Designed by Kevin Hamano, and with art by Beth Sobel, Kites: Time to Fly is a real-time fully cooperative card game for 2-6 players where your cards represent different colour kites that you are trying to keep in the air. There are sand timers whose colours match the kites on the cards, and every time you play a card you flip the corresponding timers. There's a white timer too, and you can take the option to flip that when you play a card that shows only one colour of kite; when the draw deck is exhausted and players only have the cards in hand, the white timer can no longer be flipped. To collectively win, players need to play all of the cards before any of the timers run out.
The rules are simple, so quickly learned, but the game is challenging because you usually don't know what cards other players have in hand and flipping or not flipping a timer could lose you the game if the next players don't have the colour kite cards in hand to respond as needed to keep the timers in play. In our plays at Board's Eye View, we found it usually took players a couple of 'fails' before they were all sufficiently on the same wavelength to be able to achieve a win.
A notable strength of Kites is that the game has been designed to ease players in before stepping up the challenge. You can initially play with just the red, yellow and blue kite cards and the corresponding timers (plus the white sand timer). Once players have mastered that, you can add in the rest of the deck, and the orange and purple timers. The rules remain the same but the extra timers give a significant hike to the difficulty level, both in terms of players' hand management and in the pressure of monitoring and juggling additional timers. It doesn't help, by the way, that the sand timers aren't all measuring the same amount of time - they range from 30 seconds (red) to 90 seconds (purple) - and speed isn't always of the essence because if you flip a timer too soon after it's previously been flipped, you risk scuppering the group's prospects of success.
Floodgate Games have included additional cards for raising the difficulty still further. When an airplane card is played, no-one is allowed to speak until the card is covered up (ie: the next turn of the player who played it). Kites is a game where you can expect quite a lot of calling out of advice and pleas for particular timers to be flipped, so having rounds that must be completed in silence can make quite a difference. The storm card requires that all the timers are flipped, which can turn out to be good or disastrously bad depending on when the card turns up. And the tangled lines card forces players to hand a card from their hand to each of their neighbours. You'd be surprised at how much players can find that that disrupts the flow so ups the chance of failure. The game comes with four copies of each of these cards and you can choose whether or not to include them and how many of each to include.
With its simple rules, Kites can certainly be played as a family game but it also makes for a challenging games night filler for seasoned gamers. Tho' it's real-time game, it's not a game where you are necessarily in a constant rush, so Kites is likely to appeal to players who otherwise steer clear of more conventional speed games. We especially liked the way too in which you can set and step up the difficulty level, which adds notably to this game's replayability.