Now Boarding Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.


The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Approximately 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Flying in the sky is not as calming as you think…

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Oriville Wright once said, “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris.” I wonder how he would react to today’s busy airline industry. With passengers demanding time in the sky, a pilot is always busy flying from one spot to another all around the world. In this game, you’ll be spending your time attempting to please the passengers while still trying to keep your plane up in the air!

Now Boarding, designed by Tim Fowers and to be published by Fowers Games, will reportedly be comprised of 1 30-second time, 4 Player Plane boards, 72 Passenger cards, 4 Player markers, 30 Upgrade cards, 6 Weather tokens, 16 Weather cards, 30 Anger tokens, and 1 double-sided game board. As this is a review of prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. The artwork by Ryan Goldsberry is colorful and stylized, giving the game a unique and fun look.

Prepping to Fly

To setup the game, first decide on which game board to use (based on number of players). Place the game board in the middle of the playing area and within easy reach of all players.

Second, place the Plane miniatures in their starting areas on the game board locations. For example, the “yellow” Plane miniature is placed on the “ATL” starting space.

Third, take the Passenger cards and remove any that are identified by the rules based on the number of players in the game. Deal one Passenger card to each player that matches their starting City. These cards are placed on the starting Airport spaces on the game board, face-up.

Fourth, shuffle the remaining Passenger cards and deal into three piles, face-down. These piles represent the “Morning”, “Afternoon”, and Evening” customer demand for flights. The number of cards in each pile are dependent on the number of players. Place each pile next to the game board. Players will start with “Morning”, then move onto “Afternoon”, followed by “Evening” towards the end of the game. These piles are collectively referred to as the “Passenger piles”.

Fifth, shuffle the Weather cards and deal face-down into a number of piles based on the number of players in the game. Draw one Weather card and resolve its effect, by adding a Weather tile to the map, either making that specific route longer or shorter due to the current weather conditions. Repeat until all the Weather tiles are assigned to routes on the game board.

That’s it for game set up. Time to get flying!

“This is the Captain Speaking…”

Now Boarding is played in rounds and phases. A single game round is summarized here.

Phase 1: Flight

The first phase of the game includes 4 steps and a timed duration of game play.

Step 1: Deal Passenger Cards

The first thing done in the first phase is dealing new Passenger cards face-down from the current Passenger pile (Morning, Afternoon, or Evening). These cards are NOT revealed, but players are encouraged to discuss how they should go about picking up and delivering the passengers that just appeared, as well as those already known.

Step 2: Start the Timer

After the players have had enough time (and there is no time limit in step 1) to discuss their strategy, the timer is flipped. The players now have the duration of the timer to do as much as they can using the limited time provided!

Step 3: Flip Over the Passengers

All face-down Passenger cards are now flipped over and revealed showing where they are picked up (Origin), their final destination (Destination), and the amount they are worth once they end their travel (Money).

Step 4: Simultaneous Flight

Working as a group and all at once, the players now simultaneously start taking actions on the game board. Each player can do any of the following any number of times as they like within the limits of the time provided. Timing of events is important, meaning players should discuss who should drop off passengers first so another player can pick them up, and so on.

  • Move Plane
    • No more than the player’s current maximum speed
    • Picking up and dropping off passengers is allowed and a player is never required to move their full allocated amount
    • All movement must be on the designated routes that the player’s plane has access to with black routes always being available by default
    • Movement can end anywhere on a route, not just the airports
  • Pick Up Passengers
    • No more than the players’ current maximum seats, one passenger per seat icon
    • When picking up a passenger, take a Passenger card from the current Airport space, removing any red Anger tokens
    • Any temporary extra seats can be discarded once per round to increase the maximum seating capacity by one over the current player’s limit
  • Drop Off Passengers
    • Any number of passengers can be dropped off and it need not be their final destination, but it cannot be their origin Airport space
    • If the passenger does get dropped off at their final destination, the player take the Passenger card and adds it to their personal pile

Step 4 continues until the time runs out. At which point, all actions must stop and the first phase of the round ends.

Phase 2: Maintenance

All flights are now temporarily over and standard maintenance to the planes must be completed. Like the first phase, there are several steps to take.

Step 1: File Complaints

Any Passenger cards still waiting at an Airport space receives one red Anger token. If a Passenger card receives its fourth token, it’s removed from the game board and is put in a new pile referred to as the “Complaint pile”. Don’t let this happen!

Step 2: Buy Upgrades

When a player deposits a passenger at their proper final destination, they collect their Passenger card and receive the money value noted. This money can now be spent to upgrade the player’s plane. Upgrades are placed face-up under  the player’s Plane card. Upgrades include more seats, more speed, and more routes. Upgrades can only be placed to the player’s airplane and money cannot be spent to help upgrade other player’s planes. Some upgrades are only temporary. Players can give money to other players if they are located at the same Airport space.

The round ends when all the players have completed any upgrades they want to add.

Wicked Weather

When any one of the Passenger piles are depleted (first Morning, than Afternoon, followed by Evening), the weather changes. The Weather tiles are removed from the game board and then shuffled. New weather is added to the game board. This will change the length of routes, for better or for worse.

Ending the Flight Day

After the “Evening” Passenger pile is empty, the players have one last round to deliver as many passengers as possible. No new passengers are placed to the game board. When the round is completed, players gain one complaint for every two Passenger cards not yet delivered to their final destination.

Winning or Losing the Friendly Skies

If the Complaint pile ever has three or more Passenger cards, the game ends and the players have lost. However, if at the end of the game the players have fewer than three complaints, they collectively win!

Game Variant

The basic game described above can be made more difficulty by including VIP passengers. These special Passenger cards have conditional requirements that must be met when moving them around the game board. For example, they must “fly alone”, cannot fly through weather, or take 2 seats. VIP passengers are brought into the game when the players want them to, meaning they are only revealed when the players think they can handle them. However, once they come into play, they will complain like any other passenger. Unlike other passengers, a VIP passenger cannot be temporarily dropped off and must remain with the player who takes them until they drop them off at their final destination.

To learn more about Now Boardingvisit the Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed the game with the family, but not with their peer group. According to one Child Geek, “None of the other players listen to me!” This is a cooperative game, and when you have one too many captains in the cockpit, the game falls apart quickly. This was visibly demonstrated when all the Child Geeks attempted to take control of the flow of the game at once. With their families, the Child Geeks took a step back from the controls and participated as a group. This worked out much better. As one Child Geek put it, “The game is best when you have other players who want to do the same thing you want to do, but don’t tell you how to do it.” When all the flights landed, the Child Geeks voted to approve the game.

The Parent Geeks enjoyed the game with not only their families, but also with their peers, finding the game to be fast and furious, with the time flying by (as it often does when you are having fun…or on a timer). According to one Parent Geek, “It reminds me of other cooperative games, but is a nice mix between Ticket to Ride and that video game where you had to drive a taxi to pick people up.” Another Parent Geek said, “What I like most and dislike the most is the same thing: The timed round! Things can get really hectic and fun!” Unlike the Child Geeks, the Parent Geeks were happy to work together as a team and understood that all the players would either fly high together or crash as a group. When all the luggage was safely picked up, the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game.

The Gamer Geeks weren’t all that impressed with the game. They liked how it was constantly changing, didn’t much care for the timed round, and thought the game was pretty solid overall, but just not that interesting. According to one Gamer Geek, “I know I sound jaded, but for a few interesting game design choices, I found the game to be pretty middle of the road and not all that exciting.” Another Gamer Geek said, “If I would have played this game about 3 years ago, I would have given it my full endorsement. As it stands now, I feel like it doesn’t stand much higher than the other cooperative games available today.” None of the Gamer Geeks felt that the game was bad. In fact, they thought it was good enough to recommend to others. However, since they didn’t’ completely fall in love with it, their endorsement was mixed.

Now Boarding is a solid game with a good hook that gets players involved quickly. The game play is very straightforward, but never the path to victory. Players must work together and talk things out constantly or the game will crumble. Unlike other cooperative games, players cannot be taking their moves in a vacuum and must depend on others to do things in certain sequences if they are to be successful. The temptation to stop the timer is powerful in this game, as everything seems to be rushed and feverish.

Which is part of the game’s charm…

Advanced and experienced players will have little difficulty managing the game board, but do expect games to be close. We have yet to finish any game with any of our groups where victory was still questionable until the very end of the game. Throw in the VIP passengers and you have a difficult challenge to overcome. I liked that the game designer threw in an easy method to increase the game’s difficulty that could be introduced on demand, versus being present right from the start. A neat approach that allows players to control their own level of stress.

I rather liked Now Boarding, but like one Gamer Geek suggested, the game doesn’t really soar above the heads of other cooperative games. It feels solid, plays solid, and is a lot of fun. It’s just doesn’t feel different enough to suggest it’s breaking new ground or flying high above the clouds. That being said, this is a very good game and a great choice for families and friends who like their cooperative games to be timed, forcing the players to focus in and get the job done. Take a trip and see if the game experience is worth the time. You can even play a version online if you like.

This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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