Montgolfier!! In Balloon Cup, a card game for two players from Stephen Glenn and published by 999 Games, you compete in multiple balloon races. By placing cards you fly over plains and mountains, and you will earn cubes in several colours. Collect enough cubes of one colour and you might win a prestigious trophy!
What do you get for your money?
45 Cubes in five colours, 45 balloon cards, 5 trophy cards, a bag, 4 landscape tiles and the rules.
How do you play the game?
OK, Balloon Cup is a game that’s been around for a while and it’s been re-printed (sort of) as Piñata in 2013, but I like this game quite a lot (spoiler!), so right now I’d like to talk about the original.
Players can win five trophies, the player who wins three of them wins Balloon Cup. Every trophy has a different colour. To win a trophy you must hand in the right amount of cubes. You can get these cubes by having the highest or the lowest sum of balloon cards at a location (tile). There are four tiles, on one side of a tile there are mountains on the other side plains. You have to have the highest sum at a mountain tile and the lowest at a plain tile. On the first tile you can win one cube, on the second two cubes and so on. The cubes are drawn randomly from a bag. Every balloon card has a colour and a number. You start the game with eight cards in your hand and in your turn you have to place a card next to a tile, on your side or on your opponent’s side. You can only place cards that have the same colour as the cubes on the tile. So if there’s a blue, grey and yellow cube on the tile, there can be only one blue, one grey and one yellow card on both sides of the tile. Then you draw back to eight cards. When there is an equal amount of cards on both sides of the tile as there are cubes on it, the cubes must be claimed by the player who wins (highest or lowest sum of the numbers on the cards). Then you flip the tile over, so plains become mountains, mountains become plains. If you have the right colour and right amount of cubes, you must claim the corresponding trophy. The player who lost at the last tile is the new start player. The first player who wins three trophies wins Balloon Cup.
Balloon Cup is a very easy game to learn and teach. The mechanism are straightforward. You have to have the highest sum in the mountains and the lowest on the plains. You place one card in your turn and when you have the right amount of cubes in your supply you take the corresponding trophy.
Not all cubes are as abundant, grey cubes are very scarce and red ones very abundant. There are also more red cards than grey cards, so you must really think about which battles you want to win. Sometimes you want to lose a tile so you can become the new first player when a fresh tile with new cubes becomes available.
I really like the fact that you can also place cards at your opponent’s side. In this way you can really thwart your opponent. But it also means that when you think you will lose a tile, you can leave it open on purpose so your opponent must finish it himself. The same can happen the other way around, you are definitively going to win the cubes on a tile, so you can, if you don’t need those cubes yet, leave it as it is and focus on other goals.
It is possible that you run out of certain cubes before the right trophies are claimed, but it’s a small chance and you can prevent it when you stick to certain cube placement rules. So no big deal.
There is no theme here. The game never felt like a balloon race and the mechanisms don’t have anything to do with racing either. A fine card game, but the theme is tacked on.
It’s just decent. Nothing special. On the cards you can see the same balloons with different colours and there are simple pictures of plains and mountains on the tiles, plus, the bag is beige, so it’s all a bit boring actually.
Quality of the components:
Nothing really wrong with it. OK cards, good cubes, good cardboard pieces and a decent bag. And decent is just the right word for the component quality.
This is a very fun two-player game. You need take into account what you opponent has in her hand, what her goals are, what your goals are and what you have in your hand. Do you want to focus on your side or do you want to annoy your opponent?
The game has easy rules, straightforward mechanisms, it’s quick and you can directly influence your opponent’s plans, so in my book Balloon Cup is a great two-player filler.