate enough to receive a prototype of the retail version of Fractured Sky. I will not be covering the solo nor two-player experience, as the automa deck required for those counts was not included in my copy (it will be included in both retail and deluxe editions in the future). I do have a good handle on gameplay for 3+ players, however.
A deluxe edition will be available through the crowdfunding campaign – that will include upgraded components such as miniatures and player trays. Although I have not had a chance to experience the deluxe prototype components, I will still be covering them and featuring photos provided by the publisher.
Fractured Sky is an amalgamation of area majority, deduction, and constrained, semi-blind bidding. The objective is to have the most starfalls at the end of five rounds. Starfalls are gained in two ways: by dominating an island that has starfalls, and by winning end-of-round objectives.
The majority of the game’s action takes place on a relatively-small double-sided game board featuring 10 cursed islands (it scales down to 8 islands for three players or less). These islands are the potential resting places for the starfalls and are the temporary docking points for airships and skimmers hoping to plunder resources and/or starfalls. Each island is connected to a series of hexes for building permanent markets and fortresses, which can boost players’ resource acquisition and strength, respectively. The board also has a turn order track that doubles as a tie-breaker.
Two identical decks determine both hidden and public starfalls. Finally, each player has their own setup that includes all the components they need for the competition. Players have access to three airships that must be placed each round. They are fortified with a hidden power chip – a magnetized chip that attaches to the bottom of the ship minis in the deluxe version, or a token with the power on one side and ship artwork on the other in the retail version. Although each player has access to identical power chips (from power 0 through 10), how each player chooses to divide their power is hidden information. Two power chips, the 10 and the 1, are marked with identical white rings visible to all players.
The game is structured into five rounds. Players take turns based on the turn order track on the board, which may change from round to round. Each turn a player can place an airship or skimmer on an island, build a fortress or market on a hex, scout a starfall location, or peek at a round objective card. Once a player has placed all three airships their turn is over for that round, and they get to choose a position on the turn order track. Having a lower position on the turn order track might grant a resource, but the track also acts as a tiebreaker and can be crucial for securing starfalls.
When placing airships, players can divide their power however they choose but are not to exceed 10 total power between their three airships each round. Once all players have placed their third airship, the round is over. All airship tokens are then revealed along with the leftmost hidden round objective and hidden starfall locations. The winner of the objective receives a starfall, then the islands are resolved. The player with the most troop power (the combination of power from airships, skimmers, and connected fortresses) will win the top reward tier for that island, second place gets the next reward tier, etc. The top reward tier on an island is always a starfall, when available, otherwise, the two listed resources will be the top prize. Any tie in the game is resolved by the turn order track.
Once the fifth round is settled, the player with the most starfalls is the winner. If there happens to be a tie, the turn order track remains as the tiebreaker.
Several strategies have revealed themselves to me in my short time with Fractured Sky. You can choose to play a resource-heavy game by building some strategically-placed markets early. It’s also possible to focus on intelligence and use misdirection and bluffing to ensure your opponents aren’t benefitting from your hard work. With a bit of luck you can dominate with brute force, focusing heavily on adding skimmers and fortresses to the board to out-power the competition. Racing to dominate strategic hex locations and rushing through rounds to get a good position on the turn order/tiebreaker track are important considerations, too.
Information is one of the most crucial resources in the game, and it’s possible to collect it by spending resources. But it’s also important to watch the other players at the table, making educated guesses about the reasons behind their actions. Their actions may be telegraphing starfall locations, but then again they may be trying to bluff to send their competition away from the starfalls. One of the most interesting informational tidbits in the game is the power chips which are identical except for the white-ring marked 10 and the 1. Opponents will have to determine if a white-ringed airship is powerful or a decoy. This informational hint is a valuable misdirection tool that makes the deduction aspect much more interesting than if all the power chips were identical.
The mixture of blind yet constrained bidding with limited hints about opponents’ motives adds a lot of rich tactical decisions to a relatively simple game.
I consider Fractured Sky to be a medium-light game. It’s simple enough to play – there are limited actions to be taken each turn, and they are all fairly easy to grasp. It’s very approachable. The weight comes from trying to formulate an effective plan while weighing the actions of others. I can see this working for families with older children, and also for gaming groups with more experienced gamers. I have played it with both and each group was able to pick it up quickly and have fun.
Theme / Aesthetics
The deluxe edition will include a player tray with resource trackers, a privacy shield, and storage for all the included miniatures. The retail edition uses cardboard tokens rather than miniatures.
The fantasy theme provides an excuse to showcase the colorful airships. I’m unsure if the publisher plans on delving more into the lore but my hunch is that most people won’t care much when they get their hands on the magnetic airships that are sure to be the star of the show. A player will simply need to touch their airship to the power chip they want and it will magnetically attach, hiding the power from the table for map placement. This may sound gimmicky, but after playing with the retail edition I feel these are going to be necessary to get the full gameplay experience. The retail edition is perfectly functional but does not compare to the photos I have seen of the deluxe prototype. Table presence aside, the deluxe edition will help players to visualize the board state more easily. Also, it will help prevent people from accidentally placing their power chips out upside-down, revealing their plans (I have done this).
Fractured Sky is a highly interactive, social game. There is a race to control strategic hexes and tiebreaker spots, competition for end-of-round goals, bluffing, misdirection, and deduction. Every single point to be taken is up for grabs from the entire table, so bluffing and table talk enhances the experience.
There are battles for islands at the end of each round, but they are fought through blind bidding and rarely feel mean or overly confrontational. In addition, losers of these battles are often rewarded with resources that help alleviate the sting of loss.
Fractured Sky has a clean design without unnecessary complications. It provides a good balance of hidden information, clever hints to give the deduction component some legs, and simple rules that keep it approachable. With the deluxe, functional components added in, this game is going to be a showstopper!
I suspect Fractured Sky will be a big hit for groups that enjoy highly interactive games. I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on the deluxe edition!
If you’re interested in Fractured Sky, you can back the Kickstarter on 04/11/23 here.