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Josiah Fiscus
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Pittsburgh (Monroeville)
Pennsylvania
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Cloud 9 is a light push-your-luck filler with the theme of riding in a hot air balloon. Players will decide when to bail out of the balloon basket as it climbs higher and higher, scoring more points when the leave the higher the basket is. If they wait too long, they will find the balloon plummeting to the earth and score no points. Then everyone gets back in and starts again. Thematically, this is fairly nonsensical, yet as a mnemonic it works very well. Players immediately recognize their goal and see how they can achieve it.

The components are bright and cheery and the balloon basket looks great, though some have commented that the lack of an actual balloon makes it look a little silly. I especially like the "invisible" plastic stand that gives the basket the appearance of floating above the table.

Unfortunately, the gameplay leaves something to be desired, especially in a field crowded with contenders such as Diamant, No Thanks!, Duck Duck Bruce, and most of the "roll-three-times" dice games. Rather than analyzing the odds on the dice or reacting to the cards in your hand, most of the risk you take is in the hands of the other players. Most of the time, you take your best guess as to what cards they have. The rest of the time, your skills in memorization are all that will set you apart from the competition.

It's easy to be drawn in by the look and feel of this game. It's thrilling to watch the basket rise and fall. But it just doesn't have legs. There is never anything new to figure out and each game feels very much the same. This sameness combined with the strong luck element generally makes me wish I was playing a similar but better game. And many of those exist.
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