Dastardly Dirigibles brings the compelling aesthetic of steampunk to the quick and clear gameplay for which Fireside Games has become known. Famous for its innovative mechanics in Castle Panic, Fireside takes time-tested suit-matching play and raises it to the stratosphere with Dastardly Dirigibles.
The captivating art of Dastardly Dirigibles is perhaps what will strike players first, and rightly so. Steampunk is an aesthetic all its own that welcomes a wide variety of motifs under its umbrella. From the grimy streets of Whitechapel with its infamous green fog of progress to the shine of structures like the Statue of Liberty and behemoth dreadnought battleships, there is no one right way to do steampunk. Perhaps no game shows off the many facets of steampunk better than Dastardly Dirigibles as it hosts a wide variety of airships, each with its own style.
The game begins with each player receiving a guide sheet that gives the seven parts of an airship and five cards in hand. An “Emporium” is laid out on the table as free cards to grab during a player’s turn, or players may choose to play cards from their hands. By laying the airship cards in their appropriate spaces, players gradually build up their airships. However, players must be mindful of one another as placing one piece allows all others to play that part as well. A player may be behind on his or her own turn, but by the time it comes back around, the airship could be completely caught up!
Another angle of strategy, and potential chaos, comes from the inclusion of special cards that act as attacks, steals, or general monkey-wrenches. With befittingly steampunk titles like “Tesla Disintegrator,” “Aether Extractor,” and “Prestidigitation,” the cards allow players to go beyond simple icon matching to yanking key parts from the lead player or searching through the discard pile for that perfect piece.
The key to planning in Dastardly Dirigibles comes with scoring. Each round immediately ends upon the completion of someone’s airship, and players tally their points based on matching suits. Going beyond simple icons, the art shines through as each suit stands out, whether in polished white with golden statuary, weighty cast iron hefted by over-sized engines, or the stitched-together Wild cards with banners and tablecloths mixed into the blimps. Not only will players want to match their airships aesthetically, but doing so is required to win. Points are collected over three rounds; the player with the most at the end of the three wins the game and the right to be heir to Professor Phineas Edmund Hornswoggle’s factory empire.
Dastardly Dirigibles is a card game for two to five players aged eight and up. It is a speedy game with dueling matches between two players taking only 15 or so minutes. With more players, the game becomes longer, especially as there are more chances for the special cards to undercut the leading player. Dastardly Dirigibles is great fun for family and light gamers and a must-play for fans of Steampunk.