Real-time Board Games

Skyrockets Game Review

Don’t make me check my cell phone!

Games with sand timers are hot! Justin reviews his second sand timer game this fall, the Floodgate Games release Skyrockets!

I don’t know why this is, but suddenly, dexterity games with sand timers are very, very hot.

Maybe “hot” is the wrong term, but it’s a strange coincidence that of the 40+ games I grabbed at SPIEL 2023, two of them featured sand timers as their main mechanism. Quicksand (Horrible Guild) was the first of these two, and I really enjoyed that experience thanks to the player scaling—Quicksand has a solo mode and accommodates up to seven players—and great depth, thanks to 20+ scenarios included in the box.

Skyrockets (Floodgate Games) is an updated version of Kites. In fact, it is so similar that the game’s BGG page says that Skyrockets “reimplements” Kites; officially, this is an updated version of the older game.

Let’s make one thing clear right away: if you do not own either version, Skyrockets is the definitive Kites game you should own. I thought Kites was great and frankly did not need a new version, but if you are shopping at your local game store and are staring at both games on a shelf, buy Skyrockets.

Skyrockets takes everything great about Kites, then adds a mechanic that makes the entire game slightly more forgiving. Then, Skyrockets goes for replayability gold thanks to 11 “Festivals” included in the box, with each Festival comprised of three different events. (We are now putting on a fireworks show instead of flying kites.) That means you have more than 30 different ways to play Skyrockets/Kites right out of the box.

I showed this game to 11 different people across four gaming sessions. One of those people joked that Skyrockets almost has too many ways to play it, and I’m inclined to agree. But if you are a Kites superfan, Skyrockets is an easy recommendation.

Everything New Works

My man Tom Franklin reviewed Kites in 2022, and his 4.5-star review is where I landed also. It’s a fun and frantic filler that can be played with almost anyone, quickly. (If you want to know how Kites and the base game of Skyrockets play, check out that review.)

My main beef with Kites: if any of the six sand timers runs out, the game is over. That’s not harsh—the game plays in five minutes—but you will inevitably lose a couple games with new players and you want to keep your grandparents at the table instead of considering another slice of apple pie after a holiday meal.

Skyrockets changes the quick ending element by basically giving you three chances to formally “lose” the game. Crowd Tokens are used to give grace to the team working to entertain spectators with their fireworks display. When play begins, three Crowd Tokens are placed on their star side, with a drawing of a person looking up at the night sky. If a sand timer runs out, play continues, but one of the Crowd Tokens is flipped to its bored side…that person in the crowd is bored thanks to the team’s ineptitude, so they have decided to stare at their cell phone instead of the night sky.

Harsh, but dangerously accurate.

The end of scenarios has also changed in Skyrockets. Instead of playing until the draw deck of cards is depleted, players have to use one of the six timers as a countdown timer. That means one timer’s role is unique—the countdown timer can only be flipped after it is completely empty, whereas the other five timers have to be kept running for the duration of the current scenario. This countdown timer starts in most Festivals on the 4-space of the Countdown Track, and moves down (plus, gets flipped) each time someone plays a card with the countdown timer’s color.

And, the final change is the sheer volume of variability in the box. Even if you played and beat all 30-something event cards included in Skyrockets, you really would never be done with the game. There is borderline too much included in the box. A bit like having 50 “Missions” in The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, there’s plenty of game here in Skyrockets for hardcore fans, but you only need a third or even half of the included content to have enough to do.

The Definitive Kites Edition

Skyrockets is great. All of the scenarios take about 10 minutes and the game can be taught to people who don’t play games (I played with friends after Thanksgiving dinner, friends who say that they “don’t play games”, for example) in about 60 seconds. The Skyrockets card art by SillyJellie is just as good as the Kites art from Beth Sobel. The event cards clearly lay out each scenario in a digestible way, and the game comes with score trackers so that you can list out the Festivals where you got a perfect score (i.e., did not flip any of the Crowd Tokens to “bored”).

Like Décorum (the big 2022 Floodgate release), Skyrockets even has surprises packed in an envelope that will be revealed after you complete the ninth Festival. Or, you could just rip that open when you first get the game. It’s your call!

The only thing keeping Skyrockets from a perfect score? The sand timers. Strangely, these sand timers are only…OK? My copy’s timer timing is mostly accurate, although my red sand timer (supposedly a 30-second timer) consistently lands at about 25 seconds. I know this because one of my groups complained that it seemed like red—the game’s shortest timer—was always running out too fast. Alternatively, my copy’s purple timer (supposedly an 80-second timer) consistently emptied in about 85 seconds.

In a game that is only about the timers, this is not nothing, so I get why some players questioned the authenticity of the timers. Skyrockets is a party game, but when played by core hobbyists, expect some questions. My timers also took a little while to wake up. In my first 3-4 plays, the timers sometimes stopped flowing sand without a little nudge from players. The nudge was usually a harder slam on the table to get sand flowing again. That issue has not happened at all since those initial plays, so maybe this is normal…but my copy of Quicksand (that other sand timer game I picked up in Germany) had no issues with its timers.

Another minor knock: the price point. At press time, Skyrockets is listed at $30 on the Floodgate web store. Given the amount of game you are getting, I think that price actually lines up. But for critics who question what six sand timers and a deck of playing cards should cost? That’s a tough one. It is particularly tough for a Kites fan looking to upgrade; you SHOULD upgrade, but will this price fit or not?

If you are picking between sand timer games, that’s a great debate. Both Quicksand and Skyrockets are easy to teach and offer stellar production. If you are looking for a game that plays solo, with large groups (up to seven players), or a game that just fits well as a one-off experience, Quicksand is the call.

If you have a dedicated group of 2-3 partners in crime, Skyrockets’ campaign-style play modes offer the kind of depth and variability that make it both a great filler if you have a consistent gaming group, and a campaign that could be tackled as a 30-minute exercise (a Festival of three events would take about half an hour) over a series of game nights as the filler event for those nights.

Quicksand is a little better for me because I play in five different game groups and am always keeping 10-minute games handy for game nights featuring a wide player count range. Both games are excellent, and Floodgate took a game that was already pretty good in Kites and smoothed out the edges to give us an edition that fits a wider range of audiences.

Sand timers are crazy right now! Excited to see new spins on the format in 2024.

  • Excellent - Always want to play.

Skyrockets details

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

1 Comment

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  • This looks delightful! My friend, Steve, is the dexterity game guy. I am pretty good at playing them, I just rarely call the time I had fun. This, however, sounds like it might be fun. A lot of fun!

    Thanks for a great review!

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