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Subject: Airlines Europe soars! rss

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Jake Conde
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For my birthday I wanted to add a new game to our collection. Our board game collection included 1) Carcassonne, 2) Puerto Rico, 3) Dominion, 4) Stone Age. We love all of these games and play them often as a husband-wife pair and also with friends (When it's just my wife and I we play Puerto Rico and we play with 2 islands each, and your lowest scoring island is your final score).

For our next addition, we wanted a game that: 1) can be played 2 player, 2) is fundamentally different from our current group, and 3) looked amazing. After hours of reading reviews and rules online I narrowed it down to one of the following:

Alhambra
Airlines Europe
Troyes
Tigris and Euphrates.

I decided that Tigris and Euphrates was out, as it said on the box 3-4 players which just doesn't happen often enough for my liking. After talking with the owner of a local board game store I felt that Alhambra and Troyes were too similar to Stone Age and Carcassonne. As such, I decided to grab Airlines Europe. And I'm glad I did, as this has now become my second favorite game in just a few short plays, trumping everything but Puerto Rico!

So now you know the background, here's the review itself. When reviewing a game I give a brief overview of the game followed by a look at 1) the components, 2) the Rules and how easy they are to understand, 3) whether the gameplay is elegant or clunky, 4) the impact good strategy and tactics have on final outcome 5) how much fun it is to actually play the game, 6) how likely I am to replay this in the future. This is then followed by a Final Analysis and ranking.

Overview:
Airlines Europes is a game where you seek to become an airplane tycoon by developing airlines, acquiring shares and managing a stock portfolio. On each turn you can either 1) purchase route licenses, which will enable you to add a plane to the board and get a stock, 2) lay stock into your portfolio and get dividends, or the cash you need to purchase route licenses, 3) buy shares of Air Abacus, a special airline or 4) get cash. Three scoring cards are placed quasi-randomly in the stack of share cards, and when you draw one it triggers a scoring round. During a scoring round you get points based on the amount of shares placed in your portfolio (not in your hand) and the value of each airline.

The Components and Quality:
First, the components of Airlines Europe are of a good, but not great, quality. There are many plastic planes in multiple colors (similar to the designer Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride series, that has multi-colored plastic trains), the victory tokens and help cards (cards which remind you of your options per turn) are quality cardstock, the share cards are playing card thickness with fun designs and enough pertinent information, including each airline's home airport and number of potential shares, to help you manage your portfolio. The board is excellent as well, with a 50s airline motif and a clear scoring track to display the value of the various airlines.

There are a few negatives, however. First, many of the colors on the cards, board and the planes look very similar. Telling a White Airlines card from a Grey, or a red plane from an orange plane, can be a challenge. I pity the color blind. The money is just monopoly money, and alread several of the bills are pretty creased after two plays be adults. Overall, 7/10.

The Rules and Clarity thereof:
The Rule book is short, well-laid out and full of colorful examples showing proper plane placement. Further, there's a small strategy and tips section to give you a a good grounding in the basics and why one course of action may be preferable to another. In our first play neither I, my wife nor my brother-in-law had ever played before but after a read through of the rules and a quick round of gameplay it all made perfect sense. This will be an easy game to teach to people who aren't gamers, perhaps a little more complicated than Ticket to Ride, but no more so than Carcassone. Overall, 9/10

The Gameplay:
Airlines Europe is incredibly simple to grasp and play. You only have four possible actions, so even though it can be difficult to decide what to do it's hard to get completely paralyzed with indecision. Further, there's always something to do so you never get bored or have a "useless" turn, at the very least you can get a quick infusion of cash to increase your future options. Finally, the board is very well laid out with the prices and values for each route displayed, so you will rarely pause and refer back to the rule book. Turns go quick and feel meaningful, and that's what constitutes great gameplay to me. Overall, 9/10

Strategy and Tactics:
Airlines Europe is an optimal balance, in my opinion, between long-term strategy and responsive tactics. Long term, you'll want to increase your portfolio by getting a majority of shares in the right airlines and you'll want to build these airlines up so their value increases. However, you'll have to decide how long to hold them in your hand and when to add them to your portfolio. Your portfolio can be seen by other players, and if it becomes clear that you have a majority in one airline, other players may attempt to block your ability to build it up further. However, if you hold the shares in your hand too long and a scoring card comes up (you're never quite sure where they are) then you don't get points for having the majority shares. Further, you need to have at least one share in an airline to get any points in it, so there's a choice between trying to hoard one stock or grab several, thus choosing between many second and third place scores or a couple of a first place scores in your chosen airline.

Further, you'll want to build towards key destinations, as these are worth a lot of points for your chosen airline, but if you do it too obviously then other players will either block you, or play that same color airline in a useless space. But you can't delay too long on building up your routes because in each scoring phase the value of the route determines points. Of course the other players can see your portfolio and where you are purchasing routes, so they'll be trying to respond to your movements.

You have the option of selecting face up stocks from a pile or taking a random one off the top, the tradeoff being one ensures you get a color you want but announces your intention to the world, the other will build your hand secretly but you have no control over what you draw.

The Air Abacus shares can be crucial to victory and eventually devolve into a kind of arms race. It's hard to pass up on the opportunity to get cash, collect stocks, build routes or your portfolio, but in my last game I lost because one guy invested early in Air Abacus.

Finally, the only luck elements are 1) when scoring cards appear, and 2) selecting random shares from the top of the deck. Overall, the game is mostly reliant on employing a long term strategy with a few focused goals, yet allowing for enough flexibility to respond to changing conditions. Overall, 9/10

Fun factor:
Okay, this is completely subjective, so take this rating with a grain of salt. I mean, I acknowledge that the Mona Lisa is a work of art, but it doesn't mean I have any desire to go to the Louvre and see it. Likewise, games like Agricola and Power Grid are excellent based on objective criteria, I just don't think they're fun to play, whereas Pirate's Cove is a gameplay and theme train wreck but I've never not had fun playing it.

That said, I feel Airlines Europe is a ton of fun. The Airline and stock theme is excellent and consistent, and relates well to winning the game (in real life, having a majority of shares in the best airlines would be considered successful). The Europe map is great for building your routes. The group is constantly talking and interacting throughout the game and arms races develop between individuals as you see two people aggressively collecting Brown stocks and blocking routes, or some wise guy gets an Air Abacus share or two early in the game. Finally, the game plays really fast, three people first timers took a little more than an hour, while the next play was a little under. Overall, 9/10.

Replayability:
The fast play time, high fun and strategic options make this an obviously fun game to replay. However, I think replay may be hurt because this game's mechanics feel familiar to players of Ticket to Ride, which a lot of people have played. Further, it lacks the random deck building of a game like Dominion. While each option is important and fun, at the end of the day there ARE only four of them. Overall, 8/10.

Final Analysis
Alan R. Moon has made an incredible game, one with enough depth and strategy to appeal to gamers but simple enough to play to appeal to non-gamers. The theme is simple, sensible and fun, the gameplay has several competing priorities and many agonizing decisions. It is an elegant game and I recommend it highly. Overall, 9/10.
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Andy Andersen
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Thanks for putting together this review. I am waiting for my copy of the game to arrive and day now. This will help me get started.thumbsup
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Thomas Chipman
United States
Zephyrhills
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Tigris plays well with 2, although some would argue the game feels a bit different with that number. 2p rules are in in the box there has already been much discussion of the history of the 2p game. Don't let the misprint on the box dissuade you from at least trying this exceptional game.

Also, I can't quite follow how you feel that Alhambra and Troyes are too similar to Stone Age and Carc. Sure, Alhambra and Carc both have tiles, but they don't really play similarly at all. Likewise, Troyes and Stone Age both have dice, but that's about it in terms of similarity. Again, I'd recommend trying both of these titles out or maybe watching some video reviews of gameplay before dismissing them for being too similar. They're both good games.

Other than that, good review =-)
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Jake Conde
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nunyabisnas wrote:
Tigris plays well with 2, although some would argue the game feels a bit different with that number. 2p rules are in in the box there has already been much discussion of the history of the 2p game. Don't let the misprint on the box dissuade you from at least trying this exceptional game.

Also, I can't quite follow how you feel that Alhambra and Troyes are too similar to Stone Age and Carc. Sure, Alhambra and Carc both have tiles, but they don't really play similarly at all. Likewise, Troyes and Stone Age both have dice, but that's about it in terms of similarity. Again, I'd recommend trying both of these titles out or maybe watching some video reviews of gameplay before dismissing them for being too similar. They're both good games.

Other than that, good review =-)


Okay, that clears something up about TE. On BGG it says 2-4 players, but on the box it said 3-4. So I ignored it. I'll look into it again, maybe for Father's Day?

I generally shop at a game store nearby and I trust the proprietor pretty well. He said that he loved Troyes, but that it was fairly reminiscent of Stone Age in that it is worker placement where you roll dice, can affect dice by accumulating prior abilities, you collect cards and have multiple scoring tracks. He said he really enjoyed Troyes but if I enjoy Stone Age and was looking to really diversify the collection he'd recommend Airlines Europe.

Similar conversation for Alhambra. It's not dismissing these games, it's just that Airlines was a more diverse option for my collection than those two. In the future I'll look at them again.
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Steve Duff
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seasnake wrote:
I generally shop at a game store nearby and I trust the proprietor pretty well. He said that he loved Troyes, but that it was fairly reminiscent of Stone Age in that it is worker placement where you roll dice, can affect dice by accumulating prior abilities, you collect cards and have multiple scoring tracks.


I'd try and play Troyes and decide for yourself. I too think it's hardly similar at all to Stone Age. Stone Age is very separate. You have your workers, I have mine, I put mine here so now you can't place in the same spot, and so forth.

In Troyes, it's all collective. There's not really a mine vs yours. All the dice on the board can be used by all of us, first come first served, only the price to use them varies. Similarly, almost all the places to use the dice can be used by all of us, even at the same time.

Anyway, back to AE.
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Gabriele Pezzato
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Padova
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I now have played Airlines Europe with 3, 4, 5 and 6 players (yes, you can play AE with 6 players and it works pretty well) and think this is one of the very best game designs I ever tried out. It quickly became the most requested and most played game in my group!
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Jake Conde
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I didn't know six players was an option, but I'll give a try when I'm with family in two weeks. Three brothers + wives = 6 people.

And yeah, I fully expect this to become the most-requested game in my family. It's a great get-together game as well as a serious Euro.
 
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Gabriele Pezzato
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seasnake wrote:
I didn't know six players was an option, but I'll give a try when I'm with family in two weeks. Three brothers + wives = 6 people.

And yeah, I fully expect this to become the most-requested game in my family. It's a great get-together game as well as a serious Euro.


It was Matthias Wagner of Abacusspiele who suggested this possibility in this thread: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/653528/airlines-europe-with-...

Playing with six players doesn't need any particular rule modification, just flip up a sixth card on the stock market when the first and second scoring take place, so that everyone can have a card. For the rest, follow the rules and setup for 5 players
 
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Paul M
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Airlines Europe is full of WIN. I've forgotten about Union Pacific already...
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Kenny VenOsdel
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Nice review. I just got my copy and played once yesterday. The color similarities are a bit of a problem. If you have good vision it's not as bad as it might have been but anyone with burry vision or color blindness will struggle.

For the second printing I hope they make the red a bit deeper. It also bothered me that for games with less than 5 players you remove some colors but they didn't choose the similar colors as the ones being romoved. shake

BTW T&E is the best game ever and you should totally get it. If you like Carc that's a plus since it's a tile laying game so there is some similarities. It plays well with 2 and there is even a 2-player map which encourages a little more action a little sooner.
 
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Jake Conde
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kvenosdel wrote:
Nice review. I just got my copy and played once yesterday. The color similarities are a bit of a problem. If you have good vision it's not as bad as it might have been but anyone with burry vision or color blindness will struggle.

For the second printing I hope they make the red a bit deeper. It also bothered me that for games with less than 5 players you remove some colors but they didn't choose the similar colors as the ones being romoved. shake

BTW T&E is the best game ever and you should totally get it. If you like Carc that's a plus since it's a tile laying game so there is some similarities. It plays well with 2 and there is even a 2-player map which encourages a little more action a little sooner.


Yeah, I'm looking into it, I think it could be a ton of fun. I'm glad you liked the review, first one done here.
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Michael Greene
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Nice review of a very good game. I loved when you said "I pity the color blind" as I am partially color blind and have to use a bright light over the board to distinguish the colors. The two things I would have appreciated within the game are: 1) the rules should have listed the starting cities next to the airlines so there is no need to distinguish the subtle colors during setup. I have put the airlines in color order in the box from smallest to largest for ease of distinguishing the colors. 2) the numbers on the board for the licenses in many areas are too close together where there was no need for them to be, making for cluttered areas of airplanes where there was no need for it (e.g. Vienna going east has two licenses which could have been spread out quite a bit more).

Other than the color issue, the game is easy to learn, hard to master--just the type of game I love. The replay value is excellent as there are many strategies to victory.

The one other comment I would mention is the scoring--Alan Moon is known for his 10-minute scoring periods (with the exception of Ticket to Ride) and they can be excruciatingly painful affairs, but thankfully, worth it in the end.
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Johan Haglert
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Sadly there are only four destination cards? Isn't it? I feel that's kinda too little considering how easy it will be to see when someone is up for it (though maybe others want it to since they have the same air line, what do I know)
 
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Jake Waltier
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If someone is trying to push for a destination card (White always goes for it when I play) get that company's stock in hand but don't play them until right after the other player spends time and money growing that company. arrrh
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The Soot Sprite
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Good review. Thank you.
 
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