#959 – Kites

Base price: $20.
2 – 6 players.
Play time: ~10 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 7

Full disclosure: A review copy of Kites was provided by Floodgate Games.

I’ve been trying to make a bit of a Herculean push towards getting ahead on reviews again post-Gen Con, which has been its own problem. I’m trying to push into being four weeks ahead because I have a good friend visiting this weekend (as of writing), and then I’m going on a two-week trip (my longest in several years; work conference and then visiting my family). Not a lot of time to do photography in that juncture, so hopefully these games will have photos. If they don’t, I’ll get to them eventually. Though the idea of posting a game review with no photos is pretty amusing, I have to admit. Maybe someday. In the meantime, let’s hop into Kites and see what’s going on there.

In Kites, you’re putting on an amazing kite show! Which sounds kind of lit, to be honest. That said, it requires a lot of coordination to keep that many kites in the air, so you’ll need to watch the wind and the bob and weave of other kites and work together to keep everything up and flying! It’s a colorful festival in the sky! Will you be able to brave the storms and the occasional crossed wires to keep it that way?



Some pretty limited setup. Set out the sand timers in order, laying them down:

They should go White -> Red -> Orange -> Yellow -> Blue -> Purple. Then, shuffle the Kite Cards:

For a simpler game, remove the orange and purple sand timers, and all cards with orange or purple symbols on them. Deal players cards based on the player count:

  • 2 / 3 players: 5 cards
  • 4 players: 4 cards
  • 5 / 6 players: 3 cards

Players should not look at their cards yet. For a more challenging game, choose one or more Challenge Cards, adding them to the deck and then shuffling it:

Once players are ready, flip the white sand timer and have every player pick up their cards. You should be ready to start!


This one’s a pretty quick one, so let’s get to it. Your goal is simple. Play every card! Let’s talk about how to do that.

On your turn, you must play a card from your hand. When you do, one of two things should happen:

  • If the card has one icon: Flip either the timer of the indicated color or the white timer. If the color timer is currently on its side, stand it up.
  • If the card has two icons: Flip both timers of the indicated colors. If the timers are currently on their sides, stand them up.

Then, draw a card and your turn ends.

Once the last cards in the deck have been drawn, you enter the Grand Finale! The white timer can no longer be flipped, so finish the game as quick as you can. If you manage to play all of your cards before any sand timers run out, you win! If at any point, any sand timers run out, you lose!

Challenge Cards

Challenge Cards add extra wrinkles to the game, based on their type. If you draw a Challenge Card, you must play it on your next turn. Here’s how they work:

  • Storm: When you draw this one, announce “a storm is coming!”. On the next turn, when you play it, flip every sand timer, including the white one (even if it’s during the Grand Finale).
  • Crossed Lines: When you draw this card, say nothing. Once you play it next turn, say “crossed lines!”, and then each player must pass a card from their hand to the player on their left and the player on their right. They can pass the same card that they received to another player, if they want.
  • Airplane: When you draw this card, say nothing. Next turn, play it and announce, “airplane!”. No player may talk until you play your next card. Note that this means that you may not be able to announce a storm or an airplane, so pay attention!

Player Count Differences

Kites plays pretty differently based on your group, not just the player count. With louder, more active players, the game almost resembles Pit; instead of trading commodities, you have players shouting out the timers that are closest to running out while other player shout out the colors that they can play. It’s actually pretty similar to Pit in that regard, strangely, even though the games have nothing to do with each other. It’s loud and boisterous, and with many players, it can be hard to follow or be heard. With fewer players, you can make it a polite conversation rather than a horse race announcer trying espresso for the first time, but with a quieter group, you may end up slipping into silence by mistake (which makes the game much harder). I like both for different reasons, though. The game’s meant to be fun and welcoming, and I think it manages to do that regardless of player count. To that end, I’d probably just as soon play it at any player count. I might stay away from six, just because that’s a lot of people, but I haven’t seen anything about the game that would otherwise concern me.


  • I try to avoid playing red cards for as long as possible, because as soon as the red timer is active, you have to be on. The red timer is the fastest, so as soon as it enters play, you really need to be doing something about it every 20 – 30 seconds. That can be a quick pace to keep, so I do try to stay away from it for a while. Just remember: if you do that, you’ll eventually end up with a lot of red cards in your hand, and you might not be able to get to the cards that you need to flip other colors (because you’ve spent them). Not ideal.
  • You’re not resetting a timer; you’re flipping it. Keep that in mind. Flipping the timer is great, unless you’re flipping it when it’s over 50% full. Then, you’re just leaving yourself with less time than you already had! Keep an eye on where the timer is before you flip it, and maybe take your time if the timer isn’t quite drained yet. Just don’t let it run out!
  • One thing that you can do to great effect is, if you only want to flip, say, the red and purple, play a red and blue and then have the player after you play the blue and purple, so you’ve effectively double-flipped blue. I’ve been calling that a Cancel Flip, since you’re essentially cancelling out the middle color of that set. It’s a nice way to deal with having to flip red a bunch of times when you might not want to, or having to flip purple when it’s already pretty close to full. Just make sure the player after you is prepared for the cancel, as well, otherwise you might just end up flipping a full timer and dooming your team.
  • Communicate! Talk about what cards you have and what cards you don’t. Help your coplayers. There’s an inclination when you first start the game to not talk, especially if people are used to limited-communication games. This isn’t one of those; you should be talking as much as possible. You just can’t show your hands to each other. Tell people what timers are close to running out! Tell people what you’re thinking about flipping! Remind players about the white timer; whatever it takes to get it done.
  • Also remember that the sand timers are not equal, so flipping purple is a lower priority than flipping red, at times. There are also progressively fewer cards of the longer-timer colors, to compensate for this. So you shouldn’t be flipping purple a lot early on; you may not have the cards needed to flip it again towards the end of the game. Red will be getting flipped constantly, so just do what you need to do.
  • Once the last card is taken from the decks, it doesn’t really matter what you do; you just need to do it fast, before the white timer runs out. Move as quick as you can. It’s very much a speed game at that point, since your goal is just to play out. If you’re playing with multiple people, just apologize and get cards played and timers flipped. If you play quickly enough, you can probably get through just about anything.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons


  • What a cute, simple, and fun game. It’s a really great concept and a solid execution to boot! I appreciate so many things about it, but fundamentally, I just like that it is a great little game that makes an excellent experience for any group that I play it with. Granted, not everyone loves me for bringing it, since it’s very hectic, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a group that wasn’t laughing after we played it.
  • I really like the art that Beth Sobel did, especially on the kites that combine two colors. It’s inventive and expressive, and it makes the game really shine. The crab kite is my favorite! It’s shaped like a perfect friend. But in general, the kites really pop against the multiple sky scenes and the game looks impeccable. I love how the dual-color kites incorporate both colors, and it just makes the whole game seem exciting and vibrant. It’s a great match between artist and gameplay.
  • I appreciate that the rulebook specifically mentions accommodations for folks who can’t flip sand timers but still want to enjoy the game. It’s just a nice way to make sure that folks are included, even if they don’t want to or cannot do the dexterity aspect of flipping a bunch of sand timers. Given how often I knock over the timers, it’s something I should consider.
  • I also really like that Kites has simpler and more complex difficulty options. It makes the game more accessible for players, and I appreciate that. I love when cooperative games allow you to fine-tune the difficulty to player preferences. There are cards you can remove from play to make the game simpler, and there are cards you can add to really ratchet up the difficulty. I find the game perfectly difficult enough without the Challenge Cards, but I imagine there’s some flexibility, there.
  • Pretty portable. You’ll have to figure out something with the sand timers, but beyond them, it’s just a deck of cards and six little sand timers. You can bag the timers up and take this pretty much anywhere with a flat surface. I’m pretty sure the timers can fit inside a Quiver, as well, so that’s nice.
  • The Grand Finale is a nice way to up the tension in an already-hectic game. When you can’t flip the white timer anymore and it becomes do-or-die time? That’s stressful. I really like that feeling, though! It’s definitely motivating for all players, even if it leads to some highly chaotic choices during gameplay.


  • I’ve learned to never trust a sand timer, and I’m already suspicious about trusting six. They can get backed up and they’re kind of finicky; I’m just always a bit skeptical of sand timers as a fine-tuned interaction mechanism. They’re mostly, like, a guideline for timing, as far as I can tell? I wouldn’t necessarily pair these up against a digital timer, but flipping them is also part of the fun of the game, so I withhold judgment, somewhat.
  • Given the fast pace of the game, it’s pretty common for players to forget to draw back up after playing a card. This isn’t really any problem with the game; it’s just more an observation of “well, this is a bit frustrating in the moment”. Just remember during the game to mention “draw” to players so that they remember. Kites can be a lot in the moment, so I don’t hold it against them (too much).


  • I do wish the timers were a bit more weighty, so that they weren’t so easy to knock over. We accidentally dominoed three of them in my last game, which caused some timing problems. They’re kind of a flimsy plastic, which makes sense from a “games cost money to produce” standpoint, but they’re not exactly going to hold up well against players all playing cards and trying to flip timers in real time. Just kind of spread them a bit far apart (but keep them in short -> long order) so that players and their clumsy big hands don’t just start splaying them everywhere, like mine tend to do.

Overall: 8 / 10

Overall, I think Kites is pretty great! It’s right there with Mantis on games that I’ve been really entertained by because they just take a singular concept and execute on it really well. A wise person once told me that a great game feels obvious when you play it, like it should have already existed, and I’ve been really impressed with Kites on that front. Naturally, for a simple game at a low price point there are a few things that I wish were a bit … weightier? I just keep knocking over the sand timers and disrupting the game because my sense of where my body is is slightly wrong. Is that a me problem? Probably. Do I hold the game somewhat responsible? Perhaps. My other, perhaps more pointed critique is that sand timers are famously a little bit finicky, so I worry about relying on them for an entire game; we once played a game that used sand timers as workers and several of ours got stuck, making it more of a kitchen stop, but that’s another review for another time. I haven’t observed those problems with Kites; I’m just a little preemptively suspicious of sand timers. It’s hard to learn to trust again. But, Kites brings more to the table than that. It’s a dynamically approachable game; you can sit Kites down, spend a couple minutes explaining a couple cards, and you’re ready to play. It’s engaging and highlights cooperation as something that players do together, in a race against time. The thrill is there and it’s enjoyable for players of all ages, even if some of them have to have a pinch flipper for the sand timers. That’s totally fine! I think this is a great game for families, new gamers, and the occasional party, and I’m surely bringing my copy there. If you’re looking for another beautiful game with Beth Sobel’s art, you’re into real time games, or you’re looking for a game to get your group engaged and moving, I’ve really enjoyed Kites! I’d recommend it.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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