If you haven’t heard of Airlines Europe; check out my review of this great next step game for anyone who enjoys Ticket to Ride (or other route building games).
If you have played it, here are my thoughts on strategies for the game…
During the Game:
Split Your Shares; Especially in the early game you want to hide what companies your are backing, and earn as many second place points as you can from the first round of scoring. Better to come second in 3 companies and position for the future, than lead in one and find that the company can’t expand in the future.
Hide Primary; Hiding the primary company you will be backing is important. You probably want to delay this until just before the second scoring is likely to happen. Try to get other players contributing to the company for two thirds of the game and so you can focus on building other interest or indeed simply making the most of this. Keep in mind though that it will be hard to get the cards secretly – drawing from the top of the pile is worthwhile, but you will need to manage to grab any cards that do turn up.
Invest in Valuable Routes; Valuable routes are those that cost more and advance the company further. There’s a balance in the game between cheap and multiple routes, but there comes a time when time is more important. When time is running out and you need to maximise value – then it’s important to have access and opportunity to buy the high value routes (like the 8’s at the edges of the board). Get to this in the mid game and make sure you, not another player, takes them.
Bonus Routes; Of course the wealthiest routes on the game are those that pay more than they cost and these come in at lower player counts across the map. Watch out for companies that position to grab these and if there’s a race, make sure that it’s falling to a company that you are participating in.
Blocking; Blocking is hard to do in low player counts, but as the player numbers grow you need to work your way to the middle of the board. There will be too many other operators blocking of the UK or the lower part of the map if there is a player there that could otherwise excel. It’s a dangerous strategy to block in a player – partly because it requires co-operation with other players and also because there are so many ways out of it when it starts.
Part of the Winners; Now, to win this game you need to “place” in the companies that score highly, and get points from these. Yes the lead gets the most, and the last player in the group gets very little, but the second player gets the biggest marginal benefit – they need not contribute a lot, but they get an outsized points benefit.
Lead the Average; For the next rung of companies, you are going to need some leaders. These are companies that you contributed to and you need to get the value from them. Don’t reveal to early, but make sure that you get control of these either just before the second scoring or in the third phase.
Drop the Weakest; These are the companies that won’t deliver. These are the companies that no one is spending on. These are the companies with only a few players even scoring and they aren’t getting much. Either spend enough to move them into average or avoid taking up shares in these until other players move these forward.
Take the Money; At first, I didn’t like the idea of the fourth player option – taking the cash for a turn that was passed. I always feel when passing you miss out on an action. Well, here I think there is a material benefit. You can hide the cards of the companies you are backing for longer, and the money will allow you to buy the large routes that help boost those low hanging companies with few other shareholders.
Spread the Second Choice; One big component of the game will be keeping your friends close but your enemies closer. Tally who is ahead in different companies and make sure that the companies you are supporting are spreading the points and not concentrating second place with one other player – they might just spend their turns sneaking passed you!
Bonus Airline; One big way to swing ahead at the end of the game would be to buy shares in the bonus airline. Sacrifice other shares to switch into these – these shares can be undervalued in some games and a late rush into first place or second place in this company can make all the difference.
Board Position; Heading for the centre of the map, the areas that have a huge number of connections – this will stop you being blocked in. Work your way either to these or to the large high value routes mentioned above. Slow and steady works, but watch out if the route ahead of you starts to be closed out by other players doing the same.
Drafting; The most important emergent play in each game is the taking of cards. Players start with a random draw but augment this by taking cards in their turns as they appear via a drafting onto the board. The first few rounds can be a rush to take these but as the rooster stabilises it becomes important to be in a position to take the marginal new card when it emerges. Watch out for leaving too much on the table as a scoring round will force players to pick up cards and clear the rest – this could force a share of the company you own into a few other players’ hands before you even get a chance!