The Coupe Gordon Bennett race in miniature.

I rescued this from our old NOVAG club website which went down and didn’t bring back the older game pages.  This is a game I ran in COLD WARS 2003, called at various times, “Les Grande Courses Des Aerostats” (but that was clumsy), so I shifted it to Balloonacy.  This is a post I grabbed from the old “wayback machine”  archive. Unfortunately the pictures didn’t all come through, but enough to give you an idea how we played this thing.

BALLOONATICS… or Le Grand Courses Des Aerostats.


Hot air balloons and rigid airships are one of my passions in life. If I spot
a blimp while driving the family vehicle, I’ll immediately hit the brakes and
jump out and watch it until it disappears from sight. Likewise for hot
air balloons (aerostats). I’ve only been in a hot air ballon twice (once was
an experiment in the dawn of the bungie jumping age, so it hardly counts)–
both times I’ve been totally fascinated with how balloons work.

So it stands to reason I’d make a game out of it, someday. This game originally
started life as an aerial version of the “LE GRAND CIRQUE” racing games
I have done before. It became obvious that any aerial race game would have to
be radically changed or it wouldn’t really be simulating what I wanted– a set of
mechanics that actually nods towards the real physics of lighter than air flight.

Balloonacy2: The boards at start

The game went well– it is (like a lot of games I do) a race game at
heart, with the added fun of going up and down as well as side to
side and forwards and backwards. It was played on a sort
of “revolving conveyor belt” of terrain boards (12 of them… which
was more than enough). The boards were (mostly) flat green things
with external bits added on. I did my terrain in thin plywood with
wooden standups supporting the terrain in an upright position– I had
a bunch of low hills, a Mountain (which proved to be a real bear to
get over), a volcano, and a pyramid (for the two desert pieces).

The racers drew China, Britain, France, the U.S., Turkey, Russia, and
the British Colonial Indian balloon. The system moves entirely from
the card set– you roll a top for number of wind cards, then a
dreidel for each wind card you draw. The wind cards determine how
fast you will move, the dreidels how far left or right you go. If
you go offboard, you draw a card to see if you come back on before,
on, or after the board you left the board on (there are two random
numbers on each card for this purpose). ‘Dishing’ is an active part
of the game– basically polite dirty tricks which you MUST play.
Sometimes they will affect YOUR balloon as well. Ballast is a third
factor (which is included as candies or M&Ms that the player consumes
during play)

Balloonacy 3: Racing and Bumping

The race started with three “Plain” boards… basically the field in
which the balloon race starts. We drew terrain cards and rapidly
built a lake, a river (both of which drop the balloons, but you can
replenish ballast from them as well). After that, some hills, which
provided headaches for the Russian. After that, a desert. In the
first leg, the British balloonist frequently got dished by the
Frenchmen, because nationalities that “Dish” get extra points scored.
He crashed his balloon twice in the first leg, which had to get
frustrating. In the second leg, the mountain showed up, several
hills, and another desert (I think). We only had time for the two
legs, as some of the mechanics slowed things down (tops, for
instance… who knew it would take forever waiting for a top to come
to a stop?)

Final Standings:

  1. USA
  2. France
  3. Colonial Indian

Note bene, France pulled ahead of the Colonial Indian player on
points he gained by dishing, which had the Colonial a tad hacked off.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable game for me… and I learned a
lot about how to speed it up for conventions– go to dice instead of
tops, cut back on dishing cards (fun as they are to play), limit the
number of times a person could be dished, etc.

— Walt


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