Game Buzz: Aether Captains (PLUS A GIVEAWAY)

Stay tuned to the end of this post to have a chance to win your own copy of Aether Captains, provided by MAGE Company!

Today’s title started out as a print-and-play game that spawned a family of games all set in the same steampunk-themed world.  That game is

image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3
image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3

Aether Captains is a game designed by Todd Sanders originally released in 2010.  A new edition is currently being Kickstarted by MAGE Company.  The game is for 1-5 players and takes place in the world of Arkady.  It’s an asymmetric one-vs-all game with a steampunk theme that that pits sky pirates against two mighty zeppelins known as the Dauntless and Dominion.

The game comes with two Arkady boards, 6 War Captain player boards, 8 stats boards, 8 objective cards, 5 crew member cards, 108 action cards,  6 HMS Dauntless dice, 6 HMS Dominion dice, 2 Pirate Zeppelin dice, 2 Double Zeppelin dice, 2 Steamraven dice, 2 Skystinger dice, 2 Zomby Strike dice, 2 Iron Hammer dice, 14 crew tokens, 16 Occupying Force tokens, 10 firearm tokens, 10 fuel tokens, 10 gold tokens, 10 repair gear tokens, 10 water unit tokens, 21 Arkady hex tiles, 5 city tiles, one neutral ground tile, one storm token, 2 navy commander miniature ships, 12 War Captain miniature ships, 5 12-sided dice, one black d6, and a cloth bag.

To set up the board, place the neutral ground tile in the center, then shuffle the Arkady hexes separately from the city hexes.  Draw and place Arkady hexes around the neutral ground tile in a circle.  When that circle is complete, place another circle around that one.  For every four Arkady hexes you place, also place a city tile.  The storm token, black d6, and crew tokens are placed on the neutral ground tile.

Choose one player to be the Navy Commander.  That player gets 1-2 Arkady boards (depending on how many other players there are).  He also gets the six dice and miniature for one of the zeppelins when playing against 1-2 others, and all twelve against 3-4 others.  Additionally, he gets the brown d12 and the 18 action cards that correspond to his ship(s).  Each War Captain Pirate player gets a flagship board, the corresponding ship die, an objective card, two additional ship dice, 3 miniature ships, a stats board, a crew card, a d12, 3 fuel tokens, 5 occupying force tokens, and 6 actions cards for the ship dice.

image by BGG user dumarest123
image by BGG user dumarest123

In each round, the War Captains will take their turn, followed by the Navy Commander.  Each group has a different set of actions to choose from, though the structure of their turns are similar.  First, the player will choose actions, order them, and activate them in order.  At the end of the round, the Navy Commander rolls the black d6 three times to decide which direction the Storm is placed.

Let’s look at the War Captains first.  These are their action options:

  • MOVE: Spend a Fuel token to move each of your ships to an adjacent hex.  If you move against the wind, it will cost you additional Fuel.  You can’t enter a hex that has the Storm token.
  • COLLECT RESOURCES: If you are in a City, you choose this action and roll a d12.  If the number is 6 or lower, take a resource and place it on your board.  If you roll greater than 6, you may take two resources, but if you do, you have one fewer action the next round.  You can still take one resource without penalty.
  • RECRUIT: You must move to Neutral Ground to use this action.  Here, you pay 1 Gold and take the Crew member of your choice.  Crew members have abilities that can be triggered at any time.  I believe these are one-time abilities.
  • REPAIR-UPGRADE: You can use this action to repair or upgrade a single ship.  Repair allows you to move a ship die back to a previous side, while upgrade can turn a ship into something better.
  • CAMOUFLAGE: Allows you to avoid an attack for this round.  This affects all ships that share a certain hex.
  • ATTACK: If any of your ships are adjacent to any Commander ships, you can attack them.  This attack takes place on the Commander’s board.  You can also use the Attack action to try to occupy a City.
  • BOMB LAUNCH ATTACK: You can attack twice, but must possess two firearms tokens to activate this action.

Now, the Navy Commander:

  • MOVE: Move your ship to an adjacent space.
  • DOUBLE MOVE: Move twice.  A Double Move is necessary to move against the wind, or else you can move against the wind just by reducing the next round’s action points.
  • COLLECT RESOURCES: In an unoccupied city, you roll a d12, and if the number is higher than the city number, you collect a resource.  You have a maximum total capacity of six resources and crew members.
  • RECRUIT: Move to Neutral Ground, then recruit a new Crew member by paying one Gold and choosing from those available.
  • TELESCOPE: Choose a player and look at his chosen Action cards.
  • FORCE MAJEURE: Choose a player and move each of his ships to an adjacent space.
  • ATTACK: If your ship is adjacent to a War Pirate ship, you can attack.
  • BOMB LAUNCH ATTACK: You can attack twice, but you have one less action point next round.
  • LONG RANGE ATTACK: Attack any ship at any distance.

At the end of the round, the Naval Commander moves the storm by rolling a die and following the instructions on the Neutral Ground tile.  This is done three times.  The War Captain team rolls a d12 to determine which way the wind will be blowing next round.

The War Captains win the game if each player completes their personal objective, as well as the common objective (which in the basic game is to destroy a number of sections on the Naval Comander’s ship).  The Navy Commander wins if he destroys two ships per War Captain (but not necessarily two per War Captain – if there are three War Captains, the Navy Commander just needs to destroy six ships).

image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3
image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3

Aether Captains was originally a solo game, and while solo rules are forthcoming, they haven’t been released quite yet.  I have to say that that’s what I’m most looking forward to finding out about, but this multiplayer game in itself looks interesting.  As you can see, the dice look really cool – MAGE Company does well with their components.  The rules are still quite rough, and definitely needs some polishing before the final version comes out.  But there look to be some interesting programming and tactical maneuvering going on.  I like that the two sides have different strategies and actions to pursue – it makes sense thematically, and I think makes for a more interesting game.

If you’re interested in the game, go check out the Kickstarter campaign and consider backing.  You have until May 9, and the project is already funded.  A game will cost $60, or $100 if you add the Fleet of Doom and Clash of the Corsairs expansions.  Or, you can try your luck at winning your very own copy RIGHT NOW!

To enter:

  • Click on this link and answer five questions about the game.  Answers can be found on the Kickstarter campaign page.
  • Each correct answer will earn you one entry.  You also get one entry just for filling out the form.  Only one form per person.
  • You can earn an additional entry by tweeting about the contest – be sure to tag @boardsandbees and @magecompany (as well as give me your Twitter handle) to make sure you get credited with your entry.
  • This contest is open worldwide.
  • Contest ends on Friday at 9:00 AM CDT, and I will announce the winner then in my monthly Kickstarter Blitz.  The winner will receive their own copy of Aether Captains plus all stretch goals.

Thanks to MAGE Company for sponsoring this contest, and thanks to you for reading!  Good luck!


  1. Just to verify… The prize is the base game and stretch goals – it will not include the two expansions?

    Thanks for the contest!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.