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Fasten your seatbelts and place your tray tables into their upright positions…we’re about to take a look at Airlines Europe, a board game that deals with airline companies, stocks, and quite a bit of strategy.
I’m going to say this right off the bat, it took us two hours for the three of us to get through a game. I’m sure it would have gone quicker had we known what we were doing in the beginning of the game. It didn’t take us long to grasp the basic concepts, but we were still wrapping our heads around the strategy up until the very end.
The goal of this game is to have the most victory points by the third scoring round. Players earn victory points during these three scoring rounds. Keep this in mind as I try to explain how the game is set up and played.
First, there are a deck of stock cards. These stock cards come in many colors, representing all of the airline companies in the game. Throughout the game, players will be trying to add these stock cards to their portfolio…the more a player has of a color, the better chance that they’ll have in being the primary stockholder and gain the most victory points for that color during scoring.
In the setup phase of the game, certain airlines (and their stock cards) are removed from the deck depending on how many players are playing. Yellow and Violet were cut from our three player game. The deck of stock cards is then shuffled. Five cards are played face up to represent the stock market. When players have the opportunity to draw a stock card, they can draw from the deck or from one of these five cards. After that, three scoring cards are inserted into the deck. The first one is inserted into one of the ten bottom cards. The second into 2/3 of the way through the deck, and the third into the top 1/3 of the deck. As players draw stock cards, they may run into these scoring cards, signaling that it is time to earn victory points.
Players get eight stock cards a piece and choose two to place in their portfolio immediately. The airline companies have a special token that they place along the board’s outer scoring track. As airline routes are established, their worth increases and their token moves along the scoring track. The scoring track is divided into sections that have various numbers below them, indicating the number of victory points that is given to the player with the most stocks, second to most stocks, third to most stocks, and so on. During a scoring phase, ALL airlines are addressed on the scoring track and victory points are given to players for each airline they have stock with. How many they get depends on whether or not they have more than everyone else. If you have the most stock in an airline, you’d receive the maximum amount of victory points based on which section the token is in. The more a company advances along the scoring track, the more victory points that will be awarded.
On a player’s turn, a player may do one of the following:
1) Purchase a plane or two of a certain color, establishing new routes and increasing that company’s value and worth. This player may draw a stock card after doing so.
2) Add cards to their portfolio, gaining two million Euro dollars per stock added. Players can either play ALL stock cards of one color from their hand or two cards of different colors.
3) Trade cards from their hand or their portfolio for the invisible Air Abacus stock cards, using a ratio of 1:1 or 3:2. Air Abacus is invisible on the playing board but represents a huge Walmart-esque airline. I’ll explain scoring of this airline in a bit.
4) Gain eight million Euro dollars.
Let’s take a breather and recap shall we?
There are airlines on the board. Players will be buying airline routes in an attempt to grow the companies that they have stock with…these stocks are either in their hand or in their portfolio. Players only earn points based on what is in their portfolio. The more a company grows, the more victory points that are potentially awarded. Victory points are awarded during the three scoring phases. During scoring phases, each and every company is looked at on the scoring track and victory points are distributed to players based on:
A) If they have stock in their portfolio of that color and…
B) How many they have, compared to everyone else.
Have a headache yet? Honestly, it’s not so bad. As long as you remember to expand airlines of the colors you have in your portfolio, you’ll be fine. No sense in expanding an airline you have zero stock in, right?
There are some rules I skipped over and some features that I didn’t mention in an attempt to not turn this article into a bedtime story for your three-month old infant.
Where does the strategy come in then, if all you’re doing is trying to get stock in the airlines that are very successful and expanding airlines you have a lot of stock in? Well, not all companies have the same amount of stock cards. This brings company size into the mix. A company that has eight stock cards is small compared to one that has sixteen. Having five stock in a company that only has eight ensures you’ll have no competition and that no one will lay down stock in an attempt to get more than you. You could, in that example, safely expand that airline without having to worry about someone dropping stock at the last-minute to steal your precious victory points during a scoring round. By the same token, if you have a significant amount of stock for a larger company in your hand, you could wait and let people spend money to expand it, and then lay your stocks down later on which might trump everyone else. You may end up scoring the highest amount of victory points without spending a dime to expand that company.
In regard to Air Abacus, it has its own special scoring track. It’s the same every game, but different during the three phases. Whoever has the most of Air Abacus gets the most victory points, second highest gets the second value, and etc. Some people might decide to trade a bunch of their crappy cards to get Air Abacus, while others might ignore Air Abacus altogether to focus on getting the most out of the airlines on the board.
The thirteen year old said that she liked the game and that it reminded her of Ticket to Ride. The ten-year old said that he liked the airplanes and the strategy, but didn’t like how long it took to play. As I mentioned above, it took us two hours to play, and that was with three players. I personally enjoyed the game, the learning curve is quick to moderate and the amount of different strategies you can employ is appealing. You can concentrate on building up the small companies to ensure you have no competition, you could go for the larger companies which have the potential to grow (and earn) a lot, or a combination of the two. You can freely see what everyone has stock in, so there’s a bit of strategy in figuring out whether or not you want to give up trying to fight with your opponent completely over a particular company or try to undercut them with a last-minute mass play of that color. I have to admit, it is unlike anything I have every played. I had to get used to the fact that I wasn’t ANY color or ANY specific airline and that I was playing the board itself and adjusting my strategy based on what was happening on that board.
I also want to quickly mention that I liked the plastic insert the game came with. All of the pieces are separated and make setting up the game very easy. You can actually play some of the pieces, like the airplanes, right out of the box.
I’d recommend this game if you enjoy semi-long strategy games and have an interest in stocks. The game is obviously streamlined so that it isn’t as complex as the stock market itself, but some may find the general premise and the strategy appealing. It would not appeal to those that think that checkers or tic-tac-toe is too challenging…you will have to think a little. You will need to keep your mind sharp and pay attention to how the companies are advancing in the game to be able to earn the number one spot.
Final Verdict: 8/10