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 28 January 2020

See the plain seaplane?:- Yukon Airways

Game: Yukon Airways

Publisher: Ludonova

Designer: Al Leduc

Year: 2019

Yukon Airways is a 1-4 player resource management pick up and deliver game in which you play as a seaplane pilot. Using your seaplane you'll deliver customers to different sight-seeing spots around the Yukon, but your seaplane can only hold a certain amount of fuel so you'll have to carefully manage your supplies to ensure you can get everyone where they need to go. Along the way you can tinker and upgrade your plane to make it more efficient and productive, letting you do bigger and bigger runs.

A round of Yukon Airways begins with each player choosing which terminal to collect passengers from. Each terminal has a special power associated with it, from drawing extra cards to gaining fuel or upgrading your plane. After gaining the power you can choose to spend money to taxi to a different terminal to collect passengers, but as money is the final victory condition you want to do this sparingly. Once everyone has found their terminal they can collect customers in the form of coloured dice. You can typically only collect 1 colour of die, but with upgrades and a terminal power you can potentially take up to 3. Be wary though, time spent picking up passengers is time not spent refueling - you'll refill your fuel gauge one space for each empty seat in your plane.

Once everyone has their passengers it's time to start delivering them. To do so you simply play a card with the name of the location you want to fly to on it, pay the fuel cost, and place the die on the card you played. If you lack a card matching your intended destination then you can instead discard 3 random cards. You can also gain some bonus fuel/money/upgrades if you discard additional cards when you fly, each card has a symbol and should you play 3 of a kind over your turn you will get the associated bonus. Should the location have a cube matching the colour of die you dropped there then you can take that cube and place it on your personal map. This also rewards you with a free upgrade. If there wasn't a matching cube then you will take a grey cube, these still fill your map, but don't reward you with an upgrade.

Once all passengers are dropped off a cleanup phase begins. Players earn money based on the number of dice delivered and the furthest place they reached. You also score bonuses for the global objectives which are randomised each game. The passenger dice are then rolled and placed into their respective terminals. Each player then draws a number of cards and then discards down to their hand limit as dictated by their plane's upgrades. This then repeats for 6 rounds after which players add up their money, pus any money earned through their 'Christmas bonus' dial and their map exploration bonus. The player who earned the most money wins.

Upgrades are very much the meat of Yukon Airways as they let you customise your approach to the game. They are done in an incredibly stylish way, with the player board representing dials which can be turned up as you upgrade the relevant stat, or switches which can be turned on to gain new powers. However it doesn't feel like all are created equal. Perhaps it's simply how I play the game, or due to the two player rules, but some of the upgrades seemed like no-brainers that you wanted to get as early as possible. Upgrades are fun if they make you feel powerful when you get them, but not if they make you feel restricted until you have them!

Yukon Airways simply didn't feel as good as it ought to have. Victory felt pretty random and dictated by the cards you drew as much as the upgrades you made. Drawing cards on a single route lets you save fuel, whilst still getting the same bonuses, and using one card to get to a place is far more efficient than using two or three (remember the starting hand limit is three cards/turn) which in turn gives you a chance to discard the extra cards for bonuses which make you even more prepared for future rounds! In a two player game there are fewer dice in the game which makes the odds of a pair being at a terminal slim, making the upgrade that lets you take multiple colours all but mandatory. There are also less coloured cubes on the map, which means you have a stronger than normal need to get certain colours, but less chance to do so.

None of this breaks the game, but it does detract from what could have been a fantastic pick up and deliver experience. The idea behind upgrading your plane as you go along should be great, but it rarely feels like making your plane your own, but instead taking what you need to simply be allowed to play the game. I feel the game could have been improved by making upgrades more powerful, but less plentiful. The core gameplay is good enough, but in this day and age 'good enough' isn't actually good enough.


Yukon Airways was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £42.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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