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Subject: AAR #1 - Played again after a long hiatus rss

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Many years ago, I picked up a copy of this at a discount from the local game shop. Our group tried this a few times, but it didn't quite catch on. After digging through my collection the other day, I ran across this, thinking that I had traded it away. Over the past 3 days, my wife and I completed the 3-year game and had an interesting discussion afterward.

Companies:
* Alliance Air (me)
* Sky Airlines (wife)

Starting Major Airports:
* ORD (O'Hare / Chicago, Rank #1--hooray!)
* ONT (Ontario / California, Rank #49)
* CLT (Charlotte / NC, Rank #45)

YEAR #1

Needless to say, both of us put our first Hub in ORD, 'cause why wouldn't you?! It's ORD, the largest airport! From there, my luck went steadily downhill. In March, I drew and Incident event, so I lost half of my seats for that month (would have been worse later). While my wife drew her next Hub early and placed it in CLT, I wouldn't see another Hub for quite a while, so I placed one Gate in both of the others, as their maximum seat allowance was 6. Because of this, both of us place a few average-size planes at CLT and ONT but stacked the vast majority of our luftflottes at ORD. Around September, my wife added a plane to ONT that forced me into the 2nd tier of seat scoring, so I lost a few seats as the year ended.

Year 1 Score:

* Sky Airlines - 193 seats, 2 VP
* Alliance Air - 175 seats, 1 VP

-----

YEAR #2

If last year was hard on Alliance Air, this year just compounded the issues. My small loss at ONT continued, but not wanting to give up the Gate and provide bonus seats for an uncontested airport, I hung in there. A glimmer of hope appeared in March when the FAA inspected my wifes operation, but this only cost her a few seats. June looked promising for me with a Regional Advertising Campaign, but this only yielded 4 extra seats, so not much was gained. In July, DAL (Dallas) was drawn, and I managed to place a Gate and 2 planes. However, immediately after the Campaign ran out, my wife slapped DAL with a Low-Cost Airline (which ended up remaining there the rest of the game). This removed all seat gains and eventually forced me from there entirely. At the same time, my wife played Cat II/III, so any future Weather events were negated. In September, a Regional Airport appeared--Dayton. Luckily, I had a Regional Commuter card ready to play! Unfortunately, so did my wife.

Year 2 Score:

* Sky Airlines - 354 seats, 2 VP (4 VP total)
* Alliance Air - 316 seats, 1 VP (2 VP total)

-----

YEAR #3

If the previous two years weren't bright, this is where the wheels looked like they were falling off. In February, we had a Severe Winter Storm in the Midwest. While I lost 15 seats, my wife played the ILS / Cleared Direct event, which negated all effects. angry In the meantime, however, I drew SFO (San Francisco, Rank #5) and slapped down a Hub there (lucky draw). Two months later, she played a Fare Wars card that stayed on the table for 3 months, robbing me of another 15 seats. As the months continued, several more airports came out (OMA - Omaha, MKE - Milwaukee, PDX - Portland, and BWI - Baltimore), along with the Regional airports FAT (Fresno) and BOI (Boise), but we never drew another Regional Commuter. In November, my wife played ANOTHER Fare Wars card, soaking off another 10 seats. However, I had enough Gates and aircraft that I had been capturing Sole Occupant bonuses at more than one airport, so that helped to make up part of the penalties. I also drew a Weather card, having just removed her CAT II/III certification card a couple months prior. devil This allowed me to regain some lost ground right at the end. While she added a Regional Advertising Campaign of her own, it didn't quite make up the difference for this year.

Year 3 Score:

* Sky Airlines - 466 seats, 1 VP (5 VP total) - wife wins
* Alliance Air - 473 seats, 2 VP (4 VP total)

-----

FINAL THOUGHTS

There were several things we commented on right away, some of which we remembered from years ago:

1) The draw pile is huge--230 cards. This means you won't nearly get through the whole deck in a 2-player game. In addition, the card distribution says a lot:

* Major Airports: 16
* Regional Airports: 8
* Hubs: 3 per player
* Gates: 40
* Events: 62
* Aircraft (all types): 82

If you compile a few ratios, it's obvious that in a 2-player game, neither person will be hurting for aircraft! Assuming that you can draw sufficient Gates (or, more importantly, Hubs), you should be able to saturate your available space. Since only 16 Major Airports are present, it's completely possible to go the whole game with only the starting complement of airports, Major or Regional, so this could be the limiting factor on your fleet.

2) Events can be few and far between. Although we had several key events come up, we both held several cards that were never played throughout the whole game (I started with 2 Cleared for Take-off "response" cards--one of which saved me in Year 3). Further, with the preponderance of aircraft and Gates, Events could conceivably be a rarity. Using our game as an example, the Low-Cost Airline came out roughly halfway through the game and essentially shut down that airport for the remainder. Since only one or two cards can counteract the LCA event, a 2:230 chance doesn't seem very likely.

3) As a corollary to Items #1 and #2, shuffling the cards enough to get good randomization is well-nigh impossible and a real pain. We required almost half of one game year's time just to shuffle the cards in a mediocre fashion. As it was, my wife drew almost all the Response-type cards and almost all the aggressive events.

4) The record keeping for this game is very tedious, and this is made infinitely more annoying by the TERRIBLE Score Sheets. The cyan ink was way too light and low contrast, plus it has faded over time, making the small print ridiculous to read. Luckily, I made my own version on the computer years before, so I can just print those. Aside from the eyestrain, the blanks and boxes are too small to be useful, as you must track a number of different totals throughout the game. A better-designed score sheet alone would make this game more appealing.

5) The rule book is concise, which is a plus, but it's TOO concise--important info is unclear or not well-documented. A supplement was included to clarify a few points, but this really should have been included with the original rules. Further, the Example of Play is not laid out well, so it is hard to follow and not entirely clear either.

6) The game mechanics and play sequence are not too hard to follow, especially if you have a Rule / Turn Summary (don't remember where I obtained mine). However, the game doesn't feel "finished". As my wife said, "There a good game in there somewhere, really, but I think you need to scrap the rules, start from scratch, and come up with a better system." I agree, there is a good game in there somewhere, and there are several mechanics that are fun--deciding how to allocate aircraft to the various airports, figuring out how many seats to sacrifice to knock your competitor into a lower tier, trying to anticipate where to park your "storm-immune" aircraft to greatest effect. However, much of the game feels totally random and at the mercy of whatever Event is pulled next. There are few anticipatory moves to make, short of holding a Response card for later in case a bad Event is played.

In closing, we came up with some ideas for a few modifications, so we may try again and see if these help the card distribution and overall game play.
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Mark Robinson
England
Lancashire
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Great session report. Thanks for sharing. I've not got my copy to the table despite owning it for some time! I had a go at knocking up a better record sheet (not sure if it's saved on this PC or if it's long gone).
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Mike Stoddart
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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Thanks do this. I keep trying to find a reasonably priced copy of this.
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stodge wrote:
Thanks do this. I keep trying to find a reasonably priced copy of this.


Hey, thanks for the support! As quiet as the activity has been on this game, I didn't expect much by way of comments.

I actually found this back in 2001 or so at a local game store. Didn't know what to make of it, but I was looking for a card-based game that played faster than some of the other games in my collection at the time. This was not exactly the best fit for that criteria.

There seems to be a few people selling copies through BGG. I don't know if the price suits your taste, but they're out there.

Thanks again for the comment.
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DIFFLOCK wrote:
Great session report. Thanks for sharing. I've not got my copy to the table despite owning it for some time! I had a go at knocking up a better record sheet (not sure if it's saved on this PC or if it's long gone).


Hey, thanks for the comment--creating my own record sheet was the very first thing I did. I would post the file, but the formatting is messed up, as I originally made it in a very old version of Excel. Need to fix that first.

You would think a game company that has to design components would have enough sense to use high-contrast colors with an ink that doesn't fade terribly over time. My record sheets look like mimeographs from the 70s--barely readable in great lighting.

Thanks again for the feedback!
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Mark Robinson
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I think that pristine original fresh-out-the-box scoresheets had the same minty green ink. A mistake at the printers perhaps.
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It's possible, but I seem to remember a somewhat darker minty color when I first opened the box. I mean, these things are virtually unreadable now.

If I ever have to give an example of poor graphic design, this will be an obvious choice. AP has some good games out there, but this one seems to be a real rush job.
 
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Malcolm Sleight
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I have both the base game and the expansion they put out. Haven't played them in years, but I should probably try with our gaming group. Fornately, we have a couple of guys with big tables.
 
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