".... Das Spiel um die verrückten Ballonfahrer ist eine gelungene Adaption einer Extremsportart. In den Pechkarten, die man im Laufe des Spiels durch wohlmeinende Konkurrenten verpasst bekommt, ist darüberhinaus all das drin, was Ballonfahrer schon erleben konnten. Da finden sich kaputte Brenner, Risse in der Außenhülle, Störungen von Funk- und Satellitenpeilung, Flugzeuge auf gleicher Höhe oder gar Feuer in der Kapsel. Der für Importspiele relativ große, durch seinen Folienüberzug fast luxuriös zu nennende Plan gestattet ein lebendiges Mit- und Gegeneinander. Obwohl auf das Wetter kein Verlass ist, kann man mit ihm umgehen lernen, so dass ein Vorausplanen durchaus möglich ist. Der Spielreiz ließ bei unseren Ballonbesatzungen nicht nach, oder in Fachsprache: Es gab keine schlaffen Hüllen, sprich Druckverlust. Und wer sich den vollen Wind um die Nase wehen lassen will, kann zusätzlich auf die Sturm-Sonderregel zurückgreifen. Fazit: Ein Spiel für Liebhaber, das bislang nur in einer kleinen nummerierten Auflage zu haben ist." (author: Christoph Jaschke)
English Translation of the full review:
On Tour with the Jet Stream
From California the mad balloonists set out on their way to Essen. In order to be in time for the 2000 Fair, the people from Up & Away Games forewent genuinely favorable winds and without further ado set out in their flyer. For us normal citizens a balloon flight glides over domestic forests and hills -- I know that one calls it an "excursion" -- and frequently ends somewhere in Wallachia with bleating sheep or surprised-looking cows. The goal of the true balloonists is a flight around the whole world, and with the help of the jet stream, fast winds with maximum speeds of well over 600 km/h. Such winds are however only to be found at altitudes between 6,000 and 12,000 meters, whereby the thin air as well as cold weather do not seem to make putting one's nose outside the basket advisable. Even if the vehicle resembles therefore rather a space capsule, it is still a hot air balloon in which a gas burner warms up air in the balloon envelope and thus is able to ascend.
Approximately one hundred years after Jules Verne, who not only let his protagonists travel around the world in 80 days, but also invented a five week adventure in a balloon across the African continent, has now become a race between approximately a half dozen air teams. After several attempts failed, finally in 1999 the Swiss Bertrand Piccard, whose famous father Jacques holds still the diving depth record, with his co-pilot, the Briton Brian Jones in the balloon named "Breitling Orbiter 3" succeeded in orbiting the globe in just 21 days. They nourished themselves with emu meat, pasta, corn flakes and Panettone, Italian bread -- the balloon only got hot air. A jet stream develops rarely according to plan and suddenly veers off again. At times it goes quickly, later only at bicycle speed over the seemingly endless Atlantic. That the jet stream is not a train, on which one can easily embark, of this all balloonists can tell more than one story, with which we are already in the middle in the game.
The game board offers an overview of earth's northern hemisphere, because this is home to the strong wind currents, the polar jet and the subtropical jet. There is much water and little land to see. Start and goal line are situated in midwest America, the race goes in the direction of the wind towards Europe.
Wrestling with the Elements
Five circular flight paths are available, of which the innermost is naturally the shortest. But where one can fly is decided by the god of the air alone, or the course cards, as well as the weather behavior in the four play zones or quadrants of the game board.
Equipped with one balloon, three altitude markers and a limited number of fuel, gas and ballast chips, the teams assemble behind the start line. Each pilot has additionally two trumps in the luggage, perhaps an overflight permission or a few special spare parts. "Up and Away in My Beautiful Balloon" was once sung by the Fifth Dimension, but here it's about hard work, which begins with study of the local weather cards and correct decisions are always required: It is exactly indicated, in which of the three flight altitudes, e.g. a lane change is possible, where dangers lie in wait and what the long-range weather forecasts say.
Windy or Calm Air
Thereafter comes, if necessary, correction of the flight altitude upward or downward and flight with the prevailing winds, which costs fuel or gas. Thus the mad balloonists are soon in the chase in a broad band over the Atlantic.
As in real life the players have only the change of altitude of the gondola under firm control -- presupposing sufficient fuel. Here applies the basic rule that at stronger winds usually prevail at high altitude, which the quadrant cards also reflect. However the air lanes also play a role, doubtless the routes toward the equator are ever longer, but to balance one usually flies faster there. But also there are rarer weather conditions, such as calm air and head winds, presented on the 28 supraregional weather cards. Besides the basic equipment mentioned at the beginning, along with the balloon figure, chips and trumps each player receives as an important game element, a hand of three local weather cards.
Per player turn there are three important sequences: It begins, as already said, with orientation on the basis of one of its three local weather cards. What's special however is that one can also give these cards to another balloonist, who must then move in accordance with it and its flight altitude. But not only that: With cards printed "?" one may also force him to draw a Misfortune Card from the deck or with a quadrant symbol to change a supraregional weather card. This type of mutual trouble is part of the principle of the game, because according to the rules, a fellow player must be selected after each third use of a weather card on oneself.
In the following step 2 an altitude correction is permitted, which costs ballast or a gas chip however per modification level, depending to whether one wants to go up or down. The game mechanism is to indicate the altitude level via more or fewer altitude markers placed underneath. Finally there is the main flight according to the appropriate quadrant, that is to say supraregional weather, card. Whoever flies at high altitude, must additionally give up a fuel chip, and anyone who has no more gas at all, "may" at level three pay a fuel chip.
Also Included: Restricted Air Space and Extraterrestials
Perhaps you still remember the press reports from the year 1985, when Bertrand Piccard was stuck in China, because no overflight rights were given to him. Something like that is also built into Balmy Balloonists. In all there are five areas of the map indicated in yellow which are problems waiting to happen. Whoever does not happen to have received appropriate flyover permission as trumps must evade them or in the worst case force-land, which costs energy and much time. As a gag the American secret base from the film Independence Day is also included, the legendary "Area 51". Here visitors are generally more than unwanted, the extraterrestial ones are already there, so that only a wide sail around is recommended. And that one can safely cross mountains like the Himalaya only from a height of two or three is actually automatically self-explanatory.
The game about the mad balloonists is a successful adaptation of a type of extreme sport. In the Misfortune Cards, which one gets in the course of play as a clip around the ears by well-meaning competitors, are all that real-life balloonists could experience. There are broken burners, rips in the outer envelope, disturbances of radio and satellite bearing, airplanes at the same altitude or even fires in the capsule. The for-an-import-game-relatively-large board which by its plastic coat can almost be called luxurious permits a lively give and take. Although there is no relying on the weather, one can learn to deal with it, so that advance planning is quite possible. The game's charm did not diminish with our balloon crews, or in technical language: There were no flabby envelopes, or so-to-speak pressure loss. And whoever wants the full wind blowing up the nose, can in addition fall back on the storm special rule. Result: A game for aficionadoes, which is to be had so far only in a small numbered edition.
Here again Bertrand Piccard: "I was educated to regard life as something which must be investigated, which must be explored." This also could apply, in modified form, to the players!