Friday, February 08, 2008

Airlines as a theme (instead of trains)

Someone on BGG started a thread asking why there aren’t games about the airline industry like there are about the train industry.

In the thread several plane games were mentioned, maybe the most relevant is the upcoming Aviation Tycoon from Z-Man games, but as someone in the thread said, based on the description, that could be a game about any kind of transportation system. That poster was pretty adamant that any airline game would have to be a detailed simulation of the airline industry, including things like the difference between a 727-100, 727-200, and 727-200A. Not surprisingly, he said his numerous attempts at such a game have thus far led to nothing.

I maintain that there are several different ways to go about an airplane game, and I think they could all produce an interesting game. Off the top of my head I could list a few basic structures for an airline game. Sure, maybe some of them would also work with other forms of transport, so someone interested in a plane game that couldn't be re-themed to something else wouldn't be too interested. I got news for those people though - almost every game can be re-themed.

  • When I think of airlines, I think of a map with lots of lines connecting cities. I think a connection-type game could be made where you need to get your airline established in cities... it's not physically the same as laying train track on the ground, but I think it's analogous. In order to have a scheduled flight between 2 cities, you have to have some semblance of control in each of them. This version of the game would concentrate less on the specifics of that control, and it would deal with getting control of the right cities to 'build' the right routes, similar to a train connection game, but in a different way. There could even be technology, as planes could have limited range until you upgrade them.
  • Another version of a plane game could eschew the connections, and deal more with the passengers in the airport itself. You need to get passengers through ticketing and security, to their gates and onto their flights.
  • It was mentioned to me that the real business in running an airline is securing time slots and gates. So a game could be made which concentrates on earning/buying/bidding for certain gates and/or time slots at airports in order to put together flights that go from point A to point B. This last idea I thought about just a little bit, and here's something that might be an OK start:
I imagine a board with a number of airports, each with a list of time slots. Perhaps there are multiple spaces at each time slot (1 for each gate). During the "scheduling" round players attempt to control these slots via some method. Then, during a resolution round, passengers would take the scheduled flights to their destinations.

There could be passengers that are in a big hurry, willing to change airlines at every stop if it'll get them there faster. There could also be passengers who would rather stay on the same airline the whole way, no matter how long it takes or how many stops on the way.

I didn't intend this to be a new project to think about, so I probably won't do anything with it - at least not for a while. I just wanted to mention it and get some thoughts down where I can find them later :)

1 comment:

Justin said...

Hey Seth, Dsfan here.

I agree that planes are an underrepresented genre. Games with this theme tend to follow the economic route of the industry or are merely there as a paste on.

Actually, reading over your three ideas leads me to believe they're one game, and personally, I think they could be.

What if players were emerging airline companies during the 1920's? The board would show connections between cities that were plausible at those times. Each city would then have a time slot (3 time slots per. city) on it that players would fight over to take control of that flight and those passengers. Passengers could be added to time slots during the game.

Gates could be added in so that players could add passengers to time slots. I'm thinking this should be kept simple though.

Each player would use a small amount of tiles to arrange a gate. Each tile would interact with others to come up with a total number of passengers you could add to time slots each turn. Passengers would be of a generic color no color

After, players would just have to transport passengers to receive points.

Maybe the game would also have a track like Thebes to determine turn order and when flights would take off. If you were at the city you could take the flight. This would give players a difficult decesion to make: "should I take this 3:00 in Minnesota or the other 3:00 in Flint?"

It all sounds a little complicated but I think that it could and should be kept simple.

Just some ideas!