Type: Euro

Time to play: 45-60 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (2 – 5 Players)

So when you speak about board games, one of the first names you need to know is Alan R. Moon. The man behind Ticket to Ride is responsible for a number of excellent games with elegant rules – Airlines is one such game.

Route building from Ticket to Ride takes to the skies here as you build out networks of planes. However, there is an expectation in board games that you control pieces on the board that are “yours” or your avatar. This is where Airlines steps away from the traditional games and moves to a light 18xx style game. This is a game about you the player, and the company or companies you own are just a means to and end for scoring points / earning money.

How? Through the purchase of shares – shares that are randomly distributed during the course of the game (through card draw) and which allow you to snatch up an interest into the various companies on the board. These shares are your way of scoring – but not controlling – the pieces on the board. Every player can hold an interest in every company around the board. Your total influence (whether you are the largest shareholder) will determine your points.

The value of each company however is determined by operational action on the board. Each player can contribute to this by building a new route for the company. A new route costs money, and money will cost you turns or revealing the companies that you own shares in. Why do you get paid for the reveal? Because if you own a lot of shares in a company you will score for them, but you will push other people away from contributing to the operational value of those companies.

This is the challenge then – build your companies, score your companies, but don’t let anybody know that these are your companies. That’s impossible, but basically the challenge. To get the most points you will need to maximise the multiple of your shareholding with operational value. Don’t own a lot of one company that’s worth a lot, but earn a spread of good value companies. It’s not a straight multiplication either (otherwise you could run away with one company). Instead, it’s about the ranking – largest shareholder, next largest etc.

The game can be light and fun – every one pushing each other’s companies forward, sharing in the success and then jumping on the occasional certificates for shares that come up. It can also be cut throat, with players deliberately boxing in certain airlines to suppress the potential growth.

Players who hate random card draws will be frustrated by the ways shares are drawn. Players who get boxed in (with their main company) may feel frustrated. However, these are small problems for players and not a regular feature of the game. There are paths out of these problems, opportunities to switch the company you are backing, or indeed to start with a company no one else is paying attention to. You might not win but you can have a really good game!

Last notes,

  • If you want to step up from Ticket to Ride, this is the perfect next step
  • If you get analysis paralysis from counting the cards…get a notepad for this game cause it helps!
  • If you win, the rules don’t change but there is plenty of emergent gameplay