The movie and the song went "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" and both song and film were happy, bounce-along joyrides. Richard Denning of Medusa Games (known for Great Fire London 1666 and Nine Worlds) has omitted the 'Men' from the title (possibly copyright reasoning) which is unfortunate as it has taken the fluidity from the famous title. However the original title remains inferred due to the impressionable artwork of Andree Schneider that together with the font style confers to the players the period (early twentieth century) excitement and danger of each new flight.
Medusa Games have captured the glorious end of the Georgian era and beginning of the Edwardian era when flight was really taking off. Players who remember 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines' will also remember its twin movie "The Great Race" and Richard has brilliantly intertwined these two popular films into a clever, fun, strategic race across a skyline that can be created so that every game offers the same obstacles and opportunities but not always (in fact, very rarely) in the same position, the only ones that need to be in specific positions are the three airfields of the fifteen terrain tiles. Terrain tiles are split into several sections - weather strip (at the top of the tile - this is where the random weather tiles are placed), the High Altitude. the Middle Altitude, the Low Altitude, the Ground Region and the Awards/Rewards section.
The twelve non-Airfield terrain tiles are 4 sets of three; Lake, City, Fields and Mountains - each tile in their set being an almost exact duplicate of the other, just the possible rewards/awards differ on each. Only eight of the terrain tiles are used in the standard game and nine in the 'long' game, plus the three Airfields; so 11 or 12 terrain tiles per game.
Players character boards have specifically been printed on both sides with all of the same information and aeroplane illustration, the only difference between the sides being the character picture, it is only on one side of the board. As there are six player character boards only 6 of the 18 characters can begin in play. If you are playing the basic starter game then those characters have been pre-determined to be: Hamish McTarn (Scottish) ina BiPlane, Oberst Andre Schneider (German) in a Monoplane, Captain Matthew Comben (Canadian) in a Triplane, Janu Rajan (Nepalese) in a Sea Plane, Amelia Skyfoot (USA) in a Helicopter and Sheila Dawson (Australian) in a Pusher Plane (names you might find amongst the design crew and play-testers). Each of these have a number of cargo spaces where spare parts, passengers and other collected items gained are placed. Some of these spaces have symbols printed in them but they are so deeply dark that in regular house lighting they are only visibly recognisable by catching them at the correct angle. As these symbols represent starting tiles for the character board I'm not sure why they are printed so darkly unless, as I suspect, they looked brighter in the prototype and lost some contrast in the printing.
The attention to detail throughout is very good, especially the illustrations for the characters and the planes. One of the simplest yet most impressive components are the pink cards that represent passengers; the card is quite thick and shaped like an old Bus Ticket with the punch holes at either side edge so it's quite possible that the first commercial flights had tickets like this (possible maybe, improbable almost certainly, but it's still a nice touch).
The six characters on the boards are also available as cards, thus it is physically possible for Amelia Skyfoot (as an example) to be in two planes at the same time - possible but unless she has a twin sister ......
The other characters are a canny bunch from different countries: Jan Van Der Vall (Holland), Sir Archibald Smythe (GB), Vladimir Orkovski (Russia), Jing Li (China), Adriana Belhinda (Peruvian), Condesa Isabella Sanchez (Spain), Kauri Parata (New Zealand), Marco Florentia (Italian), Karishma Khana (Indian), Sikosi Akimoto (Japan), Pierre Dupont (France) and Elinah Mwangi (Kenya). If you don't know your World flags then these 18 cards are a good way to learn 18 of them. I didn't know many of them but thanks to the internet, and this game, I now have a fair idea of some. Amaze your friends with your knowledge just by reading my list of characters and countries, great small talk for over dinner at games events, conventions etc. and I've done all the work for you.
MAGNIFICENT FLYING MACHINES is an air-race game where the contestants score Victory Points by collecting Award Trophies, Picking up and Delivering Passengers, VP Markers etc. Planes can do lood-de-loops and other assorted aerial tricks but they cannot fly backwards unless the tile that allows the terrain to be swapped around is played. This doesn't actually allow the plane to fly backwards but it does allow the plane to reach a terrain tile they wanted to have landed on but missed earlier, so it's sort of like flying backwards but not quite.
So to begin with, once you have punched out all the counters and separated all of the components, it is time for the Quick Start. This is a pretty basic version of the game and after the first 30-40 minutes of going through the motions as you learn the mechanics and begin to understand the strategies you are wanting more. That 'more' is found in the 'Standard Rules' which are the full game rules - there are no advanced rules though there are a few variants; '2-player', 'Team Play' and 'Less Dirty'.
There are equal amounts of Luck and Random due to the fact that MAGNIFICENT FLYING MACHINES uses a combination of drawn cards and rolled dice. The speed of a player's Plane while flying remains constant (it is also constantly still when landed) unless a card moves things along faster, it normally just takes a Flying Test to move forward from one section to the next. Flying between regions means there is likely to be a change in the weather conditions as the randomly placed weather tiles in each section are turned face up when a plane first enters them. Weather can also change each Turn when the Weather Card is flipped. Weather cards affect specific areas or from a specific direction and whether a plane can fly, land or take-off by adding more of the necessary icons to the mix; these icons are located on the dice, the plane's board, on cards and on the region strips as well as on the random tiles.
Flying Tests, like all the Tests in this game, are performed by rolling the determined number of dice (each ability/skill has a number of dice assigned to it) and obtaining the required results or by rolling the dice and failing and then using cards or resources to pimp the result. The dice have Take Off, Flight, Landing and Explosion symbols on them. One of the neat ideas in this game is that when you roll Explosions nothing happens if you can still succeed at your Test. However if you cannot succeed then the explosions are deadly and dangerous. Don't worry though, you don't die, you just have to repair, scavenge resources and take off again by passing your ToT (Take Off Test), as I said it's about luck (there are also luck tokens that can make you luckier), die rolling and card play. It's also about overtaking your opponents and landing in the most rewarding places before they can and grabbing the best VPs available. Landing means making a Landing Test but collecting resources etc doesn't, although there is a limit to what you may take.
MAGNIFICENT FLYING MACHINES is played in Turns, going round and round clockwise from the Start Player with each player having two actions they may perform each Turn from the 6 options in the list, repeating actions is legal: Repair & Scavenge; Take Off; Fly; Trick manoeuvre; Gain Altitude; and Landing, all needing successful Tests to perform. In this game you roll the dice first and then decide whether to use any cards or abilities etc to make it a success if necessary. This is yet another part of MFM that I really like because in so many other games you have to decide before rolling whether to use your add-ons and then you often end up wasting them by rolling what you need on the dice; this way you only use and discard them if necessary after the die roll.
Of course there has to be some skull-duggery and just like Dick Dastardly and Muttley there are some 'Dirty Tricks' which can be played on your opponents to upset or slow down their plans. These cards are immediately recognisable as they have borders and are primed with the header 'Dirty Tricks' (just in case your idea of 'immediately recognisable' doesn't fit with mine). All cards include English and German text and the game includes a separate rules booklet for both languages
According to the box this is a game for 2-6 players aged 12 and upwards, though once again the age for beginning to learn how to play is variable according to who the young person is and whether they come from a core gaming family, though 10 years and upwards is a more viable age to introduce players to the fun, strategy and skills of this great race. It can play with up to 6 players but with that many the game naturally slows down (hence the up to 150 minutes on the box back) and with six playing the Quick-Play start-up game it quickly loses its 'quick-play' pre-fix and the game can amble on a little too long. We have found that we enjoy playing with three or four players maximum, we're not too keen on the 2-player variant, but with 3 or 4 brave pilots the game moves smoothly and plays excellently.
Whichever way you lay the terrain boards the picturesque grassland, the low laying clouds, the blue skies all join seamlessly to create an exciting panoramic view. I like that you can set these boards out however you want either by random draw or by specific placement. If you find a setup you really like you can set it up for every game until you are satisfied you have cracked it and then you can explore until you find another setup to play, with 15 tiles the set up is very flexible. If you want to play the longest possible games only use two airfields, one at the beginning and one at the end. This makes moving and collecting far more strategic and the dice rolling generally in more need of assistance from cards and resources. Passengers are worth 3VPs and can only be delivered at the end airfield which makes collecting them or any low scoring VPs chancey at the least, due to the space constrictions of your cargo holds, but also possibly the difference between victory and runner-up, or not even completing the race. Personally we tried this version of the longer game only twice and decided it wasn't for us, but that doesn't mean it's not worth trying at least once. Fifteen tiles with all three airfields is more enjoyable and still a good challenging competitive long game.