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Tearing a new era in competitive boardgaming

Post Launch Update – 22 January 2020

Skytear is now in the process of fulfilment and finally I have had my copy delivered. After everyone’s favourite moment of unboxing and smelling that new board game smell (don’t even pretend you don’t) I went about checking I’d received what was promised and it was all there. One small problem however, 18 cards were printed in Spanish, and well, I don’t. I’d absolutely love to, but for the purposes of being able to play a board game isn’t what I’d call the best motivator. Regardless I have informed PVP Geeks and they have quickly responded and are working on getting the replacement parts to be as soon as possible.

With that minor issue said, I am very happy with the product I have received. It was promised for December, and has been fulfilled in January. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the early Christmas treat to myself I’d hoped for, but in my experience of Kickstarter that is the best turnaround I have seen so far. The components are all stunning and as promised and have come in a nifty tray to keep them organised and protected. There are even spare slots to put the tokens in. I may have also colour coded the faction decks with the same coloured elastic band.

Luckily, I have a friend nearby to play with so first opportunity I got this was out on the kitchen table. I picked out the Kurumo and Lothian factions for a good old bit of red vs blue action, along with same heroes I’d played previously at UKGE last year. I had to spend a little bit of time re-acquainting myself with some of the particular rules and arguing them out with my friend (tell-tale sign of a good game if it’s worth arguing over).

I do have to point out that these are the same rules than seemed dubious when I demoed it last year, so it seems even with the printed rule set, some of the rules are still a bit clunky, and haven’t been explained in the best way, or in the most appropriate order. If like me, you like getting into the action you’ll find the rulebook isn’t presented in the best way to make this happen. However, it isn’t particularly long or complex. I’d recommend reading it back to front before even setting up for your first game. If you’re at all familiar with board game mechanics and the nature of a MOBA game you’ll pick it, just look out for the ‘often overlooked’ sections in the rulebooks as they are the dubious clunky bits.

It was a blast of fun though, and I’m keen for some more gaming now I’ve had time to digest the rules some more and got a feel for strategy. I think that this game has a lot of depth and a lot of replayability. It seems the developers are intent in releasing more expansions in the future as this first released has been classed as season one. I think that this game is just the beginning of something great, and perhaps even the birth of a new genre of board game? Who knows? Oh, I lost my first game if anyone was wondering. I was going easy on my friend so he’d want to play again… honest.

Original review from 2019:

Do you ever get that feeling sometimes when you come across a game that it was just meant for you? That’s the feeling I got when I came across Skytear, a MOBA-inspired boardgame with miniatures and deck building, and beautiful artwork to match. What’s a MOBA you ask? A MOBA is a multiplayer online battle arena, typically referred for games of a particular style such League of Legends, Dota 2 and Smite. I was lucky enough to get hands-on at this year’s UKGE

In Skytear, you assume control of 4 heroes. Your objective is to destroy the enemy nexus or achieve one of three victory conditions which are drawn randomly at the beginning of a game. These can range from destroying a specific tower (left or right), winning control of a lane 6 times or getting three enemy hero kills during the game. The victory conditions are what makes Skytear not only quicker to play, but more dynamic, as they can define the approach both you and your opponent want to take to win, and respond accordingly. 

You can pick from a number of heroes from one of four factions. Each faction has a specific power that is used to empower not only themselves but the fellow heroes on their team. You’ll want to bear this in mind when picking your heroes at the beginning of a match as it is possible to mix and match from multiple factions to build your team. 

Each hero has power unique to them, and you’ll want to pick characters that work well together and support each other’s abilities. Heroes have been designed to fulfil roles, such a tank, assassins, healers and support characters. This defines their playstyle, and how you will use them in the game to achieve your victory conditions. 

There’s no dice in Skytear. Instead, they have predefined actions, power cards that can be played at any time, and mechanics in place to determine any randomness. This makes Skytear highly strategic, unpredictable whilst never missing a cleverly devised plan due to a bad roll of the dice. 

Heroes are activated one by one alternating between players until each hero has been activated. On each activation, the hero has 3 action points which can be used to do one of five actions; move, skirmish, attach, lead and worship. They can only do each one once per activation unless some other ability allows them to. 

When it comes to dealing damage, players draw a number of cards from the power card deck and use a modifier (upper right icon) on the regular damage as specified by the card. You can also do more damage by buffing up your heroes. 

Power cards in your hand can be played in your heroes or activation, or if they are a reaction power card, at any time they can be used. They cost mana, which you get a number of per turn for each character, but their effects can really turn the tides of a game and feels very rewarding when you outsmart your opponent’s deadly attack or execute one of your own successfully. 

Once all heroes have been activated, it’s then the minion’s phase. This is where you work out who has pushed which lane, and you advance the minions towards your opponent’s tower. Essentially, it comes down to who has the most presence, with both heroes and minions, but also if one of your heroes did the lead action.

Then there’s also the Outsider. If you move a hero into the dome and providing you have more control than your opponent, you can take control of the Outsider, a special monster character you can take control of during this phase and use to deal some more damage or disrupt your opponents’ heroes. 

After the minion phase is complete, the turn advances, effects are reset and heroes gain all their mana back and you draw some new power cards. There’s a lot to learn here, but once you’ve learnt the basic mechanics it’s a matter of becoming familiar with the various abilities of the heroes and devising strategies to win. Keep the pressure up on the lanes you want to win, poke your opponents’ heroes to whittle them down and kill off a hero to give yourself the edge. It captures the feel of a MOBA perfectly.

Whilst the learning curve is fairly steep for a new player, once there it is very rewarding gameplay. The number of components feels a little too much at times, but nothing feels unnecessary. The only other observation is that it does feel like the first player has a bit of disadvantage but the game is still being balanced and tweaked by the developers, and perhaps this might be offset in the final product. 

I think Skytear is a great game and I think it will most certainly become ever more popular once it has its retail release. Sadly, the Kickstarter has ended and there is no late pledge option available. It’s due to arrive in Dec 2019 and you can sign up to PVP Geeks newsletter to be informed when pre-ordering becomes available. 

MOBA mechanics adapted very wellSteep learning curve for new players
Beautiful artwork and miniaturesLots of components 
Endless replayability with deckbuilding optionsFirst player feels disadvantaged