Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Ticket to Fly: Airlines Europe

Game: Airlines Europe

Publisher: AbacusSpiele

Designer: Alan R. Moon

Airplanes, that’s the future! Not those clumsy biplanes that barely float above the ground, but commercial airplanes. 35 tons of machined aluminium pulled through the ether by four 20 foot long propellers. They cost a fortune to make, a small fortune to run, and we’ll charge a fortune to ride them! People might complain, but for the business man who needs to travel from London to Prague and has to choose between an entire day on the trains or 2 hours in one of our comfortable airplanes with on-board food and drink served with a smile... Well let’s just say we are about to get stinking rich!

Airlines Europe is a 2-5 player stock trading game in which you trade stock in 9 different airlines along with investing in them to increase their value. Anyone can invest in any airline, regardless of if they have any stock in it, so Airlines Europe is a game where watching your opponents carefully and deciding when to show your true interests is very important.

Each turn you can perform one of 4 actions, the simplest of which is to generate 8 million Euros, the game doesn’t really dwell on the fact that you can earn 8-million Euros for no real work, I’ve found it much harder to do in real life. The next thing you can do is buy route licences for an airline, you can buy up to 2 routes a turn, the routes are numbered and you have to pay that number in millions of Euros, so your cash can soon vanish. You always have to buy the cheapest route available so things do get more expensive as the game goes on, however this isn’t always a bad thing, for every million Euros you spend that airlines value goes up 1 point on the share tracker, so spending more money can be more helpful. After buying routes you then take 1 share from the open marker, or blind from the top of the deck.

The game set up ready to play, each airline has a home city which you must every plane my connect to either directly or by other planes.
The next thing you can choose to do is play out shares, shares in your hand are worthless when the scoring rounds come up so you have to ensure that you play your shares before then. However if you reveal that you have a good monopoly on an airline no-one else will make the mistake of investing in it, so showing your hand too early can be a grave mistake. You play 2 stocks or as many stocks as you want from the same airline, so it’s a very valid strategy to save up one colour, then reveal what you have all at once. Of course people may have noticed you hoarding cards from the market. You also get a little money by playing stocks, which can be enough to keep up your momentum.

Finally you can trade normal share cards for shares in the games 9th airline: Air Abacus. Air abacus scores like the other airlines except that it never needs investing in, it always rewards a good amount of points, however it takes precious time to get these shares. Airlines Europe works on 3 scoring rounds, one after ~ a third of the share deck, one roughly in the middle and one close to the end. You score based on 1st/2nd/3rd/etc place on each airline based on it’s position on the share track, when an airline is heavily invested in the points for second place are quite noteworthy, however if you are 4th then you may consider swapping those shares out for Air Abacus.

Every airline’s shares are numbered, these represent both how many shares are in the deck (though note that the game ends before all the shares are seen) and how many aircraft the airline has. With some luck it’s possible to get a permanent majority on small airlines, however they have less room to expand, so they struggle to get to high scores. To help them along the smaller airlines have set destinations on the board that they want to get to and if you take them there then they get a significant boost. Card counting can be important in this game, however when you consider that not all the share appear, and that shares discarded for air abacus cards are discarded blind, trying to work out if your majority is secure can become more of an art than a science.
Each Airline is a reference to another board game company, though quite how Fantasy Flight became "FF flys" rather than "Fantasy Flights" I don't know...

I heartily recommend Airlines Europe, it’s a game of good length and complexity, the concept is simple to understand and teach, however there is room for a good amount of strategic decision making and tactical timing can help you massively, or hinder you when the scoring card appears just before your big play. There is a 2 player variant with an imaginary 3rd player, however it’s integrated smoothly and actually adds more tactical depth. I would have to say that Airlines Europe is one of my favourite games that we never seem to get to the table. Though these days we have so many games that we rarely seem to play any single one more than once every 3 months!


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