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Balloon Cup
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Balloon Cup

English language edition

List Price: $24.95
Your Price: $19.99
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(Worth 1,999 Funagain Points!)

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 30 minutes 2

Designer(s): Stephen Glenn

Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Kosmos

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Product Description

In Balloon Cup, the players compete in several short balloon flights (hops) to collect the colored cubes associated with each hop. When a player has collected enough cubes of a given color, he earns the trophy card for that color. Players may even trade 3 otherwise useless cubes for 1 they can use. The first player to earn 3 trophy cards is the winner! Each player has a hand of eight balloon cards. The players play their balloons on mountain or plain hops. Players play their high-valued balloons on the mountains and their low-valued balloons on the plains. Players usually play their balloons on their side of the hops, but winds (and cunning) can cause them to play on their opponents side, a move that can ruin their opponents plans.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Card Game Nominee, 2005
Games Magazine Awards
Best 2-Player Card Game, 2004
Spiel des Jahres
Nominee, 2003
International Gamers Awards
Best 2-Player Game Nominee, 2003

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Stephen Glenn

  • Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Kosmos

  • Artist(s): Jurgen Zimmermann

  • Year: 2003

  • Players: 2

  • Time: 30 minutes

  • Ages: 10 and up

  • Weight: 294 grams

  • All-Time Sales Rank: #117

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent.


  • 45 balloon cards
  • 5 trophy cards
  • 4 hop tiles
  • 45 victory cubes
  • 1 bag
  • 1 rule booklet

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.1 in 24 reviews

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Unusually good two player game
October 07, 2007

Two player games are tough to design, because the game must be interesting and close up to the end. Balloon Cup has a great mix of luck and planning that makes it very enjoyable, with short turns and interesting decisions. Like most great games, you have many choices, and most of the time you have to pick the best of many good moves to make.

I have played this game with many no-gamers (girlfriends, mostly) and other gamers, and it's always challenging and exciting right up to the end.

Awesome Game
February 10, 2005
I agree totally with the previous review. My wife and I love to play this game. There are so many options on your play that playing the game never gets boring. Each game is totally different. A true gem as a two player game.
by Mirta G
Beautiful game
January 13, 2005
The rules of this game are simple and elegant, and design beautiful. My boyfriend and me enjoy playing it over and over. It provides some healthy tension, because winning requires equal amounts of good strategy and luck. Great for couples.
Well Done 2 player game
December 08, 2003

Lots of previous reviews have mentioned the 'lock up' problem the game could have. The fix for this is also mentioned in other reviews. The fix is simple, and detracts not one bit from the gameplay.

This is a very good two player game in the Kosmos series. I rank it right up there with Caesar & Cleopatra, Hera & Zeus, Odin's Ravens, etc. The games can be very close, interaction is high as you can lay cards off on your opponent's side, and decisions are tough at times.

The game moves right along, allowing several plays in an evening for relaxation.

Balloon Cup soars right along for us! Well Done!

by Kane
One of the best 2 player games out there
June 12, 2003

I've played Balloon Cup about 15 times now, and think it is one of the best 2 player games I have ever played. It's quick and easy to learn, but that doesn't mean that the game has no depth. Sure, there's some luck in the cards you draw, but there are definite strategies involved too. Since you can play your cards on both sides of the table, the 'screw your neighbor' factor is very high, and can be maddening at times. Overall, if you're looking for a fairly quick, but fun game with some strategy, I would highly recommend Balloon Cup.

Hot air ballons do not use 'gas'...
May 29, 2003

'For the first few plays this game is a lot of fun. But by about your fifth play, you begin to realize that every game of Balloon Cup reaches a point where both players are tied and both are simply drawing cards in order find the one card each needs to win.'

This above quote has not been my experience. I have found the game very enjoyable every play and never felt like we were each simply waiting for one certain card. While it is true that there is a luck with the draw of the cards, for its simplicity, the game is not overly random. This game is GREAT fun, has lots to think about, and even your grandmother will love it! I also love the art and the good components.

by Elyah
My Favorite 2-player Game!
May 18, 2003

I love Balloon Cup! In my first play we weren't two minutes into the game until my partner said, 'I love this game!' I already felt the same way. By the end of the game we felt no different. My buddy immediately said, 'I've got to buy this.'

I then played a second game - this time with my daughter. I felt exactly the same way. Here's a game with lots of thought that is still FUN to play. You feel tension, you feel you're in a race, you feel you'll never get what you want. You study your moves, yet the game moves fast! It is colorful, and a delight to play. This one will get a lot of plays at my house. I think it's the best 2-player game I've played.

Playing this game is like floating in air!
March 25, 2003

This is a fun game to play. What more needs to be said? Stephen Glenn already does a lot for this industry including game designer interviews and founding Protospiel, a yearly game designer's convention. Now he is publishing his own game designs! What's more, the game is easy to teach and fun to play. Kudos.

Brilliant Designer
March 11, 2003

The Mastermind has finally completed his Masterpiece. Try it once and you'll be hooked on all Stephen Glenn games! This game has it all and is tons of fun for everyone of all ages. Great game for family fun. All I can say is 'Bimyow'. I'm a huge Stephen Glenn fan, you will be too.

Great, casual, two-player fun
July 18, 2006

My wife likes card games like Uno and Phase 10. I like less abstract games like Civilization, 1830, or Carcassonne. Balloon Cup is a happy middle ground for both of us. Balloon cup is really an abstract card game with some beautiful artwork on the cards. The game is supposed to simulate a balloon race through mountains and plains. It's a card game where the player with either the highest or lowest numbered cards wins a portion of the race. You want to have the lowest score over the plains, and the highest score over the moutains. You can play a card on either your side (i.e. your balloon) or your opponent's side. Despite what other reviews may say, the game involves luck and strategy. Like in Poker or Hearts, there's a limited number of differnt colored cards. If you're paying attention, you know what's been played and what the odds are that a particular card will come up. There are usually plenty of decisions to make, do you play for big races or small races; do you try to slow your opponent by playing cards on his or her side or do you speed yourself along. When we play, a decision I don't make often comes back to haunt me as my wife fills my side of the table with "bad" cards. This is a fun, light-hearted and fast game. Like many card games, it can get repititive. Nonetheless, I highly recommend it.

A lot of fun
September 25, 2004
Easy to learn card game. But is game is a lot of fun. You will always have cards on your hand you do not need right now. So there is luck involved- but for a game with luck the playing time is okay.
One of the best 2-player games you'll find.
November 09, 2003

Almost 3 years ago to the day, I wrote a review for Funagain on Lost Cities, which was then one of the most talked about 2-player games in the hobby. One of the criticisms of Lost Cities was the minimal player interaction. Despite that, I gave that game 4-stars because it was simple, fast, and had a lot of replayability.

Balloon Cup is what Lost Cities might have been, had more interaction been sought. Because players can lay cards on the opponent's side, there is more depth, and hence, more strategy and tactics in Balloon Cup, yet it is really no more complex, and actually a bit more fun. There are certainly more factors to consider in each decision, yet this isn't a 'brain-burner.' It's challenging, but lite.

Add to this a deck of beautifully crafted cards, scads of little colored cubes, and 4 'trip' mats, and Balloon Cup is a colorful, nifty little 2-player game for the family, or even as a filler for more serious gamers. While I'm giving it 4-stars (mainly due to the luck-of-the-draw factor inherent in the cards), it's a 'very high' 4-stars, and higher than the 4-stars I gave Lost Cities.

by Dr Jay
Up and Away in My Beautiful Balloon
November 08, 2003

When one starts replaying two-player games after multiple games, one wonders about whether the two-player games will measure up. Balloon cup measures up because of its emphasis on strategy and never knowing whether either player will secure the coveted cup cards.

Ever since I saw a fine film at the Smithsonian on the view from a balloon, I have been hooked on balloons. Further, my interest was rekindled when walking on the grassy area and hearing the puffs of gas in Colorado Springs at the annual balloon festival in September. Someday it is my dream to go up in a balloon and feel the bounds of earth leaving me. Until that day Balloon Cup and associated games will have to suffice.

My opponent commented after playing two games that it is difficult whether to take high-marked cards and hold them or play on your opponent. I was struck by how extremely competitive the placing of balloon cards with differing numbers becomes. You think the game is won and the trophies secured until your opponent places a low card (e.g. a 1)on your Plain.

In the game two kinds of terrain exist: Plains and Mountains. When cubes are secured from differently numbered mountains and plains, the terrain card is flipped to the opposite terrain. It is fascinating to watch how you and your opponent place numbers, large ones for mountains and much smaller ones for plains. In one instance, my opponent was sure he won the cube in the second game for one particular play. He confidently placed a low playing card on the mountain terrain for me, and I confidently placed an even more low playing card on his side of the terrain card. I won the point, but it was only one cube.

The game creates surprises all the time. Sometimes you are forced--because of your hand--to give an opponent a particular terrain and all the cubes. The cards fall that way, even after a good shuffle. Sometimes it is so frustrating to have all colors in your hand that don't relate to the colored cubes on the four terrain cards. At that point, you have to show your opponent that is impossible to play anything from your hand. You are forced to take four new balloon cards and discard the old ones.

In the second game both of us discovered we were running out of the allotted cubes. At that point the rules say the terrain card must be abandoned if 1 to 4 cubes cannot be placed on the card. In the second game we lost two terrain cards in the waning game minutes. I already possessed a 7 red trophy card, but my opponent was gaining fast with a six yellow and a three gray trophy cards.

We decided to play the last hands, for whatever that was worth. He was able to acquire the last trophy card for a total of three, the winning hand. I looked forlorn with one lone 7 card.

We laughed during the game about placing low or extremely high cards to frustrate our opponent's building of cards for the ultimate grabbing of cubes. The game promotes social interaction. Would I play the game for a third and more times? Yes, because the game moves quickly, and you never know what your opponent is up to. Up, up, and away . . .

A 'fix' for my second-favorite 2-player game from Kosmos
October 07, 2003

I really like this game and it has become my second favorite in the Kosmos two-player series, right behind Lost Cities. Stephen Glenn posted the following official 'fix' from Kosmos and said he hoped it would appear in later printings of the rules.


At no time should there be a number of cubes in play (on *all* mats), of any given color, equal to or more than the number of cubes it takes to win the trophy of that color.

In other words:

There should be no more than 2 grey cubes

There should be no more than 3 blue cubes

There should be no more than 4 green cubes

There should be no more than 5 yellow cubes

There should be no more than 6 red cubes

If you draw cubes that violate this, set the offending cubes aside and re-draw.

by Randy
More fun once you know the odds
October 05, 2003

The reviewer below from Portugal seemed to be a bit confused on the rules. Yes that situation could potentially arise, which is why the designer built in the wild card rule. A player can trade in three of another color, that was previously won, and use them as a wild color. So if you have already won the blue trophy, for example, you may use any leftover blues to create one gray.

We found that the game is far more enjoyable and strategic once you have memorized the number of tokens and cards avalable in each color. It also reduces the luck if you fan out the discards. This is not my favorite two player game by any means, but it probably makes my top ten.

Don't forget your kids!
July 06, 2003

This game feels complete. It has the little bit of tension that I prefer and it's enjoyable and short enough for my abstract game-prefering husband. I would give this as a gift to almost anyone, but especially to female friends of any age (if an eight year old can play Queen's Necklace then an eight year old can play this game). The mechanics of the game flow smoothly, scoring is easy, and the rules are very clearly written. Take this on vacation or to the park with you and yours because it's small enough to carry, easy enough to come back to if you have an interruption, and it's pleasant theme reminds you to leave your stressors elsewhere.

Of course, by 'stressors' I don't mean your kids.

Very pleasant diversion!
May 30, 2003

My friend, Sarah, wrote recently: 'Buy Balloon Cup. Ask questions later.' So I managed to acquire a copy, and what I did I get?

Well, upon opening the box, the game itself seems underwhelming. The artwork is kind of pastoral and pleasant, but nothing to write home about. The components are simple: a cloth bag to hold a bunch of small, colored wooden cubes; 5 trophy cards (1 in each of the 5 colors); a deck of numbered cards (numbered 1 to 13 (sort of) in the five colors); and 4 cardboard squares depicting Sky on one side and Valley on the other. -- That's it? I thought to myself. The next morning I sat down, read the rules and began it began to dawn on me that this could be a really neat game.

The four cardboard tiles are laid out (each one has a number on it, the 1 tile, 2 tile, 3 tile, and 4 tile.) Then players blindly draw cubes for the tiles (1 cube for the 1 Tile, 2 for the 2 Tile, etc.) Players are dealt 8 cards and gameplay begins.

Your turn is simple: Play one card either to your side of the Tile (called a 'Hop Tile') OR your opponent's side of the Hop Tile. But there are restrictions on what cards you can play: The cards on either side of the Hop Tile must not exceed the number of cubes on the Hop Tile AND they must match the distribution of the colors on the cubes as well. So if Hop Tile #3 has a Grey cube and two Blue cubes, then my side of the Hop Tile will eventually have 1 Grey card and 2 Blue cards and so will yours. Once the Hop Tile is 'full' (both players have the same number of cards, and same color distribution of cards as colors) the Hop Tile is finished and is scored with the better sum getting all the cubes. Players are trying to get enough cubes in a color to claim the Trophy card for the color. First player to claim 3 Trophies wins the game. This is a very clever system and makes card play full of interesting decisions.

And here's where the game takes another twist. Some Hop Tiles you want the lowest sum to take the cubes, other Hop Tiles require the highest sum. If the Hop Tile is a Valley, you want the lowest sum; if the Hop Tile is Sky, you want the highest sum. And once a Hop is scored, all cards on either side are discarded and you give the cubes to the winner then flip that Hop Tile and it becomes the opposite of what it was (so, Valley becomes Sky.)

And then another twist, there are 13 Red cubes AND cards, 11 Yellow cubes and cards, 9 Green, 7 Blue, 5 Grey. Which means grey cubes are harder to come by, but also only require 3 to win the Trophy (4 are needed for Blue, 5 for Green, 6 for Yellow, 7 for Red.) It creates a neat situation, where you can have an idea of what a player has, especially what sort of Grey or Blue cards he/she might have because you can see what is already 'pending' on the other tiles, plus you know what you have, and you may have an idea of what has already been discarded.

The game has the same sort of weight as Lost Cities, which is a game I didn't care for too much. But Balloon Cup, though being light, and quite lucky (getting lots of High or Low cards near the end of the game will benefit you greatly), just has a fun factor that I don't get in Lost Cities. Decisions seem a bit more interesting, and since you can play to either side of a Hop, you can really mess with your opponent. The theme is a bit thin, but the setting fits well enough for an abstract-ish game.

The only thing I can really say against this one is that since it is a numbered card game (something I normally shy away from), and it is both light and somewhat lucky, naturally the game doesn't have killer strategy, and that has a tendency to limit replayability. But, again, it is fun. You'll wonder where to put that high grey: save it for later? use it on your opponent's Valley, or your Sky? The game is just a lot of fun decisions all strung together. This is a game that a non-gamer will probably like a lot, as it is easy to learn, and has a good mix of luck and decisions. And it's fits a nice niche in a collection, being quick (on average, 20 minutes), 2 players, and a good 'wife' game (a game that a girlfriend/sister/wife/mother will tend to like.) I rank it near the top of the Kosmos 2-player line, and probably the best 'wife' game in the line.

by Randy
The rave reviews are not just hot air!
May 23, 2003

If you enjoy the likes of card games such as Battleline then this one is for you. It is not quite as deductive however since the disard pile is often shuffled, putting the menu of colors and numbers back in the running. Yes there is luck of the draw, as in any card game, but it can certainly be kept at a minimum by cunning, predicting the odds based on the visible cards, and keeping track of what has been discarded. It takes a couple of plays to become familiar with the number combinations in each color but after that you can really start rolling.

I'd give this one a five-star but the cards are somewhat flimsy and the art is certainly nothing to write home about.

Can be light or thoughtful, but always fun.
March 10, 2003

I was fortunate enough to play this game on several occasions before its actual release. This game is similar to Schotten Totten or Battle Line, of which I am a fan, but it has more variety. The rules are simple, but the play can be quick or thoughtful, depending on you (or your opponent's) mood. Above all, it is fun and addictive.

A little better than average...
May 10, 2005

While this game is better than your average game, it misses the mark a little when compared to something like Lost Cities. While both games are nice introductory games for two players, this one gives you the impression that you don't have much control in the end. I think there is simple a big flaw in the game that wasn't tested enough to get fixed: By the end of the game, it frequently happens that you have only 1 or 2 cards in your hand that you can play, and they all help your opponent. Perhaps there is a way to manage your hand so that this doesn't happen, but I have not been able to do it successfully yet.

With this said and out of the way, this game is definitely worth trying out. It is a great game about half the time that you play it. The other half, you'll start to wonder if you simply got lucky in previous games or if you actually had a positive impact on your fate.

December 04, 2003

Summary: Very simple game. Too simple for me, but had playing with wife a few times. For something a little more interesting, run, don't walk, to Hera And Zeus.

On the plus side:

* Rules are super simple. So simple, in fact, that they made up rules just to make things more complicated that add nothing to the game. See below.

* Easily approachable by kids and non-gamers. Some young kids I introduced it to as young as six enjoyed it. I'd say the game is for 6-10, not 10+. For kids that couldn't add numbers greater than 10 in their head, we just eliminated the 11, 12, and 13 cards, and the 4th game board, and the game plays exactly the same.

* It's fast. My games were more like 15 minutes than 30. I guess if you played slow you could drag it out to 30, but there's not much to think about, so that never happened for us.

On the minus side:

* There aren't really any emerging strategies. Everything can be taken at face value. There aren't any interesting or surprising moves.

* A lot of luck. You can get bad cards and there's not much you can do.

* Every game is basically the same. You don't have those games (like you do in many other games) where one person wins and says, 'that was awesome!' amd the other person says, 'that sucked!' They're all just kinda like 'eh'.

* Here's the weird one. The 4 boards have two sides, and after completing a board you're supposed to flip them, but it doesn't make any difference!!! At first it seems like it does, but it doesn't, because you can play on either side. It exactly and precisely does nothing but change which side of the board you would play a given card on. Yawn. At best, it might make someone accidentally place a card on the opposite that is beneficial for them, and if that's a fun game mechanic, then great, but otherwise it's just a facade of gameplay depth.

Although the minuses clearly outweigh the positives in my mind, I still give the game three stars (decent), because it's a decent 15 minute game, and there's a place for that.

by Roy L.
Flawed Euro; Diverting Lightweight Card Game
September 02, 2006

A lightweight diversion for very causal play, this game falls apart quickly on close examination. It has two serious flaws, both of which have been mentioned by other reviewers. First, there is a serious error in the rules regarding placement of cubes (which has been corrected by official but tedious to enforce errata). Second, the game is so dominated by luck that players will frequently find their moves forced. Worse, games almost always end in a luck driven anticlimax as the victor is determined by the scoring of a single tile and who happens to have the few cards relevant to wining it.

Guess these Balloons have a BIG hole!
October 04, 2003

First of all I need to state that I'm a newbie to this kind of games and probably my opinion is not that important but probably I'm not the only newbie buying it. You'll judge it at the end of the review.

After a big trouble getting my Balloon Cup copy from customs office here I was positively surprised just by looking at the box and unpacking it. The first thing I've done was reading the rules from beginning to end - clear and concise - 'Pretty simple!'.

'Honey! Sit here with me just for 20 minutes to play this game.' - Starting it was damn fast and quick - 'Gee! This is really fun. This freedom to place cards is an amazing potential to strategic decisions even considering the draw luck factor'. My first disappointment (not significant) was only the fact I was starting to loose my very first game. She was enjoying it! - don't know yet if only because she was leading and believe me she is hard to please regarding games. A while later the game turned out to be a little awkward: we were stuck playing cards only for hop tile #1 and continuously discarding cards - 'why?' - simply because our first ever random draw of victory cubes was like this:

hop tile #4: 3 grey, 1 red (enough to make my case)

hop tite #3: 2 grey, 1 yellow

hop tile #2 and #1: not relevant

For those who already have played this game before this should be enough to reveal the BIG flaw of the game. All the 5 grey cards were already placed on tiles #4 and #3, none of them were scored yet and more gray cards were needed for that! I'm surprised no one reviewing this game ever met this situation - I have no clues on the probability of this happening in a game but it's evident there are much more combinations that can lead to a similar situation not only at the start of the game. Almost certainly this can be overcome with some kind of 'forbidden' victory cubes draw or something like that.

What makes me astonished is the lack of reference to this issue by the designer and/or manufacturer. Have they REALLY played their own game(s)? How many times? It's hard to believe it from such well known and prestigious status in the game community accordingly to the number of acclaimed games!

Is it possible that I'm doing something wrong besides the written english?

I'm not giving Balloon Cup only 1 star because I want to believe that there's nothing wrong with the game or that it can be overcome.

Balloon Runs Out of Gas!
May 24, 2003

For the first few plays this game is a lot of fun. But by about your fifth play, you begin to realize that every game of Balloon Cup reaches a point where both players are tied and both are simply drawing cards in order find the one card each needs to win.

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