Game Review: Dastardly Dirigibles

You’re an inventor who knows just how to combine different steampunk technologies to make the best, fastest and most reliable dirigible in the world. Or are you? At stake is ownership of Professor Phineas Hornswoggle’s renowned dirigible factory to the person who proves their mettle as an airship builder!

fully built dastardly dirigible airship game

Dastardly Dirigibles is a lightweight card-based assembly game has players racing to assemble all seven parts needed to construct a complete dirigible. The wrinkle: there are seven different groups of parts (suits) and you only get points for the components that are of one suit. Making it harder to plan, each time your opponent adds a component to their airship, you’ll have to add — or replace! — that same component to your own if you have one in your hand, whether it’s the suit you desire or not.

On the continuum of modern games, Dastardly Dirigibles isn’t particularly complicated, so don’t be intimidated: there’s not a lot of strategy involved. Over multiple games, my 12yo gamer daughter and I found that we began assembling our dirigible with whatever parts we came across in play, then about halfway through started to pay attention to suit. The goal, of course, to maximize the point value of the airship components while still striving to be the first one to complete assembly. There are, after all, only seven parts to a completed ship, as you can see in this partially assembled blueprint:

partially built ship airship dirigible dastardly

The game is played in three rounds, each is which ends when one player finishes their dirigible. Points are calculated by counting how many parts are of the majority suit (2 points per card) plus how many are the “wild” suit (1 point per card). First one completed gets a +2 bonus, and anyone else who manages to have a completed dirigible gets a +1 bonus. Add up the score from all three rounds and you’ve got the winner!

The airship in the first photo, for example, would be worth 9 points: wrench is the most common suit, and there are three wrench cards for 3 * 2 points, plus 1 point for the wild card, plus 2 points for being the first person to complete their airship build on this turn.

Making the game more interesting, there are a dozen Special cards that offer specific bonus capabilities. Gilded Dynamotor, for example, gives its bearer a +1 on scoring, while others let you pick cards from the discard pile, steal a component from your opponent’s ship, or even dump your entire hand and replace it with new cards.

dastardly dirigibles special cards

My daughter’s sensitive to games with an aggressive competitive element, however, so the one card we agreed we didn’t like was Grappling Hook, which let you steal cards from your opponent’s hand. Easy, we just pulled it out of the deck for our game and never noticed it was missing.

Once you get the hang of the game, it’s fast, though we only played two player. Add 2-3 more people (it’s 2-5 players) and it might slow way down as people likely overthink their strategies and ponder just what card to place or discard each round. Other reviews have complained about the slow pace of the game with lots of players too.

My only criticism of the game is that while the cards are beautifully printed on thick, laminated card stock, the ship blueprints are just on flimsy, gloss color paper. I would have liked to see them on card stock or at least thickly laminated to make them a bit more durable and perhaps lay flat.

With its lively, engaging steampunk art and simple rules, Dastardly Dirigibles is a game you can teach just about anyone in a few minutes and offers up some fun gameplay. It’s also open to house rules too, like playing “best of three” if you don’t want to keep track of cumulative score, or even just playing a single round while waiting for the waiter to deliver your dinner. We like it, it’s a keeper. Recommended.

Disclaimer: Fireside Games sent me a copy of Dastardly Dirigibles for this review. My opinions are my own.

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