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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Wednesday 20 March 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Overbooked

Game: Overbooked

Publisher: Jumbo

Designer: Daryl Chow

Year: 2018

Overbooked was an unknown game to us when we encountered it at this year's London Toy Fair, but as a frequent flyer, the theme of this game was an instant draw. In Overbooked you need to optimise the seating arrangement on your plane in order to keep everybody happy. The sports team all want to sit together, as do a group of older travellers. Children must be surrounded on all sides! And lovers want to sit side by side with no awkward third wheels interrupting their flight. Not only that, but you might find that your flight is overbooked and a seat has been double booked, so you'll have to kick someone off the plane onto standby!

Overbooked was originally funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 and is now being released by Jumbo Games, as part of their relatively recent endeavour into strategy board games.


Overbooked is an abstract strategy, puzzle game of 1-4 players. In Overbooked you take the role of flight attendants trying to seat passengers into your plane. At the end of the game you will be penalized for any empty spaces or passengers who were overbooked into the flight. You will gain points by seating people in the way which they prefer. Nervous fliers, sports fans and the elderly all want to be sat together and so you receive points for the biggest group of them you made. Children need to be surrounded by adults in order to make sure they behave, while lovers want to be seated in couples, and certainly not by themselves or groups of 3 or more!

On your turn you will select one of the 4 available cards from the common market. Taking the first card is free, while taking card 2 requires you to put a meal voucher on card 1 etc. If you take a card that has food vouchers on it then you add those vouchers to your supply. Most cards depict a number of passengers in a pattern. You can spin the card around however you'd like, but ultimately those passengers must be placed according to the pattern on the card. If you have to place a passenger on top of another, don't fret, that passenger is simply overbooked and is booted off the plane ready to moan about how you treated them on social media (and cost you 2 points). Some cards are a little more flexible, giving fewer passengers but with the only restrictions being that the passengers demand to be in a window/aisle/central seat.

Overbooked ends when any one of the passenger types runs out, the game then continues until everyone has the same number of turns. Each type of passenger is then scored according to it's type, points are lost for empty seats and overbooked passengers. Finally, if you are playing with them, the event cards for the game are evaluated.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Overbooked is an abstract strategy game, and as such you'd expect it to be rather theme-less. This couldn't be farther from the truth here. While you certainly could make the same game placing coloured cubes on a blank board, the joy in Overbooked comes from it fully embracing it's theme. If you've ever been on a flight you'll recognise many of the cheeky references inserted into the game's art and the event cards. In reality the charm is turned on from the very second you open the rulebook, with almost everything being themed. The advanced rules for example are "for frequent flyers".

The art is another place where Overbooked dialled things up to 11, the central board, each player's plane and even the board you store your spare food tickets on are all covered in humorous art. Look carefully and you can see a man trying to smuggle a friend in a suitcase or a nervous flyer crying in the toilets. The passengers themselves are slightly less unique, but there is still a good variety in the art. As far as I could see no characters are reused, though there are often 3 skin/hair combinations for 1 drawing.

While the gameplay in Overbooked isn't groundbreaking, it is performed well. The card selection mechanics give a nice balance between choosing the unpopular cards to restock your supplies and spending tokens to get that new, shiny card that just appeared. The puzzle is simple in its rules, but tricky to master which is the perfect level for an abstract game. If anything the advanced rules make it easier to play with them giving you some bonus abilities on certain cards such as being able to ignore one of the passengers on your tile. The event tiles add a good level of replayability, but some of them seem to simply be a nice little bonus, while others increase your score by so much that the rest of the game's scoring falls by the wayside. While the game balance isn't ruined as everyone has the same opportunity, it felt weird to have a game score ~100 after all our others reached ~30. Overall though that minor gripe doesn't detract from the experience for me, Overbooked offers a challenging puzzle game with simple gameplay and oodles of charm.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Overbooked is an instant attention grabber, with the quality of its comedy artwork. This might be an abstract game by genre, but it's certainly a game that you can gt into the theme of if you're familiar with the trials and tribulations of flying! The component quality is really great and attention has been paid to the theme throughout the rules and components. If anything, the thematic naming of ever component and part of the game might be a little too much, but all can be forgiven for the smiles some of the characters put on my face. Calling your advanced mode 'Frequent Flyers' and your solo mode 'Solo Travellers' is a stroke of genius.

The game itself is surprisingly quite the brain burner. In the early stages of the game its easy to fit the different patterns of passengers on board, but as you try to focus on objectives and later, just simply try to squeeze more people onto the plane, you will have to make a number of sacrifices that can be really tough choices. With two players, the game plays very quickly in around 20 minutes, but with more players and a bit of overthinking, I can see it lasting rather a bit longer.

Although the frequent flyer mode adds complexity, it also gives you more flexibility, so I definitely recommend using the card abilities after your first game. It's interesting to be able to bridge and aisle or ignore one passenger to try and do some slightly more optimal passenger placement. The puzzle was fun for me and the theme keeps it coming back to the table, more than it might without that theme, but if you're looking for a puzzly tile-laying game that will make you smile again and again, then I'd definitely recommend checking out Overbooked.

You Might Like...
  • The game offers different layers of complexity which help you to teach and learn the game.
  • It's the style of puzzle game that's very satisfying and almost video game like in the way you're trying to create different colour groupings.
  • All of the artwork is full of humour and every passenger is unique and represents a lot of diversity.
You Might Not Like...
  • Some of the bonus cards feel a bit out of balance with the rest of the point scoring opportunities in the game.
  • The game end can come round and surprise you.
  • The ridiculously large first player control tower is probably not adding any value to the game.
The Verdict

7/10 Overbooked is a game with a charming theme that disguises the fact that it's a very thinky and challenging puzzle game. The gameplay is easy to pick up, but is filled with tricky compromises and mid-bending tessellation problems that make it a very replayable abstract puzzle.

Overbooked was a review copy kindly provided to us by Jumbo Games.


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