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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Thursday 30 January 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Yukon Airways

Game: Yukon Airways

Publisher: Ludonova

Designer: Al Leduc

Year: 2019

Yukon Airways is a pick-up and deliver game for 1-4 players in which each player runs a seaplane that delivers passengers around the Yukon. The different locations have points of interest that different passengers will find attractive. If you can upgrade your airline in the right ways and deliver passengers to the best locations and attractions, then you'll earn the most money and win the game.

Yukon Airways is from publisher Ludonova, who create colourful games with a beautiful look to them. Last year we reviewed Cupcake Empire, which had great production. With Yukon Airways, it's all about the artwork for me over the production quality, but pick-up and deliver with lots of upgrading options is a big draw too, so let's check out Yukon Airways.

Yukon Airways plays over 6 rounds, which consist of a dice drafting and a delivery phase. The dice pool is rolled and arranged by number into 6 separate areas. In turn order, each player chooses a numbered area to go to and takes the special power of that area. Only one person can go to each location and your dice, representing passengers, will be selected from that area. Initially you can only take dice of a single colour, but upgrades can change that. In the delivery phase, each dice needs to be delivered to a location on the map. Your hand of card determines which locations you can visit, with the option to use more cards as a wildcard if there's somewhere you really want to go. There's benefits to flying further, where you'll be paid more, as well as benefits for visiting a wide variety of places and for delivering dice to locations containing cubes of a matching colour. Money is the victory points in the game, but most other benefits come in the form of upgrades. There are many ways to upgrade your seaplane, from allowing yourself to draft dice of two different colours, to getting a Christmas bonus at the end of the game, giving yourself more card draws and many more - all taken care of by a very thematic double-layer player board. Used dice are re-rolled at the end of every round and seaplanes fly back to base. At the end of six rounds, the player with the most money will win.

Yukon Airways is a pretty simple game and each game does feel like it plays out in much the same way. Most players will fly to the same cities over the course of the game, albeit in a different order depending on the cubes they're looking to collect or the cards they have in hand. Thankfully, the game injects variety in a number of ways that make each game have a slightly more distinct feel. The dice are rolled, so they will be different each time, and the cubes placed on the map locations are also placed randomly, although neither of these really changes the feel of the game. what can cause a  more different game is the bonus cards. Some cards simply give you money bonuses, which doesn't feel that interesting, but others create a potential chain where you can get bonuses like card draws and extra fuel that are enough to make your next round or next turn more interesting. Additionally, your player board has 6 dials and 10 one-off upgrades, which means you have 16 upgrades to pick form every time you achieve one - by choosing different upgrades you can alter your own strategy from game to game - finding those upgrades that you feel you can turn into the best opportunities.

The best moments in Yukon Airways come from triggering a bunch of effects in a single turn. Delivering just a single dice feels a bit like a wasted turn, but chaining together two legs of a journey, with just the right colours of dice, the right amount of fuel and the right cards in your hand to get some bonuses along the way, is a very joyful moment. It can be quite a brain-burner to try and plan a turn where you want to achieve a lot. First you need to calculate your fuel, count the cards you will use and then see what's left over. If you are getting a fuel bonus for your first passenger, then you might be able to go the extra mile with the second leg of your journey, but don't forget to account for the fact that your second passenger means you'll not have quite so much fuel. Most of the mechanisms are quite thematic once you put some thought into them.

I love there's so many ways to get an upgrade too - taking the number 6 dice drafting spot, playing a card combo during your delivery phase, possibly triggering a bonus scoring, and delivering a dice to a matching cube. There's so many ways to upgrade and having the chance to get so much more effective throughout the game is very satisfying.

When things are going your way in Yukon Airways, you can create some amazing turns, where you feel really smart and like the king or queen of all combos. But, there's a few too many ways in which things might not your way. Drawings cards is the obvious element of luck in the game. You might have lots of fuel on a turn and only draw cards that are for the very near-by destinations. Or conversely you might throw away your chances of going to a far-flung destination during an early turn and never see those cards again. Yes, you can always discard three cards to go to a destination, but it's a big sacrifice - firstly you don't get bonuses and secondly, you're throwing away cards and cards are a pretty scarce resource in the game. Having the wrong cards at the right time can be a waste of your opportunity to have awesome moments in the game. The dice combinations also add an extra layer of luck when there's an obvious best place to go and only one player can go there, but it's the cards that have really hurt me in multiple games.

I really enjoyed my first plays of Yukon Airways, because it's a light-to-medium weight pick up and deliver game. This genre of games is one I always find satisfying, because it's typical that you'll find a really fun optimistation puzzle in the game where you need to decide where you're going to deliver, what resources you need and which is the way to make the most bang for your buck. Yukon Airways has all of these elements, so long as you draw some of the right cards and get the right opportunities from the dice pool. The joy of a good game, where all of the parts come together and let you do some really cool stuff, is really soured when you get a turn where you just can't do anything good and it's very unlikely that it's all your fault. Being one fuel short of an amazing turn, or not finding a dice pool with the two colours of dice that would make your turn great, is just a big let down.

Yukon Airways can be really fun. It's a nice, lighter pick up and deliver game. The different bonus cards in each game can create slightly different scenarios and add new incentives to the game that keep things interesting. But, sometimes, it can be really frustrating, and that might be for you and/or someone else at the table, and in neither of those scenarios does it feel like a fun game. Yukon Airways had a lot of promise, but just missed the mark for me too many times, and so for the Yellow Meeple it's a 5/10.

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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