Updated: Nov 24, 2020
#Celestia has been a firm favourite from the day I introduced it to the family. There was initially some resistance to it from my little brother, but now he refers to it as the “funny game where you throw people out of the boat.”
So when I heard that #Blam! were putting out a little expansion for the game I was intrigued to see what it added. Celestia is a very simple game and adding to it without compromising that delicate balance of simplicity and light-hearted fun was going to be tricky.
For those that don’t know the game, it is a reprint of an older game called Cloud Nine. The aim of the game is to collectively control a steampunk looking airship. Each turn a new player is declared captain and rolls a number of dice equal the symbols shown on the next destination. Those dice will display symbols which appear on cards in your hand. The captain must discard cards matching the symbols rolled to allow the ship to move on.
Before the captain reveals whether or not they have the cards each passenger must declare if they are staying or getting off the boat and grabbing a treasure. The longer you stay the better the treasure you can grab but the more chance there is that the captain won't have the cards and you’ll crash, scoring nothing.
Well, the A Little Help expansion adds a couple of new elements. Double Cards have 2 of the same symbol allowing you match two dice with a single card. There are 2 new events which are both fairly mean, one stops the boat from moving, the other adds a dice to the captain’s pool. This obviously increases the take-that element of the game so if you don’t like that just take the four cards out of the deck and you’re good to go.
The final addition and the one the expansion is named for are Helping Hand cards. After players have chosen to stay or go, the captain is allowed to ask for help. Any player who has a Helping Hand card matching any of the missing symbols may play it and keep the ship flying. They cannot be played on your own turn and only used to help other players.
This is nice because it adds a co-operation aspect to the piloting of the ship. It isn’t in a players interest to horde Helping Hand cards as they will score nothing if the ship crashes. So the Helping Hand cards help you get further, but they also take up space in your hand because you can’t use them on your turn, which helps keep the game balanced. They add a little complexity with players who don’t notice the helping hand symbol but mostly they are a good addition.
Overall the expansion is great, I’d not use it with first timers but after a few games you can easily just shuffle the new cards in. It doesn’t make the game too easy, which I feared it might, but it may shorten the play time slightly. The Helping Hand cards have the opposite frequency to the player cards, meaning there are more Cannon Helping Hand cards and less Clouds, which is a great design choice to help foster the sense of cooperation. Of course if you’re not feeling particularly cooperative you can snag the boat with a mooring line or eject a troublesome passenger with a crane! Good, clean, family fun!