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AEROPLANES: Aviation Ascendant

Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant

Aeroplanes™ explores the dawn of commercial aviation, an exciting era between 1919 and 1939.  Experience the difficulties and triumphs of commercial airlines in Europe, pioneering airports and service in continental Europe and around the world!

Aviation spurred the growth of intercontinental travel, and airlines struggled to dominate the regions of the globe that they served. Rapid technological advances in planes play a vital role in this development as you compete to purchase newer more efficient aeroplanes, build airports and move passengers around the globe. Earn bonuses and prestige for being the first to fly to North or South America, and win by maintaining the most airports around the world, and running your airline profitably.

Can you balance your investment in aeroplanes, customer service, and routes well enough to become the premier airline of the era?  The fate and future of air travel lies within your hands!

Rich and brilliantly balanced, Aeroplanes is for 3-5 players aged 14 and older. Games last 120 minutes +

There are some confusing discrepancies in the naming of some things throughout the game. For example, Eras are called Rounds as well as Eras.

Components  * In the rules the Counters and Tokens are referred to as Tiles.

With so many components I am surprised there were no zip-loc bags included. 

This is a Martin Wallace game published by Mayfair Games, thus the rules, box and card discrepancies cannot be put down to the usual excuse of it being an error in translation seeing as it was written in English to begin with.
Martin Wallace games are renown for their rules complexities, often referred to as gobble-di-gook, which need someone who has already played the game with Martin to explain the game rather than trying to play using the rules book.
This is an exception in as much as there are not that many pages of rules - 8 in fact, with one of these being the introduction and Component listing.

The trouble with having the rules so short and simplified is that many of the nuances and questions that crop up during play are not answered within the rule-book. There are also discrepancies between the rule-book and the PLayer-Aid cards, especially concerning the "available actions" of which the players MUST perform one in a round. The rules describe these actions as:
1. Buy one Aeroplane card.  2. Place Airport tiles.  3. Claim one Passenger tile.  4. Buy Advantage tiles.  5. Take a Subsidy.
When you read the rules and the Player Aids it transpires that 1 and 2 of the above are actually part of the same Action - you buy a plane and you place the necessary airport tiles on it. Also on the PA cards it says at the end of a round you calculate Profit, but it means at the end of an era not a round - there is a big difference between era and round.

Then you have the available passengers, lined around the board in different "home" airports. These can be claimed, one tile at a time (1-3 passengers on a tile) as long as you have a plane that can carry them - has the capacity (ie seats available) - and an Airport at both the City the passenger is at and an airport at the passenger's destination. You do not actually deliver the passengers until the end of an era - which illogically means these poor passengers are on your plane for somewhere in the region of 10 years - that's a long, long flight. In fact if you look at the game logically then you will go mad, there is no logic to it at all. There is no mention of whether or not you should refill the empty passenger spaces at the end of a round, not until you read the End of Era Upkeep rules. In the order written it states that some passenger tiles are removed from their airports and placed in the passenger overflow area (holds 8 passenger tokens)  then it says starting with Rome and ending in Berlin fill all the empty spaces of passengers in the waiting area. As there is no designated (signed) "waiting area" we took this to mean the stations around the board. But then it goes on to say that you draw more passenger tiles and refill each empty space in the waiting area - we thought it had just said that in the previous paragraph - see what I mean about confusing ?

However, once you get past the non-logic there are good game mechanics to be found here and if you play the mechanics rather than the theme then this is a very good challenge. One of these good new mechanics is the way the first player is decided each round; after all players have had a turn the round ends and then the player who went first in that round rolls a d6 and counts clockwise round the table - using the number rolled as a guide - starting with the player to his left. So if he rolled a "1" the player to their left would be first to play next round. In a 4 player game the same first player would start the next round and if you rolled a "5" the start player next round would be the player to the left of the previous Start player - everyone I have played this with agrees this is a great way to determine the first player each round, it is totally random and works extremely well.

The purchasing of aeroplanes is a tried and tested mechanic - there are a row of planes each with a value in £pounds. The first of these planes costs just the printed price, the next one in line costs its value + £1 and this continues so the 3rd in line costs its value + £2 etc. Some of the planes have an envelope icon which means they are capable of long distance flights, some planes also have a VP value. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason as to the selection of which planes were given VPs or made Long Distance and their overall value.

An Era ends when one player takes the Black Token from the Subsidy box. They can only do this once all the £1 subsidies have been taken. Then at the end of an era there is a scoring and an upkeep. This is when you count the passengers you have delivered and subtract the empty spaces you have on any planes you have bought this era, you also add any VPs you have gained during the era and then move your score token along the path.

When building airports you can fly out of Europe to anywhere on the board connected to Europe by flight lines. This means, North and South America, the Middle East etc. Once you have an airport in a city other routes open up for you, all you ever need are planes and airports, and sometimes the luck of the dice to create a route. Each player has 3 sets of airports marked 1, 2 and 3 (one set for each era). No player may occupy more than one of the available airport spaces at a City but they can replace either their own airport tile or another player's airport tile if they can build one with a higher era number (ie you can replace era 1 tiles with those from era 2 or era 3 or era 2 tiles with era 3 tiles). When flying over cities, using long distance planes, the cost (or value of die roll required) can be reduced by 2 if there is already an airport, yours or an opponents, at the city being flown over and/or the destination city; yet another clever and useful new rule idea.

The basic game play is to buy planes that "carry" one or two airports to distant cities (from your starting city) and deliver as many passengers as you can, thus collecting the most VPs by the end of the game. When delivering your airports there may be a cost involved. The mechanic allows you to travel free along one white lined route but throw the 3 dice for each subsequent route, requiring a target number depending on the colour of the route you are travelling. The roll of the die can be augmented by £1 per pip required (example you roll 3 x 3 = 9 and you need a 10 you can pay £1 to turn the 9 to a 10).  There is a crossbones icon in place of the one on each of the dice you must roll and this represents an engine failure - collect 4 of these (you get a token each time tyou roll a crossbones) and you lose the airport you were about to build. This is another unique and clever rule that makes this game an exciting challenge.

There is so much that we believe is just wrong with AEROPLANES that you might think we wouldn't want to play it, but that's where the cleverness of the mechanics hit home - you cannot help but want to return to it because, as I mentioned previously, theme apart this is a good challenging strategy game of mathematics and balance.

Mayfair Games have used good quality materials in the production. Fans of Martin Wallace's games will probably already own this, but if they don't then they should get themselves a copy for it really is a vintage Martin Wallace game.


© Chris Baylis 2011-2021