Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 Hide
23 Posts

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » General Gaming

Subject: Train games are good... how about planes? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Colin Sherman
United States
Bothell
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
I was flying today, as I'm on a business trip and since I'm in between meetings, I decided to share with you what I was working on. Enjoy...

At the moment I’m on an airplane flying to Las Vegas for a mixture of work and vacation. I have always liked airplanes. When you think about it, the technology is quite amazing. Birds fly, sure, but it’s by a flapping motion. Airplanes just propel themselves forward at massive speeds and do so in a very controlled method. I fly quite a bit and yet every time I take off, I’m filled with excitement as I think about what’s taking place. Sure, I’m then filled with discomfort as I don’t really fit on airplanes, but that doesn’t make them any less amazing.

On this particular flight I’m thinking about board games. There are a lot of train games out there. I don’t have access to Board Game Geek right now, so let’s see how many train games I can list from memory:

Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride Europe, Ticket to Ride Marklin, Ticket to Ride Switzerland, TransAmererica, TransEurope, Eurorails, Chinarails, Age of Steam, Railroad Tycoon.

Well that’s quite a few. What about airplanes? To me airplanes are quite a bit more impressive then trains. What airplane games can I come up with:

Duel in the Dark….. Memoir 44’ air pack…. Wait a minute, those are both war games. Those train games are about commercial railroads, what about games about commercial air traffic:




I can’t think of any. I’m sure there are some, but I’m not familiar with them. There is one game that I played in middle school that had a plastic map and you were trying to get around the world with your airplane by going city to city faster than your competition. At the moment, I can’t remember what it was called but I always really enjoyed it.

Those of you that follow my blog know that I want more variety in board game themes. I need another train game, Mediterranean economy game, or zombie game like I need another first person shooter for my Xbox 360. Needless to say, there are plenty.

So why aren’t there games about the airline industry like there are about the train industry? Even the shipping industry is getting attention now but still not air travel. Is it because you don’t get to build train tracks? Does that limit the excitement? I’m curious to hear what you think? So, I put the question out to the magical interwebs… Why are there so many more train games then airplane games?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Edwards
United States
Everett
Washington
flag msg tools
YA R'LYAH
badge
Phnglui mglw nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah nagl fhtagn! With cheeze!
Avatar
mbmbmb
So I know there is an Alan Moon game called Airlines. In fact, it later was re-done as Union Pacific.

And it appears there's a more recent one with the same name, an economic game. And of course, there's Loopin' Louie.

As to why - that's a good question. I think trains, and the era of train building is naturally romantic. Folks were out conquering the wilderness by laying track, linking nations, and so forth. I think Airlines are less so. The train lines of yore were ruled by famous (and infamous) men, who built amazing hotels, and whole towns. It just doesn't seem the same for whomever it is who actually owns the airlines, assuming any of them actually make money.

I know there's folks who sit at airports and watch planes take off all day long, and model plane enthusiasts. I get the impression that's there are more train fans than (non-war related) plane fans, but that's just an impression. I know that you can get CDs of train whistles and noises. Not sure if you can get them of jet engine noises, other than as sound effects.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kent Reuber
United States
San Mateo
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Avalanche Press had a pair of games: Airlines (not the same as the Alan Moon game above) and Airlines: United States Set 2. They aren't particularly well thought of, but if you're really into running airlines, you might give them a look.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Howard Adams
United States
Oregon
flag msg tools
mb
Don't forget Air Baron http://boardgamegeek.com/game/76
Great game about airport control.
howard
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kenneth Bailey
United States
Ypsilanti
Michigan
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
Wargamer1978 wrote:
Don't forget Air Baron http://boardgamegeek.com/game/76
Great game about airport control.
howard

Air Baron is probably about the only game out there that you can find fairly easily. It's not a bad game but it feels more like buying airports than having anything to do with the planes. I would like a game that feels more like the crayon games but sadly, one has yet to be invented.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Buhr
Canada
Gladstone
Manitoba
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
It might also have something to do with the difference in nature between rail and air travel. When a company like Union Pacific or Canadian National builds or buys a new line, there's a physical set of rails that more or less corresponds to drawing a crayon line on the board (or laying down some plastic cars). Air travel, on the other hand, is much less tangible. You can see an airport on a map or Google Earth, but you can't see where those planes are going, whereas with a rail line you can follow the path that the rails take to each of their destination cities. It seems to me that this tangibility is a big part of the reason why train games are more popular.

Also, as a model railroader, let me tell you, there's a crapload of train enthusiasts out there. Far more than you may think. I have been surprised quite a few times by hearing of someone in my area that is a railfan or a model railroader, even people that I've known as acquaintances for years.

There's also the element of history. Railroads as we think of them today have been around in Europe and North America for something around 200 years now, and for more than a century were the dominant means of travel. Airlines have only been in common usage for 50 or 60 years.

Plus, trains are freaking cool!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ed Holzman
United States
Seffner
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
As grey traces of dawn tinge the eastern sky, the three travellers, men of Willowdale, emerge from the forest's shadow. Fording the river, they turn south, journeying into the dark and forbidding lands of The Necromancer...
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Air Baron is a really fun game and I recommend it. However, at it's heart, it really is just a wargame with an airline theme pasted onto it. Therefore, it may not scratch that itch the way you would like it to.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is a theme I've worked since about 1996. I've come up with several gigabytes of prototypes, printing most of them out, trying them, disliking them. (I have, for instance, at least 8 sets of aircraft counters bagged and stored, each numbering in the hundreds.)

There are several difficulties, if you are inclined towards making a game that is somewhat realistic. (If you are instead willing to throw realism and history to the wind, it's probably much easier to make such a game work.)

The first is the veritable explosion of air travel since the sixties. If one tries to accurately scale the quantity of commercial aircraft produced (even in terms of, say, five-year turns), you still end up with players controlling more aircraft, on more assigned flights, than they have any interest in managing. So, you end up tempering that element - a lot.

The second is your geographic scope. Obviously, you'd like to cover commercial air traffic for the entire globe. The first speed bump to that is whether you're going to deal with historical politics - only being able to fly to a small number of destinations in communist countries, from the Sixties into the Nineties, and under what set of rules you'll permit this. But the real kicker you're going to run into, after you've run through all the traffic numbers, is that for the vast majority of the time since the introduction of the jet airliner, air traffic based in the U.S. has comprised more than half of all air traffic in the world - sixty percent or more, for most of the last forty years. So, then you're confronted with the decision to tighten your focus only to the U.S. (and only perhaps the most common destinations immediately reached from the U.S.), or making the game cover the entire globe, but understand that what part of the game that is played outside of the U.S. just isn't going to matter as much.

Third is aircraft accuracy. Do you want the level of detail that distinguishes between, say, the 727-100 and the 727-200? The 727-200 and the 727-200A? (An even bigger difference than the first one.) In a game covering literally thousands of aircraft, in which one counter will probably have to represent several dozen or more aircraft, do you include the Concorde, of which only 6 were built? And who would buy it, if you accurately render it as a financial loss, or do you keep track of prestige in the game, somehow?

Fourth is the economic model. What worked as an economic model, in commercial aviation of the Sixties, fails miserably in commercial aviation of the Nineties or the early 21st century. Do you pick a model, make rules for the evolution of the model, or ignore the issue altogether - and if you do ignore it, on what do you base success in the game? How do you, for instance, force players to adopt the Hub philosophy, or should you force them to at all? And if so, when? From the beginning of the game, or only in the later stages?

Freight. Do you want to even bother with freight transport? If you do, you're profoundly increasing your management load while playing. And your economic model better work right, or it's just not going to properly balance out versus passenger traffic. (I have consistently chosen to leave it out of my designs.)

This is just some of the larger bones of contention - I could bore everyone to tears with all the other nigglies I've wrestled. Of course, I've been tempted on occasion to throw 90% of it out, and come up with an airlines game that - you guessed it - resembles something that Alan Moon might do. But what's the point in that?

6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kenneth Bailey
United States
Ypsilanti
Michigan
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
When the person says plane routes aren't tangible, just look up in the sky. They pretty much follow the same routes every day. In an airplane game, you can buy landing rights at an airport or airports. I think you would have to concentrate on one aspect though, either freight or passengers. Or you could do a hybrid but you'd probably want to limit the number of planes a person can have.

I think a possible model would be the same model used in distant seas where you have a number of cargoes at different airports. The distinguish factors of planes would be prop vs. jet, small, medium, large and jumbo planes. Maybe throw an SST in the mix but it would be expensive. I don't think you would need to distinguish between the different models of 727's though.

I think a plane game would be doable though.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Greg Jones
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
PimpMC wrote:
So why aren’t there games about the airline industry like there are about the train industry? Even the shipping industry is getting attention now but still not air travel. Is it because you don’t get to build train tracks?


I think so.

PimpMC wrote:
Does that limit the excitement?


That's not it really. Train games are really about the connections. They are really connection games. A lot of them are quite abstract, like TransAmerica. If mankind never invented trains, we might still have these games. They might not have as much appeal, since people couldn't relate to them as well.

Planes go from anywhere to anywhere (within range). There aren't many constraints. Having some constraints makes a good game. I'm not saying that there couldn't be good airplane games. There probably are. But since it's more natural to make a good train game, more pop up.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Stan Mamula
United States
Oakmont
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It seems that Z-Man has heard you... Aviation Tycoon
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
There are several older airlines games out there. I'm at the office and the games are at home, but there was one very nice one with a mounted board and large plastic airliners with two long slots on top.

Each player tried to move passengers from airport to airport, aiming for the greatest number of passengers that they could "board" (fit) on one of the planes.

I'll have to look at the title when I get home. There's also an older game with smaller plastic planes in several colors. I'll post both when I can get at 'em.

OK, REMEMBERED THE FIRST ONE: BGG game No. 3031, "Flightplan."
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jérôme
Netherlands
Eindhoven
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jumbo Jet




Horrible game though...
shake

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Butterfield
United States
Fremont
California
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
One of Avalon Hill's early games was AIR EMPIRE, about the business side of owning and operating an airline in the continental US. Played it a lot with my brothers and sisters when I was a kid. You bought airplanes and bid for routes, hoping your income from running the routes would exceed your bids. Good multi-plyer economic dynamic. But looking at the components now (I still have it), it seems somewhat like a spreadsheet exercise. Yet it caught the flavor of airlines circa 1960. Maybe that would be an approach to take for a new game -- airline nostalgia for the good old days when people dressed up to fly.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/6805

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
But the drumbeat strains of the night remain in the rhythm of the newborn day.
United States
Riva
Maryland
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
    Train games have two flavors -- graph theory and economic theory. Most use both flavors to some extent, favoring one more than the other.

    With planes the edges are removed from the graph part of the game.

    What remains are purely economic games, and I have no doubt that someone could come up with a FedEx style game.

             Sag.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
BFL's going down (under)
Australia
ACT
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
How about this ancient one: Air Charter

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/5519

We used to play this when I was a kid (from my Dad's collection of ancient games). I seem to recall it being rather good (for a family game). It's about delivering air freight around islands in the South China Sea.
2 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Camping? Yeah, my people haven't done a lot of camping since the 1940's.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Sagrilarus wrote:
    Train games have two flavors -- graph theory and economic theory. Most use both flavors to some extent, favoring one more than the other.

    With planes the edges are removed from the graph part of the game.

    What remains are purely economic games, and I have no doubt that someone could come up with a FedEx style game.

             Sag.


Why Trains?
Well in addition to Sag's brilliant points, let me add a few of my own.

Trains harken back to the romance of travel. Most people took them because they wanted to, beginning the whole travel industry. People became able to go distant place fairly quickly, compared to other modes of transport, and so started going lots of places.

They came both on the cusp of and helped create the Industrial Revolution.

Trains changed the world. They also changed the way Victorians saw that world. Because of the way trains changed their perspective, by introducing the concept of relative motion, that generation became obsessed with perspective and this led to amusement parks, most of whose rides were there show relative motion. This eventually culminated in both the movie camera and the Theory of Relativity.

Old trains are beautiful. They are artistic marvels. There are probably more museums, therefore, dedicated to trains than to any other single subject.

Trains were first used for financial and civilian modes, making them a "safe" means to use in games; WWI and Hitler notwithstanding. The first real use of planes was military, making them less appealing to certain segments of the population.


From a gaming point of view:
Why use planes for point-to-point connections, when both trains and ships are "sexier". Also their "points" are virtual, not hard like train tracks or as well established in people's minds as shipping lanes.

Planes in the economic field can be handled much more abstractly than practically any other tool or mode of transport.

Mind you, I considered developing a plane game based partly on the concept of the "Downfall of Pompeii" -- get your group of passengers into their seats, then try to get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Fenwick
United States
New Jersey
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I haven't played this: Cobras in the Cockpit, but it is plane-related!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Stas wrote:
It seems that Z-Man has heard you... Aviation Tycoon


Did you read the description? Could be a game about any kind of transportation system.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Cari Stark
United States
Farmington
MN
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Vorocano wrote:
It might also have something to do with the difference in nature between rail and air travel. When a company like Union Pacific or Canadian National builds or buys a new line, there's a physical set of rails that more or less corresponds to drawing a crayon line on the board (or laying down some plastic cars). Air travel, on the other hand, is much less tangible. You can see an airport on a map or Google Earth, but you can't see where those planes are going, whereas with a rail line you can follow the path that the rails take to each of their destination cities. It seems to me that this tangibility is a big part of the reason why train games are more popular.

Also, as a model railroader, let me tell you, there's a crapload of train enthusiasts out there. Far more than you may think. I have been surprised quite a few times by hearing of someone in my area that is a railfan or a model railroader, even people that I've known as acquaintances for years.

There's also the element of history. Railroads as we think of them today have been around in Europe and North America for something around 200 years now, and for more than a century were the dominant means of travel. Airlines have only been in common usage for 50 or 60 years.

Plus, trains are freaking cool!


I've thought to myself the same thing as Colin, why no popular Airline games? You've touched on all the same points as I came up with, but mainly I think it's the lack of a physical track/route which is what the railroad games are based on.

The historical significance of trains is defined by the actual laying of transcontinental track. In order to simultate how air travel has contributed to history, you would need to focus more on the engineering perspective which would be a difficult mechanism (unless it was similar to Mousetrap!)

Edit - Not trying to ignore the cool factor of the traincars and steam engines , just saying that the rails themselves are what made this method of transportation better than others at the time.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
mikoyan wrote:
...I think a possible model would be the same model used in distant seas where you have a number of cargoes at different airports. The distinguish factors of planes would be prop vs. jet, small, medium, large and jumbo planes. Maybe throw an SST in the mix but it would be expensive. I don't think you would need to distinguish between the different models of 727's though.

I think a plane game would be doable though.


That depends on what you want. Clearly, your idea of a good airlines game is not my idea of a good airlines game. Your reference to Distant Seas gives me a decent idea of how you picture such a game, and I'm more in favor of something more closely resembling an actual simulation of the industry, rather than just an excuse to use airplanes in a game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randall Bart
United States
Winnetka
California
flag msg tools
designer
Baseball been bery bery good to me
badge
This is a picture of a published game designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Vorocano wrote:
There's also the element of history. Railroads as we think of them today have been around in Europe and North America for something around 200 years now, and for more than a century were the dominant means of travel. Airlines have only been in common usage for 50 or 60 years.


Hmmm. Washing machines have been around for 300 years, most people have used one, there are probably a half billion washing machine owners in the world. How many washing machine games are there? I can vaguely imagine making a game about running a laundromat (something like Vegas Showdown), but there's not much potential here.

Railroads were integral to 19th century history; building the rails opened up areas that had been so far away. Airplanes did the same thing, but everything that planes did rails did first and often in a more interesting way. There are airplane fans, there are bus fans, there are even washing machine fans, but there is just more romance in the history of railroads.

I don't think games need themes (Ingenious and Qwirkle have none, many others have a theme grafted on), but having a theme appeals to people's imagination. I don't quite understand why. Look at these boxes:



So which looks more exciting: Turning a knob while holding a clipboard or holding a tiny iron mill in your hand? Yet these are both popular games.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.