On Geeky Hobbies we have looked at quite a few of the board games created by Out of the Box Publishing. While the company is no longer in business, it created a strong catalog of games while it was in business. I have played quite a few of their games and have enjoyed most of them. When I recently found Cloud 9 for cheap I was excited because Cloud 9 is actually one of the highest rated games made by Out of the Box Publishing. After playing Cloud 9 I would have to say that it is one of the best press your luck games that I have ever played.
How to Play Cloud 9
Place the gameboard in the middle of the table. Add the legs to the bottom of the balloon basket and place the balloon on the bottom cloud. Each player chooses a color and takes the scoring marker and passenger of that color. All of the passengers are put in the balloon and the scoring makers are put on the start space on the gameboard. Shuffle the cards and deal six to each player. The rest of the cards form the draw pile. Choose a player to start the game as the balloon pilot.
Playing the Game
The balloon pilot rolls a number of dice based on the cloud that the balloon is currently on. The color of the balloons on the top face of the dice indicates what color cards that the pilot will have to play. Blank sides mean that the player has to play no cards for that die. Before the pilot plays any cards, the players in clockwise order have to decide whether they are going to stay in the balloon or if they are going to jump out.
If a player thinks that the pilot doesn’t have the necessary cards they should jump out of the balloon. By jumping out of the balloon the player scores points equal to the cloud that the balloon is currently on. They are out for the round though and can’t score any more points.
If a player thinks that the pilot has the necessary cards they stay in the balloon to try and score more points. All of the players get to choose whether they want to stay in the balloon except for the pilot. The pilot must stay in the balloon unless they are the only player left in the balloon.
Once everyone has made their decision the pilot will have the opportunity to play balloon cards in order to raise the balloon. If the pilot has the necessary colored balloon cards they must play them to raise the balloon.
If the pilot has a wild card they can play it to cover all of the dice rolled. The pilot is not forced to play a wild card though.
If the pilot plays the necessary cards to raise the balloon, the balloon moves to the next cloud. The role of the pilot then moves to the next player clockwise that is still in the balloon. If the balloon reaches the top cloud the ride ends with each player left in the balloon receiving 25 points.
If the pilot is the only player remaining in the balloon, they have the option of continuing their journey or quitting. Before rolling the dice the player has to decide whether to continue or quit. If the player quits they receive the number of points on the cloud they are currently on. If they decide to continue they will keep rolling the dice and playing cards until they fail or decide to quit.
If the pilot does not have the necessary cards to match what they rolled, the balloon falls to the ground and all of the players left in the balloon score no points for the round. All players put their passengers back into the balloon and a new round begins.
To begin a new round the balloon is moved to the lowest cloud. All passengers are put back into the balloon. Each player draws one card. The role of the pilot moves to the next player clockwise.
Winning the Game
The game ends after a balloon trip has ended and at least one of the players has more than 50 points. The player that has the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the player with the most cards remaining wins the game.
My Thoughts Cloud 9
I have played quite a few different press your luck games and I have to say that Cloud 9 is one of the best that I have played. I think Cloud 9 stands out among other press your luck games because it does something new with the genre. Most press your luck dice games involve rolling dice in order to meet some combination. The only real decision to make is whether to keep rolling or quit. While that mechanic is prevalent in Cloud 9 as well, there is more to the game than just rolling dice.
First there is the occasional decision of whether you want to use a card to raise the balloon or keep the card and let the balloon crash. Usually you don’t have much of a choice since you have to play colored balloon cards if they will raise the balloon. The game does give you the option of keeping wild card though. There is some strategy in letting the balloon crash when you could have saved it. If you aren’t going to get much out of keeping the balloon in the air, you are probably better off saving the wild for a future turn.
Another element that shows up in the game is reading your opponents. You usually aren’t in control of the balloon itself so you need to be able to read whether your opponents have the necessary cards to raise the balloon. Being good at reading whether an opponent has the necessary cards can be really helpful in letting you know whether you should stay in the balloon. If you can figure out a player doesn’t have the cards you need, you can jump out of the balloon before it crashes.
The final mechanic that makes an appearance in Cloud 9 is a memory mechanic. Along with being able to read the other players, having a good memory of what cards another player doesn’t have can be huge in the game. When a balloon crashes you learn what type of cards that the pilot doesn’t currently have. They will draw new cards but knowing what cards a player didn’t have in previous turns can be helpful in deciding whether to jump out of the balloon.
One of Cloud 9’s greatest strengths is that it is a game that can appeal to anyone. The game basically takes minutes to teach to a new player. Basically you just roll dice, play cards that match the colors you rolled, and guess whether the other players have cards to match the colors they rolled. Gamers and non-gamers should have no problems playing the game. The game has a recommended age of 8+ but I think kids younger than eight could play the game with some help from an adult.
Lengthwise Cloud 9 can vary some based on the players’ luck. If the players are lucky the game can end pretty quickly. I would say most games will probably last around 20-30 minutes unless someone is really luck. Twenty to thirty minutes seems about right. If it was less than 20 minutes it would feel short and if it was more than 30 minutes it would start to drag a little.
One small problem that I had with Cloud 9 is that it seems like there are too many situations where your balloon trip is cut short. Unless our group just got really unlucky, most trips only seem to last a couple clouds before the balloon comes crashing down. In too many rounds players had to jump really early or they didn’t score any points. I think the game would have been more enjoyable with longer trips since it would have been more suspenseful with more on the line.
When it comes to board game themes I believe that a good theme can help a game but is not critical in making a board game good. For the most part I really liked the theme in Cloud 9. How many board games are there that utilize a hot air balloon theme? Outside of the fact that people are jumping out of a hot air balloon without a parachute, the theme really does a good job supporting the gameplay. Another theme probably could have been applied to the game and the game still would have been enjoyable. The hot air balloon theme would have been missed though.
What really helps sell the theme are the game’s components. Like most Out of the Box Publishing games, the components are really nice. The hot air balloon and the wooden pieces are really nice and add to the game’s theme. The dice are really nice even though I wish the red balloon was a little easier to tell from the purple balloon. The cards are also really nice due to the game’s cartoony art style.
There is a lot of like about Cloud 9 but the game does rely a lot on luck. That is somewhat expected with a game from the press your luck genre. Your fate in the game is sometimes out of your hand though. You can be good at reading the other players and jumping out at the right time but there is nothing you can do when you are the pilot. All you can do is roll the dice and hope that you have the necessary cards to prevent the balloon from crashing. Unless you are the last player remaining in the balloon you can’t jump out of the balloon so your fate is determined by the roll of the dice. It seems all too often that the pilot has to go down with the balloon. This means that an unlucky player is going to have a hard time winning.
Cloud 9 is a game that has been reprinted three times. While all three versions of the game are basically the same, there have been a few tweaks between the different versions of the game. The main differences between the versions is that the older versions had some additional rules that aren’t found in the later versions. For example the earlier versions of the game included a card where a player could pass the role of pilot to another player instead of having to be the pilot themselves. The earlier versions of the game also had ways to kick players out of the balloon. Since my version of the game didn’t have any of these rules, I wasn’t able to try them. The next time I play the game though I am interested in trying them out.
Cloud 9 is a good game but there is one small problem. With Out of the Box Publishing going out of business recently Cloud 9 has not been reprinted since 2009. This has made the game kind of rare as the game usually sells for upwards of $50. While it might be hard to find Cloud 9, the game was basically reprinted under the name of Celestia in 2015. The basic gameplay in Celestia is exactly the same. Celestia does add some additional mechanics that give players special abilities and allow players to kick other players out of the ship. Since the game has the exact same basic mechanics as Cloud 9, you could just use Celestia’s components to play Cloud 9 if you were looking for a cheaper alternative of the game.
Should You Buy Cloud 9?
Cloud 9 is not a perfect game but it is a good/great game. While the game’s premise is pretty simple it actually adds enough interesting mechanics to make Cloud 9 stand out among other press your luck games. In Cloud 9 you need to be good at judging your opponents, remembering what cards your opponents don’t have and rolling the dice well when it is your turn to be the pilot. Cloud 9 has great components which supports the game’s engaging theme. The game is quick and easy to play and should appeal to everyone who has an interest in press your luck games. Cloud 9’s only major issue is that it relies a little too much on luck especially when you are the pilot.
If you don’t like press your luck games Cloud 9 might not be for you. If you like press your luck games I think you will enjoy Cloud 9. If you can get a good deal on the game I would recommend picking it up. With Cloud 9 being somewhat rare though, if you want a better deal you might want to check out Celestia.